Into His Presence is the Perrys’ debut effort with Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase’s new label Stowtown Records. It’s also their first offering of new music since Tracy Stuffle’s stroke now over a year ago January and the subsequent departure of lead singer Joseph Habedank. However, David Ragan has been proving that he is more than capable of picking up where Joseph left off. His resonant, expansive voice is the glue that holds this new lineup together. To me, he and David Mann are cut from the same cloth (speaking of, sympathetic shout-out and best wishes to Mann, who just came off the road after discovering that his throat had been invaded by mold spores!) Tracy’s son Jared, who has an agreeably smooth low tone, is filling in on most of the bass singing for now, although Tracy makes one special guest appearance. Below the fold are my comments on this new project. Continue reading
Category Archives: CD Reviews
This hymns project is a parting gift from the last Gaither Vocal Band lineup of Michael English, Mark Lowry, David Phelps, and Wes Hampton. Nearly all the tracks are fresh, with a couple exceptions that I’ll detail in the Likes and Dislikes. So, let’s get right to it!
*Although “Amazing Grace” recycles some arrangement ideas from the Amazing Grace Homecoming project (minor modulation on verse three, orchestral rhythm on verse four, etc.), I greatly enjoyed the dramatic Celtic twist they put on it. It led to some very cool harmonic choices, like the perfect fifth on the word “begun” at the end. Also loved the pennywhistle doing a few bars of “Come Thou Fount” as the song drew to a close. Although guys, really, you’re not Irish and we can kinda tell, so lose the fake lilt-warble on verse one if you ever do it live, m’kay?
* “Redeemed” was another successful Celtic-tinged arrangement. The blend of strings, accordion and pipes creates an exciting, toe-tapping rhythm. The familiar hymn tune has been somewhat re-worked for this arrangement, but it works quite well. Vocally, David Phelps’s pure tone particularly shines in this context and I wouldn’t be surprised if he did the arrangement.
As a backer of Legacy Five’s new project, I just recently received the final mix of their project Great Day. I am pleased to offer the first review of this record, officially out March 25th! I’m using what I believe will be the cover of that project based on the fan poll they held on their blog. Enjoy my thoughts in bullet point form!
* Y’all know I’m a sucker for gospel shuffles drenched in B-3 Hammond. Standout track “Christ is Still the King” (the number on which some lucky backers got the chance to sing BGVs) goes straight to that happy part of my brain. Congrats to Rebecca Peck and Dianne Wilkinson (the lady is a machine!) for an exceptionally strong lyric and melody. It just keeps building and building to a triumphant finish with the aforementioned fan choir. The relative restraint of the production until that final verse makes it all the more effective.
Souls can still be rescued
For mercy still redeems.
Rejoice, the tomb’s still empty
And Christ is still the King. Continue reading
After a Dove award-winning solo debut, plus another table project, EHSS baritone Doug Anderson is back to treat his fans with a collection of all-new songs. The better part of them are contributed by Wayne Haun and/or Joel Lindsey, and predictably these are among the best songs on the album. As per usual, click on to read my thoughts in candid Likes/Dislikes format. Continue reading
I put off reviewing this one all last year, but it seems to be perfect timing now that Adam has been hired by the GVB. This solo outing shows him exploring similar progressive ground to his brother Jason Crabb—country/pop with a gospel twist. As usual, I’ll present my thoughts in “Likes/Dislikes” format.
* “I’ve Got a Right to Pray” — Adam is at his best when he’s rocking that swampy gospel sound with his signature harmonica work. I also loved the jazz organ’s contribution. But most of all, I just love the message of the song (originally recorded by the Paynes and then the Crabb Family in 1999). It’s a spirited application of the story of Daniel to contemporary stifling of religion in the public square. “I wonder what old Daniel would say if he were alive today?”
*As worship songs go, the title track isn’t too bad. It has a pleasant Matt Redman vibe. I’d like to hear Chris Tomlin sing it.
* “Why I Am Who I Am” — A heart-felt, well-written ballad about setting an example for our children. “They’re why I do what I do, why I am who I am.”
* “Higher Ground” breathes new life into the familiar hymn, with some help from Gene McDonald! You’ve never heard such a rockin’ version of this one.
* “Hey Now” may sound a little too much like Eric Church’s “Homeboy,” but hey, that song was wicked cool so why complain?
* “Sometimes He Whispers” starts off slow but builds to a strong chorus:
Sometimes he’s water to the thirsty
Sometimes he’s fire all-consuming
Sometimes his voice is louder than thunder
Oh, but sometimes, sometimes he whispers
*Inserting “Amazing Grace” into “That Whosoever Was Me.” It’s been done, and done, and done. Everyone stop it!
* “Sometimes God Allows” — A promising lyrical hook is wasted by a dull melody that doesn’t allow any lyrical impact to come through.
* “Jehovah Jireh” — Again, very poor melody. Particularly awkward cadencing on the verses and bridge.
*Kids’ choir kicking off “Hey Now” did not work. At all.
*Several songs that I’m struggling to remember and critique by name because… they just weren’t that memorable.
Final thoughts: While Adam has a good voice, he’s not as powerful a soloist as his brother Jason. The good side of this is that he has the ability to blend better with a group, as Bill Gaither has noticed. However, the best thing about Adam is his open heart for God and for people, and that definitely comes through on this project. Anyone who is already a big fan of the Crabbs or of Jason’s solo work will want to pick it up. However, more casual fans who are more interested in really memorable new songs may prefer to download select tracks on iTunes.
Because I have a special treat planned for each of the twelve days of Christmas (!) to come, I wanted to make sure this review went up before the Christmas season was wearing off for everyone. So I’ve decided to bump Monday Morning Humor for the day and give you a look at this worshipful Christmas offering from Davy, Kelly and Odie Boggs. Their live album Havin’ Church received critical praise from both me and Musicscribe. He Came is their first Christmas album.
This CD consists of six vocal tracks, two piano-focused instrumentals by Kelly, and a 17-minute sermon from Davy. In the liner notes, he explains that they included the sermon in the tradition of old-time gospel LPs, which often incorporated spoken tracks with the songs. It’s a classic bit of straight-up, Pentecostal tent-revival preaching that may not be to everyone’s taste but fits very well in the context of the album. Could it have been shorter, thereby saving room for a couple more songs? Perhaps, but then the length of the sermon is part of its charm.
The songs are carefully chosen and arranged with a purpose for a true album experience. For the most part, they are original tunes focused on the theme of expectation. The anticipation builds to a climax with the sermon, which presents the entire salvation story, and then the album closes with the Squire Parsons tune “He Came to Me.” Although not originally a Christmas song, it’s a wonderful choice, movingly sung. The family’s own composition “Until He Came” is a musical and lyrical highlight. I would love to hear a group like the Collingsworth Family pick it up, as it deserves wider exposure.
The production is tasteful and simple, featuring only piano, drums and bass guitar. The tight, jazzy instrumental “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is worth the price of the album alone, at moments recalling bands like the Vince Guaraldi Trio. It should be noted here that Kelly is a rare talent. What she lacks in flash and flair, she amply makes up for in natural ability and an ear for what sounds fresh, yet feels right. Her musicianship is the glue that holds the group together and makes them stand out among other regional artists.
Although the Boggses are not exceptional soloists, they have a pure, country-tinged family blend in the vein of a group like the Isaacs. This may not be coincidental, as Ben Isaacs is both Davy’s cousin and their producer. As with the live project, it’s refreshing to hear a group who doesn’t sound pitch-perfect, yet still has something to offer vocally. Their sound is rough around the edges, but it’s beautiful in its own humble, unspoiled way.
He Came is unlike any Christmas project I’ve ever heard. It’s a concept album with a clear focus that achieves its goals with minimal wasted space while eschewing nearly all standards, both sacred and secular. It does deliver less music than a comparably priced album of the same length, but it’s a breath of originality in an area where many artists phone it in. For that reason alone, it’s worth checking out. You can listen to samples and purchase it here.
Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.
For the first time ever, the 80s and 90s lineups of the Cathedral Quartet have come together, along with the men they currently sing with, in one of the largest tributes to the legendary group yet. With top-notch production values and legendary singers like Mark Trammell, Gerald Wolfe and Danny Funderburke still bringing it to the table, it really was never possible for this to be a bad project.
I really wanted to write a full-fledged, detailed review of this album. As it is, this review will be formatted a little differently from normal because I’m writing it on the fly, without time to really soak in the album fully. However, I’ve enjoyed reading others’ take on it so much that I thought I might as well toss my hat in the ring and share some thoughts and extra commentary, based on what I’ve heard so far. There’s also a little poll at the end to gauge reader interest in the project after reading my thoughts.
This is the list of songs selected:
1. Blood Washed Band
2. We Shall Be Caught Up
3. Wedding Music
4. We’ll Work
5. O Come Along
6. I’ve Read The Back of the Book
8. Can He, Could He, Would He
9. Oh, What A Savior
10. He Made A Change
11. Somebody Touched Me
12. Search Me, O God
13. Champion of Love
First, I love the concept—bringing together a choir of all the Cathedrals legacy groups for the first time. The brand new track “We’ll Work,” plus scrap-iron combos on selected songs with the young basses getting to test their chops on Younce features are also excellent.
And yet, ultimately it doesn’t seem to offer much that’s fresh. For one thing, both Signature Sound and the L5/MTQ/GV/Funderburk gang have each done their own tributes already. So it’s not like this new project is offering the only recent recording of Funderburk or Trammell on one of their signature Cathedrals tunes. Moreover, Signature Sound’s tribute was more musically creative (which admittedly worked better on some tracks than others) and covered a broader swatch of the quartet’s work.
You might argue, “Why is it supposed to be fresh? It’s a family reunion of Cathedrals singers singing Cathedrals songs!” It’s not really the production I have a problem with. I actually like the classic feel in this context. (My personal favorite is the sweeping, all-stops-pulled-out feel on “Blood-Washed Band.”) However, I do think the songs chosen could have been more varied. The reliance on very well-worn hits like “Can He Could He Would He,” “Champion of Love,” “Oh What a Savior,” and “He Made a Change” doesn’t really do justice to the Cathedrals’ rich catalogue. I do appreciate the inclusion of a few songs like “We Shall Be Caught Up,” “Bloodwashed Band” and “Oh Come Along,” but there just weren’t enough picks like that. There are many overlooked gems just waiting to be pulled out and dusted off, and with all the Cats legacy heavyweights in one place, this could have been a golden opportunity to revive some of them for a new audience.
As I was thinking about this, I started making a list, and here’s what I came up with. (Note: I am actually pulling some of these from a very old e-mail conversation I had with Daniel Mount, where we put together our ideal Cathedrals tribute collection.)
Karen Peck and New River is one of the hottest trios in Southern Gospel today. They typically offer a blend of traditional southern singing, country and pop. This release doesn’t deviate much from that template, but it is a tad more rootsy than usual for them. Let’s go to Likes and Dislikes for a closer look at the project.
*The production may not be bluegrass per se, but I enjoyed the frequent use of bluegrass textures in the production. It balanced out the squeaky clean, sanitized vocals (on which more anon).
*The title track/opener is not the song cut by Brian Free & Assurance on their latest, but rather a Little Big Town-flavored, country/rock tune. I like the edge on this one.
* “Finish Well” is a very well-crafted big ballad. I was especially impressed with the consistently strong lyrics. From start to finish, there’s not a weak link in this one. My only complaint is they should have saved it for the last. Continue reading
Wilburn and Wilburn made some waves when they came on the gospel music scene a couple years ago. Son Jordan’s youthful drive and talent combined with Jonathan’s boundless energy and soul created an exciting sound. Their official debut Family Ties was filled with stellar cuts like “A Cross Became My Saving Grace,” “Devil Be Gone” and “You’ll Still Be There,” garnering critical acclaim all ’round (including 5 stars from yours truly). Now they have an album of new material to share with the world of gospel music. Here is my review of this sophomore effort.
Some of you might know Brian Fuson from his southern gospel blog Fuson’s Findings, but you may not know that some time ago he joined a Michigan-based quartet called New Destiny. Not only is he now singing and traveling with the group, he also works as a southern gospel concert promoter in the Detroit area. Brian is one of this genre’s most dedicated fans and promoters, and it’s my privilege to review his own contribution to southern gospel music. Although it was released last October, I got my copy in spring this year and simply haven’t gotten around to writing a review of it—until now. As it turns out, this is a good time to review it since their radio single “Testimony” was sent to various stations just last month. Continue reading