Various Artists
Blue Collar Gospel: From the Pen of Rick Lang
Billy Blue Records (release date: May 17, 2024)

By Robert M. Marovich

On Blue Collar Gospel, a quartet of skilled bluegrass players support a passel of gospel vocalists delivering eleven songs co-written by Rick Lang.

A Grammy-nominated songwriter from New Hampshire, Lang has a talent for crafting unpretentious and heartfelt southern gospel songs that bring wooden-church spirituality to contemporary life. For example, the title track, which features lead work by album producer Jerry Salley and the rich harmonies of the Oak Ridge Boys, tells of a farmer who sells his acreage and his tractor to preach the gospel. Featuring a superb mandolin solo by Justin Moses, “Old Rugged Me” uses country’s classic play-on-words lyric technique to chronicle a man’s conversion. “Everyday Blessings” is about appreciating all that we have, regardless of how seemingly insignificant.

The single, “Just Beyond,” led by Barry Abernathy, features the sweet, resonant harmonies that evolved from shape-note singing. Songs like “Rise Above it All,” a duet by Becky Buller and Nathan Woodard, has the feel of a Steeldrivers’ track. Another top selection is “Catch Me When I Fall,” a testimonial about the constancy of Jesus. The closing track, “On the Tips of Angels’ Wings,” has the lyrical and musical exuberance of the old hymn “I’ll Fly Away.” Alecia Nugent’s lead vocal really sells the song.

Aaron McDaris wields a wicked five-string banjo and Jason Roller’s fiddle zips in and out of the melody like a hummingbird. Even on the few songs that don’t dazzle as much as those mentioned above, the singers and band are uniformly excellent. Blue Collar Gospel isn’t just the title of a song, an album, or the farmer-turned-preacher of the title track, but a good descriptor of the songwriting philosophy of Rick Lang.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Just Beyond,” “On the Tips of Angels’ Wings”

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Written by : Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.