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Faraway Land – Ron Block

Rounder Records 11661-0477-2

Let me testify to the jamband-loving congregation that when I seek
spirituality, I generally do not seek it in the form of music. Sure, you can
present the convincing argument of spirituality becoming an intrinsic part
some artist's exploratory sounds. But I'm talking about the
rock genre. I just don't care to be hit over the head again and again with
the wonders of Jesus or being Saved unless it comes in the form of certain
acts such as the Blind Boys of Alabama or Bob Marley.

Now that that's out of the way, I can approach Ron Block's debut solo album with the honesty you deserve and this onetime Catholic grade school student can't help but deliver.

Block, the guitarist/vocalist/writer in Alison Krauss & Union Station,
finally took the time to stop allowing his material to be used by Krauss and
others (Randy Travis, the Cox Family and the Forbes Family) and concentrated
on his own work.

Musically, he follows a similar path that one can find in Union Station. The material contains elements of folk, country and bluegrass, with each style subtly complimenting the other. Joining him on Faraway Land are Krauss and his Station mates as well as Nickel Creek and Stuart Duncan. While I prefer something a little grittier, the pristine production values do ably support the performances.

Thematically, he covers the terrain of faith and devotion but he does it
in such a way that it's more like a subdued testimonial or a series of
rather than non-stop, in-your-face preaching. Occasionally, his praise
becomes a bit overwhelming but it's kept to a minimum.

What's helpful in infiltrating Block's spiritual world are his mini-essays which explain the origins of each song. Here's what he says for the album's title track, for example: "The need to get away, to escape, to get a glimpse of 'the undiscovered country' and regain perspective, is a basic human need. The faraway land we're looking for is within ourselves and yet infinitely beyond ourselves." Sure, it's quite a mouthful, but he dresses up these lofty words with a breezy melody, which makes it all much easier to digest.

Another hint that Block calls on a variety of sources in order to
bring his message across comes from the album's booklet. Several well-worn
books are depicted in the photographs. Standing out among the titles and
authors is a collected works of Joni Mitchell, as well as a DVD of The

In the end, will Faraway Land be a disc I use to find comfort when
the madness of the world becomes unbearable? Sorry, Ron, but probably not.
Still, due to his deft wordplay and the material's sharp, sparkling
performances Block's faith-based viewpoint makes for good listening.

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