Prime Cuts: Sheltered in the Arms of God, For What Earthly Reason, There's Nothing My God Can't Do
The songs of Dottie Rambo are a national heirloom. With over 2,500 songs copyrighted, the late Rambo has had provided the songbook for Southern Gospel music for close to six decades. In fact, almost every Southern Gospel artist has had either grew up or learnt to sing or sang the tunes of Dottie Rambo before. But it's not just Southern Gospel singers, even mainstream artists have had great affinity with Rambo's repertoire. In 1998, at the height of her illustrious career, Whitney Houston recorded Rambo's "I Go to the Rock," for "The Preacher's Wife" soundtrack. Houston's rendition not only introduced Rambo to a new legion of fans, but it also garnered the song a GMA Dove Award. Thus, for Rambo McGuire to re-record Dottie Rambo's tunes is an honouring tribute not only to Rambo herself but to Gospel music itself.
"Rambo Classics," released by StowTown Records, is an once-in-a-lifetime monumental recording. Rambo McGuire --- which comprises of Dottie's daughter Reba, her husband Dony, and their children Israel and Destiny --- have chosen to re-record 14 of the most requested Rambo classics. Making this album even more bittersweet is that it also features the final recordings of Dottie's husband Bucky Rambo, who passed away earlier this year. Since most of the 14 songs here bear a 1960s copyright, one would assume that they were chosen from Rambo's earlier canon. For those of us who come from a much later generation, it's pleasantly refreshing to hear these songs for a couple of reasons.
First, one of Rambo's mettle as a songwriter is that she has a way of weaving great Biblical themes together seamlessly in one song. Take "For What Earthly Reason" and "If That Isn't Love" as examples. Essentially both songs can be classify as Christmas songs as both of them deal with the incarnation of Christ. But the genius of Rambo's craftsmanship is that she weaves other themes such as Christ's love, His grace, and His humanity into the theme of incarnation to show us the big picture of how the doctrine of Christ's birth impacts our lives here and now. Not to mention the tunes are timeless. Two fleets often missing in today's compositions.
Second, the songs of Rambo often deal with a wide range of topics. With the barometer of today's composers on the here and now, few songwriters, for example, write songs about heaven. As a result, we have had devalued the eternal dimension of the Gospel. This is not so with Dottie Rambo. "Build My Mansion," "Tears Will Never Stain the Streets of That City," "The Holy Hills of Heaven Call Me," and "On the Sunny Banks" not only sing about our eternal abode, but they function also as pedagogical texts to help us to think how heaven impacts us today and for all eternity.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, Rambo McGuire have retained the old fashioned country feel of all the songs here. Fans who like their Gospel music rustic awash with a bevy of steel guitars, fiddles, and acoustic piano will love this recording. Even when the three generational Rambos get a little feisty with a swampy imbued version of "On the Sunny Banks," they still retained their signature tiered harmonies. In short, "Rambos Classics" isn't just a walk down memory lane, it's a piece of music history that informs, teaches, and inspires us on how the Gospel can be set into timeless melodies.