CD Reviews

TOM CUNNINGHAM: If I Could Hear from Heaven

tom cunningham

Tom Cunningham’s solo bluegrass Gospel album, If I Could Hear From Heaven, features the local jack-of-all-instruments playing and singing ten acoustic songs. He has been a regular sideman with several bands, including the Clay Colton Band and Lighthouse, and has his own TCB. He not only plays guitars, mandolin, fiddle, bass, as well as singing lead and harmony vocals but he also pristinely recorded the disc in his home studio.

The title tune is a Cunningham original, singing in 3/4 about hearing his departed parents from their new digs in heaven. Like the later tracks, it touches on most of the keystones of the genre-lessons on the old-fashioned Christian life, dedication to family, and a life of homespun humility, delivered with the smooth assurance of an old pro on anything with strings. “Changed” builds a catchy country blues guitar melody driving a message about spiritual renewal, a highlight. After the folk-rock “Grace That Is Greater,” Cunningham picks up the pace with some sharp guitar and mandolin lines in “He’ll Make a Way.” The tunes here jump genres a bit, and are by nine different writers, but the flavor is consistent and reverent-like The disc wraps with the traditional “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies,” another highlight sung entirely in tight harmonies, punctuated by Cunningham’s ace mandolin and guitar scales, a great way to finish this fine collection of spiritual music played with acoustic flair.

One Comment

  1. Jim Earp
    Posted August, 2017 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

    Back in 1980, a friend of mine told me about this killer bluegrass band that was playing in the Clairemont area at the time. I think they were called the Oats Band- I can’t remember. Anyway, not being a fan of bluegrass, I was nonetheless intrigued by my friends’ insistence that I go hear this band. What floored me about this band was their uber-hot flatpicking guitarist named Tom Cunningham and he was a name a I never forgot. Getting to meet Tom some thirty years later in Lighthouse and discovering that he, too, was a Christian was all too sweet. There are so many great acoustic guitarists in San Diego- but the best are often the most unsung. Tom is on my short list of the local best.

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