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Issue: January 2008

Hymns and Guitars

Health and Happiness Family Gospel Band (Independent)
Health and Happiness Family Gospel Band

Who spiked the communion wine? Whoever did it needs to pour in some more, because once the Health and Happiness Family Gospel Band chugs some of that tainted sacrament, the music they make is both hellish and divine.

The Louisville-based HHFGB is actually a conglomeration of local musicians who have come together to praise the Lord and tear the roof off the revival tent. While there's nothing tongue-in-cheek about the faithfulness of the tunes, the abandon with which HHFGB spews them out is akin to a collision between a coked-up Beverly Hillbillies and Billy Graham's tour bus.

The AM radio opening of the disc is a good foretaste of what is to come: musical versions of Sunday night "come to Jesus" meetings at the local Baptist church. The music is a little bit of everything, from bluegrass to country to barroom rock, all played with a devil-may-care attitude. The songs are strictly old-time religion, like "Angel Band" and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arm," but played as if infused by both liquid spirits and the Holy Spirit.

Word is, the band's live show is quite a treat as well. The Fam cranks up the aforementioned traditional gospel standards and also covers a diverse array of artists, from the Louvin Brothers, to Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Hank Williams and the Staples Singers. Plus, the Health & Happiness Family Gospel Band is already semi-legendary. Will Oldham cited the band's first show as one of his favorite performances of 2006 in the UK magazine The Wire and performed a song with the group at a show last spring.

The diversity of the band members is key as well; HHFGB now includes members of Bad Blood (bluesy garage rock), Verktm (alt-rock), the Touched (punk), Adventure ('60s-influenced rock), Yardsale (alt-country), The Hello Darlins (traditional country and bluegrass) and the Smacks! (garage rock/punk) and more.

While the HHFGB is more likely to find its congregation in the tavern than the tabernacle, their version of the good news should be pleasing to all kinds of music lovers, Christian and heathens alike. Who knows? Listening to the HHFGB might save your soul and your ears.

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