A springy string melody ignites a blaze of musicality that will soon overtake anyone within earshot of the title track in LaTresa & the Signal’s The Blood and the River, a ‘grassed up gospel LP that is garnering a lot of attention this season, to put it mildly. We begin in this tizzy of easygoing harmonies and transition into the slow dance that is “Lazarus,” a gospel song with the heart of an Americana-steeped roots ballad. “Sea of Galilee” injects the rhythm of the record with a little gallop that brings us all the closer to the warm, inviting lyricism at the center of this sonic storm. The music is accentuated with a polished master mix, but there’s no unneeded pomp to be sifted through in any of this material.
“The Valley with My Lord” takes us down a shadowy path that is beset with the best bassline in The Blood and the River. It’s a song that I must have played on repeat three or four times before progressing to “The Mountain,” if for no other reason than to bask in its dark melodies. The vocal harmony that LaTresa & the Signal treat us to in “The Mountain” is matched only by the solemn string sway of “When I Cross the River,” another track that really affected me in my initial listening session with this disc. There’s a lot to take in from the start here, but I don’t feel like there’s ever so much detail that more casual bluegrass and gospel fans would feel repelled by the grand nature of the framework in The Blood and the River.
We return to balladry of the best kind in “My Prayer,” a song that segues into “In the Valley” as though the two were always meant to be heard together. “Where Angels Abide (Russell’s Song)” has a lovely charm to its country-style construction, but at the same time, it doesn’t drift all that far from the bluegrass tone of the other compositions in this album. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the harmonious hymn that is “Now I Am Redeemed,” and as much as I enjoy the tracks that precede it in The Blood and the River, it’s the undisputed star of this gospel songbook. “Would You Walk with Jesus” turns the tempo back towards the buoyant before easing us into the final track here, “Bright Star,” which brings us to a poetic ending that befits the high caliber content of this tracklist.
LaTresa & the Signal aren’t a quite a household name, but with the release of The Blood and the River, they elevate their status within the hierarchy of both the bluegrass and gospel scenes to a level that warrants some legitimate accolades from all aforementioned parties. Most all of the songs here espouse the virtues of Jesus’ love, and with all of the chaos and discord of the nightly news weighing so heavy on our day to day lives in 2019, it’s a true pleasure to encounter an album that rejoices in positivity, moral character, and above all else, peace among all mankind.