First impressions are important, but they're not always completely accurate. For example, the presentation of If Your Looking For A Way To Heaven doesn't give you a real good feeling for what's inside. After all, the title reads like a bad example from Dave Barry's "Mr. Language Person," the cover photo features at least one case of camera flash "red eye" and the accompanying promotional material is full of misspellings, grammatical mistakes and typographical errors. It leads a poor reviewer to wonder if the same lack of attention to detail carries over to the music. It does, but that's not to say the Laceys haven't put some gems in here, as well.
This is the 28th album from this Tampa Bay-based family band. It features ten original gospel songs by Wayne Lacey, whose song writing is both the strength and weakness of the effort. At their best, his songs have nice melodies - there are some good "sing-along" tunes here - and the band puts forth some fresh, well-executed arrangements. At their worst, they're repetitive and trite, with lyrics bordering on painfully awkward.
The title cut is a catchy tune showing strong Lewis Family influences in the harmonies and the banjo-driven rhythm. It is probably a good indication of the towering influence of Doyle Lawson on bluegrass gospel today that one measure of a good gospel song is whether you can imagine Quicksilver performing it. The hard-driving, bluegrassy Savior Has Prepared would suit them just fine. Laraine Lacey does a particularly nice job singing For Your Hand, accompanied by some tasteful, simple guitar backup. On Little Country Church In The Valley, Wayne Lacey's vocals are reminiscent of Hobert Skaggs' on son Ricky's Family And Friends recording of a few years ago. David McMillan shows considerable talent and a nice sense of dynamics with his banjo and fiddle work. To my ear, the only real loser on the tape is Loving And Forgiving - it drags and the lyrics are clumsy and forced.
The recording is marred by problems in the production so serious that they totally distract from some fine performances. It illustrates the problems inherent in self-produced recordings. There's far too much echo in the vocals - they have that old "bathroom recording" sound that causes the vocals to fade into the instrumental backup too often. The fiddle and dobro are mixed so low in spots that they're nearly inaudible. An independent production ear, and bit more time spent on craftsmanship with the words would have made this a fine effort. As it is, with the poor recording and some unpolished phrasing, it seems rushed, rather than done critically and methodically for a better overall product.