LaTresa & the Signal – The Blood and the River
Emotions run much deeper than the lyrical lashings that LaTresa & the Signal spit out in their new record, the 12-song The Blood and the River, and one needn’t look any further than the first four tracks in the album to know exactly what I mean. The title track gets us going with a fervent bluegrass twang that takes us straight into the grinding harmony of “Lazarus,” which could be the most profoundly poetic and provocatively stylish song that LaTresa & the Signal have ever recorded. “Sea of Galilee” and “The Valley with My Lord” bleed into each other with their rhythmic recollections of bible stories, and if you’re not under the band’s spell by this point, you might just need to check and make sure that you’re listening to a genuine copy of The Blood and the River and not some half-baked imitation.
I would have made the string play just a tad less angular than it is in “Bright Star” and “When I Cross the River,” but I suppose that I can understand why the Signal chose to go with this formula over something slightly more centered on LaTresa’s serenade. There’s enough texture in these tracks to support an entire record’s worth of songs, and to some extent, the edgier instrumental parts do a lot more to advance the context of the lyrics than anything else in the mix does. It’s not quite as contemporary as I would have hoped for it to be, but most of The Blood and the River plays out smoothly regardless.
“Where Angels Abide (Russell’s Song),” “Would You Walk with Jesus” and “The Mountain” have more urgency in the construction of their hooks than what we find in “My Prayer,” “Now I Am Redeemed” and the title track, but the juxtaposition of impatience and poise makes it all the harder to turn away from this LP as we transition from track to track. It’s not as aesthetically rigid as a straight-up concept album, but it’s safe to say that you can start off anywhere in this record and end up listening to the whole tracklist without ever feeling the need to hit the skip button. There’s no filler here – just stone cold gospel and bluegrass with a soulful artistic center that will almost certainly leave you begging for more.
Brooding, sharp and wholeheartedly original – LaTresa & the Signal’s The Blood and the River is the gospel record to get your hands on this summer, and for that matter, one of the best bluegrass LPs that I’ve come across since Appalachian Road Show. I was only somewhat familiar with who this band was before I was tasked with critiquing their latest release ahead of its official drop date, but I’ve found myself craving their lead singer’s lovely vocal stylings ever since I put “Lazarus” on my stereo last weekend. The Blood and the River is an album that you don’t have to think twice about picking up this season if you’re a hardcore ‘grasser; in my opinion, it’s one of the only purebred pastoral records you’ll hear before the year is out.