NASHVILLE (Billboard) - In the past couple of years,
there's been a plethora of successful gospel albums by country
acts, among them Alan Jackson, Alabama and, most recently, a
set from Brenda Lee featuring duets with Dolly Parton, Emmylou
Harris and Vince Gill, among others. With the May 8 release of
"Jesus Is Coming," the Bellamy Brothers became the latest
country act to celebrate their faith in song.
But where the aforementioned releases deliver mostly
classic hymns, Howard and David Bellamy take the road less
traveled, crafting a collection of new songs that examine faith
from their unique perspective.
"Gospel was really the first thing we sang," Howard said,
recalling early performances at a nearby church growing up in
Florida. "So, this album was a natural and something we've
always wanted to do."
The Bellamy Brothers burst onto the musical landscape in
1976 with the pop hit "Let Your Love Flow," still one of the
most frequently heard songs from that era. In the '80s, they
dominated country radio with such hits as "If I Said You Had a
Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)," "Redneck Girl,"
"Sugar Daddy," "You Ain't Just Whistlin' Dixie," "For All the
Wrong Reasons" and "Old Hippie." The duo continues to tour
extensively in the United States and abroad.
NOT YOUR FATHER'S GOSPEL
"Jesus Is Coming," released on Bellamy Brothers
Records/Curb, is not your typical country gospel record. Like
previous Bellamy hits, the songs mix humor and heart with keen
insights on the cultural climate in America. The hook line in
the title cut is "Jesus is coming and boy is he pissed."
"I wanted the line to have an impact, but at the same time
I wanted it to be a real gospel song," David said. "Beyond
having the novel hook line, it's really country, like an old
The song, which was first recorded on their 1997 album
"Sons of Beaches," takes a look at how mankind has abused the
blessings God has offered by destroying the land and
mistreating one another.
"It can really strike a nerve," Howard said of the song.
"I'm sure there's going to be some controversy about it, but
hopefully the broader-minded audience will really see the
sincerity of it."
The project also includes a reggae-flavored version of the
gospel classic "I'll Fly Away," a gospel mix of "Let Your Love
Flow" and such poignant ballads as "Beautiful Night" and
"Spiritually Bankrupt." The first single, "Drug Problem," was
penned by David and will be promoted to both country and
Christian radio stations.
Where do they see the audience for this unconventional
gospel record? "Way back in the woods," Howard said with a
laugh. "I think the audience for this album is people like us,
and I don't know how broad that is or how narrow that is ...
When some people think of something spiritual, they put saints
on one side and sinners on the other side. That's not the way
it is. Most people are both. We have made a lot of our living
playing honky-tonks and still do. Some people who go to
honky-tonks will be at church on Sunday. That's the way we were
raised. We'd frolic with our dad's musician buddies on Saturday
night and be in church singing Sunday morning."
The Bellamys admitted that some might see them as "outlaw
Christians," but that's OK. "A lot of early Christians were
real renegades," David said. "Jesus was the biggest renegade.
He was the original nonconformist."