Sounds like … a folk-pop blend of country and bluegrass, not far removed from Ron Block's work with Alison Krauss and Union Station, but also similar in some ways to Andrew Peterson, Tom Chapin, and Michael Card.
At a glance … though it probably won't attract listeners outside the folk-country genre, Block's sophomore solo effort offers strong musicianship, varied styles, and thoughtful songwriting that's meaningful to Christians and seekers alike.
He's recorded with several artists in both country and Christian music, including Brad Paisley, Fernando Ortega, Vince Gill, and Susan Ashton. But Ron Block is best known for handling banjo, guitar, and backing vocals as part of Alison Krauss and Union Station for the last fifteen years. That gig has earned him thirteen Grammys over time (including one for the O Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack), plus a Bluegrass Dove award in 2006 for "A Living Prayer," from the Lonely Both Ways album.
Yet beyond those opportunities, Block felt called to craft music more personal to him, particularly in expressing his Christian beliefs. Hence his 2001 solo debut Faraway Land, and now DoorWay, which Block says is completely "based on the idea of the faith-choice." Indeed, the liner notes contain explanations that show every song is inspired by his faith and the desire to share it, and even the cover art is inspired by C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia.
Block's vocal quality and folk songwriting resembles Andrew Peterson, but with a stronger and authentic country/bluegrass bent. The comparison is heard best in "Things Aren't Always as They Seem," which recounts the nativity and other examples from the Gospels to demonstrate God's unpredictable ways. Block explores the nature of faith in the country-rock of "Above the Line," comforts with a plainspoken explanation of faith and salvation in the country two-step "Be Assured," and offers a Hosea-styled love song from God's perspective in the folksy "The Kind of Love." Yet his songwriting shines the brightest with the title track, a poetic portrait of desperation for the Lord, and "Someone," an excellent story song about the pursuit of contentment and where we can find it.
At times, the album comes across a little dry and probably won't attract listeners outside the folk-country genre. But DoorWay is an impressively varied effort with strong musicianship, thoughtful songwriting, and a fine example of a Christian artist using his music to reach out to seekers without beating them over the heads with it.
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