This little post started as a longish “Recently Added” entry about a young Irish folk band called The High Kings. But it quickly blossomed into something more. As I traced the evolution and growth of the band, I began noticing a lot of similarities between this group and our own Signature Sound in southern gospel. Both groups play a very similar role in their respective genres, bringing old music to a younger generation while trying to retain their own artistic identity. Before I knew it, I was writing a mini-dissertation on marketing, musical artistry, and the heritage of traditional music. So, come along with me for the ride, and discover some great new music at the same time! I’ll leave you to savor it for a little bit while I spend the next week cramming for finals and going to Christmas parties.
I didn’t have as much time to review 2013′s southern gospel releases as I would have liked. In particular, I would still love to review the debut of the female trio High Road III and Gordon Mote’s All Things New. I’ve sampled both albums and selected a couple choice cuts to mix into this particular list of songs that did catch my ear this year. These are not arranged in any particular order, since I know myself too well to set myself the perfectionist’s task of deciding exactly where each song should place! However, I did decide to put my top three at 8, 9, and 10, so… there’s your smidge of organization.
There were other SG songs recorded this year that I enjoyed, but this particular list aims to exclude covers and take a look at what fresh material the year 2013 had to offer. Some cover songs that I loved include Wilburn & Wilburn’s “Funeral Plans,” Barry Rowland & Deliverance’s “We’ll Go Down Standing Up,” Gordon Mote’s take on Mac McAnally’s “Down By the River,” the Isaacs’ “The Living Years” and Signature Sound’s fresh arrangement of “Glorious Day.” Continue reading
Until I hear a worse one, that is. File this under “unintentionally hilarious”: Former Celtic Thunder tenor Paul Byrom butchering “You Raise Me Up.” Thank goodness this joker has now been replaced by the eminently superior young talent Emmet Cahill, who understands the difference between singing and over-singing. (Watch his version of “Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears” here.)
And in case you needed a palate cleanser after that monstrosity, this folks is how it’s really done:
When I first heard Gus Gaches’s voice, he vaulted into my personal top five southern gospel tenors practically overnight. It was instant fanhood. Some tenor singers take a little time to grow on you, but it’s hard not to be quickly won over by Gus’s pure, smooth tones. He’s very steady and clean, and he retains a full sound even in his upper register (though he wisely chooses not to push himself past a high D or so, to preserve tone quality). He may not be the most rangy or powerful tenor, but he has the complete package. Check out this performance of “Holy Is Thy Name”:
This backstage twitter pic from the GVB’s most recent concert prompted a bit of banter from Travis Cottrell over the appearance that Wes Hampton has a ponytail (or perhaps a mullet). It’s also a hint that you should really keep your eye on Travis Cottrell. I’ve got another little bird who just told me… well, that’s all I’m saying at the moment!
Today marks the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’s death, and the Christian inter-webs have been buzzing with lovingly written tributes to the man’s legacy. It would be difficult for me to add much that’s new to this chorus of praise, but I felt I must throw my own few pennies in the hat.
Like so many other Christians, my thinking has been profoundly shaped by Lewis from the first time I picked up The Chronicles of Narnia as a young child to the present day. It’s a testament to his impact that hardly anyone seems able to write anything about faith, life, death or the afterlife without reaching for some quote of his—myself included.
How could a loving God send people to Hell? What will heaven be like? How could a person lose a loved one forever and still be happy in heaven? How can salvation be a process? How can God be timeless? How might God deal in other worlds besides our own? No other Christian thinker that I am aware of has presented such brilliantly lucid, richly imaginative answers to these questions as Lewis offered.
I’ve come to realize that unless Gaither kicks Phelps or Hampton down to baritone (unlikely), he really needs to hire a baritone and not a lead to fill the gap left by Michael English and Mark Lowry. That still leaves open the Shane McConnell possibility (after all, he is currently singing baritone with Canton Junction), but it also opens up others.
I’ve heard one rumor that praise and worship leader Travis Cottrell is a contender to fill that gap. Here are seven reasons why that might be a good move:
1. He’s a friend of Wes Hampton’s, so he already has a personal connection with the group. I also found this article from 2009, showing Bill Gaither and Travis leading worship together at Brentwood Baptist Church.
2. He’s a songwriter, so adding him could provide a source for fresh GVB material in the long run. Hampton even covered his song “Jesus Saves” on a solo project.
3. His voice is contemporary enough to flex with the GVB’s shifting styles, yet well-rounded and full enough not to stick out like a sore thumb next to a singer like David Phelps.
4. He already has a fan-base in the praise and worship market, which could draw more young fans to southern gospel if he joined forces with the Vocal Band. Continue reading
Apologies for the lateness of this post, we had a windstorm and lost power last night!
It’s finally here—SCC’s first “proper” pop album since his daughter’s death. After the immediate, gut-wrenching lamentation of Beauty Will Rise, The Glorious Unfolding shows Chapman slowly returning to his old self–not the same, but healing. This is not going to be an album review, but I’ll just say very quickly that after listening through the whole thing last night, it’s encouraging to hear SCC in this mood again. Is the music as good as his glory days? Well, much of it follows the Speechless/Declaration template, which, for those of you who don’t have his entire album timeline memorized (grin) was the phase where he left the beaten path of MOR Christian pop and began adding rockier textures to his style. While that was creative and different then, each successive time he’s duplicated the formula feels like a progressively fading photocopy (and even then, truth be told, he’d already written a large chunk of his best songs in the late 80s/early 90s).
So, if I’m being honest, there were some tracks on here that didn’t grab or hold my attention. Musically speaking, that is. Most of the lyrics are excellent, and so far beyond anything else spinning on CCM radio right now it’s not even funny. And, oh my, can this man still write a ballad! Here are just a few lines that particularly struck me. This one is from “Michael and Maria,” dedicated to his own daughter and another child lost by some close friends:
Michael and Maria
Someone said they thought they saw you
Giving names to babies this world never knew
I’m sure by now you’ve found your great grandparents
And some friends like Dave and Erin
I bet you’ve met Moses too…
Or this from the Five-for-Fighting-flavored “See You In a Little While,” a song dedicated to his grandmother:
And just one more thing before I let you go
Please tell my little girl I love her
Though I’m sure she already knows
And ask the Father to please tell the Son
That we’re ready and waiting for Him to come…
But my personal favorite is this closing, hymn-like track, “At the Feet of Jesus,” which feels like it could fit easily onto an Alison Krauss project. Enjoy: