A Forbes Family Treasury: Volumes 1&2

The Forbes Family

Rebel, 2015


REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


For many fans of bluegrass gospel music, the Forbes Family is part of an elite class that should be the go-tos of the genre. They didn’t produce a lot of frills and their song selections were often derivative of what other bands were also doing, but their family harmony and simple style are to be loved. That is why, with only two short runs of albums – one in the ‘80s and one in the ‘90s – this group is still popular enough for Rebel Records to produce another best of collection. This time, it is the two volume Forbes Family Treasury.

The family grew up in Pennsylvania in a strict household. One account I read from one of their shows in their early years was that they were not allowed to spend much time at friend’s houses as teenagers, so the kids would get together and practice singing. The common style for this close-knit family was gospel music, and their harmonies and skills were honed in that period.  After spending some time singing regionally, they were discovered by bluegrass gospel legends the Easter Brothers, and eventually moved to North Carolina where their mountain gospel music had a larger audience. Their sound didn’t change too much in their two iterations, but their bedrock was always the clear four part family harmony that only siblings can produce.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In 1994, Rebel put out a Best Of The Early Forbes Family collection. But because they produced so few albums, that collection was essentially their entire first album, plus another couple of tracks. This collection utilizes nearly all of those tracks, plus a few from their ‘90s run. There are also a few previously unreleased tracks, such as Dolly Parton’s “Sacred Memories” and an impressive “Something That The World Didn’t Give Me.”

The standouts on this album are ones that I would pass to a friend as a definition of great bluegrass gospel: “It Is I, Be Not Afraid,” “Living In The Name of Love,” “The Prettiest Flowers Will Be Blooming,” “In My Robe Of White,” and “Gleams Of That Golden Morning.” Claire Lynch’s “Come Unto Me” is a very good match to her original, but still great. There are also superb renditions of powerful a cappella numbers, representing the style of many mountain churches. Look to “I Need Jesus,” “The Old Ship Of Zion” and “When I’m Sleeping In The Grave” for the best examples of this moving style.

There are some misses here that are surprising to see in a “best of” collection. The harmonies on “Just A Pilgrim” just don’t seem to work, and it may be because what should be the melody line is being sung as a harmony and they have the harmony out in front as a melody. It could have been an engineering mistake, or perhaps the group was just taking a different approach to a well-worn song, but they don’t pull it off here. “Satan’s Jewelled Crown” has some awful accompaniment joining it, with an out of key violin scratching its way along with a dobro. The combination is like nails on a chalkboard and should have been left far away from this collection.

The Forbes Family is a model for what gospel should be and what mountain gospel truly is. This reviewer wishes they’d begin their musical careers again. Short of that, it is a good thing that Rebel pulled this collection together to remember how crisp, clear and true their music was.

Rating: B

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© 2016 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 Rebel, and is used for informational purposes only.