The year 1973 saw the Rambos releasing 2 new records, the first being “Sing Me On Home”, which was a very well done album featuring 6 new Dottie Rambo songs and 1 written by Reba. Produced by Bob MacKenzie, vocal arrangements by Donnie Sumner (JD Sumner’s nephew) and orchestral arrangements changing hands again, this time by Bill Pursell (who also played piano). This is the first album where we are given information as to who played on the recording and there are 10 musicians credited with playing on this album, which includes names like, the aforementioned Bill Pursell, as well as Pete Wade, Jack Williams, Weldon Myrick, Buddy Harmon and Charlie McCoy. Also 8 additional people are credited as the Nashville Strings, being led by Sheldon Kurland. These musicians came together to give the Rambos some rich music tracks for this album and created a perfect bed for those songs to rest in.
While there is nothing particularly spectacular about the cover shot, I always liked it, and felt it was a really nice natural shot of the group. I also really liked the font used for the group name. On the back cover there are some nice playful outdoor shots of the Rambos, along with some of the lyrics of the title song. Much like “Soul in the Family”, the album is pretty traditional sounding with a heavy lean towards the country style, but with a few unique characteristics here and there.
The recording starts out with the gentle country strains of, “The First Time I Heard About Heaven”. The song only charted for a couple of months in late 1973, but it’s become a favorite for many fans of the Rambos, as the song recalls first learning about Jesus as a child on mama’s knee, but beyond that, the song also speaks about looking forward to seeing Jesus and all that Heaven holds for the child of God. Daryl Williams, who is one of my favorite songwriters, and his group, the Daryl Williams Trio recorded a very emotion ridden performance of this song on their 2002 recording, “Enjoy!”, where they paired the song with another Dottie Rambo classic, “We Shall Behold Him”. If you’ve never heard it, you are missing a treat!
The pace changes as Buck and Reba sing the contemporary feel of the imaginative title song, “Sing Me On Home”, which was the only song on the album written by Reba. Featuring that unique Rambo harmony, the song is the most progressive song on the recording, but it has a nice feel to it before Dottie steps up to sing the country stylings of “I Heard Footsteps”. While not a hit for the group, it was a popular song because it allowed Dottie to show her heart and soul and their audiences could easily relate to the message contained in the song, reminding us that He is always there with us. In fact, Henry & Hazel Slaughter did a wonderful job with their rendition of the song on their 1974 album, “Blessed Assurance”.
With its thumping bass, electric guitars and blaring harmonica, the tempo gets kicked into high gear for the Jack Campbell penned, “Resting in the Arms (Of a Never-Failing God)”. Jack penned some really great up-tempo songs and the Rambos could sing them better than anyone, and this is one of my personal favorite songs of his. This exciting song exuded all the energy the Rambos could muster and bares that trademark sound and style that is distinctively “Rambo”.
Dottie collaborated with Donnie Sumner in writing “Sailing Toward Home”, which is one of the highlights of the album. Recorded by Donnie’s group The Voice, as well as the Oak Ridge Boys back in the day, a wonderful trio from Mississippi called Paid in Full enjoyed some great chart success with the song in the early 2000’s as the song became one of their most popular songs. I love the orchestrations heard here, as well as the imagery depicted in the song. This song reminded me of something I caught on to a long time ago…Dottie wrote a lot of valley (and mountain) songs, but she also used water imagery in some of her songs and this was a prime example of that. I never understood why this song wasn’t more popular for the group than it was, as I’ve always thought it was a great song.
The up-tempo “Ain’t it Good News”, written by Gerald Cox, gets side 2 underway and it’s a highly invigorating number featuring harmonica and some nice guitar work along as well as a good, strong beat, before the tempo slows down for the nostalgic feel of “The Little Brown Church in the Grove”, which was written by former group member, Joe Hatfield. Featuring some nice orchestrations, the song has the feel of the early Rambos from back in the mid to late 60’s, and the song would have been right at home on their “Gospel Ballads”, “The Soul Singing Rambos” or “An Evening with the Singing Rambos” albums from 1967 and 1968, respectively.
Dottie and Buck take the lead for “Running My Last Mile Home”, which picks up the tempo once again and it’s one of my personal favorites from this recording. I always loved the steel guitar in the song and it’s an exciting song that the Rambos staged a lot in their concerts during this time.
One of my favorite songs from this album is Dottie’s beautifully descriptive ballad, “Shepherd of the Hills”. Featuring Dottie and Reba, the song is a desperate cry for help “…I cried Shepherd, oh Shepherd, let Your healing hands touch and untangle, bind up the wounds of this tortured and lost little lamb”. Dottie could write songs with amazing imagery, and this lyric is one of her best examples of that.
Building off the old hymn, “Showers of Blessings”, the final song, “He Changed My Tears to Showers of Blessings”, brings the album to an emotional crescendo, as the song is an intensely emotional one, and it is sung with as much genuine feeling as anyone ever could. You can tell Dottie lived this song by just listening to the deeply descriptive lyric…“He made my valleys a cool refreshing place for the weary soul, He made my mountains a higher place to touch the face of God, the darkness made brighter to light up the narrow road, He changed my bitter tears to showers of blessings, made all my bitter tears, sweet showers of blessings”. It’s a hard song to listen to and not feel the raw and authentic emotion in the lyric and in the performance of the song, especially as they belt out the last few lines at the end; and by that point in the song, you’re emotionally spent and almost left breathless by the palpable message and performance.
Though this album didn’t really produce any huge hits for the group, and it isn’t usually called out when people are naming favorite Rambo albums, I always thought this was a really great album with a really nice groove to it. The overall feel is a bit more refined, and the orchestrations are reminiscent of their early days; hat tip to Bill Pursell for a marvelous job. It’s a highly enjoyable album and was a bit more upbeat than their last couple of albums had been. There is also a lot of emotion found here and you can definitely hear, and feel, the hard path that was travailed to bring life to some of these songs…pathways leading to wonderful mountain highs, but also leading through deep and dark valleys. This album was the soundtrack of that journey, and it was all wrapped up in their yearning mantra found in the title song…“sing me away sweet heavenly breeze, fly me on down with your snowy-feathered tapestry wings…sing me on home”!
Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music. Please like and follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560.