I grew up in North Carolina, so bluegrass music feels like home to me. Its acoustic strings (strummed, picked, and bowed), its stacked vocal harmonies—this “mountain music” from the southern US sounds sweet to my ears.
Lately I’ve been enjoying some video-archived bluegrass performances by the Franz Family from Berryville, Arkansas, a family of seven—Mom, Dad, three sons,* and two daughters—who toured together as a bluegrass gospel band continuously from 1991 to 2011, performing at churches, camps, prisons, and parties. (*The second oldest son, Hadley, left the group in 2004 when he got married and moved to Kansas.) Click here to watch a short documentary on the Franz Family, produced in 2010.
Everyone in the group sings and plays multiple instruments, but here are the instruments you’ll most commonly see them on:
Randy Franz: Guitar
Ruth Ann Franz: Guitar, double bass
Caleb Franz: Guitar, mandolin, banjo
Audra (Franz) Mohnkern: Double bass
Emmett Franz: Dobro
Olivia (Franz) Jahnke: Fiddle
So many songs from the traditional bluegrass repertoire were written as Christian testimony. Most celebrate the personal redemption from sin wrought through Christ and eagerly anticipate heaven, inviting others onto that glory train. They also proclaim the loving aid God provides through the storms of life, which the family experienced when Ruth Ann passed away from cancer in 2016. Her death renders even truer the lyrics she sang again and again:
I’m just a pilgrim here
Soon I’ll be gone
Nothing can hold me here
I’m headed home
Somewhere in glory you’ll find me
Singing and shouting in eternity
(Related posts: “Don’t let the rocks cry out”; “The Avett Brothers sing gospel”)
Here are three studio recordings of the Franz Family from December 2009 in Denver, Colorado: “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand,” “Somewhere in Glory,” and “Getting Ready to Go.”
These can be found on their two albums, The Tale You’ll Never Hear (2008) and Sorrow and Wisdom (2012).
I’ve compiled some other video recordings below; for more, see Randy Franz’s YouTube channel.
Gospel Temple, Moline, Illinois, 2001
“I Saw the Miracle”
“The Dearest Friend”
“God Moves in a Windstorm” (about Jonah)
“Hallelujah, Our Lord Is Risen”
“I Wonder What They’re Doing in Heaven Today”
“Nothing Can Hold Me Here”
Sebring, Florida, 2007
Good Hope Baptist Church, Alabama, 2007
“Shadow of Your Wings”
“Chasing After the Wind” (in the voice of Solomon)
Though they still loving playing music when they’re together, the Franz Family stopped touring in 2011 because of new marriages and other musical pursuits. Since then, the Franz siblings have released albums with other artists, like Colin Elmore (This Side of the Sun), Kevin Cott (Every Highway), and Chelsea Moon (Hymn Project, Vol. 2). In 2015 Emmett released a solo EP, Wanderers and Whims, and in 2017 Olivia released Dark and Light under the stage name Olive.
Here’s a video of Emmett from last year performing “Wayfaring Stranger” on Dobro (resonator guitar):
In the hands and mouths of these super-talented musicians, these songs of the faith build up and bless.
6 thoughts on “The Franz Family (bluegrass gospel)”
Thank you for posting this. What a treasure! Truly an amazing family who continue to love and serve their Lord.
Howdy! I am in search of an old CD of yours. I would like a new copy of “Who at My Door is Standing”. I lost mine 😦 and I miss listening to those songs! I was wondering if you have one that I can purchase or if you have a CD with some of the same songs? Thanks – Renee Schwartz
[…] For a brighter, more vigorous version of the hymn that utilizes the original tune, see Chelsea Moon’s Hymn Project, Volume 2, a collaboration with the Franz Brothers: […]
Randy and Ruth Ann Franz,
What a blessing you and your family are to me. I came home from Sunday morning service and found out more about the family of Emmet Franz and now I see where his anointing which is emanating out of him coming from. May the many blessings of GOD be upon you all and HIS mercy and grace follow you all the days of your lives so you may dwell in the house of the LORD forever. I love the Petersens also.
Wonderful of you to pull all this together. This truly is an amazing bunch of folks. They can teach us much!
I’m not sure how I stumbled on The Franz Family & their works around 2018 or so, and was sad reading they no longer performed together. I know & love all of their diverse works. The Franz’s mother and wife, Ruth Ann Frantz, was in some ways the bedrock of the family, and died several years ago. She was extremely gifted, appeared full of faith joy and skill, as did her then husband Randy. I’m so glad for your post as a feature on your blog. I’ve since found that their son Emmett (who plays dobro superbly with a hauntingly solid voice), joined another group The Petersons. I’ve only recently explored their music and encourage others to look them up on YouTube. I believe they’re another family who play Bluegrass styles and Gospel. Sons Emmett and Caleb contributed to another excellent project with singer Chelsea Moon around 2012. All seven of The Franz Family showed pure joy, and skill, with amazingly diverse talents. When first discovering them, I was nearly stunned, to hear so much artistry, heart, soul & faith in one family. These Bluegrass & Gospel works gave me pure joy and inspiration during these last Dark, Cynical, Divisive, past few years. I’ve searched the web regularly for their works, and I finally found their CD “The Tale You’ll Never Hear” and a rare award-winning 2010 DVD. In the 1990s when their children were young, but showing early budding talents, they released a Christmas CD. It is also scarcely available. I’m still searching for their CD “Sorrow & Wisdom”, and anything else they produced. Again, thanks for your post and all the links of this amazing, lesser known & underrated Group!