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.
Category Archives: Commentary
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
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
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:
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.)
This series has a dual purpose—to prove that southern gospel can stand on its own two feet next to some of the best artists mainstream music can offer, and to expose strictly southern gospel listeners to some music that might fall outside their regular rotation. So what better way to continue the column than by pairing up the most influential duo in country/rock-and-roll with arguably the most popular southern gospel artist at this time? Of course I have my opinion, but I’ll let you readers decide. One thing I will say is I consider it a compliment to both groups for me to compare each to the other. So, let the history lesson/rambling commence!
It’s hard to convey the impact of the Everly Brothers, but here’s one way to put it: Simon & Garfunkel probably wouldn’t exist without them. In fact, most rock acts that rely on harmony wouldn’t have developed the same way without them. True, their songs were essentially the 60s equivalent of Justin Bieber’s “Baby, Baby,” but then a lot of love songs are. What was distinctive about them was their sound. It was a blend you couldn’t possibly mistake for anyone else. Though their artistic lifespan was fairly short, they left an indelible mark on popular music, fusing sharp country vocals with a rock and roll beat. In some ways they were ahead of their time. And when they caught the ear of two young schoolmates in Queens, younger than the Everlys themselves in this early clip, they ignited a new flame. The influence is undeniable:
The groundwork is already there—not yet fully formed, a bit green and nasal, but very professional.
The Everlys polished their sound further through incessant practice and became very popular with young listeners, though even their upbeat songs had that country sting to them. Presley did country tongue in cheek, but this was less self-conscious and hence more biting. (Witness the irony of “Gone Gone Gone,” another cynical “done me wrong song” disguised as a dance number, complete with teens obliviously rocking out on the floor.) But they could also tug heart-strings with the best of them on a tender ballad (see “Crying In the Rain” ). My favorite of the latter is this middle-aged TV appearance with Johnny Cash on “Silver-Haired Daddy.” You can tell the blend is richer, more assured, yet somehow the same. The slight mis-match in closing consonants and brief lyrics slip are the only indicators that this isn’t a pre-recorded vocal. It’s so simple, but the effortless perfection on display here just leaves me gobsmacked:
I got to see Wayne Watson perform his song “The Blood of Jesus” live in concert the other night, which I had never heard before. He told the story of how it was inspired by him trying (unsuccessfully) to picture two biker boys he met walking into heaven. This video contains both the story and a performance of the song, very classily done with just Wayne on acoustic and a little choir behind him. I think it comes off a little Ken Medema-ish, which is a good thing.
I thought that while I’m polishing off that concert review (with pictures!) I’d set this song up with a song of the same name from our own The Collingsworth Family. While Watson’s “Blood” is more of a story-song with black gospel overtones, this is straightahead white gospel/inspo material. I personally enjoy both very much in their own way. See what you think…
Hey everyone. I know it’s late, but I hope you’ll join me anyway. I went on a river cruise and didn’t get home ’til about 20 after 9.
Best moment of the night: The end of the Perrys’ set, when Libbi received a standing ovation and then presented a brief glimpse of Tracy live on Facetime.
Best performance of the night: The Collingsworth Family, “Burdens are Lifted at Calvary”
Closing thoughts: Every time I watch an NQC, I’m surprised and encouraged. There were many great moments this week, and to those who say it was horrible and gospel music is dying, I say that I’m not sure we listened to the same week! Of course there were recycled moments and performances that fell flat, but as Dean Hopper said during his closing speech, “something has happened” pretty much every night to remind us all why we fell in love with this music to begin with, and more importantly why we fell in love with the people who make it. To all the artists I want to say thanks for putting on a great show and simultaneously inviting us to join you in worship. We love you and appreciate all of you. To the writers who have contributed all these great songs, I say thanks for your frequently unacknowledged work behind the scenes of this music. To all the camera crew and other folks behind the curtain, thanks for the integral part you played in making this a great week everyone could enjoy. And finally, thanks be to God for blessing these good folks with their gifts and giving us the freedom and opportunity to enjoy them.
Good night all. I hope you’ve enjoyed NQC 2013 as much as I have. Highlights and comments on what I caught of the final night are below. Continue reading
Good evening! Please join me for Free Friday with your thoughts and comments, or just sit back and enjoy the show!
Best of the Night:
The Gaither Vocal Band, “It is Finished” – One word: Glooooray!
*Isaacs, “The Living Years”
*Karen Peck and New River (what I caught of their set, COUGH COUGH)
*Easters with Wilburn & Wilburn, “Down In the Valley
*Bill’s calling on the crowd to stand during “I Played In the Band”
*Mark Trammell Quartet, “Wonderful Time Up There” and “The King is Coming”
*Gold City, “Get Up, Get Ready” — Jonathan Wilburn joined on the encore. Continue reading
Folks, good evening! I will be providing a little live commentary her for a few acts at the beginning of the evening, then taking a break until around 8:00.
I will meet back up with y’all then, and then turn in early before the Christmas segment because I’m not in a particularly Christmasy mood. (Changed my mind on that one.) Hope you all will join me in the comments! I hope this will be a strong night even though it would be hard to top quartet night.
Once again, I’m using the “bottom up” format for the play by play. Please tell me if you like this better or want me to go back to top down. I like this format because it puts the most recent updates right where folks can see it. Read the entire commentary below the fold. Thank you all!
This was a great night, with each artist leaving everything on the stage. The song selection was memorable and had a good balance of old to new, and I enjoyed some of the artist combinations we got to see as the next artist in line would frequently jump on stage for the last song of the previous artist’s set. My favorite example of this was Phil Collingsworth Jr. with the Booth Brothers on “Trading This Old Cross.” There were a few sound bugs, but they were fixed quickly. Transitions from set to set proceeded smoothly, with Jim Brady and Brooklyn Collingsworth providing some tasteful emcee work. Crowd attendance is also up as folks are coming in for the weekend, and many believe this was a great energizer for the artists and helped them turn in the great performances they did.
All things considered, I thought this was going to be a major letdown from last night, but pretty much everyone proved me wrong, and folks are saying I didn’t even see some of the very best stuff!
Keep in mind that these are only highlights of what I personally got to see tonight. I gather that the Perrys and the Dixie Echoes had great sets and was very sorry to miss those.
*Tribute, “Good News From Jerusalem” with live choir
*Wilburn & Wilburn
*Mark Bishop, “I Got Here As Fast as I Could”
*The Talleys, “Broken World”
*Greater Vision, “This is Mercy” and “For All He’s Done”
*Triumphant, “The Great I Am Still Is” stood out but their whole set was strong
*Booth Brothers, “We Believe” and “Trading This Old Cross” (with guest solo by Phil Collingsworth Jr.)
*Collingsworth Family, “Come Thou Fount” acapella, but once again, a great set start to finish
*Jubilee Gang, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”