Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver

Burden Bearer Bluegrass Gospel and A Cappella Favorites – 2016 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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Mandolinist and bandleader Doyle Lawson is one of the giants of bluegrass music with a long list of honors and awards, but he and his rotating group Quicksilver may be at their best on Lawson's many gospel music albums. Over the last 30 years, he has alternated secular and sacred releases on a regular basis, with the gospel albums leaning toward a capella quartet sounds and much of the fast-paced picking on the secular sides.

This new gospel release from Lawson and Quicksilver takes the best of both iterations of the band, not that they would consider them separate entities, but there is more instrumental underpinning here than is typical, making this a set of songs fans of both his playing and his singing can appreciate. The title track makes that case convincingly from the start, pairing a driving rhythm with the signature Quicksilver harmonies.

Quicksilver has always included some of the best singers in bluegrass, earning its nickname as the "College of Bluegrass" with good reason. There are still plenty of a capella quartet numbers here, including "Passed All Sorrow," a great traditional style hymn that features the bass singing lead in a classic call-and-response format.

Lawson has also nurtured great songwriters over the years, but the best highlights here are a couple of standards any country gospel fan will recognize immediately. "God Gave Noah The Rainbow Sign" takes the uptempo bluegrass route to a sprightly sing-along, while the closing take on "How Great Thou Art" eschews the picking in favor of an appropriately majestic piano/fiddle arrangement around.