Press-Republican

Friday

February 1, 2013

Losing religion, finding spirituality

Vt. arranger masters band's bluegrass, gospel balance

PERU — Taylor Armerding’s evangelical background, the son of a preacher man turned college administrator, gives him a certain insight into the gospel leanings of the Bluegrass Gospel Project.

The band’s newest luminous release, “Shine,” has more than a sprinkling of spiritual music among its 12 tracks. Selections can be heard during the band’s Feb. 8 engagement at the Peru Coffee House.

“I know what evangelical Christianity is about and what conservative religion is; this is not that,” said Armerding, who plays the mandolin and lives on Boston’s North Shore. Prior to the Bluegrass Gospel Project, he was the founder and lead singer for Northern Lights, a progressive-bluegrass band.

“It’s what people these days call spiritual,” Armerding said. “It’s ecumenical and nondenominational.”

Gene White Jr. (fiddle, guitar, vocals and arranger) had a vision for the band — which includes Dr. Steve Light (banjo, dobro, guitar, vocals), Colby Crehan (vocals), Paul Miller (guitar, vocals) and Kirk Lord (upright bass) — to perform bluegrass and gospel.

“Gospel is a pretty important element of bluegrass. It’s 25 percent of it,” Armerding said. “You get into bluegrass music, every band that’s been around longer than five or six years puts out a gospel album. It’s an important part of the tradition.”

Gospel comprises between 25 and 30 percent of what the band does.

“It’s Gene’s idea that we will have this emphasis,” Armerding said. “That’s a blessing and a curse. It tends to typecast you. “

The disc’s first track, Crehan’s “Tell Me A Story,” has gospel overtones.

“Far Side Banks of Jordan,” written by Terry Smith, is a tender, moving song, which taps biblical imagery of the River Jordan. A loved one promises that when she crosses over, she will be waiting on the other side for a joyous reunion.

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