Album Review, Artist Profiles, Music, Virginia Artists

Come Home: Album from Bent Mountain: Encouraging Bluegrass Music

The CD cover of Come Home by Bent Mountain. **All photos on this music blog message were provided courtesy of Quigg Lawrence.

In my home state of Virginia, many bluegrass song lyrics are written about topics pertinent to living life in the valleys and mountains of Appalachia.  Besides the universal subject of love, many Virginian bluegrass songs mention hard living, working the land, feeding families with wages below poverty or permanently loosing coal mining jobs.

In contrast to the lyrical content of most traditional bluegrass created within the Appalachian region of Virginia, others are producing music that is full of hope and encouragement. One such project is an album called “Come Home” by Bent Mountain.

The overall message with this new Roanoke, Virginia bluegrass compilation, can be found on the album’s front CD cover, referencing Matthew 11:28 from the New Testament of the Bible: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

The spiritual aspect of this project comes as no surprise, as the genesis for this new 10-track bluegrass music album comes from Dr. Quigg Lawrence, who is senior pastor at Church of the Holy Spirit, an Anglican parish in Roanoke, Virginia. Lawrence has ministered with his Roanoke congregation for 32 years.

Bishop Quigg Lawrence

In addition to his pastoral duties with Church of the Holy Spirit, Lawrence also serves as a Bishop for the Diocese of Christ Our Hope, which is part of the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA). Lawrence was consecrated Bishop in February 2013.

My family and I have been members with Church of the Holy Spirit (COTHS) since 2002, so I have shared many experiences with Pastor Lawrence over the past 19 years. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Lawrence about his new bluegrass album project.

During the beginning of my first interview with Bishop Lawrence, I asked two main questions:

1. Why was the name Bent Mountain selected?

2. What is the purpose and goal for recording the album?

Scott Mulvahill and Eric Imhof at Church of the Holy Spirit Roanoke during Bent Mountain recording session.

Bishop Quigg replied, “Bent Mountain is not the name of a band but is a collaboration of musical talent by my friends. Those friends include folks from Church of the Holy Spirit, plus musicians from Roanoke, Southwestern Virginia and even Nashville, Tennessee.”

Answering my second question, Lawrence stated the purpose and goal of the album: “It is a bluegrass style offering, created during Covid and a time while I was watching my mom battle cancer and go home to Jesus.

Lawrence continued, “The common theme with the 10 tracks on “Come Home” is death, resurrection and the “life of the world to come.” It is an invitation to come and experience the peace, rest and joy of the Lord”

The Inspiration behind “Come Home.” Quigg Lawrence TV Interview with Lindsey Ward WSLS Channel 10 Roanoke.  Daytime Blue Ridge show. May 24, 2021.

Bluegrass music has always been a passion for Bishop Lawrence.  His fondness for acoustic stringed instrumental music, formulated during his high school years in Richmond, Virginia.

While growing up, Lawrence loved listening to bluegrass records on his parent’s stereo system.  He also showed fondness of watching his father, Quigg Lawrence Senior play bluegrass music.

Lawrence’s dad owned Alpha Audio recording studio in Richmond where albums from many genres of music were recorded.  Quigg Senior also played in his own bluegrass band called BlueRidge.

Photo of Quigg Lawrence Senior and his band BlueRidge during 1982.

Over the years, Lawrence’s father would often have jam sessions and play with other talented bluegrass musicians. Included in the mix of talented performers that Quigg Senior played with are Ben Eldridge, Bill Clifton, Ralph Stanley and the Country Gentleman.

As a side note, Quigg Lawrence Senior once owned a 1954 Martin D-28 guitar back when he played bluegrass music.  The guitar is said to be “one of the best on the planet” according to Bishop Lawrence. Photo below is of the vintage 1954 Martin D-28 guitar.

Just before Quigg Lawrence Senior passed away, he sold his guitar to an unidentified buyer. Eventually, this famous guitar ended up being owned by Chris Eldridge, who is a guitarist and member of Punch Brothers band. Ironically, Eldridge is one of the musicians who performed on the “Come Home” album and he actually played the celebrated 1954 Martin D-28 guitar on many of the album’s tracks.

Chris Eldridge playing the 1954 Martin D-28 guitar during Bent Mountain recording sessions, that had once been owned by Quigg Lawrence Senior, father of Bishop Lawrence.

After graduation from high school, Lawrence attended the University of Virginia for two years and then earned a degree in emergency medicine from Central Washington University.

It was during this time period that Lawrence found his main pathway for living: Becoming a Christian and following Jesus.

 During the summer of 1980, a surfer friend of Lawrence gave him the book, “Basic Christianity” by John Stott.  By reading Stott’s book, Lawrence started understanding things in the Bible and began his journey as a Christian.

Obviously, proclamation of the gospel is important for Bishop Quigg.  He shared with me about his unique album set, “It has been my dream for several years to record the wide breadth of styles of music COTHS uses.  We regularly use banjo, mandolin and cello alongside electric guitars, keyboard, and bass.”

Julie Wright and Scott Mulvahill at Bent Mountain recording session: Church of the Holy Spirit Roanoke.

Two years ago, the COTHS worship team recorded an EP which included 4 original songs (both contemporary and traditional worship in style) and one cover tune. The brand-new Bent Mountain collaboration features a pleasing mixture of bluegrass and Americana genres of music.

Scott Mulvahill singing backup vocals for Bent Mountain album. Church of the Holy Spirit Roanoke.

Producer for the “Come Home” album is Scott Mulvahill, with Quigg Lawrence as executive producer and Evan Sieling handling engineering duties.

Besides Bishop Lawrence, there are four members of his COTHS congregation that contributed to the “Come Home” project:

*Eric Imhof:  Son-in-law of Quigg Lawrence, Worship Arts Pastor/Stewardship Pastor for COTHS.

Eric Imhof, Scott Mulvahill and Julie Wright taking break during Bent Mountain recording session.

*Julie Wright:  Former Worship Arts Pastor at COTHS and a current member of the praise/worship team.

*Ayden Young and Blane Young: The Brothers Young are a sibling bluegrass duo. Ayden is 15 and plays banjo with the COTHS praise/worship team. Blane age 10, is a mandolin player. Last October, I featured the Brothers Young with one of my music blogs here on DJ Dave’s Musical Musings:

Blane and Ayden Young: The Brothers Young duo from Roanoke, Virginia.

The remaining personnel who are part of the Bent Mountain collaboration, are all excellent musicians and performers.  In fact, Bishop Lawrence brought together a world-class, all-star ensemble for his debut compilation.

*Annie Lawrence:   Singer-songwriter who lives Nashville and has recorded multiple albums. She is the daughter of Quigg Lawrence and grew up in Roanoke. Two years ago, I featured Annie Lawrence’s musical story on my music blog:

awrence.

Annie Lawrence performing at Church of the Holy Spirit. Roanoke, Virginia.

*Scott Mulvahiill:  Front man, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and world-renowned upright bassist.  Has played with Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby.  Now has a solo career. Mulvahill is producer of the Bent Mountain album.

Scott Mulvahill with upright bass during recording session for “Come Home” album.

*Junior Sisk:  Lead guitarist, vocalist and front man for the Junior Sisk Band.  Lives in Ferrum, Virginia. His past bands include Rambler’s Choice and BlueRidge.  Sisk has won numerous accolades including the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Male Vocalist of the Year award.

*Chris Eldridge:   Singer and guitarist.  Member of Punch Brothers: A hybrid bluegrass/classical/country/chamber band. In 2018, Punch Brothers won a Grammy for Best Folk Album with “All Ashore.”  Past member of the Infamous Stringdusters bluegrass band. His father is Ben Eldridge, founding member of the Seldom Scene.

*Justin Moses: Dobro maestro and multi-instrumentalist. Prominent Nashville session musician. Versatile musician in all forms of acoustic music. Named Dobro Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association. Married to singer-songwriter and mandolin player Sierra Hull since 2017.

Justin Moses playing a dobro guitar during Bent Mountain recording sessions.

*Sierra Hull: Virtuoso mandolinist, singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.  Debut on Grand Ole Opry stage at age 10, played Carnegie Hall at 12 and had first recorded album at age 13. Married to Justin Moses. Performs and tours with husband as a duo.

*Russ Carson:   Superb banjo player.  Member of Ricky Skaggs’ band Kentucky Thunder. Started picking banjo at age 10. Bluegrass Today online considers Carson to be “among one of the top banjo players in the world.”

Russ Carson playing banjo at Bent Mountain recording session.

*Ryan Ogrodny:  Polka prodigy as a teen and plays the fiddle.  Nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Polka Album in 2004. Ogrodny is a violin/fiddle professor at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee.

* Doug Bartlett:  Fiddle specialist and multi-instrumentalist, formerly with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. Currently with Junior Sisk band. Received a couple of Grammy nominations in 1999 and 2000 for two separate bluegrass albums.

* Jonathan Dillon: Mandolin is main instrument with exceptional banjo skills.  Plays in the Junior Sisk band. At age 17, Dillon was nominated for “Mandolin Player – Performer of the Year” at the 2013 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America Awards.

*Heather Mabe: Lead and harmony vocalist. Heather and her husband Tony are members of Junior Sisk Band.  Ms. Mabe is known for excellent harmonies, amazing tones and perfect pitch vocals.

Heather Mabe, Junior Sisk and others playing a bluegrass song.

There are a total of 10 tracks on the Bent Mountain album:

  1. Shoutin’ On the Hills of Glory (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  2. The Darkest Hour (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  3. Mother’s Only Sleeping (Featuring Eric Imhof)
  4. Little Birdie (Featuring Junior Sisk and the Brothers Young)
  5. Forever Ain’t No Trouble Now (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  6. Down the Road (Featuring Quigg Lawrence)
  7. You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive (Featuring Eric Imhof and Julie Wright)
  8. Eulogy for Dr. Ralph Stanley (Spoken by Ricky Skaggs)
  9. Come to Jesus (Featuring Annie Lawrence)
  10.  Softly and Tenderly (Featuring Julie Wright)

Four songs on the album feature vocals by Bishop Lawrence. Eric Imhof and Julie Wright sing on three tracks: Both artists have lead vocals with a single song and the pair also perform a duet together.  Rounding out the singing tracks from the Bent Mountain assemble are vocalists Annie Lawrence and Junior Sisk.  

The tenth selection is not musical but actually the spoken word:  It is a eulogy that country/bluegrass superstar Ricky Skaggs gave at the funeral for the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley, the Southwestern Virginia pioneer of bluegrass and country music genres.

Audio for “Eulogy for Dr. Ralph Stanley” by Ricky Skaggs. From Bent Mountain album.

Inclusion of Stanley’s eulogy on a bluegrass album may seem odd to some. However, Bishop Quigg says of Skaggs’ oratory, “I have never heard a clearer explanation of the Gospel.”

In breaking down the musical tunes from the “Come Home” production, the Gospel message pervades throughout each selection, and proclamation of Christian themes is at the forefront on this project. The musicianship on the album is outstanding.

Since I had an advance copy of “Come Home” last month, I have listened to the album multiple times. Before I heard the four songs where Bishop Quigg performs lead vocals, I was curious how Lawrence would sound, since he is not trained as a singer.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear Lawrence’s ease of delivery, showing confidence with his phrasing and comfort within the bluegrass genre of music. Bishop Quigg sounds assured with his debut recordings.

Bishop Quigg striking a pose while recording a song for the Bent Mountain album.

Besides Lawrence’s four tracks, the remaining 5 musical tunes are strong and showcase excellence among the various artists. 

  • You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive:  Duet vocals by Eric Imhof and Julie Wright.  Cover of folk song written by Darrell Scott. The duo harmonize superbly and perform the album’s most melodic tune. Additional backup vocals are provided by Scott Mulvahill.
  • Come to Jesus: Annie Lawrence vocals.  Mindy Smith’s written song was a hit on multiple formatted radio stations in 2004.  Annie’s rendition is compelling and expressive. One of Lawrence’s best vocal performances during her recording career.
  • Little Birdie: Junior Sisk vocals.  Traditional bluegrass song. Most famous cover is by Dr. Ralph Stanley. The Brothers Young play on this tune performing their first recorded song. Sisk’s strong vocals are prominent on this selection.
  • Mother’s Only Sleeping:  Eric Imhof vocals.  Written by Bill Monroe in 1946. Song has been covered by the Stanley Brothers and many other bands. Imhof is effective with his engaging vocals on this traditional bluegrass tune.
  • Softly and Tenderly: Julie Wright vocals.  A Christian hymn composed and written by Will L. Thompson in 1880. The last song on the album features Wright singing a cappella and is absolutely transcendent. This outstanding vocal performance is the crown jewel on the “Come Home” album.

The new Bent Mountain album is now available on all major streaming platforms and can be purchased online at Amazon and Apple itunes.

I highly recommend the “Come Home” Bent Mountain compilation set.  Musically, it is top-notch, with nationally acclaimed instrumental performers.  One would be hard pressed to find a similar grouping of world-class musicians together, on any other music album collection.

The message of “Come Home” encompasses many different attributes:  It is calling, challenging and questioning, but also is hopeful and encouraging.  

Without a doubt, the essential theme for the Bent Mountain album is found within the “Softly and Tenderly” chorus, the traditional hymn that closes this superb album: “Come home, come home, you who are weary come home.”

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6 thoughts on “Come Home: Album from Bent Mountain: Encouraging Bluegrass Music

  1. Kent Covington says:

    Excellent coverage of a ground-breaking bluegrass album. Bishop Lawrence has once again inspired many as he once again re-invents himself.

    • Patricia Fariss says:

      This was excellent, i also grew up listening to Blue Grass. The songs are always deeply felt, songs that touch the heart. Thanks for sharing. ❤

  2. Mark Skelton says:

    Great Bluegrass tunes, especially with the spiritual influence in the lyrics and Bishop Lawrence’s passion in creating this album.

    • Robert: According to Bishop Quigg Lawrence, the “Come Home” album is free on either Spotify or YouTube. Bishop Lawrence also said that he can email a CD copy of the album to you. I have given Lawrence your email address so he can contact you, if you are interested in a CD copy of the Bent Mountain album.

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