Between the Liner Notes
Ron Block's Roadblock
By Amy Reid with Scott Ross
The 700 Club
They’ve been thrust into the spotlight by their work on movie soundtracks like O Brother, Where Art Thou and Cold Mountain, but for Ron Block, of Alison Krauss and Union Station, the spotlight shed light on much more than just his music.
Their sound is known to music lovers all over the world. The members of Alison Krauss and Union Station have steadily climbed the ladder of success and banjo player Ron Block is no exception. Ron’s mastery of guitar, banjo, and vocals as well as his songwriting have landed him 13 Grammy awards.
SCOTT ROSS: What’s the attraction of bluegrass?
It has a real passionate sound to it. And it’s like Irish music. It’s got a wild passion to it that
I really love.
ROSS: Ron also adds a spiritual maturity rare in music’s mainstream. He says that it wasn’t always that way. His quest for acceptance started at the age of five when his dad walked out.
BLOCK: When dad left, he was a great guy. But to a five-year-old, it’s pretty devastating to suddenly, all of a sudden, dad’s not here. And looking back, it really built in me a sense of not being loved.
ROSS: Ron accepted Christ at age six, and then his world changed again. His mother remarried, and Ron was surrounded by six new brothers and sisters.
BLOCK: There was a boy my age named John. We went to school together, we fished together, we did everything together. And it was a family. Then about four years into it, my stepfather decided, it’s over. And so he packed up his kids and it was like one day they were there and everything was fine, and the next day they were getting in the Studebaker pickup, driving away. And I remember going back into the bedroom where we had four bunk beds. I remember just sitting up against the back wall, just sort of stunned. And looking back I disassociated, I didn’t even feel anything because it was too big an event.
BLOCK: It really ended up affecting my sense of self-worth in a deep way.
ROSS: And how did you relate to God the Father when you had lost your dad and your stepfather? WIth all this dysfunctional family stuff, I mean how did it affect your view of God?
BLOCK: My concept -- early concept of God was that God loved me, but he was distant and was sort of a cosmic policeman. It was more of a legalistic kind of thinking.
I mean, that’s where the sort of distant God came from. The distant father produced a distant God.
ROSS: Ron got his first guitar when he was 11-years-old and completely immersed himself in music.
Later he picked up the banjo and started playing in local bluegrass bands. He also developed his relationship with God.
BLOCK: I had a friend right around that time, he explained that we’re saved by trusting and not what we do or don’t do. And I had a major epiphany in my mind about who God was and what my place was in relation to God. It wasn’t by trying to please God by what I’m doing or not doing, it was by trusting His promises.
ROSS: As Ron’s musical skills grew, he based his worth more and more on performance.
BLOCK: I began placing my trust for my identity in this thing, in playing music. Now I was placing my trust in God to take care of my outer needs and to save me from hell, which is how I defined salvation back then. But, I was trusting in myself and in my own ability for my sense of worth and meaning and acceptance from other people.
ROSS: Ron married Sandra in 1989, even though he was still broke and unemployed. A couple of years later, he got a call from Alison Krauss asking him to join their band, Union Station.
BLOCK: When I joined Alison’s band in ’91, there was a huge rush, I mean I was high. I felt happier than I’d ever been. I began to feel, you know, if I can’t play it perfectly then I’m not any good. All this bitterness and resentment started coming up, and it was really stuff God was dredging up from my childhood. He was dredging all this stuff up so that I could see it.
ROSS: How did it change? What made it change?
BLOCK: I found a list of identity verses, where God says that his children are kings, priests... we’re holy, we’re accepted in the beloved. We’re one spirit with the Lord, and I began to write them down on 3x5 cards. I’d pull those out, and it was really a radical reprogramming of my mind, the way I thought about myself.
I had previously gained my identity from what I did and didn’t do, and that’s the world’s mentality, performance-based acceptance. And now I was going, “Oh, God says this."
ROSS: Ron is still with Alison Kraus and Union Station. Lately though, he’s been creating his own musical message. His first solo album, Faraway Land, met with critical acclaim and set a high standard for his follow-up album, DoorWay. Ron hopes that the songs he writes will inspire people to greater faith and knowledge of God’s purpose for their lives.
BLOCK: People need to know, we need to know who we are in Christ. We’ve gotta know it or we cannot be who we are. If we don’t know who we are we can’t be it.
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