February 1, 2013

Losing religion, finding spirituality

Vt. arranger masters band's bluegrass, gospel balance


“It’s about death, about dying, what you cross between life on earth and life in heaven,” Ameriding said. “There’s a very moving version by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash late in their life. June died not long after that.”

White and Crehan did a tight arrangement of the traditional “Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep.”

“We gather around one microphone,” Amerding said. “It makes it more intimate. It’s a huge crowd-pleaser. It’s all about Old Testament images, Moses and Pharaoh.”

Crehan penned track five, “Shake Out the Chaff.”

“Chaff is a used in parables in the Old and New Testament,” Armerding said. “Wheat is separated from the chaff. Chaff is what you throw out. Wheat is what you save.”

“My Lord’s Going to Set Me Free” (track six) and “Paul and Silas” (track eight) are call-and-response songs.

“The two (Paul and Silas) did missionary work together and got thrown in jail,” he said.

“Heaven” (track nine), despite its title, is not about divinity but locating heaven on earth.

The band covers the Louvin Brothers’ “Travel, Travel On” and concludes the disc with Bruce Cockburn’s “One Day I Walk.”

“It’s a very spiritual song. Cockburn is a Christian who doesn’t like being overt about it. He cloaks his lyrics in spiritual ways. They’re not in-your-face kind of things,” Armerding said.

The Bluegrass Gospel Project does not produce concept albums but arrange the songs they’ve learned over a year. The selection process is a careful one.

“Gene has a very specific idea of what works for this band,” Armerding said. “I think 99.9 percent of the time, he’s right on. He’s not a lead singer or claim he doesn’t sing that much harmony, but he has an amazing sense of arrangement and what works.”

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IF YOU GO WHAT: The Bluegrass Gospel Project. WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8. WHERE: The Peru Coffeehouse is located at the corner of routes 22 and 22B in Peru. ADMISSION: $10 at the door.


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