For several years the members of the regional band known as Spatial Effects had been kicking around the idea of recording a bluegrass gospel album, but juggling the schedules of five people with families, full time jobs, and the time demands of a recording project are not easily accomplished. On the last day of September, the all gospel album entitled Just a Closer Walk was released following a recording adventure that spanned more than six months.
The recording project consists of a mix of traditional hymns, gospel songs, and originals written by band members. The tracks feature band members Earl Brackin, David Crawford, Gary Thompson, Tom Brown, and Betsy Blankenship, as well as several guest performers.
“The idea for the project emerged from a casual conversation between a couple of band members, Earl Brackin and Tom Brown who were talking about all the quaint old churches in the area,” says David Crawford who sings and plays guitar with the group. In the summer of 2011, Earl and Tom drove around Whitfield and Catoosa County identifying old country churches that might be good candidates for recording.
“There’s a wonderful rich heritage represented by the numerous small country churches that dot the countryside in Northwest Georgia,” says Brackin, adding “ I thought that it would be a real blessing to record old hymns and gospel songs in churches where they have been sung for many many years.”
After the decision was made to pursue the idea of recording in old churches, band member Tom Brown discussed the potential challenges with David Aft who agreed to fill the role of recording engineer for the album. “We really appreciate David getting on board with us on this project,” says Tom, adding “There were so many unknowns with each location, especially with regard to acoustics, and he (David) did a great job of making us sound our best in each location.”
The project also includes several special guests. Contributing his dobro work to two tracks, is the award winning Ferrell Stowe, currently a nominee for the SPBGMA‘s Dobro Performer of the Year. The recording of Church In The Wildwood features Pam Gadd, a singer and multi-instrumentalist whose musical career includes touring with the New Coon Creek Girls, Wild Rose, and singing duets with Porter Wagoner on the Grand Old Opry. Nancy Cardwell the executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Association adds her vocal harmony and upright bass to Grandma Please Save A Seat For Me and lively hammer dulcimer to Church In The Wildwood. Providing a fourth harmony on several tracks is the bass voice of John Pitts of Ringgold.
The 12 tracks of Just a Closer Walk were recorded live, capturing the acoustic flavor of each individual church. Recordings were made at Smith Chapel UMC built in 1913, McGaughey Chapel UMC (1882), Mineral Springs UMC (1924), First Presbyterian Church of Cohutta (1915), and Christ Community Church built according to plans based on Christ Episcopal Church in Ruby Tennessee which was constructed in 1887.
The album was produced by Buckeye Ridge LLC with graphic design by Jill Wyse of Wise Decisions in Chattanooga. A video about the recording project was filmed by Brent James with BeeMixxx Productions. It can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_zKNPR0nvsw
Histories and photographs of the churches where the tracks were recorded can be found at the band’s website - www.spatialeffectsbluegrass.com
Photo – L to R
Gary Thompson, Tom Brown, Betsy Blankenship, Earl Brackin, and David Crawford