This latest review of Russ Taff’s “Faroe Islands” project comes from the UK– check it out:
|Reviewed by Paul Kerslake
All long term Cross Rhythms readers/listeners will recognise the bluesy rasp of Russ, one of Christendom’s most talented veterans. In recent years he has been working with the Gaithers but with this set returns to the edgier, bluesier sounds that made his ‘Medals’ album such a creative tour de force on its release in 1985. ‘Faroe Islands’ is Russ’ 11th solo release and was inspired by and recorded at the very same place. “Here Comes Jesus” is a funky blue eyed soul number with a great guitar riff and superb drums, building to include a magnificent brass section and gospel choir. And that’s just the first track! “Harvest” takes it down a gear, sensitive and again with a magnificent vocal performance. “Heaven” has more funky brass and gospel choir; the supporting cast for this recording are top rate musicians and the producers have captured some excellent performances. This is a very accessible album, full of great songs, catchy tunes and a familiar feeling throughout even though there are only a handful of covers, including “I Believe In You” by Bob Dylan. Highly recommended, I haven’t stopped playing it since I put it on!
September 15, 2011– Russ Taff joined past and present members of the Gaither Vocal Band onstage at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville for a special reunion concert that from all accounts, was the highlight of the week. The 23 song set included Russ leading David Phelps, Marshall Hall and Bill Gaither through a rocking rendition of “New Hope Road,” followed by a poignant solo turn on “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.”
A private dinner and rehearsal session at the Hyatt Regency Hotel downtown the night before turned into more of a ‘family reunion’ as former members Steve Green, Gary McSpadden, Larnelle Harris, Marshall Hall, John Mohr, Buddy Mullins, Jim Murray and Lee Young laughed together, sang together and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with each other.
Sept. 2, 2011— Russ Taff joined the list of such diverse luminaries as Johnny Cash, President Bill Clinton, Evangelist Rex Humbard, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Dr. James Dobson and Maya Angelou as he was inducted into the Arkansas Walk of Fame on Saturday. The Walk of Fame was established in 1996 to honor persons born or raised in Arkansas who have made a significant contribution in their fields and are recognized nationally for their work. The ceremony was held at the RayLynn Theater in Taff’s hometown of Hot Springs, with the unveiling of the plaque immediately following. Inducted also was veteran Hollywood character actor Brent Jennings, who has appeared in movies with Denzel Washington, Robert Redford, Eddie Murphy and Harrison Ford.
Mayor Ruth Carney presented Russ with a framed proclamation officially declaring September 3rd as “Russ Taff Day.” Taff was joined by friends and family members including Bud and June Smedley who took Russ into their home when he was 17 years old. June, Russ’ former English teacher, spoke movingly at the ceremony of the lifelong bond that formed between them, and recounted a few funny stories about the adjustments required when the fiery son of a Pentecostal preacher joins a family of mild-mannered Methodists.
A personal message from Russ’ friend and mentor Bill Gaither was read, as well as a congratulatory note from fellow Arkansan James Hollihan, who began playing in a band with Russ when they were both still in high school, and went on to become a noted guitarist, writer and producer. Long-time friend Jim Pennington also spoke, as well as Otto Beck. Russ performed two songs, then thanked the participants and the city of Hot Springs, noting tearfully, “This town was good for a young man who had a dream. The encouragement I got from people around me made me. I prayed this morning that maybe one person would pass by this plaque in the ground and be inspired, and it could spark them to follow their dreams, too.”
L to R: Tom Wilkins, owner of RayLynn Theater, Russ Taff, Charlotte Taff, Kim Smedley Masino, June Smedley, Bud Smedley, Carolyn Spillers
Please forgive this uncharacteristic self-tooting of our own horn, but this project has been SUCH a long time coming– and we are so very excited that it is finally here!
Prestigious publication CHRISTIANITY TODAY scored the first review of ‘Faroe Islands’ and rated it 4 out of 5 stars. Here’s a sample from their website:
RUSS TAFF: FAROE ISLANDS
Style: Southern soul; compare to Mike Farris, Jason Crabb, Michael English
Top tracks: “Heaven,” “God’s Love,” “Help Me”
Christian music’s most unique voice continues his legendary thirty-year recording legacy with a project inspired by friends from and recorded in the Faroe Islands. An amalgamation of his career’s genre-bending diversity, the bluesy singer covers southern rock (“Rock Bound”), pop (“Love Is a Cross”), alt-country (“Here Comes Jesus”), gospel (“Heaven”), and inspirational tearjerkers (“Help Me”) compellingly, while alternating original co-writes with his Faroe friends with high-profile covers of Larry Gatlin and Bob Dylan. Horn hits, ultimate background vocal soul, and funky tight band arrangements complete the stellar set. And though the album’s influences are varied, Taff’s scruffy vocal soul is constant. Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today
Five-Time GRAMMY® Award Winner Finds Renewal and Inspiration in The Faroe Islands