CD Review: “Sweet Land of Rest” (Palmetto State Quartet)

Rating: 4 Stars

The Palmetto State Quartet released their most recent project, Sweet Land of Rest, on June 13, 2006. It is the final Palmetto State project featuring tenor John Rulapaugh and bass Aaron McCune in the same group. It was Rulapaugh’s fifth project with the group and McCune’s fourth.

Black-and-white photos with sepia tinting give the cover and packaging of the album an old-fashioned look. The liner notes give the copyright information, credits, and a list of the group members.

The project starts with two uptempo songs, “I’m Gonna Pray” and “No Doubt Salvation.” The former, an uptempo Dianne Wilkinson tune, was introduced by the Dove Brothers in 2001 on Every Time I Feel the Spirit. Ironically, John Rulapaugh first recorded the song on an album released during his final year with the Dove Brothers, and brought it back on an album recorded during his final year with Palmetto State. The Blackwood Quartet (Rulapaugh’s current group) would be advised to avoid recording the song if they want to keep him around for a while!

Aaron McCune has the solo on the song’s first verse. His voice quality on this song has a quality reminiscent of Bill Lawrence and, to a lesser degree, of Tim Riley. In hindsight, his performace of this song could well have helped Aaron get the call from Gold City. Kerry Beatty takes the solo on the second verse.

The third song on the project, “Sweet Land of Rest,” is probably the highlight of the project. This Dianne Wilkinson song was introduced by the Kingsmen on their 2005 project The Past is Past. John Rulapaugh turns in one of his finest performances with the Palmetto State Quartet on this song. If Rulapaugh had not left the group a few months ago, this song could have been a very strong radio single. It is unlikely that this song would ever hit the airwaves, and that’s unfortunate because it would probably do quite well.

Though the song is new, it has an old-time feel; this might be because adding Rulapaugh’s classic tenor voice to a song with melodic similarities to the chorus of “Sweet Beulah Land” can put the listener in a nostalgic mood.
The fourth song is another up-tempo song, “Old Fashioned Altar Call.” The song, written by Daryl K. Williams of the Daryl Williams Trio, is the group’s current radio single and is presently at #30 on the Singing News October 2006 Top 40 Chart.

Several mid-tempo and slow songs follow. Aaron McCune is featured on “In the Palm of His Hand.” Kerry Beatty is featured on the following two songs, “Only By the Blood” and “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” (“Only By the Blood” is not the same song as Brian Free & Assurance recorded on their Live in New York City album last year.)

Rick Fair is featured on a slow ballad, “Behold the Lamb of God.” The project closes with two mid-tempo songs, “What a Wonderful Lord” and “I am Sailing Away.”

On the initial listen, I would probably have given the project 3 or 3.5 stars. But the songs grow on you after you’ve played it seven or eight times, and I think that this solid performance deserves 4 stars. It is unlikely that it will receive the attention it deserves, since the Palmetto State Quartet will probably release a project with their new tenor (Wesley Smith) and bass (Burman Porter) as soon as they can. But this is a solid project, and is (along with their 2004 release It’s Settled) one of the two best that the Palmetto State Quartet has released in recent years.

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