The Stevens/Five for the Gospel (#123)

Bluegrass gospel and tight vocal harmonies.

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 internationally known group Five for the Gospel has developed a unique bluegrass gospel sound, described by rhythm guitar and harmonica player Gary Waugh as “quartet-style with bluegrass instrumentation.” In addition to Waugh, the band members 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 their 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.”

The Stevens, featuring 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). Selections include “What About Me?,” “Tired Old Heart,” “Who’s Crying For You Now?,” and the soulful title song. The Stevens have performed twice at the Grand Ole Opry.