Rock My Soul
Sugar Hill, 1981
REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/20/2012
Doyle Lawson's name has been synonymous with bluegrass perfectionism for decades. He and his band Quicksilver have strung together a slew of albums since the early 1980’s that have always pleased fans, and his group has been termed the "School Of Bluegrass" because so many of his band members have gone on to form their own powerful groups that have left their marks on the bluegrass world. But before all that became apparent, 1981's Rock My Soul was only a hint at what was to come.
While the group has tended to alternate between gospel and secular albums in recent years, Rock My Soul was the first gospel album from Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, and it started a multi-year run of mostly all-gospel records which arguably gave the group its dedicated fan base. And while the band has rotated in and out 37 members from 1979 to 2012, the members in this iteration of Quicksilver were the originals of Doyle, Terry Baucom, Jimmy Haley, Lou Reid, along with guest fiddler Bobby Hicks.
The track list contains several songs that were standard fare on the southern gospel circuit in the late ‘70s, but with a bluegrass twist. Doyle was able to make his versions of songs (like the beautiful "Just Over Yonder" and "Just Any Day Now," and the Inspirations’ classic “The Redeemed Are Coming Home”) the ones that others would imitate but never duplicate. "On The Sea Of Life" is a strong album opener that highlights Lou Reid's precision tenor vocals and readies the listener for some stellar quartet gospel ahead.
"I'll Have A New Life" is an old Luther G. Presley quartet song from 1940 that is given some serious bluegrass pep, and even "Angel Band" – which some groups have done in a slow, funeral dirge style – is performed at a relatively brisk tempo and bright mandolin fills, which serves the hopeful and forward looking lyrics well. "I've Got A Lot Of Heaven" is another rousing bluegrass number that will cause subconscious foot tapping.
Rock My Soul also contains three a capella gospel tracks that Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver are famous for making timeless. Doyle has a knack for taking Old Mountain and Negro spirituals and pulling together incredible a capella arrangements that use the voices as instruments better than any other bluegrass group. "Sweet Chariot" is pretty straightforward, but the Negro spiritual "Jesus Gave Me Water" has Doyle singing lead and the other three singing their scat parts under the verses. When combined together sounds these three parts mimic the sound of a staccato pipe organ. The soulful "Jesus I'll Never Forget" is a short but joyous testimony song that works well with no instruments.
Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver would build themselves as a successful group, focusing for a long time on purely bluegrass gospel music with a few secular albums thrown in. Rock My Soul is really where this pattern took off, and for good reason. If there is a list of essential bluegrass gospel albums, this album should definitely be on it.