For the past decade or so, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent have been the stars of the bluegrass world, showered with Grammys and International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, and having contributed to sets by the likes of Ricky Skaggs, Norah Jones, Bruce Hornsby, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton. As feted for their playing as much as their singing - Dailey & Vincent are masters across a selection of bluegrass's acoustic instruments - this album spotlights their vocals in spectacular fashion, with a set of unaccompanied Southern gospel songs.
It isn't actually a particularly huge leap, as Southern gospel and bluegrass singing share their main characteristics. Both feature small groups, usually four voices or less, with the vocals stacked onto each other and then harmonised on the melody. This technique was used in all the classic early Motown recordings, to give the vocals more depth; but in these instances it's done live.
Dailey & Vincent supplement their own voices with big names from Southern gospel such as Glenn Dustin (bass), Shawn Lane (tenor) and Molly Skaggs (soprano), and joyously soar their way through the American sanctified song catalogue. The 12 tracks take in traditional numbers like Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, 19th century songs such as I Am Resolved and Near the Cross, their own compositions, 'Til I See You Face to Face, and African-American hymns including Moses Smote the Water. The song selection illustrates the massive range of approaches existing in small-group religious singing, from the sombre almost-chanting, to numbers that sound more like conventional doo-wop, to soaring testifyin', to straight-up pop sounds.
The arrangements - mostly by Dailey & Vincent - provide such a supportive structure that they're able to push themselves into a state of obvious enjoyment, as they really do sing from the heart. Then once that happens, their technical expertise shines through so brightly that this album will have appeal far beyond the churches and their congregations.