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.”
1. Revival, by Karen Peck & New River: Pushing the edges of southern gospel, in a good way.
2. Finish Well, by Karen Peck & New River: One of the best-crafted big ballads I’ve heard in a while.
3. Preacher, Tell It Like It Is: This from the pen of Rodney Griffin. It’s a plea to today’s preachers for one thing which is become rarer and rarer: honesty.
4. Meshach, by Triumphant Quartet: Triumphant Quartet has perfected the rock-solid up-tempo tune. This is a delightfully jazzy addition to their already impressive catalogue.
5. The Borrowed Tomb, by the Kingdom Heirs: The Kingdom Heirs surprised me with a solid set of new songs at NQC this year, and this was the cream of the crop. Chalk another one up to the brilliant Dianne Wilkinson!
6. A Man Like Me, by Wilburn & Wilburn: Another one co-written by Dianne Wilkinson, this mellow, thoughtful ballad uses vivid imagery to paint a simple picture of a man prepared to be the Lord’s vessel.
7. If These Walls Could Talk, by Wilburn & Wilburn: Something about this cheerful tune contributed by Mark Bishop makes me feel warm and good inside, every time.
8. When I Rise, by Gordon Mote: This song was actually written by the winner of a 2011 Songwriter’s Search, Boyd Hoops. It has not been recorded until now. It’s heartening to see an unknown songwriter get a shot to have his song recorded by a major artist, and wow, what a great song. Very simple, very memorable.
9. While I Was a Sinner, by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: This uplifting gospel anthem is a great new vehicle for Ernie Haase’s voice. While I didn’t review the album Glorious Day, I did do an interview with Haase where I singled this out as my personal favorite on the album.
10. High Road, by High Road III: This was debuted live at last year’s quartet convention. I was blown away that these young ladies could sing and play their own instruments at such a high level of quality. But the song hasn’t been recorded until this year. And it is amazing. I’m Simon Cowell when it comes to songwriting. These girls have offered what I think may be an original co-write by the three of them that’s nothing less than perfection. It’s the best new recorded song of 2013. And for a taste of what they can do totally live and unfiltered, check out this one-off performance of “Two Coats.” Spoiler: It sounds just like the studio. Too bad it was only on the exhibit floor and not on mainstage where it belonged. Please, please, somebody set the right wheels in motion to give these young ladies a full slot every year from now until they retire. Meanwhile, everyone go buy all their stuff.