Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gospel Blue reviewed by Mark Thompson

Gospel Blue
Brick Fields
10 tracks/48:15

Based out of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Brick Fields is a six member band lead by the husband and wife team of Rachel a & Larry Brick. The group is unique in several ways. First, the nine tunes written by the couple have lyrical content heavily influenced by their Christian faith. Next, Rachel Brick plays flute -an instrument rarely associated with blues - on several tracks. The final defining characteristic of this ensemble is Rachel's magnificent alto voice that is capable of turning anything she sings into a memorable experience.

“On the Vine” opens the disc with Rachel joyfully espousing the value of holding on to the promise from Jesus that love will grow through the hardest times if we keep our faith. Larry, Rachel and Rain Equine combine their voices on a beautiful acappella segment to open “In the Light of Love”. Rachel's flute serves as a counterpoint to her dynamic vocal and Casey Terry accentuates the arrangement with one of his engaging sax solos. Larry's sensitive acoustic guitar accompaniment on “Hopelessly Addicted” serves as a springboard for more of Rachel's earthy vocalization on love in it's many forms.

The rhythm section of Johnny Ray on bass and Caleb Bomar on drums create a funky backbeat on “Talk About the Weather” while Terry delivers another solid tenor sax solo. Rachel can barely control her passion as she sings about the impending final reckoning on “These Are the Days”. The band slows the pace on the ballad, “How Long”, which is not the classic blues tune but an original that finds Rachel interspersing tender moments with emphatic statements that blur the lines between the secular and spiritual realms. Another highlight is “Cryin'” as Rachel pours her heart out over the misery of life with Randy Fairbanks on organ adding depth while Larry plays a short but dramatic guitar solo.

“Go On with the Soul” finds Rachel as she utilizing every facet of her powerful voice as it dips and soars through the gentle gospel ballad. Larry's tasty guitar work and Terry's sax stand out on the up-tempo workout “Lord I'm Coming Home”. The lone cover is the gospel standard “Amazing Grace”. The band uses a bluesier arrangement which surprising falls short of energy and conviction found on the rest of the disc, although Fairbanks on organ adds some sense of church.

Those of you who might be put off by the references to God, Jesus and religious beliefs should know that the lyrics on Gospel Blue are not always overt statements of faith. The songwriting often blurs the separation of the heaven and earth, so that the material can be enjoyed no matter what your beliefs. And once you hear Rachel Brick lift up her voice, it really doesn't matter what she is singing about. Her voice will comfort and soothe you while the band gives her expert support. If you enjoy outstanding singing, you need to check out this recording.

Reviewed by Mark Thompson

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