The Rambos – This is My Valley (1969)

The Rambos – This is My Valley (1969)

Sporting a beautiful picture of the Rambos overlooking a gorgeous valley below, 1969 brought us “This is My Valley”, which was another highly popular and successful album by the group. This album was released with a “gatefold” cover, meaning it opened like a book and the inside cover has several pictures of the Rambos, both individually and group shots. This was one of my dad’s albums and on the white portion of the cover, he had Buck, Dottie and Reba autograph it when he saw them in Raleigh, NC in the very early 70s.

Produced by Bob MacKenzie and beautifully orchestrated by Jim Hall, this album features 6 new Dottie Rambo tunes, which was the least number of songs since their first Heartwarming album, a mere 4 years prior! Within those 6 tunes, lies 4 crowning jewels that are what made this such a popular album for the Rambos. Also scattered within its grooves are tunes penned by other tremendous writers, as well as one by a budding new songwriter in the family, Reba. All these tunes, woven together, created a musical masterpiece that was just as beautiful as the scenery that adorned its cover.

The album starts off with the beautifully orchestrated title song, “This is my Valley”, featuring Buck on the melody and that unmistakable Rambo harmony. Written while Dottie was walking through a deep, dark valley, it became an extremely popular song for the group. The Rambos and Steve Sanders both charted the song during 1970, with the Rambos version peaking at #5 in September and October of that year. The orchestral score is beautiful and is the perfect match with the lyric of the song. The Booth Brothers did a superb rendition of this song on their 1999 release, “Walkin’ on the Good Side”. If the truth be known, the Booth Brothers’ rendition is probably my personal favorite version of the song.

Inspired during a simple walk on the beach at a time when Dottie was walking through a dark season, she suddenly felt “the touch of hands so kind and tender”, and hence the song “Sheltered in the Arms of God” was born. Featuring an excellent performance by Reba, this became one of the Dottie’s best-known songs and has been recorded numerous times through the years by such artists as the Blackwood Brothers, Downings, Oak Ridge Boys, Speers, Imperials, and most recently it was recorded by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family (Lady Antebellum fame) and featured Hillary’s mom, Linda Davis (a country star in her own right) and they did a phenomenal job on the song. Though the Rambos did briefly chart with their version of the song, it was the Downings who would ultimately take the song to #1 in October 1970. Also worth mentioning, the song won Song of Year honors at the 1970 Singing News Fan Awards.

The tempo picks up for the Bud Chambers classic, “One More River”, which was a popular concert favorite for the Rambos (and even charted for the group briefly in 1971). This has been an oft recorded classic by such artists as Jimmy Swaggart, Crabb Family, Hinsons, Hoppers and many others. It’s another one of those classic tunes that keeps popping up every once in a while, and always seems to go over well in concert.

With the success of “Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing” from their “Gospel Ballads” album, Dottie followed up with another “mama song” entitled, “Heaven Will Never Welcome a Sweeter Mama”. Featuring Dottie, the song was a beautiful tribute to her own mother. While not as successful as its predecessor, the song did find a place in the Top 20 for a couple of months in the fall of 1970. Over the years, several groups ran with this song, most notably being the Singing Cookes, who were known for singing heart rendering mama songs. One thing that has always struck me as odd with this song is how weirdly the song fades out. While I am not a general fan of faded endings, I get why sometimes it is done; but the way this song fades out is just odd to me. But I digress…

The nostalgic and folk feel of “At the Meetin’”, which features Reba, is the second song recorded by the group that she wrote. By this time, Reba had released 2 solo albums “On the Folk Side of Gospel” and “Reality” (which was released just before this album came out), and both albums featured some of her first writings, but now she was regularly contributing songs to the group recordings and those songs were usually a springboard for a foray of unique styles that was combined with Reba’s unique way of saying things. Following in her mom’s footsteps, Reba would become a stellar songwriter in her own right.

Reba steps up again for the up-tempo “Angels Sound the Golden Trumpet”, which sounds as if it’s written straight out of the book of Revelation. Written by Dottie, it’s a great song about Christ’s return and closes out this side of the album with a happy beat.

Side 2 starts out with another one of Dottie’s great songs, “If That Isn’t Love”. One of the greatest songs depicting the wonderful love of God, it contains one the most beautifully written lyric ever penned…”if that isn’t love, the ocean is dry, there’re no stars in the sky and the sparrow can’t fly, if that isn’t love, then Heaven’s a myth, there’s no feeling like this, if that isn’t love.” It’s a song that has been recorded numerous times through the years, including the Speers (one of my personal favorites), Imperials, Kirk Talley, Bishops, Isaacs, Greater Vision, Jimmy Swaggart, Downings and even Elvis Presley recorded it on his 1974 album, “Good Times”.

The country/folk feel of the medium tempo, “Pray My Way Back Home”, written by Charles Cline and published through the Rambos publishing company, recalls the story of the prodigal son, before the tempo picks up for the country flavored, “On the Mountaintop”, which was written by former group member, Joe Hatfield. Featuring guitar and piano accents, it’s an enjoyable group effort with no featured solos.

The comforting “Kind Shepherd” is one of my personal favorites from this recording. It’s not one of Dottie’s most well-known songs, but it’s such a strong lyric depicting the characteristics of our loving Shepherd tending His flock and the love He has for that one lost sheep. This is another song Dottie wrote for her brother, and the song was written as a request to the Shepherd on behalf of her brother, “Kind Shepherd feed him in pastures so green, let him drink cool water from the clear, crystal stream, let him roam through the fields, where the soul is free, kind Shepherd feed him in pastures so green”. Listening to the song, you can feel the deep emotion in each line Dottie penned. Featuring subtle orchestrations, I love the dynamics in the song and the harmonies are simply amazing.

A young writer by the name of Walt Mills contributed, “You Must Feel the Winds of Trial”, featuring Reba. This is an enjoyable upbeat tune with a great message reminding us that “you much feel the winds of trail to know the victory”, featuring what I would call a signature Rambo ending, where they repeat the last line in different meter than the rest of the song. The Rambos would continue to publish and record several of Walt Mills’ songs in the coming years and he would eventually emerge as a tremendous singer/songwriter in his own right.

The Jewish/folk feel of “One More Exodus” is one of my personal favorites from this recording and one of my favorite Reba features. Another song written by Charles Cline, the song is a powerful reminder that just like the Hebrew children’s exodus out of Egypt, we have one more exodus coming for the church. The song closes out this record with excited expectancy for the believer.

The release of this album marked the beginning of some very busy days for the Rambos. Just prior to the release of this album, Buck released his first solo album entitled, “Country Boy Gospel” and as already mentioned, Reba released her second solo effort, “Reality”. On top of their increasing album sales and hit songs, their increasing concert bookings and television appearances, over the course of the next few years (1970-1973), the Rambos released 7 group albums (not counting the plenteous Vista re-releases during this time) and 3 solo albums (1 for Dottie and 2 more for Reba), totaling 10 albums in a short 3-4 year span! It was a very fruitful time for the Rambos and for Dottie, as she was churning out the songs; as Buck would later say, “Dottie writes ‘em faster than I can learn ‘em!”.

As I stated earlier, this was one of the albums from my dad’s collection that I grew up listening to. Growing up, I didn’t listen to it as much as the other 4 albums my dad had. It’s a great album, but I wouldn’t rank the album as one of my all-time personal favorites by the Rambos. For some reason or other, this album just didn’t speak to me in the same way that some of the others have. That doesn’t diminish the fact that it was a truly great album and contained several Rambo gems. This was a hugely popular record for the Rambos; in fact, it won 2 awards the following year in 1970…Album of the Year in the Singing News Fan Awards and it won the Dove Award for Best Cover Photo/Cover Art. In addition to those 2 accolades, the album was also nominated for a Grammy Award. Reba also shines on this album as she is featured quite a bit on several songs. She was truly coming into her own as a vocalist and a true stylist…just like her mother!

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