It's Real

Primitive Quartet

Mountain Heritage, 2014

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


With 41 years in the Southern gospel business, the Primitive Quartet has been a remarkably stable group that has developed a loyal fan base that appreciates their spiritual singing and eschewing of the common trend towards showmanship and overproduction rather than musicianship. Their 2014 release, It's Real, sticks to this tradition but offers a set of songs that are arguably the best collection the group has offered in years. 

As a loyal listener of the group, a couple items struck me right off the bat. Firstly, the album contains eleven songs, which is the first time the group has offered more than their standard 10 tracks on a studio album in quite some time, perhaps even decades. Second, the mixing of the group is clearer than previous albums, especially the bass vocals from Larry Riddle, which have always seemed to be completely lost in the mix. Here they are audible and enhance their quartet sound. Finally, the arrangements for some songs on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 It's Real are refreshing for bluegrass gospel. The effortless modulation from the major to the relative minor on "Who Is The Rich Man Now" which features Randy Fox on lead is a perfect example, as are with the chord changes that move along "Yes He Can." 

There are more tracks that highlight the work of tenor singer Norman Wilson than there have been on other recent releases. His voice reaches higher registers but is strong especially on "There's A Much Better Way" and "The Closer I Get."  

Reagan Riddle, who serves generally as the groups "lead" and most prominent songwriter, gives a heartwarming performance on "Just Three Little Words," which reminds us all to tell our loved ones that we indeed love them, and to not forget to love God as well. He also takes the lead on the a cappella track, "The Beggar And The King." We can hear the emotion in his voice on this, one of the best tracks on the album. Multi-instrumentalist Jeff Tolbert turns in powerful vocal performances on "I Am Forgiven" and "Leaving The Land Of The Dying," along with some excellent fiddle work throughout the album.  

One final note is that this was the first time that the group's lead guitarist, Mike Riddle, was not able to play an instrument on a Primitives release due to an accident that injured his hand shortly before the group took to the studio. Riddle is one of the best and probably most underappreciated lead guitarists in the business, and although session musician David Johnson does a superb job on guitar and dobro, fans hope for Mike to fully recover soon.

Rating: A-

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© 2014 Curtis Jones and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Mountain Heritage, and is used for informational purposes only.