Writing Bluegrass Gospel

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Ever since I got the songwriting bug back in the mid 1980’s, writing Gospel music has been very important to me. I’ve always been a man of Faith, and became fascinated by some of the Bluegrass Gospel songs I’d hear on recordings and at festivals back in those days. Bands like Doyle Lawson and the Bluegrass Cardinals, among others, were putting out some great stuff and were a big influence on my early writing. It was that Southern Gospel sound that really did it for me, and inspired me to write in that style.

My approach to writing Spiritual Songs was to try and come up with new ideas/song concepts/musical settings that didn’t sound like every other Gospel song I’d heard before. Needed to be original and innovative to a certain degree. It took a great deal of patience and exploration to create my own unique style of writing Gospel….establish my own identity…..but the hard work paid off.

By 1988 I was pitching some of my songs to a few of my favorite Bluegrass bands, and caught a break when the Lonesome River Band recorded a bluesy Gospel number I wrote entitled “Listen To The Word Of God”. Dan Tyminski sang lead, and guest artist Alison Krauss played fiddle on that cut. Definitely a highlight for me as a songwriter. That album “Carrying The Tradition” went on to be awarded IBMA album of the year.
Since then I’ve kept writing Gospel songs, several of which have been recorded by various Bluegrass and Southern Gospel artists.
As my catalog of Gospel numbers grew over time I decided I’d like to record a Gospel album of my own, featuring songs that no one had recorded yet. It would be an opportunity to express my own Faith through the songs I’d written, and spread the Holy Word of God to the rest of the world.
Jesse Brock and John Miller agreed to produce the recording and we were fortunate to attract a cast of wonderful musicians and vocalists that included Russell Moore, Dale Ann Bradley, Jeff Parker, Barry Scott, and Junior Sisk among several others. The end result exceeded any expectation I had, and helped land my first record deal with Rural Rhythm Records who were pretty hot at the time. Titled “Look To The Light”, the album went on to be nominated for IBMA Gospel Event Of The Year as well as a GMA Dove Award. The album received a great deal of radio airplay, including SIRIUS XM, and folks all across the country wrote and e-mailed me heartwarming notes about how they were “moved” by listening to this collection of spiritual songs. That was very gratifying for me personally.

In recent years I’ve done more collaborating with other writers all over the country, and ironically many of the resulting songs have been Gospel tunes. I can’t help but feel I was meant to write Gospel music, that it is my calling. Last fall Larry Stephenson cut “Best Laid Plans”, a Gospel song that I wrote with Troy Engle (our very first co-write). That was a real treat as I’ve always been a big fan of Larry’s singing.

Don’t know what the future holds, but will keep writing Gospel music as long as I can hold a pen in my hand.
God willing, I hope to record another Gospel album as a follow up to Look To The Light someday. As my mom would say: ” If it was meant to be, it will happen”.