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Music Review: Common Strings – Somewhere in Glory

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A new entry in the Spiritual/Worship genre, Somewhere in Glory by Common Strings is a bluegrass banquet serving up classic songs in the public domain and original songs by Darron Nichols, Greg Preece, Wayne King, and Arthur Brumbley.

Darron and Vanessa Nichols are the driving force behind Common Strings, and it’s Vanessa’s clear mountain voice that shines throughout each of the twelve songs on Somewhere in Glory. Contributing artists include Dale Ann Bradley (harmony vocals), Carolyn King (harmony vocals) Steve Gulley (harmony vocals), Mike Hartgrove (fiddle), Phil Ledbetter (dobro), Brandon Rickman (guitar), Sammy Shelor (banjo), and Jimmy Creed (acoustic bass).

Bluegrass worship music may be a narrow niche, but Common Strings does an admirable job of filling it. Unfamiliar with blue grass? Think string bands (fiddle, banjo, guitar), Appalachia, and Dolly Parton. Ranging from the softly sweet to tunes that will get you up and dancing, Common Strings delivers a selection truly representative of mountain music. Nothing showcases this better than their rendition of “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus.” The sheer elation expressed is infectious.

Masterful musicians produce sounds true to America’s southeast mountains. New pieces, like “Hardhat for a Halo,” are well matched with traditional selections, expertly rendered. Those with a stereotypical view of worship music being stuffy, formal, and boring will be surprised at how joyful joy can be. I recently heard a preacher ask “why do people sing hymns only in church?” Maybe it’s because they haven’t heard beautiful, engaging interpretations like those by Common Strings.

Another project for this duo is The Cumberland River Academy of Bluegrass and Appalachian Music at the Bell Theater in Pineville, Kentucky, designed to “education and inform students of all ages about the historical values of the music and culture of the people who settled the Southern Appalachian Mountains.” For more information on Common Strings or the Cumberland River Academy of Bluegrass and Appalachian Music, visit the band’s website.

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