Black Music Matters Festival

Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver

Open Carefully, Message Inside – 2014 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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"Open Carefully, Message Inside" seems a fitting title for Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver's latest, for the band's faith-filled message has long been at the forefront. With more than 36 albums under their belt, this marks their 20th gospel-based album, a key component throughout their 35-year run. Of course, it doesn't hurt that in the course of that same career they've framed those messages in award winning musicianship and vocals, something that's only gotten better with age.

Lawson and company open things up with "Coming Soon," a warmhearted rambler that gets things off to a slow start with smooth fiddle fills and mandolin runs, the vocals tight and earnest, but "It's Done" quickly picks up the pace with rollicking guitar and banjo joining the show. The vocals are high and lonesome, surrounded by impressive instrumental jams, a theme that colors "Will You Go?" and closer "Climbing Upward" as well with their impressive harmonies and barn-burning licks.

"Thank You Dear God" is a pleasant track, but its slight sing-song quality doesn't work. The band quickly rights that stumble with slow tempo ballads like "He Made the Tree" and "O Far Country," the latter of which is one of the top highlights. With a simple yet beautiful composition, "O Far Country" benefits from both strong musicianship and songwriting, showing the band at their best.

Of course, any bluegrass record worth its snuff needs an a cappella track or two, and the band delivers two solid gems. "Get On Board" harnesses the classic gospel train motif with rich harmonies and a quick tempo while "He's In Control" sounds like a track lifted right out of the old hymnal. Add in the near a cappella of "Lead Me to That Fountain," with its Stamps-Baxter vibe, and fans will be in heaven.

That's exactly what Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver aim to do here. Delivering a message of faith and salvation alongside stirring compositions has become their hallmark, and they continue to show that they're one of the best at doing just that.