The Blackwood Brothers – Sweet Songs About Heaven
Goodbye Egypt (Hello Canaanland) **** – This is a fun, piano heavy, opening track and an excellent choice for the first single. Tenor Wayne Little is featured on the verses with some step out lines on the choruses from new bass Butch Owens. I would have rated the song five stars if Owen’s lines on the choruses were louder. As is, his lines don’t jump out at you like I think they should.
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot/Swing Down Chariot *** – This opens with an acappella chorus before the music tracks kicks in. Jimmy Blackwood carries the lead through the song. While fans of the Blackwoods’ traditional sound will enjoy this track, there is nothing here that hasn’t been heard a dozen or so times before.
Sweet Songs About Heaven **** – Wayne Little gets a second strong feature on the title track. The ballad is orchestrated without being overdone and is a beautiful track. A few lines of “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”, with Jimmy carrying the lead, serves as a bridge before Wayne takes back over the lead to end the song.
That’s What Was Good About The Good Old Days **** – This is a new song that fits in with the older songs. Jimmy and Butch have the solos on the verses with Wayne taking the lead on the choruses. This is another fun, catchy song.
It Is No Secret *** – This southern gospel standard has a lightly orchestrated music track. Again, it is nothing that hasn’t been heard before.
I’ve Heard About A City /Walk Dem Golden Stairs **** – This is a medley of two old songs, the first of which features Butch with the rest of the quartet backing him up. At the 1:55 mark, there is a sudden transition into “Walk Dem Golden Stairs.” Two choruses of the second song are performed in straight harmony, before Wayne takes the lead and ends the track with a final line from the first song.
That’s What Heaven Will Be *** – This is a (too) laid back song with Wayne handling the lead. This is another new song that sounds like it could be a slightly updated arrangement of an older song.
Declaration Of Dependence ***** – Baritone and producer Billy Blackwood is featured on this orchestrated ballad. Billy’s vocal is outstanding. I never realized what a strong vocalist he was before listening to this song. While this strikes me as the most impressive vocal on the project, the heavily orchestrated track is out of place alongside the other nine tracks.
Someone To Care ***** – Billy is again featured on the next track as he has the solo on the first verse and carries the lead on the first chorus of this gospel standard. Butch solos the second verse before Wayne takes the lead on the following chorus. While the arrangement is nothing new, the vocal delivery is beautiful and makes this the best cut of this song I’ve heard.
The Devil Can’t Harm A Prayin’ Man **** – The CD closes with a cover of an upbeat song from the Blackwood Brothers’ 1960 In Concert LP. It features Wayne again and has a spiritual feel to it, with Wayne half speaking some of the lines and some lines sung in falsetto.
As Daniel Mount said in his 3:1 CD review of this project, it can be hard for groups with a history in a very traditional style to transition into the modern recording era. I agree with Daniel that Sweet Songs About Heaven is a solid step in that transition for the Blackwood Brothers. The project is a nice mix of newer songs in a traditional style and older songs brought into the modern era, although a couple of the old songs have been covered so many times that they all sound the same.
Billy and Wayne stand out vocally on this project. Their features are the most enjoyable songs. As I mentioned above, “Declaration Of Dependence” sticks out stylistically on this project, but Billy’s vocal is so good that the song is my favorite on the CD.
Average Song Rating: 3.9 stars
CD Rating: 4.5 stars