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Some have advocated that hillbilly music in the 90s was the golden age of music. At that time, melodies were eternally memorable and artists were distinctive in their voices and mannerisms. Few plagiarized tropes and conveyor-belt made tunes.
And you can't talk about 90s hillbilly without mentioning Shenandoah. Constantly on heavy rotation across the airwaves were their hit songs such as "Ghost in This House," "See If I Care," "Next to You, Next to Me," and "If Bubba Can Dance (I Can Too)." What's most interesting is that two out of the group's 5 #1 hit records ("Church on Cumberland Road" and "Sunday in the South") were somehow tied to religion. Further, cuts such as "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting," "Building a Home," and "What Children Believe" have either Christian-insinuated themes or Biblical-derived motifs. Nevertheless, after nearly 30 years, Shenandoah has finally cut their first full-fledged Gospel album released via Daywind Records, "Good News Travel Fast."
Shenandoah as a group has gone through quite a few permutations and internal evolutions. Lead singer Marty Raybon has left the group in the late 90s, formed his own band and then pursued his own solo bluegrass and Gospel music career. Then in August 2014, Raybon returned back to taking the lead vocals of Shenandoah. "Good News Travels Fast" is the first ensuing record since Raybon's return. It's also their first album with Raybon at the helm since 1996's "Shenandoah Christmas." If you love Shenandoah's albums from the 90s, "Good News Travel Fast" doesn't disappoint.
Album opener "A Cross Between a Sinner and a Saint" effervesces with lots of Southern charm as Raybon brings us back into Smalltown USA to a man grateful for his spiritual upbringing. The band places the same Southern charm to Newsboys' "Hallelujah for the Cross" imbuing this modern worship with the patented Shenandoah sound.
"Stained Glass" falls into the same canon of stellar ballads such as "Ghost in This House" and "Moon Over Georgia." "Stained Glass" speaks of Christ's redemptive work in cleansing us of our sins over a piano-driven tune made for our hearts. "Just Wait, Be Still" is another heart massager. For those who fret under the stress of life, this ballad ought to be the elixir. To demonstrate that the time Raybon spent away from the band was not in waste, Raybon puts his bluegrass prowess on display with "Didn't It Rain." The rustic instruments behind the title cut and lead single "Good News Travels Fast" all come alive on this celebratory tune.
Over the course of their illustrative career, Shenandoah has had always strived to present to us with the best tunes performed with an ingrained verve and powerful imagination. This new album continues in the same tradition. Good tunes, indeed, do travel far.....
By Timothy Yap