Five for the Gospel/The Stevens (#314)

Kentucky and Tennessee groups present bluegrass gospel with tight vocal harmonies.

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The bluegrass gospel sounds of northeastern Kentucky’s Five for the Gospel and the tight vocal harmonies of the Stevens, from eastern Tennessee, light up this episode of Jubilee, taped at the 1997 Carter County Shrine Club Bluegrass Festival in Olive Hill, KY.

The Stevens—sisters April and Beth; their mother, Betty; and father Douglas on guitar—entertain the audience with jazzy versions of traditional songs from their Sisters album (Rounder Records, 1996), including “What About Me?,” “Tired Old Heart,” “Who’s Crying for You Now?,” and the soulful title song. The family has performed twice at the Grand Ole Opry.

Next, the internationally known Five for the Gospel share their unique bluegrass gospel sound, described by rhythm guitar and harmonica player Gary Waugh as “quartet-style with bluegrass instrumentation.” The other four of the Five are bass player Pat Holbrook, banjo player Johnny Branham, lead guitarist Rick May, and mandolin player Bill Hamm, all from Kentucky.

This full-time bluegrass gospel band, formed late in 1989, has several albums to its credit, including two 2000 releases: Working in the Vineyards and Victory Is Sweet. For this Jubilee performance, the award-winning Five sing “The Holy City,” “That Sounds Like Home to Me,” “Follow Me,” and “Brush Arbor Church Back in the Hills.”