Sky's a Clearing
"This CD has moved me in a very positive way." That's what one Shades Mountain Air fan wrote about SKY'S A CLEARING: MUSIC FROM THE GOSPELS, the group's third CD release hailed as "fresh and inspiring." Springing from the suburban hills and valleys of Birmingham, Alabama this bluegrass band is clearly on the rise. To classify Shades Mountain Air as strictly a "bluegrass" band would not be the whole story. It's distinct acoustic sound was described by The Birmingham News this way: "...a mix of bluegrass, newgrass, gospel, originals and occasional parodies. Strong and well-blended vocals and lots of energy. Basically suburban folk with rural roots...a good time." SKY'S A CLEARING unites familiar, old-time gospel tunes with some new favorites by emerging songwriter Gary Furr, the band's guitar player. These 13 sweet and moving songs are sung and played from the heart, from the delicate hammer dulcimer version of "Amazing Grace" to a unique arrangement of the Alison Krauss standard, "Palm of Your Hand." Nancy Womble's stunning lead vocals, especially on "Wayfaring Stranger" and the original tune "Words Fail" are true driveway moments-those times when a song grips you to your car seat. Nancy's diverse background includes singing opera, commercial jingles, and jazz torch songs with several big bands. A native of West Monroe, LA, she was born into a musical family-all six kids have performed professionally. Guitar and dobro player Gary Furr provides a potent version of the Osborne Brothers' classic "Crying Holy Unto the Lord" plus the gospel favorite "Unclouded Day." He was born in Concord, NC and grew up in a musical family led by his mandolin-playing dad. In addition to penning dozens of songs, he is also a published author, adjunct professor at Samford University, and a pastor. Don Wendorf plays mandolin, hammered dulcimer, and mountain-style banjo. He also supplies the lead singing on Ralph Stanley's "Rank Strangers" and the romping "Turn Your Radio On." Don's professional music career includes a stint with the Magic City Slickers and several jazz bands. He is an aficionado of the musical saw and several other exotic instruments. Paul Wendorf, Don's oldest son, plays the red-hot fiddle-and has been at it since the age of 8. He has performed in a wide variety of settings, including gigs with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and backup jobs for such stars as Smoky Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Ray Charles. His moving fiddle passages on "I Will Not Forget You" and others are worth the price of the CD. Five-string banjo player Greg Womble figures he's covered most of the roads (dirt and paved) in Alabama-either playing with Shades Mountain Air or with the bluegrass group Sugar Bend One-Room Schoolhouse, a group of Samford University students in the 1970's. He sings the lead on Ralph Stanley's "I'm Ready to Go." Buy one copy of SKY'S A CLEARING for yourself and another one for someone who needs a lift, encouragement, or inspiration.