Greetings from Asheville, where today we are looking at one of my favorite Bill Monroe albums, 1974’s Road of Life.
Road of Life was released by MCA in June 1974. It is one of Bill’s many Gospel albums, and for me, that is where he was often at his best, singing Gospel.
The album kicks off with two exceptionally great tracks in the title track, “Road of Life”, followed by “This World Is Not My Home”. The latter is one of my favorite Gospel songs and Bill’s version is my favorite. This song is a perfect fit for the bluegrass genre, it just sounds great when performed acoustically.
“Out in The Cold World” tells the story of a mother, longing for her lost, wandering son, a subject often heard in the bluegrass genre. Not a bad track, featuring some great playing by the Bluegrass Boys (as are all the cuts, for that matter). On an album of gospel tracks, though, it is a bit out of place.
The late Dottie Rambo is a legend in Southern Gospel music, as a singer and songwriter. One of her best compositions is “It’s Me Again, Lord”. It is truly one of the joys of this album. Outstanding track, of which the only negative is that the length is only 2:14. A great message and a great performance.
“I Will Sing for The Glory of God” is a toe-tapper and yet another outstanding piece of music.
“Beyond the Gate” is good, but not as good as the rest of the album. The performance, though, is flawless. Great vocal work by Bill.
Side 2 may be one of the best sides ever found on a long-playing album, beginning with “(We’re Going) Just Over in The Glory Land”. One of my favorite cuts on the disc, right here. The Bluegrass Boys are cutting loose on this cut, and their playing, along with Bill’s vocal performance, makes one want to sing along on this cut. Simply an awesome performance.
The tempo slows on “Pass Me Not”, a song written by Bill Monroe. The lyrics of this song are a beautiful, touching plea to our Savior to not “pass us by”. It is a beautiful composition from the pen of Mr. Monroe.
Some of the best Bluegrass-Gospel you will ever hear are contained in the final three tracks of this album. It starts with “The Old Country Baptizing”. A simple piece, with a simple arrangement. Bill and the Bluegrass Boys sing the whole song as a group, with merely a guitar and bass as accompaniment. I have loved this recording, since the first time I heard it. It has what I can only describe as a “sweet spirit” to it. The performance’s simplicity simply enhances the beauty of the performance.
Bill and the boys cut loose on “Somebody Touched Me”. This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Another spirited piece that will lift the spirit of anyone within earshot of a speaker blaring this sound. This is a track that makes one want to shout out, dance, jump, or sing-along in a joyful spirit of praise.
“Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)” is a great closing track to the album. Usually, this song is performed in a slow, almost bluesy style. However, Bill took a different approach, speeding the tempo up, and yet, the song’s spirit is not compromised at all, one still feels the emotions that the cross evokes. That is a testament to Bill Monroe’s musical ability, as well as the passion that Bill obviously had for the gospel and the music that glorifies it.
In this age where it seems like practically every record ever made has been reissued, this one, unfortunately, is an exception. This is one of Bill Monroe’s best albums, and in my opinion, it should at least be an MP3 download. I did see a few used copies on eBay, all vinyl except for one 8-track (anyone still have a working player?). Mostly in the $7 to $10 range.
It is hard not be uplifted by this album, or for that matter any album of Bill’s that features gospel music. When Bill Monroe sings gospel, it is nothing short of incredible. More than just a singer performing inspirational pieces, with his work, you hear the conviction, you hear a man whom sings these songs as if the Lord, himself was sitting directly in front of him, listening and singing along. This album is one of Bill Monroe’s best.
As always, your thoughts are welcome below.
More Great Albums!
About Your Author
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, model railroader, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.