CD Review: The Touch of the Master’s Hand (Punches Family)
The Punches Family is a family bluegrass group from Missouri who has started gaining some note on the national Southern Gospel circuit. I saw them live at the Inspirations’ Fall Colors sing last year, commenting that, remarkably, they got a stronger response than the professional, nationally known bluegrass group who followed them. They also recently appeared as a guest performer at the concert launching the Gospel Singing Caravan tour.
The Touch of the Master’s Hand, their latest CD, offers twelve tracks of hymns and Southern Gospel classics. The instrumental arrangements and performances are solid, though not revolutionary. Though the children are still clearly growing into their own as vocalists, these performances are nonetheless strong enough to show great promise for the future. But their potential shouldn’t obscure the fact that they’re well above average for their ages already.
Far and away, the project’s strongest vocal performance is “Is Not This the Land of Beulah.” Either the father or the oldest son takes the first verse; the voice sounds young enough to be the son, but whoever it is is presently the group’s strongest vocalist. The mother takes the second verse, also delivering a solid performance.
Intriguingly, the group takes on two Cathedrals classics, “Wedding Music” and “He Loves Me.” One of the boys has the solo on the former, and one of the girls solos on “He Loves Me.” Not surprisingly, neither rendition tops the original landmark rendition. But since they’re not the all-too-frequent photocopy cover, either, they are so different that there is a sense in which it does not matter.
The family is particularly strong with energetic, uptempo numbers, tearing through “The Walls of Jericho” and “Gospel Medley” with infectious energy.
Occasional vocal imperfections and simple but well-executed instrumental arrangements are ultimately as much or more a selling point than a drawback. This is not over-produced, over-compressed, or over-tuned. It’s refreshingly real. It’s the sort of simple pleasure that would perfectly fit a a leisurely Saturday afternoon drive through the countryside.
Produced by: Anonymous / not credited. • Group Members: Bruce, Bobette, Graham, Owen, Brooke, and Emily Punches. • Review copy provided. • Song list: Gospel Medley; Milk and Honey; Standing in the Need of Prayer;Wedding Music; He Loves Me; Going Up on the Mountain; Land of Beulah; Lord Stay Near to Me; Swing Low Sweet Chariot [actually “Swing Down Chariot”]; The Walls of Jericho; I Want to be Ready; Pass Me Not.