An all-gospel project by newcomers, Wheeler, this self-titled release by this energetic young group will blow you away! Even as an all-gospel CD, I can assure you that there is something on this one that will appeal to all stations, regardless of your primary format.
The purest vocals and harmony reaches right down into your heart and grabs you from the moment the first note is released. Kevin, Mark, Justin and Steven play their respective instruments with expertise and joy, Tiffany’s vocals are angelic; they delight everyone who listens to them wherever they perform.”
Darrin Vincent called me one day and said, “there’s a bluegrass gospel group that’s asked me to write some liner notes for their album. It’s not something I feel comfortable doing, but I thought you might be interested—their vocals are really good. Give a listen and see what you think.”
Now, all you need to know is that that’s Darrin Vincent of Dailey & Vincent—the group that walked away with nearly every award the International Bluegrass Music Association had to give in 2008, including Vocal Group Of The Year—to understand that when he recommends someone’s singing, that’s just about an ironclad guarantee that it’s going to be something special. And indeed, a quick listen to the tracks that Wheeler had made available on their MySpace page was enough. For while there’s no doubt that instrumental ability is a must for any band seeking to make its mark in bluegrass, it is in the end the singing that wins listeners—and for a band like Wheeler, compelling vocals are absolutely essential.
That’s because they are, after all, a band with a compelling message. The singing must, so to speak, be not only convincing but convicted, both satisfying the listener’s ear and speaking to the heart and soul. This is an album filled with songs of faith—songs that warn of the consequences of sin, promise salvation to those who will believe, and uplift the spirits of those who struggle with the doubts and turmoils of daily life—and each is delivered with abundant ability and stirring energy.
It’s noteworthy that among these songs, the creations of band members sit comfortably beside contributions from award-winning songwriter Mark Brinkman, for like his, they are varied and yet pointed, each revealing a unique aspect of Christian belief and how it is lived and felt. The arrangements, too, serve to underline each song, whether they’re set in driving bluegrass mode or in a more contemporary, reflective framework. For a young group, this is a debut of considerable maturity, and offers not only its own joys, but the prospect of many more years of fine music in service of their faith.
So settle back and listen to Wheeler. Whether musically, spiritually or both, you’ll be amply rewarded.
--Jon Weisberger, Cottontown, Tennessee, June, 2009