3:1 CD Review: Changes (The Harper Family)
3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.
The Harper Family is a family all-Gospel bluegrass group based out of Missouri. They turned heads at last year’s National Quartet Convention, winning a spot to open the Tuesday evening mainstage program. They did so well there that they were, I think, the only artist I had never seen before to earn a mention in my daily highlights summaries. Several months ago, they signed with Crossroads, and their first Crossroads release (Pisgah Ridge label) came out Tuesday.
1: Songwriting: On their previous independent recordings, several family members contributed songs. Here, son Dalton Harper contributes and is featured on the title track, and mother Katrina Harper writes “Well Done.” There’s enough writing talent here that it wouldn’t be surprising to see strong in-house songwriting become another point of comparison between the Harper Family and the Isaacs (especially early in their career).
2: Instrumental virtuosity: In Southern Gospel, musically speaking, songs are king (with vocals right behind). In Bluegrass, picking is (again, with vocals right behind). This album shows that the Harpers have what it takes to succeed in both genres. The parents and older two siblings are accomplished musicians; twelve-year-old Hannah is newer to the fiddle, but off to a strong start.
3: “I’ll Live Again”: Most Southern Gospel fans will know this as a quartet song, from the 1976 Inspirations or 1999 Kingsmen renditions. It works surprisingly well as a bluegrass song. Giving credit where credit is due. the Harpers aren’t the first to do it as a bluegrass song—the Isaacs did it on their 2003 Songs of the Faith album—but their rendition is notably solid. While the Isaacs’ version was SATB (soprano/alto/tenor/bass), the Harpers’ version sticks with the classic Southern Gospel harmony structure of tenor (in this case, alto) / lead / baritone / bass.
:1: More new songs: Several of the project’s standout tracks were remakes of Southern Gospel and Bluegrass classics. That’s especially understandable for a group’s first national release. If, over the next few years, they can move toward a point where their strongest tracks are fresh and original—from their pens or other songwriters’—it can only help.
Credits: Produced by Tim Surrett. Engineered by Van Atkins and Scott Barnett. Band members: Hannah Harper, Fiddle; Dillon Harper, Mandolin; Dalton Harper, Guitar; Katrina Harper, Upright Bass; Gaylon Harper, Banjo.
Song List: Salt and Light; Changes; Born to Sing; Count Your Blessings; Troublesome Waters; King’s Ransom; Well Done; Treasures Unseen; The Greater God’s Love Will Shine; I’ll Live Again.