CD Review: Make a Difference (Southern Raised)

Editor’s Note: This review was promised prior to the CD reviews column being discontinued, but it took the CD a while to get here.

make-a-difference-1397571807The four siblings comprising Southern Raised are classically trained musicians who have also performed together as a classical string quartet. But, growing up in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, they also grew up around bluegrass, and they have come to the world’s attention as a bluegrass band. Their live presentations infuse their classical precision with their bluegrass energy.

Especially once you get past the genre’s headliner groups, you’ll find quite a few bluegrass gospel recordings filled with well-worn classics. Southern Raised’s song selection is on the creative side. There are only two classics that you’ve heard recorded dozens of times¬†(“What a Day That Will Be,” “I’ll Have a New Life.”) There are also three songs written by group members (“Things I’ve Never Seen,” “Ravens Still Fly,” and “River of Rest.”) All three are among the album’s stronger tracks.

Two songs you’ve heard before in a Southern Gospel setting are “Angels Swing a Little Lower” (Mark Bishop) and “Good News From The Graveyard” (Anchormen, Kingdom Heirs). Both are transformed into high-energy Bluegrass jams with fiery instrumental solos and and powerful vocal solos.

Another highlight is “Grandpa’s Fiddle,” written by James Payne and Adrian David Payne, and previously recorded by James Payne. If James Payne’s name sounds little familiar, it’s for good reason; he wrote “The Cloud He’s Coming Back On” and “The Greatest Love Story” for the Happy Goodmans, “The Walls of Jericho” for J.D. Sumner and The Stamps, and “Headlines” for the Florida Boys. This new song is a celebration of a family heritage steeped in both music and faith.

Southern Raised has the chops to make it as a bluegrass band, and they have dozens of bluegrass awards and nominations to back it up. But they also have the vocal talent and the songs to become a dual-genre success in Southern Gospel. And Southern Gospel fans have started to take notice; they’ve had a best-of-showcase appearance on the the National Quartet Convention mainstage, and they’ve received top ten nominations for New Mixed Group in the 2013 and 2014 Singing News Fan Awards. Vocally, instrumentally, and from a songwriting and production standpoint,¬†Make A Difference is a solid all-around project that will make fans of those who hear it.

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