a solid, inspirational collection

Today's Best Country Gospel (Arrival)

various artists

By Jean Metcalfe

With cuts by Vince Gill and Willie Nelson, this reviewer didn't notice (or care) who or what else was on Today's Best Country Gospel.

"Hello, K-Tel. Send me a review copy."

"Go Rest High On That Mountain," written by Vince Gill for his late brother, is a poignant tribute that is at once sad and triumphant. The triple whammy of Gill as writer, performer, and the subject's sibling makes this first cut all the more moving. Keep the Puffs nearby.

Ditto for the second cut. Diamond Rio's Top 10 hit "Mama Don't Forget to Pray for Me" finds a grown son away from home and "living way too fast." In the classic script of a child calling home unexpectedly at a late hour, the homesick son seeks a long-distance Band-Aid for his skinned soul. Surely written by one who's been there.

"Don't Overlook Salvation" is a nice Ricky Van Shelton number that entices the listener to sing along--but with the lyrics to Mickey Gilley's No. 1 hit from the '70s, "I Overlooked an Orchid."

Paul Overstreet's "Lost and Found" has a clever title for a gospel song, and the message is a nice representation of the positive tunes Overstreet writes and sings.

Of all the Willie Nelson songs I've loved before, "Family Bible" would have been my choice for this compilation. Nevertheless, "Dreaming of a Little Cabin" evokes wonderful childhood memories, and has marvelous a cappella harmonies. Let's hear that one again.

"Wednesday Night Prayer Meetin'" strikes a responsive chord for all who grew up in churches where services weren't limited to Sunday mornings and where "hell-fire preachin'" was as certain as the passing of the offering plate.

John Anderson's "I'm Just An Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day)" was a Top 10 hit for the popular Florida native in the first half of his two-part musical career. Might Anderson have found encouragement in this number as he worked toward his very successful comeback?

The Statler Brothers provide a delightful rendition of "He's Always There for You," demonstrating why they've been around for more than 40 years and have their own television show. "Remember, life is fragile, so handle it with prayer" is a favorite line, and the chorus provides blessed assurance for the listener and an irresistible opportunity to sing along.

As one might expect from this artist, Marty Stuart picks up the tempo and rocks out on "If I Give My Soul." While the lyrics aren't memorable, the title hook and its echo at the beginning of the chorus get the listener's attention.

Wylie & the Wild West Show closes the album with a respectable rendition of "If Jesus Loves Me (Why Can't You)." While the hook is nice, the questioner can expect little sympathy as he breaks the secular commandment "Thou shalt not whine."

To sum it up, Today's Best Country Gospel earns a hearty "Amen!"