Tammy Jones Robinette's "Let It Shine" functions like a time warp. On one hand, these songs can transport us back to the sepia-tone past where one is cooed again by the memories of growing up in "daddy's mountains." And where one can once again be bathed in the halcyon haze of a simpler life where God is feared and morals are upheld. On the other hand, this is far from a mushy nostalgic affair of stymied sentimentalism. Rather, these songs also have a way of fast forwarding us into the present where contemporary issues about God and life are judiciously and graciously examined. And they brim with such freshness that they are as forward thinking as tomorrow's news. Tammy Jones Robinette is no stranger to Southern Gospel; ever since she was in her formative years, she and her three siblings have already been singing the Lord's praises as the Jones Family. Later, she honed her own song writing skills in crafting No.1 hits for the Perrys ("There Has Never Been") and the Bishops ("I'll Live Again").
At the direction of the Lord's leading, Tammy and her hubby Jim decided to launch Tammy's own solo career. Together with Zion Music Group and helmed by the famed Kevin McManus, Robinette released four critically acclaimed solo discs. Now she is back with her first bluegrass Gospel record. "Let It Shine" allows Robinette to showcase her mettle as a songwriter as she penned 8 out of the 12 songs. However, the CD is far from being an exercise of self-indulgent. Rather, she has listed a red carpeted entourage of "Who's Who" in bluegrass music in making this disc. At the risk of name dropping, a moiety of the credits here include Mark Fain (producer and bass), Ron Block, Aubrey Haynie, Rob Ickes, the Whites, Jamie Daily (of Dailey and Vincent), Herb Pederson and Dale Ann Bradley.
In our culture of increasing selfishness and blatant individualism, it's a joy to hear the Robinette penned "If I Could Take My Family." At the risk of embarrassment and in the name of family unity, some of our least evangelized people are our family members. On "If I Could Take My Family" Robinette sensitively draws our attention to this need for us to labor for the souls of our relatives in ardent prayers. The bittersweet ballad "I Can't Go Back There" runs along a similar trajectory. On "Best Friend" Robinette demonstrates why she is such an in-demand songwriter. "Best Friend" is a gripping page turner of a story about how an orphan boy turns into a preacher. Yet, the song's brilliance lies in its deft use of John 3:16 as the story's narrative hook. Without giving any more spoilers, this is a "must hear" song. To dulcify those who like songs with an energetic spike the title cut "Let It Shine," though it charts no new ground lyrically, is a jovial piece that features some uplifting fiddle and banjo riffs. And the incorporation of snippets of the ditty "This Little Light of Mine" creates a sing along dimension that is definitely a plus.
Of the non-Robinette songs, though Robinette still cannot not get away from Dolly Parton's signature vocal curls, the Parton composed "Master's Hand" is still a delight. Capturing some of those traditional fiddle-drenched waltzes of yore and still being able to prod us to get away to spend time with Jesus, "I Just Steal Away and Pray" is doubly a winner. More in line with traditional bluegrass romp that boasts a virtuoso of pickings is Christopher E. Jones penned "God's Been Good." If you are looking for a bluegrass Gospel record (with some traditional country leanings) that reverentially enhances its traditional sounds yet still is one that speaks to the issues of family, life and our relationship with the Father, this CD beams with such a shine.