If John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" needs a folk-imbued soundtrack, 4 Proches' "Wayfaring Stranger" would be a strong contender. What makes "Pilgrim Progress" such a classic is that Bunyan is never reticent in depicting the Christian life as a journey filled with treacherous valleys and glorious mountain peaks. Likewise, when we come to "Wayfaring Stranger," we are greeted with the same topography. These 11 songs are not surreptitiously thrown together. Rather, they tell the story of our life's journey from the present till the time we meet with Jesus. Never one to showcase just the auspicious, these songs are not afraid of policing through the dark alleys and sidewalks of life such as death, hardships, disappointments and family discords. This is what makes 4 Proches' "Wayfaring Strangers" so animated with life lessons to offer to all. Utilizing a Southern bluegrass setting, "Wayfaring Stranger" falls within the Americana tradition of Peter Paul Mary, Mumford and Sons, and more recently Gungor.
4 Proches consists of Beecher (age 20), Ezra (17), Lisa (14) and Asa Proches (10). Despite the youthfulness of this quartet of siblings, they certainly belie their ages with their prodigious love for folk cum bluegrass music. In fact, it's rare nowadays to see such youngsters play and sing traditional folk with such degrees of commitment and fondness. The album itself is divided between covers as well as originals written by the brothers and sisters team. Just like Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" which chronicles the life journey of Christian, here the 4 Proches follows the same life's itinerary. Conspicuously placed at the head start of the record is the old Southern favorite "I'll Fly Away/Do Lord." Our lives and its ensuing values will radically be different viewed in the light of eternity; this is perhaps why such an entry is placed at the album's entry point. Here the siblings' spirited pickings and harmonies have an evocative way of taking such a familiar hymn and making it bear on present reality.
Proving that sometimes less is more, the minimalist sounding original "Sandcastles" is easily this album's high point. Bluegrass purists who love their bluegrass served without much percussion and large servings of sibling harmonies will be have much to indulge in here. "Ferris Wheel" displays a maturity far beyond the siblings' ages combined. On "Ferris Wheel," the quartet again reminds us that our definition of love should never be constrained by our feelings. Rather, love is a choice despite the ups and downs of our emotions that swirls like a Ferris wheel. Such is a marriage and family saving gem that needs to be widely heard. "Down to the River to Pray" reinforces the idea of family unity around prayer. However, the 4 Proches' rendition strikes such a resemblance to Alison Krauss' signature version that it's hard not to hear Krauss when the Proches are singing.
Appropriate to the album's tenure about journeying is their cover of "Scarborough Fair." A song lifted from Medieval England when the Bards would sing it as they would travel from town to town. The song speaks of a longing for sacrificial and virtuous love that we all still long for in our own life's journey. Coming to the end of one's pilgrimage are two songs that address death and the life after in the sober banjo-laden "Long Road" and the soul-searching morose "Memory of a Dead Man." Beecher Proche closes the album off with his own self-penned "Love What You Do." Calling to mind John Denver in his folkish best, "Love What You Do" closes off the record with a fitting life's philosophy. Life as expounded through these 11 songs brim with piquant observations, life-transforming wisdom and Godly investments. Therefore, do yourself a favor, take some time to soak in these songs and allow these gems of wisdom to taxi in our lives.