REVIEW: The Villines Trio – Turn On the Light

Producer: Landon Villines
Record Label: Independent Release

[yasr_overall_rating size=”medium”]

From the great state of Arkansas come the Villines Trio, which consists of Landon Villines, Emily Villines-Smith and Hannah Villines.  I was somewhat familiar with Landon from his time with the Dunaways, but I only became aware of this group a couple of years ago, though they have been singing together for several years now. Over the last couple of years, they have gained quite a bit of momentum, and in fact have taken home the Inspirational Artist of the Year in 2021 and 2022 from the Arkansas CMA Awards!  Their sound is a mix between the Dunaways, Isaacs and the Bowling Sisters, and this latest recording features their unique harmony and blend, as they sing a good mix of hymns, covers and new songs.

The recording starts off with a soulful flare on a classic hymn from the Red Back Hymnal, “OH, I WANT TO SEE HIM”.  I love the soulful spin on the song, but I must confess, I kept waiting for the tempo to kick in to double time, but alas it never came.  Still, it’s a rather unexpected arrangement, as most folks tend to sing this song as a barnburner, so I appreciate the creativity the group took with their arrangement.

Keeping things in a soulful feel, “I CAN’T QUIT” is a wonderful song of faith and determination as they sing, “I can’t quit when there’s a fire burning in my soul”, before the tempo picks up for the dobro and fiddle accented, “I CALL HIM MY EVERYTHING”.  Previously recorded by the Freemans several years ago, the group does a good job with their version of the song.

Slowing the tempo back down, “ALL THE WAY” is another song of resolve and determination, declaring “come what may, I’m here to stay, I’m gonna make it, all the way!”.  Filled with dobro accents, it’s a genuine performance by the group that I’m sure is one that goes over very well in concert.

Landon penned the title song, “TURN ON THE LIGHT”, which was inspired from a sermon by Randall Dunaway (of the Dunaways).  A song very timely for today, the song states, “don’t curse the darkness, just turn on the light, work while its day, fight the good fight, there’s no time to waste, He might come tonight…”  It’s a highlight of the recording and one of my favorites from the recording.

Picking up the pace a bit, we come to another one of my favorite tunes on this recording entitled, “WATCHA GONNA DO”.  Written by Michael Manuel and recorded years ago by the Manuel Family Band, it was so refreshing hearing this timely song revived, and the group does a great job with it, before the tempo slows down as they cover the popular worship song, “I SPEAK JESUS”.

On their last recording, Rev. Dean and Peggy Caldwell joined the group on a song, and the couple are back on this latest release, as they sing “WHAT WILL IT TAKE”, before the group turns in an excellent performance on the Perry Sisters classic, “RESURRECTION MORN”, which was written by Diana Gillette.  I was thrilled to see this song revived and done so well here, and it’s probably my favorite song on the recording.

One of the most honest songs on this recording is, “IN A WILDERNESS”.  Sounding like something the Isaacs would sing, I love the emotional vulnerability of the lyric…”Where’s the bush that burns and the voice that calls from Heaven, where’s the holy ground for me to stand, where’s the miracle, Heaven knows I need one, why I’m here, I just don’t understand…where’s the cloud of fire that’s supposed to guide me, why do I feel I’m on my own, where’s the parting sea and the million other people, never dreamed I’d go through this alone…I know someday I’ll stand in a promised land, but for now…I’m in a wilderness”.  It’s such a powerful and genuinely authentic lyric of deep faith, determination and perseverance, and is a highlight of the recording.

“SINNER’S PRAYER” keeps things in slow mode, before the tempo picks up for the JD Sumner classic, “INSIDE THE GATE”.  With a nice “Pentecostal Shuffle” vibe, just when you think the song has ended, it segues into the classic, “Shouting on the Hills”, and it’s one of my favorites from the recording, before things close out with a cover of the Michael Comb’s classic, “NOT FOR SALE”.

I feel that between their last recording and this one, they really found themselves both vocally and musically, as they sound as if they’ve experienced a bit of growth.  They have a unique sound and don’t sound like other groups out there and appear to be in tune with who they are.  They do a really good job covering previously recorded songs and making them their own, while also including a good mix of new songs as well.  I would have liked to have seen a couple more up-tempo songs though, as many of the songs here fall into the medium to slow tempo range.

Some of my personal favorites from this recording include “Oh, I Want to See Him”, “I Can’t Quit”, “Turn on the Light”, “Whatcha Gonna Do”, “Resurrection Morn”, “In a Wilderness” and “Inside the Gate”.

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