Charlie Daniels Band

Songs From The Longleaf Pines – 2005 (Blue Hat)

Reviewed by Greg Milliken

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CDs by Charlie Daniels Band

Charlie Daniels' music has always been gospel-influenced, and there are at least two earlier albums of sacred material in his catalogue. With his newest, Daniels takes old time southern gospel down a fresh acoustic road, preaching, shouting and cooing out 13 hymns and recitations. Assisted by bluegrass legends Earl Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Ricky Skaggs and The Whites, Daniels has never sounded more joyful and assured.

The opener, Bill Monroe's "Walking In Jerusalem," sets the tone with The Whites' heavenly harmonies and the impeccable picking of the GrooveGrass Boyz buoying Daniels' strutting backwoods vocals. Wiseman and Daniels' eerie duets on "I'm Working On A Building" and "What Would You Give" carry the listener deep into an ancient and dimly-imagined Appalachian worship service. Other highlights include "Softly and Tenderly," where Cyndi Wheeler offers her sweet, soaring vocals and Scruggs adds a tasteful banjo; "Keep On The Sunny Side," an all-star vocal and instrumental work-out; and, the rousing instrumental version of "I'll Fly Away."

Smartly produced by Scott Rouse, this rootsy, camp meeting of a set celebrates a seldom-explored, but richly realized, side of the veteran performer.