A Joyous Collection of Praise

Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike
Wash Away Your Troubles (Bell Buckle Records)

By Bob Mitchell

Let's begin with a few basic facts: Valerie Smith was nominated for 2006 Female Vocalist of the Year. Becky Buller was nominated for 1996 Fiddle Player of the Year. And both ladies were nominated for their work on the Daughters of Bluegrass project Back to the Well, which won the prestigious 2006 Recorded Event of the Year.

If you have attended a Smith performance you know how she radiates enthusiasm for the music she plays. Now, for the first time, Smith, an unrestrained bundle of energy, has released her first all gospel album. The project, a joyous celebration of praise, proclaims, "The name of the Lord is music to my ears." And, the interesting array of selections will be music to your ears.

A powerful opening track, "The Rain," sets the tone for a first rate listening experience. Other highlights are soulful a capella arrangements of "My Jesus" and "Soul Phone," a plaintive "Wings to Fly," the sensitive waltz, "Seeds," and "Blossom on the Almond Tree" which features exemplary harmonies. Two of my favorite selections are the lighthearted "God's Refrigerator" (a delightful story in which a person who believes that no one cares suddenly finds herself in God's kitchen where He has proudly taped all of her childhood drawings on his refrigerator as a sign of enduring love) and the phenomenal quartet cover for the Louvin Brothers' "Make Him A Soldier."

Throughout the recording Smith's vocals convey honesty and heartfelt emotion. Her band, Liberty Pike, demonstrate tasteful and highly capable support. Members include Buller (fiddle, clawhammer, 5-string viola and harmony vocals), Casey Grimes on acoustic bass and harmony vocals) and Jonathon Maness on guitar, mandolin and harmony vocals). Special guests include the incomparable Mike Compton on mandolin, Alan O'Bryant on banjo and Matt Leadbettr on Dobro.

For more information go to www.valeriesmithonline.com.