Rob Culver and the band of Believers - The Missionary Review by Buddy McPeters - Western Swing Journal Rob Culver and the band of Believers album The Missionary is a blend of traditional Country and Gospel music, Bluegrass, and other realms of popular music that go a long way in classifying this album as Country Gospel and Contemporary Christian. You know the kind, which sounds right at home in your local Baptist or Pentecostal church on any given Sunday night. Or at Buck Owens own Crystal Palace, home of the Bakersfield Sound. Or, at the Grand Old Opry in Nashville for that matter! From the opening licks of David Langley's trusty Telecaster on Culver's self penned 'Just Like That!' through the final strums of The Old Rugged Cross, Country Gospel fans won't be disappointed. This album is a real toe-tapper, with infectious rhythm, sparkling instrumental backing and tight harmony. Start to finish, The Missionary is a cohesive team effort by a band of talented singers and musicians who not only like each other, and work well together, but also freely exhibit the love they feel for one another, and their love for God and people. Culver, who is the principle vocalist on the CD, plays half dozen instruments, also pastors a Pentecostal Church of God church in Hanford, CA. His sincere vocals and inspired lyrics reveal a pastor's heart that truly understands the work of a shepherd. Never skirting basic truths or interjecting separatist doctrine, Culver & Co appeals to a broader audience beyond any denomination. Never preachy, this album has something for everyone. It's listener friendly, yet doesn't compromise. Avoiding the usual obligatory cliché's and the trend of over-production that flood the genre, Culver and his five-piece band opt for straightforward vocals, sparse instrumentation, simple arrangements and clean production without sounding hokey. At times the band is reminiscent of award winning bands led by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, The Buckaroos and The Strangers respectively, particularly in Langley's guitar work and the pedal steel guitar played by Paul Dobbs against a backdrop of a synergetic rhythm section. Some of the tracks have a worshipful atmosphere with a live performance quality that doesn't sacrifice musicality or sound churchy. It's inspirational, entertaining and downright encouraging. The set list, which is split between traditional songs and new material, provides a fresh listen to chestnuts from the Country Gospel songbook and introduces as many Culver originals. You'll be blessed out of your socks with this CD! With a mixture of varied influences, Culver and Co draw upon the music of their Fresno area upbringing, rich with Western Swing history and the eventual impact it had on what became the Bakersfield Sound. Not the least of which is their experience with an early mentor Harley Huggins, former vocalist/musician with Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys who settled in Fresno in 1945, where Harley later led his own band The Barn Dance Gang. In the 60's he came full circle, leaving the nightclubs behind, returning to his Gospel roots to sing His praises in the house of God exclusively. There he met two aspiring teenage musicians he performed with in the 70's: Rob Culver and his cousin Roland Jones, who produced this album and plays bass on the tracks. The influence of the father of Jesus Rock, Larry Norman is evident as well as a smattering of early 70's Country Rock sounds of CCM pioneer Bill Sprouse Jr, who wrote Since I Met Jesus. The Missionary celebrates the Christian life and the believers walk with Christ from their first baby steps through continual growth, spiritual maturity, witness zeal and ultimate home going to be with the Lord. The album is dedicated to the memory of their friend Hector Flores, a missionary who was murdered by bandits in Guatemala in 1992. He is duly honored in Culver's Hector's Song.