Voyager Recordings & Publications

What the Reviews Say

LION DOG LD 9710 RICK RUSKIN AND VIVIAN WILLIAMS: THE GOSPEL

Acoustic guitar legend Rick Ruskin gets together with national treasure Vivian Williams and, sounding as if they're sitting together tapping their toes in Rick's living room, they fashion an utterly delightful recording of gospel chestnuts ranging from "Jesus Loves Me" to " Amazing Grace" to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" to "I'll Fly Away." On each track, Ruskin creates a unique backing arrangement. For one song, the guitar seems slightly formal, for another it becomes mildly funky, for yet another it seems to have been bitten by the jazz bug. Thus, a set of music that could have grown mildly tedious - in spite of the solidity of the players' craftsmanship - keeps kicking itself into a new groove and stays very much alive. Vivian, throughout, provides a very rootsy reading of each song, her fiddle impeccably clear and rich. Ruskin's guitar swirls around her traditional sound like a chorus of "Amens" in every possible language. It is very difficult to find anything to fault here, except perhaps that there is nothing adventurous in the set list. The songs are as familiar as Cheerios for breakfast - but truly, they taste as wonderful as they possibly could. All that sugar and molasses and can I get a witness! You need your own copy of this set. (Victory Review)

*****

Fingerstyle guitarist Rick Ruskin and fiddler Vivian Williams team up on 12 familiar hymns and spirituals, including "Jesus Loves Me," "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," and "I'll Fly Away," imbuing them with a strong, buoyant gospel feel. While Ruskin kicks off "Jesus Loves Me" with churchy-sounding block chords, his arrangements draw mainly on ragtime, blues, and other roots styles that evolved alongside the traditional American liturgical genre into which most of these tunes fall. Ruskin gives Merle Travis' "I Am a Pilgrim" a bouncy, ragtime treatment, and on "Just a Closer Walk with Thee," he uses a loping rhythmic figure that is a variant of Reverend Garry Davis' song "Candy Man." On several tunes - notably "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and "Farther Along" - Ruskin simulates a gospel choir with his guitar and provides interesting counterpoint to Williams' fairly straight melody readings. While most of the CD is a simple duo recording, a bass-and-drums rhythm section propels the duo's version of "This Little Light of Mine," where Ruskin rocks out on a deft solo that includes some excellent string bending. Whatever your religious persuasion, this rootsy album is truly a tonic for the soul. (Ron Forbes-Roberts - Acoustic Guitar)

*****

5 out of 5 stars. Divine duets of old favorites. These friends combine their much acclaimed skills on finger-style acoustic guitar and violin to create a new invention on an old tradition of folk and gospel favorites. Williams contributes her award-winning precision violin to the melodies while Ruskin dances around her with playful blues-influenced guitar rhythms. Each represents a pinnacle in their respective skills, complimenting one another delightfully. (Christi Nebel, Amazon.com)

*****

5 out of 5 stars. Great sounding recording of excellent guitar and fiddle playing. ....The sound of this CD is immediately impressive - clear, clean, and natural, with solid dynamics and an open, uncluttered sound stage. The arrangements keep making me smile. Vivian plays pretty straight interpretations of the familiar melodies with a big clear tone, but Rick seems determined to inject a bit of a twist, with R&B licks, sliding harmonies, walking bass lines, countermelodies, and a generally sideways approach. Never enough to distract, but always adding unusual touches to these familiar tunes. (Fran Guidry, rec.music.makers.guitar.acoustic)

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