Jerry Salley “Gospel from My Grassroots” Album Review

jerry salley

Prime Cuts:  Saving Grace, I Want to Thank You, Every Scar

When Jerry Salley holds up his pen, magic happens.  Salley doesn't just write; he paints.  With brush strokes that depict the vignettes of life's Kodak moments where no emotion is left unturned, the songs that Jerry Salley writes not only stirs our affections but they find a place in our hearts.  Long after the music stops, we can still remember the pictures he has etched into our memories; pictures that speak of God's grace and truth in ways that sing and sting our souls.  This is why the Who's Who of pop. country, Gospel, and bluegrass music have all clamoured to record Salley's songs.  Reba McEntire, most notably, has taken Salley's "I'm Gonna Take that Mountain" to the higher regions of the country chart.  Others such as Jeff and Sheri Easter, the Whites, the Isaacs, Chris Stapleton, Elton John, Loretta Lynn, Toby Keith, Patty Loveless, Vern Gosdin and Shenandoah have all recorded one or more of Salley's handiwork.  Per his website, Salley has had over 400 of his own compositions recorded, thus awarding him many song writing accolades.

"Gospel from My Grassroots" is Salley's debut Gospel album released under his own self-financed imprint "Very Jerry Records."  As the titular hits hints, musically, this is a bluegrass affair with some dabbling into country and folk.  Comprising of 13 compositions, the album finds Salley co-writing all the songs, often sharing the pen with other notable Nashville scribes such as Carl Jackson, Max T. Barnes, Larry Cordle, Rusty Golden, and even CCM's Steven Curtis Chapman.  The most eminent observation about these songs is that Salley is a careful and detailed writer.  Never one to be pleonastic or one to dwell on platitudes, "Every Scar" details with perspicuity how the various disappointments and sufferings of life are not wasteful in God's hands.  And the way Salley bridges from our sufferings to that of Christ's later in the song is nothing short of breathtaking. 

Co-written with Rusty Golden (of the Goldens, a 90s country duo), "I Want to Thank You" again is applauded for the song's attention to details.  Without resigning any evident to chance, Salley recounts how God can use a T-shirt, a midnight radio preacher, a pamphlet left on the seat of a Greyhound bus to communicate His Gospel.  If "The Preacher and the Stranger" sounds familiar, it's because Joey + Rory Feek have recorded it before.  If you have not heard it, it's a story song about a chance meeting between a preacher and the man who killed the preacher's son some 25 years ago.  Without letting the cat out of the bag too much, one is assured that after you have heard the song, you will need lots of Kleenex nearby. While "The Preacher and the Stranger" is a modern day narrative, "The Cross on the Right" brings us back to the hill outside Jerusalem where we get to step into the shoes of the thief towards the right of the Cross of Christ.   

Another nudge at the heart comes with the ballad "Saving Grace," a song that will leave your heart shattered to pieces as we meet Grace, a wife who is slowly losing her memory.  So in character with Salley, you can expect how Salley weaves in the Gospel through some excellent and imiable word plays in this song.  Two notable guests are worthy of mention:  CCM's veteran Steven Curtis Chapman joins Salley on "His Strength is Perfect" and bluegrass songbird Dale Ann Bradley adds her haunting soprano to "Send the Angels Down." With vivid images, cliff-hanging narratives, piquant observations, and a heart that bleeds with vulnerability, this record once again solidifies Jerry Salley as the song writer par excellence.



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