Category Archives: Concert Reviews

Concert Review: Jubilee Christmas Tour (Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Legacy Five)

I recently caught the Jubilee gang on their Christmas tour and wanted to share some highlights of the concert with you all. I did bring a camera, though the lighting wasn’t optimal. I put some snapshots, a few with clever captions, in the slideshow below. Click on for a full review. This is the first of several juicy posts I have in the can for you this week while I recuperate from a quadruple tooth extraction. (Christmas break, don’t you know?) Comment as the spirit leads and I will reply to the best of my cognitive abilities at the moment. Beware though—the next post is a wee bit controversial, so who knows what I might come out with in the comment thread!

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Concert Review: Christian Classic Tour (Steve Green, Twila Paris, Larnelle Harris, Wayne Watson), 9/29/13

The other Friday I had the wonderful opportunity to catch the Christian Classic (or God of All Glory) tour in Shipshewana, IN, with my dad. The only thing that made the evening less than perfect for us was some confusion caused by the fact that we arrived a quarter of an hour before showtime to find Twila Paris already singing! We scrambled for an explanation, even fearing for a few moments that there was some Daylight Savings Time confusion and we had missed half of the concert. (Later we figured out that didn’t make any sense, but we were a bit panicky!) After the concert, we found out that it was really the artists’ fault, because they wanted to start an hour earlier when they saw that there was already a good crowd. Fortunately the organizers got them to compromise to start only half an hour earlier, so turns out we only missed an opener and the first song or so of Twila’s set. Phew! And I DID get pictures, which are interspersed throughout the review below. I’ve broken it down into little sections by each artist’s set. Enjoy!

Twila Paris

Twila Paris singing God is In Control

Twila’s was arguably the overall strongest set of the night. Her performances were essentially flawless, and she picked several of her absolute best songs. I was impressed with how she and Dick Tunney worked together and around each other on various sets of keys. Continue reading

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Concert Review: Legacy Five and Greater Vision in Spring Arbor, MI

I apologize for taking so long to bring you this review! I decided to skip the pictures since I didn’t really get any good ones, and it takes time to upload them to a post, so why add more delay? This was a great concert, and it was especially interesting because Greater Vision chose to debut quite a few songs from their upcoming CD, For All He’s Done! It was awesome to hear what Rodney has been cooking up lately. I think he’s written some of his best work yet on this new CD. This was also special because it was the first time I’ve seen Legacy Five in concert. So without further ado, here’s a complete set list with comments Continue reading

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(Partial) Concert LiveBlog: Tracy Stuffle Benefit

After a rocky start, the server is finally stabilizing a bit for me, but it’s still not entirely reliable.

“We Need Each Other” — entire group. Step-outs from Jim Brady, Ernie Hase, Doug Anderson, Joseph Habedank and the Isaacs.

Joseph’s pastor Dan Scott — bluegrass acapella. I don’t know this song, but I love it! It’s got an “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” feel to it. Here are some of the lyrics: “Jesus tells me not to fear. For he can see beyond the grave. And whosoever will may come. Jesus Christ refuses none.” Then it went into a piano-based number called, “Something’s Got Ahold of Me.”

The Bowlings — “I’ve Touched Calvary”. There’s another male singer with the Bowlings whom I don’t recognize. [Update: This is Troy Peach! I had a funny feeling I recognized him. It's great to see him back on the road again.] They sound great!

Now they’re singing “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master.”

Unfortunately my stream is getting stuck at frequent intervals, so I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to report on. We’ll see if it gets unstuck.

Okay, I finally got the stream back and it’s Gold City singing “Cast My Bread On the Water.”

This is so sad… I can’t get a reliable stream going. Missed a big chunk and am back now, still with Gold City singing “I’m Not Giving Up.” Gold City is using a fill-in tenor. We’re trying to figure out who it was. Daniel Mount just said he hoped it was a fill-in giving the ending. Ouch.

I love it — Jason Crabb let out a whoop, and Joseph said, “He’s a Pentecostal, I’m a Baptist.” Now he’s recognizing all the Perrys alumni on stage with him. Classy.

Karen Peck and New River up now. Singing “Four Days Late.” Now a ballad called “My God Will Always Be Enough.” I’m remembering how pure and controlled Karen Peck’s singing is.

(Realizing that I’m not the only one having feed problems. Makes me feel better.)

Now the Hoppers are up, and Joseph just said that Kim is laid up with sinus issues! Oh no! But thankfully, we have Taranda Greene filling in for her.

“If I Can Help Somebody”

Okay, so it looks like I just missed a lot of awesome stuff, because I’m juggling this with my evening job. Whatever the Hoppers just finished, it was amazing. It caused Joseph to say, “I’m startin’ to feel Pentecostal!”

Jason Crabb just compared the Booth Brothers’ blend to milk chocolate. I couldn’t agree more! They’re up now singing “I Will Serve Thee.” No tracks, just a piano! Now “Every Cry is Heard.” Michael leading the audience in singalong.

Okay folks, big moment! Jason Crabb is welcoming LIBBI STUFFLE on stage! Standing-O! She is singing “Praise You Through the Night.” What a powerful, emotion-drenched performance.

That was the best moment of the night, and I don’t think anything that follows it is even going to come close! She just shared a beautiful update about Tracy—earlier today she asked him if he could kiss her after she kissed him, and he did!

I’m afraid I missed a lot because the stream got stuck. Now I’m back with “If You Knew Him,” and… I have to take the garbage out. BRB.

Libbi is now testifying about her declaration of war on the devil, and her experience fasting and praying for Tracy. I could listen to Libbi testify all day. She’s a little firecracker of Holy Ghost power. What a tough lady of God. Right now, she’s asking for prayer that Tracy will not need a permanent shunt in his brain. The procedure will be very risky if needed.

Phil Hoskins is down at the front with Libbi, and the congregation is stretching their hands toward her while they pray for Tracy. I encourage those of you watching via livestream to pray with them. Matthew Holt is playing “Be Still and Know That He is God” in the background—a great choice.

Now they are all singing “Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and I seem to have something in my eye… everybody acapella, audience too, this is gorgeous.

Phil Hoskins prayed and gave an invitation. Nine or ten people stood up in a first profession of faith! Now everyone is singing “Amazing Grace.”

Jason Crabb is taking an offering now. Here is a link for fans who’d like to donate. Make checks payable to College Heights Baptist Church and write “Team Tracy” in the memo line. Matthew Holt is now playing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” while they roll a pictorial  tribute to Tracy.

Joseph is now announcing the Isaacs. Hey, I see Zak Shumate on the box! They opened with “Walk On,” and Becky shared a good word about the story of Bartimaeus to set up “Waiting in the Water.” Now a little classic acapella with “I Will Praise Him.” Standing ovation.

The Collingsworth Family is up now. Olivia is taller than both her older sisters now! The ladies are all singing “Fear Not Tomorrow,” including Olivia. Now “Just a Rainy Day.” Now they’re singing a song called “The Healer is Here.” I’m not sure if this new or from an old album of theirs, but I like it.

Joe is up now talking about how much he loves the Collingsworth kids. He then recognized Tracy’s parents and son.

Oh my gosh—it’s Dailey and Vincent AND Ricky Skaggs! Surprise! They’re singing “Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord.” I believe that’s Christian Davis on bass. There’s a gentleman with bushy beard and glasses singing tenor, and I don’t know who he is but he killed it! Now “I Believe He Gave His Life For Me.” I just love their sound, it’s so pure and simple.

Dailey and Vincent shared about Skaggs’s influence and impact on them, and now Skaggs is sharing a good word. Now he’s playing and singing “Work of Love.”

Last song, “The Fourth Man.” I read that Jeff Parker is normally their baritone, but tonight he’s the one hitting the high notes! I never would have guessed. He’s doing great.

Aaaaand… now Mark Lowry is up! With a cane. He’s joking now about his “bionic leg.”

Mark’s still on a roll, but I was kinda hoping they could bring back the music so I could go to bed… let’s hope he wraps it up soon. Ah, good, he’s singing “Mary Did You Know?” Nice performance from Mark! Except I don’t agree with Joseph’s saying he’s one of the “deepest thinkers” — still, he is entertaining and a good singer.

It’s getting very late, but Clarke Beasley is up saying a few words together with the president of the GMA (didn’t catch her name). It looks like EHSS is next group up. I’ll probably have to sign off here after their set, because it’s about 11:00 where I am!

EHSS is moving briskly through their set. I was hoping for a little new stuff, but they opened with “Someday,” now it’s “Glory to God in the Highest.” I expect they’ll probably close with “Scars in the Hands of Jesus.” We’ll see if I’m right. Memo to Ernie: I LIKE YOUR SUITS! Now if I can just persuade you to get rid of that flowered pink jacket…

Ah, I’m wrong, they’re closing with “Get Away Jordan.” They left it all on the stage with a burst of high energy, no small feat at this time of night.

Les Butler got up briefly and shared that several special guitars are going to be auctioned off by the Singing News on Thursday—signed by every artist at this concert, including Ricky Skaggs!

The Oak Ridge Boys are up now. Singing “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies.” Confession: I’m really just hanging around at this point to see if Jason Crabb is going to sing anything at the end. :D Now it’s “Farther Along.” Joe Bonsall shared a word, and now they’re leading the audience in an encore.

Oh no… we’re singing “Elvira” in church! Joe Habedank started it, and then it couldn’t be stopped. They were joined by EHSS. Now that was worth staying up for.

Joseph introduced Jason Crabb. He says, “When I grow up, I want to be like Jason Crabb!” Crabb is singing his latest single, called “That’s What the Blood is For.” Strong finish. Now Jason is sharing a testimony I’ve never heard before about his wife’s struggles with rheumatoid arthritis. He used it to set up the title track from his new album, “Love is Stronger.”

He is closing (?) with a stripped-down, piano only rendition of “Through the Fire.” I think I prefer it this way! Okay, now they’re kicking things up and everyone is coming down to join him. Awesome. Libbi came up too.

And that’s a wrap. I will definitely be looking for some of these performances on Youtube later this week. Now Libbi is sharing about the song “Through the Fire” comforted her in the hotel room while Tracy was ill. Jason closed with prayer. Goodnight folks!

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Live Blog: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Fayetville Community Church (LiveStream)

Ernie Haase announced on Facebook earlier today that the quartet would be streaming a live concert. I’m watching and live-blogging right now. You can watch with me here. Enjoy!

7:00 Choir is singing a couple songs to warm up.

7:10 Wesley Pritchard just gave away the specials and is now introducing the guys. He’s joked that they’re able to flip to a basketball game that’s going on right now, in case the concert isn’t going well. (They actually showed it on the livestream, so they’re not bluffing!)

1. When the Saints Go Marching In

This is fun! I haven’t heard them pull out this arrangement in… well, come to think of it, I’ve never seen them stage this one! All live-band. Wayne Haun provided some great piano improv.

2. Glory to God in the Highest

Nice. They ended “When the Saints” in the same key as this one begins. By the way, Ernie is wearing “that” jacket. The silver one with… leaves or something on it. And a pink shirt. No comment. ;)

In-between song banter. Ernie just joked that he made a New Year’s Resolution he could keep—eat more and exercise less!

3.I’m Gonna Live Forever

They put a cute twist on this by whistling over the piano intro.

Wesley just told Ernie that they have lots of people logging in from Argentina. Ernie says that somebody from Argentina had messaged him right before the concert asking them to sing “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” on the third song. When Ernie asked why the third song, the guy said, “Because I’m old, and it’s two hours later here in Argentina, so I might fall asleep after your third song.” So, for the fourth song, in hopes that our Argentinian friend is sometimes awake…

4. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

5. Reason Enough

Now Ernie is introducing Paul Harkey. “Scars In the Hands?” Yes, I think so.

6. Scars In the Hands

7. I Pledge Allegiance

Been a little while since they pulled this one out. I like this one pretty well. Standing ovation, very inspiring. Now they’re singing “God Bless America,” except Ernie wanted to change the word “bless” to “heal,” to make it more like a prayer. An interesting thought, but I think it doesn’t sing quite as well. Also, I’m not sure that the “divisiveness” Ernie referred to in the setup is something we need to be “healed” from, if “divisiveness” is another word for the incompatibility of good and evil. If so, then bring on the division.

Ernie just recognized the servicemen in the audience, a nice touch.

8. Moving Up to Gloryland

Our feed fell a little behind earlier, and fast-forwarded a little here. Now we’re back on track.

9. Everytime

I had my own private 60s prom in my bedroom! Paul Harkey did his own little dance in the middle of the stage at the end. :D I miss Kelly Vaughn’s guitar solo though. I noticed on twitter a while back that he was leaving the band, not sure why.

Ernie just recycled the “guy with the cellphone in a bathroom stall” joke from George Younce. Nice.

10. Sometimes I Wonder

They’ve slowed this down a bit from the studio. I like it. Zak Shumate is doing a little hand percussion. Oh, nice, they’re tacking on a tag of “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be.”

11. Then Came the Morning

Intermission.

12. Only Here For a Little While

Back now at 8:35, and Doug is out singing solo. Pre-recorded BGVs. (So far anyway.)

13. Our Debts Will Be Paid

Now this is kind of an oldie! Devin just held the long note. Paul Harkey doing great on bass. This is fun.

This provided a nice segue into…

14. Life Will Be Sweeter

Ernie just said they’ve had a lot of requests for this song, and he’s going to do it even though it wasn’t on the program, leaving the consequences to the Lord… and Wesley. And the song is…

15. Can’t Help Falling in Love

Ernie mopped his brow with his hankie and threw it at somebody! Too funny.

16. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Ernie announced that they were going to do a Christmas carol Wayne had arranged for five parts called “Wonderful Grace of Jesus.” Wayne gently “set him straight.” Zak is adding some well-placed drum beats for emphasis.

Now they are rocking the house with…

17. Any Other Man

This is the first time I’ve seen a high quality video performance of this song. I really enjoyed watching them in action up close, getting into this one.

18. You Are Welcome Here

Sorry for the delay in posting the rest. I took a break. My take on the rest of the concert as recorded by my RealDownloader will hopefully follow soon… if I can get my RealDownloader to work…

Update: Got it to work. Herewith, the rest of the concert… turns out it was just one more song.

19. Oh What a Savior

This was put into a medley with “Nothing But the Blood.” The audience sang along, but Doug and Devin also did some step-outs on the hymn. I enjoyed Wayne’s extra piano licks!

Here Ernie mentioned Tracy Stuffle and asked that the audience would keep him and his family in prayer. After closing in prayer, they left with another encore of “Glory to God in the Highest.”

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Concert Review: Greater Vision in Kalamazoo, MI

[Note: I know, I forgot to put up a humor clip this morning. See, my brain was on hold yesterday, so I scheduled this post instead without thinking. Sorry about that!]

I had the opportunity to see Greater Vision in concert for the first time a couple weeks ago. It was wonderful to meet all the guys and chat in between the songs. I made several purchases, including the Lari Goss Tribute DVD (which I’ll review if nobody else does, because it’s awesome), and their Hymns of the Ages album with Chris’s vocals. I also brought home some GV Christmas music in anticipation of December. No, in case you’re wondering, I haven’t started listening to it yet—not one of those day-after-Thanksgiving types when it comes to Christmas music, but probably somewhere around the beginning of next month I’ll start breaking it out. Only thing is I need to take other stuff off my ipod to make room, because I just have a lowly 7.5 gig affair. Anyway, enough rambling about my ipod. Here are some highlights from the concert, plus a slideshow. Even though we weren’t allowed to use flash, my seat was so fantastic I got some nice shots anyway. Continue reading

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Concert Review and Photo Gallery: The Booth Brothers in Hillsdale, Michigan

The Booth Brothers came to the Gospel Barn in Hillsdale, Michigan earlier this month, and I got to go and enjoy them. It was a great experience and a great concert with a mix of old favorites and material from their new Gaither project. Here are some of the highlights off the top of my head, in no particular order: Continue reading

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Concert Review: Signature Sound and the Collingsworth Family in Shipshewana, June 8th

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Ha! You thought I’d never do it! Well, HERE. I apologize for the atrocious amount of time it took me to put this together. I have no idea why it took me so long. Mea culpa.

This really was a good concert experience, even though the concert took a while to get started for some reason. However, it was entertaining to hear Mr. Riegsecker himself drone on. Mom and I were cracking each other up making broken record gestures. But in a sense he was very endearing—like a beloved character from a novel. There aren’t many characters of his type anymore.

I got to mingle with the Signature Sound guys beforehand, and amazingly all of them remembered me. I especially enjoyed touching base with Ernie again. He told me that he was changing his philosophy of live song selection a little bit after having experienced a Franklin Graham revival where numerous people made first professions of faith. He said it really had an impact on him, and if I understood him correctly, he was saying that he wanted to be a little more missional in how he ordered the songs. I really wish I could have gone a little deeper with him on this because it sounded interesting. He also gave me a free review copy of their new DVD, which was super-nice of him. (Speaking of, I haven’t reviewed it yet, so that’s on my to-do list.) Later I bought their new T-shirt partly as a gesture of appreciation for his generosity (but also because it’s just a really cool shirt!)

Seating was another somewhat problematic issue (as you can tell from the fuzzy slideshow). It was sub-optimal for the entire first half. We actually got to move forward a whole section or so once it became clear that there were empty seats closer to the front. However, I still had trouble craning my neck around the people in front of me. But at least we escaped from the elderly gentleman who was tapping his foot directly behind my seat (originally my mom’s seat, but I switched with her in a burst of generosity which I quickly regretted). It was like Chinese water torture. So that was good. And I found a better seat for the second half, and that made a huge difference in my enjoyment of the concert. I was able to relax and really get into the music. Unfortunately, the first half was significantly longer than the second, so that meant I was rather tense for the majority of the concert. But I got the whole thing recorded so I was able to go back and pick out highlights.

The Collingsworth Family came out first, as they did in 2010 when I caught this same double-billing. They didn’t do quite as much new material as I had expected, but they hit a lot of favorites. Highlights of their set for me:

*“Holy, Holy, Holy” – Their acapella sound keeps getting deeper and fuller. This performance was pitch-perfect.

* “I Know” – This song never gets old live, and every year it seems like some new national or global catastrophe happens for which it becomes relevant all over again. (Ah well, what do you expect with an Obama presidency…)

* Fiddles Segment — I always love to hear what the Collingsworth girls have cooked up on the fiddles. They played a country/bluegrass-sounding “Power In the Blood,” and I loved the way one of them plucked her fiddle to make it sound like a banjo. It took a little while for the staid Shipshewana audience to get their hands together, but they finally got going around the back half of the song and were in full swing by the encore. Then they played “The Prayer,” which I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do before. They showed great classical technique, and things got really dramatic in the part where the song switches to Italian (or whatever other language it is). I must say I prefer this instrumental version, without the distraction of the song’s canned, generic inspo lyrics. The melody alone is very beautiful.

*Kim Collingsworth’s Emceeing — Kim is always a really refreshing, genuine presence on stage. We know her as a power-house piano player, but her talent is complemented by a sweet, winsome spirit that shines forth whenever she opens her mouth. Not only is she sweet, she’s funny! She shared her theory on why women speak 50,000 words a day and men speak 25,000. One day she had a flash of inspiration, turned to Phil and said “I know why… because I have to repeat everything I say to you!” (This provoked some “Amens” from the audience.) Of course, the punch-line: “And you know what he said? He said, ‘Huh?’”

It’s always a good moment when she shares about Phil’s brain surgery as well. It’s very moving to hear her talk about being forced to a point where she had to be completely dependent on God’s grace to uphold her. Anybody who’s suffering from something can really be encouraged to hear what she has to say, even if their story is completely different, because she makes her point so universal.

*“I Want Jesus More Than Anything” – Kim led into this song after talking about Phil’s surgery. It’s one thing to hear this song on a recording, it’s another to watch the huge sound they create with just a few members of the family for most of the song before bringing in everybody on the dramatic conclusion.

*“How Great Thou Art” – I know, I know, Kim pulls this out every time, but it’s always huge, and it’s always a highlight. It brought the house down to close their first set.

Next EHSS came out, and they gave a great concert. However, I was a bit concerned to hear that Ian’s voice wasn’t as smooth and velvety as I remembered from the Grand Rapids concert where I first saw him in 2011. It seemed a little choppier and harsher this time. I hope this isn’t the beginning of a trend. Previously I would have placed him on a par with Tim Duncan. Now I’d have to say I prefer Tim. Ian still did a great job though, and I know he is capable of that fruity sound, it’s just that this particular night he didn’t seem to use it as much. Highlights of EHSS’s first set were…

*“Since Jesus Passed By” – Interestingly, they chose to open with this calm number. I like their new arrangement. They added some great extra dynamic touches. Unfortunately, I was distracted while they sang this one, because I was trying to sit on my tote bag to get a marginally better view, which resulted in dropping and breaking a CD case, which led to some whispered back-and-forth with Mom, and… yeah, let’s just say I was glad I was able to re-visit the recording and enjoy it properly. :)

*“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” — Their cheeky, old-school arrangement works even better live than in the studio. It was fun to watch Wayne accompany them by himself on piano. The “mouth instruments” also elicited some laughter and applause.

*“Get Away Jordan” – I can remember a time when I was luke-warm to this arrangement. Now I look forward to seeing them perform it whenever I see them in concert. It tears up the stage.

*“Sometimes I Wonder” – This was my favorite song off the new project, and I hope it becomes a new concert staple. I like the fact that the stripped-down arrangement make it easy and tasteful to perform with a completely live band. And the emotion of the lyric makes a moving moment. Their harmonies were just as lush as they are in the studio. Doug was crying, as always.

*“We Shall See Jesus” – They led right into this immediately after “Sometimes I Wonder.” Great sequencing! There was applause when Devin sang the first few lines. It was in Shipshewana that they debuted it live with Devin in 2010, and I still have that recording. Like then, they let Devin carry it all the way through. I was so glad to see them do this, because I think the usage of “Glen video” worked only in the immediate aftermath of the Cats’ Tribute release. It’s time now to move on and let Devin leave his unique stamp on it. I think his vocal technique has improved in the last two years, and this performance was great.

*“Walk With Me” – I loved this performance, but I especially liked Ernie’s sharing beforehand. He was visibly emotional as he shared from his heart about his struggles with anxiety and trusting God. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him get this choked up on stage before. It was very personal and completely sincere, and it lent added feeling to his performance of this song. Let me quote verbatim:

When you get up in the morning… let me re-phrase that, when I get up in the morning, I got a decision to make. And lately it’s been harder than any decision I’ve ever had to make. And that decision is, I’m gonna take God at His word, and I’m gonna really try to live it today and be at peace… or I’m gonna let any circumstance come my way today—and they’re gonna come no matter what I do—and I’m gonna let it rob me of my joy, rob me of my peace, I’m gonna walk around in tension and turmoil. God did not call us to be victims. He called us to be victors through Him. And that only comes though walking with Jesus. And I found out He ain’t going anywhere. Worry took me down a path where Jesus could not be heard or found. And praise, praise God, He was just a prayer away.

They did something they’ve done before, which was sing an encore without microphones. We had trouble hearing at first, but Ernie’s voice carried surprisingly far without any amplification. Afterwards he led us in a chorus of “In the Garden.”

*“Love Carried the Cross” — Ernie set this up by talking about how there are so many great “cross” songs out there that it could almost make a writer intimidated to write yet another one. But he didn’t let that stop him from making his own contribution along with Joel Lindsay and Wayne Haun. I don’t think we can ever have too many cross songs, so I’m glad he did. This was a highlight of the night, and it lent itself surprisingly effectively to crowd singalong for an encore.

At intermission I recorded my duet with Doug of “In the Garden” (inspired by Ernie’s choosing it for a “Walk With Me” encore). I also chatted some with the artists, as did some of my family separately. Mom told Ernie that he needs to revive “I Want to See Jesus,” and he instructed her to go tell Wayne. Wayne, in his usual reserved fashion, simply nodded professionally and said, “Yes, I like that song. I like that song a lot.” I told Ian that he needs to cover “My Mind Forgets a Million Things,” and he said, “We’ve thought about it…” I then mischievously said, “Well stop thinking about it and DO IT!” He seemed shocked and said, “Oh! Well okay then!” We shall see if it accomplishes anything. :)

It was also great to chat with the Collingsworth Family. I learned a little more about how the older girls combine their married lives with life on the road (their husbands travel with and work for the family), and talked with Phil Jr. about who some of his favorite singers are. I asked him to give me a top five, and he named Michael Buble, David Phelps, Wes Hampton and Gary Levox, then had a hard time settling on a fifth. I suggested Doug Anderson, and he said, “Sure! Why not?” His girlfriend was with him that night. Marriage number three may be in the works. ;)

By this time it was around 10:00. I would have liked to hear a few more songs in the second half, but it was so late that I can fully understand why they didn’t do more. The Collingsworth family picked three light numbers: a trumpet medley, “Nothing’s Worrying Me” and “Just Another Rainy Day.” I particularly enjoyed watching Brooklyn strut her stuff on the bluesy “Nothing’s Worrying Me.” However, I thought it was a shame that they didn’t get around to singing any numbers like “I Found it All” or “Resurrection Morn.” “Resurrection Morn” in particular would have been a great way to finish off their set. But perhaps they felt they couldn’t fit it in.

I loved all three of Signature Sound’s 2nd half selections: “This Ole House” was the first time I’d heard Ian sing the classic, and I especially enjoyed hearing him ham it up on the narration. Secondly, believe it or not I actually got into “Everytime,” the song I had previously been dreading! But I think it was the fun of watching the live band go at it on stage, plus the energy. I was clapping and singing along in no time flat. What had been an “always skip” on the CD for me transformed into a great concert moment. And finally, I got to hear Ernie sing his signature song “Oh What a Savior” in full voice. The first time I saw them he left it off the program, and then the second time he was still recovering from a nasty respiratory illness and wasn’t quite himself, involving the crowd more. This time he really belted it out, and he even sang some of the extra high frills that he did more of when he was younger. A great, great performance. I can die now. :)

Finally, the whole gang came on to sing “Amen.” I like it that they try to assign the “See him in the garden” verse to somebody different each time. I saw them give it to Phil Jr. in 2010. This time Wayne got it and did great. Then Ernie blew the roof off for the climax. This always works to finish off their concerts.

Afterwards I hung around a little bit more, and I got to meet Doug Anderson’s sweet wife and kids. I recognized her and touched her on the shoulder just as somebody else began to strike up a conversation with her, at which point I withdrew and started walking away. She was so sweet, she followed and caught up with me after finishing her conversation. I just wanted to tell her how much we all love and appreciate her husband, and I informed the kiddos that Daddy is super cool, as if they didn’t already know.

So there you have it. Once again, I apologize for putting this off so long. I hope you enjoyed it anyway. As always, thanks for reading! Here’s a full set list:

Half One

(Collingsworths)

1.Joy Unspeakable

2. Goodbye World Goodbye (piano instrumental)

3. “Holy, Holy, Holy”

4. Tell the Mountain

5. How Great Thou Art

6. Fear Not Tomorrow

7. I Know

8. Power in the Blood (fiddle instrumental)

9. The Prayer (fiddle instrumental)

10. I Want Jesus More Than Anything

11. How Great Thou Art (piano instrumental)

(EHSS)

1. Since Jesus Passed By

2. Glory to God In the Highest

3. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

4. Reason Enough

5. Movin’ Up to Gloryland

6. I Believe

7. Swinging On the Golden Gate

8. Get Away Jordan

9. Sometimes I Wonder

10. We Shall See Jesus

11. Walk With Me

12. Love Carried the Cross

Half Two

(Collingsworths)

1. Trumpet Medley

2. Nothing’s Worrying Me

3. Just Another Rainy Day

(EHSS)

1. This Ole House

2. Everytime

3. Oh What A Savior

(Everybody)

Amen

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Live-Stream Concert Review: The Ball Brothers in Reedsburg, WI

I saw the Ball Brothers in concert the other night—sort of. Cornerstone Church in Reedsburg, Wisconsin did a live-streaming event, and even though the video quality was just average, audio was great and I thoroughly enjoyed tuning in. I took notes and decided to publish a full review. So here’s a full set list with comments. They were drawn up quickly, so forgive any tpyos and msiprints. Asterisks denote highlights:

1. Happy Am I — Cute, easy-listening ice-breaker.

2. I Wouldn’t Miss Heaven For the World — This is an “oldie” for Ball Brothers fans. Andy Tharp and Chad McCloskey both got step-outs. I’m impressed with Tharp’s full tone. Chad’s voice is lighter but very easy to listen to. Then Daniel Ball came in, and I remembered what a good singer he is. All the guys impressed on the multiple key changes.

3. Glory to God In the Highest — I believe they use the Signature Sound track for their cover of this favorite. It’s not really the same without an actual bass, but they do an enjoyable rendition.

Daniel did member intros and included an update on Stephen, who is doing well with the help of hearing aids and has become an assistant pastor. In his intro for Stephen’s replacement, Andy, Daniel said they had been looking for somebody who could get along with siblings, and since Stephen [sorry, I meant Andy--told you I did this fast!] comes from a family with 12 children, he was a perfect fit! Then Daniel said that Josh was planning to move out near Stephen, and joked that together they were going to start a rival quartet called The Ball Brothers. He then introduced Cody and said he was dating their sister, but when he came to 22-year-old Chad he said the lad was still not spoken for.  So, in an almost George Younce-esque moment, Daniel called for applications from any unmarried ladies ages 18 to mid-80s who might be interested in Chad. :D

4. He’s Got the Whole Thing In His Hands — I call this “dinner theater” music. Super silky smooth jazz, a bit sleepy, but ear-tickling. ;)

*5. Every Day, Every Hour — Seamless transition between this song and the last. I’ll say here and now that NOBODY can touch the Cathedrals’ version, but the Brothers handle it with respect and class. It definitely fits their style. I always have trouble telling whether they use stacks doing this live, but it almost sounded like a different “brother” really was filling in on tenor while Andrew ad-libbed toward the end.

6. Basics of Life — A 4Him chestnut. Less punchy and soulful than the original, but it’s a very logical choice for them. I’m actually singing along as I type. :)

7. Great Is Thy Faithfulness [Instrumental] — This was a Cody McVey piano solo.

8. Give Me a Glimpse of Your Glory

More talking, with a few “short” jokes at Chad’s expense. Then…

*9. Beulah Land — Really showcases the flexibility of Chad’s voice, and this is also a really nice piano-only moment for the group.

*10. I’ve Been Redeemed — This has a country/bluegrass flair in the vein of the Perrys’ “Blue Skies Coming.” Daniel asked before the song “How many of you like a little country feel to your gospel? Okay, three people. This is for you.” Daniel just did a great step-out by the way. Andrew’s tenor also rang out clear in this one.

11. My Love — This was preceded by a long and hilarious segment where Daniel talked about their grandmother, and how she raised them on Gaither videos. “Our Grandma forced us to watch Gaither videos as children. I don’t know if that’s a crime, but that’s what she did.” Then when they began singing, she raised them to sing “technically” (whatever that means, couldn’t get a really clear impression from Daniel’s description). Then they talked about how she recently got Facebook (Priceless comment: “If you don’t have Facebook, you are probably missing this generation’s greatest waste of time!… You can spy on people and gossip… it’s great”) and supposedly was complaining about their style. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it made a great story. So Daniel is on the phone with Grandma trying to calm her down and saying “We do all different styles… country, contemporary, black gospel…” whereupon she said, “But you don’t sing technically, in a classical style like I taught you.” Daniel said he bet they could, and she demurred. So they recorded this quirky song with some “classical” riffs and frills to prove Grandma wrong. It’s really a novelty piece, more “Bohemian Rhapsody” than Bach, so assuming the story is true, I’m not sure how well it went over with Grandma. But it is funny. :)

*12. Mercy Said No — Another “oldie.” I’ve always preferred this version to the original. Andrew seemed to struggle a little on his high notes tonight, but finished well. I can’t help wondering if it might work a little better for him just lowered a half or whole step.

Here there was a product pitch and intermission. Daniel encouraged folks to buy Cody’s new instrumental project, because all the money will go directly to Cody. People cheered, then Daniel said he was saving up for a new X-Box, whereupon a little boy offered a standing-O in the front row. :D But then in seriousness, Daniel said the REAL reason Cody is saving up is that he’s marrying the Ball Brothers’ sister and wants to buy an engagement ring. “So if you want to help Cody marry our sister… buy his CD!”

During intermission, the Brothers sent out a special greeting to their online viewers, encouraging us to call everyone we know so we could reach their goal of 4000 people and crash the server.

*13. There is a Mountain — I think this is one of the Balls’ best covers. They took a GVB song and truly made it their own. The result sounds like a Go Fish effort.

14. I’m Already Living Forever — I think Phillips Craig & Dean’s “This is The Life” is a better song along similar lines, but this one is catchy too.

15. The Peace of God — This mellow jazz piece allows the group’s tight blend to shine. They really are strongest when all four voices come together.

16. Healer of My Heart – Both the Ball Brothers and the Sisters have recorded this comforting contemporary ballad.

*17. Ride That Glory Train — They made this a great little moment for Chad to “learn” his bass part. Daniel instructed him on what notes to hit, and I was struck by Chad’s versatility. He has such a light voice when he does his step-outs, yet he was technically hired to sing low notes! This song is on their upcoming CD, and I like the little twists they put on the arrangement. In my mind the Cathedrals’ arrangement will always be the gold standard, if only for Roger Bennett’s inimitable piano improv, but I enjoy this version too. I noticed that Cody switched to a jazz organ (or something funky/electric-sounding anyway) on his keyboard part-way through, which was a cute touch.

*18. Walking In Jerusalem — This piece shows the Balls stretching their legs with some bluegrass (which they explained helps them fit in better where they come from in Chickamauga). It was one of the few times we got to hear a step-out from Andy Tharpe.

*19. It’s About the Cross – Here Daniel wrapped up, as he always does, by sharing a heart-warming and funny story about his 5-year-old son Logan. Some of you have probably heard parts of it before, but I hadn’t heard the lead-up when Logan was trying to decide what to be when he grew up in the fifteen minutes before bed-time on Career Day. He was torn between being a Ninja (Daniel was hilarious about this) or a gospel singer (because he’d decided he wanted to be like Dad and not have to work). Then Logan asked, “If you had to go out there and sing just one song, what would it be?” Daniel brushed it aside (“Logan we’re ALWAYS able to sing more than one song…”) but Logan was very serious and said, “But just imagine you couldn’t… it would be pretty important what song you chose wouldn’t it?”  And like the sweet little kid with great taste that he obviously is, Logan said he thinks this song “sums up your whole ministry, everything you sing about, in one song.”

I agree. And this was a terrific performance. It occurred to me that sometime I should ask Daniel where they found the second verse. The Go Fish original first appeared on a Christmas album, and the 2nd verse was specifically Christmas-themed. The Balls’ version has more generic redemption/salvation lyrics. It works really well for them. If I can be really nit-picky for a moment, there’s just one grammatical issue I’ve been meaning to point out: Listen closely to the final chorus in the Go Fish version and notice the subtle change from “It’s about how…” to “It’s about…” when they sing “It’s about every drop of blood that flowed from him when it should have been me.” The Ball Brothers simply forgot that “It’s about how” no longer makes sense with the alternate ending, so they sing “It’s about how every drop of blood…” Might want to change that.

I greatly enjoyed this concert and would definitely recommend the show. The pastor said that one of his kids saw the Brothers practicing before the concert and asked if they were really singing or just lip-syncing. Their blend is that smooth and tight. And it’s especially impressive now that only half of the group is related. If anything, the blend is better than ever. Andy and Chad have both proven to be excellent choices.

In a genre with quite a few sound-a-like groups, these guys are unique. They offer something different from your typical quartet. It gives them a wide appeal. Also, though Daniel is prone to wander a bit in between songs, their comedy is fresh and different from the norm. Coming away from this concert, I really only have a couple words of wisdom for them:

1. Feature Andy Tharpe more frequently. I don’t think he ever got a full feature to himself, and he had very few step-outs. Maybe this makes sense given that he’s one of the new guys, but I’d love to hear more of what he could do.

2. Daniel, learn how to pronounce “Wisconsin.” It’s WIS-consin, not WES-consin.

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Concert Review: Gaither Christmas Homecoming, Grand Rapids, MI

On December 9th, I attended my first Homecoming. It was a memorable experience. Sadly, I was unable to take that many good photos of the actual stage, so I reverted to taking pictures of the screen, which yielded better results. There are a few “stage shots” in here (I particularly liked one or two of David Phelps, probably because of the high contrast lighting they did for his numbers), but most turned out blurry. I ended up scrapping half the photos I took, and of the ones I kept I didn’t have time to touch any up in Lightroom. So the shots in this slideshow are very rough. But I think they capture the spirit of the evening pretty well. And like I said, I owe most of them to the guys with the video cams. ;)

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Review:

As usual, Kevin Williams came out before the “concert concert” to play guitar—a couple carols from his new CD. Then Bill came up, and there was some comedy. He announced he was running for President and threw out ideas for his cabinet, including Gordon Mote for Secretary of Transportation. ;)

Then he introduced Buddy Greene, and after some banter, Buddy said, “I am the resident folk singer of this outfit, but when I get up here I feel like a rock star.” He kicked things off on the guitar with the country “Christmas Time’s A’Comin,” from his Christmas project Not Just Any Night (which is fantastic by the way—thanks Buddy for the free copy!) Becky and Sonya Isaacs joined him, and they had a great sound together. He performed it slower live than it is on the album, but it worked perfectly. After some dexterous guitar work, Buddy pulled out the harmonica and did some jamming with Gordon Mote on keys and Kevin on electric. It was an awesome way to kick off the night.

Then Buddy had the Martins come up to help everyone “get Pentecostal” on the next song (“God is With Us”), but not before eliciting some appropriately loud cheers of excitement for Christmas from the crowd. Buddy did a great black gospel impression including some great falsetto and growling. But I could tell he was hurting for some Brooklyn Tab backup, or at least Larnelle Harris. “And a hallelujah from all you white people out there…?”

Next, Charlotte Ritchie came on stage and led us in “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” I’d never heard the song before and immediately loved the way she sang it. What a beautiful, sweet voice she has. I could listen to it all day.

More comedy, including the obligatory shots of Rory Rigdon staring into space. Kevin: “You’re laughing, but that’s Bill’s campaign manager!”

Next up, the Martins, who I believe may have been the highlight of the night. At any rate, they seemed to leave the strongest impression with my dad, who doesn’t customarily listen to southern gospel. They kicked it off with “Go Tell,” then launched right into their acclaimed acapella arrangement of “The Doxology,” which always brings the house down. As comparatively low quality as my audio recording of the event was, playing it back still gives me goosebumps. Definitely a candidate for The Moment of the concert. From here they segued into one of their best songs, “The Promise.” I am always struck by how potent and well-written the lyrics for this song are.

More comedy, then Gordon Mote, whom you can’t not love. Like everyone else, he started with an up-tempo number, “Something to Shout About.” His piano chops were on full display. After this, he told a few funny stories about the kinds of things fans ask him that I’m actually not certain were made up. One was about a man in Toronto who came up and asked Gordon for directions. “So I pointed!” said Gordon. And my favorite was the one about the woman who came to Gordon’s table, stood there without saying anything and finally walked over to the guy working it to ask, “Does he shake hands?” (All of these voices were delivered impeccably by Gordon of course.) In reply, the table guy said with a twinkle, “I don’t know. Give him a treat and let’s see what happens!” Gordon played his arrangement of “Through it All” to close out his set. Honestly, I have never really liked this song, but Gordon brought it to life in a really compelling way with a heavy black gospel swing. The audience sang along.

Next came the Booth Brothers, who delivered a predictably flawless set: “I See Grace,” “He Saw It All” (done with a live band), “Trading This Old Cross For a Crown,”  then “In Christ Alone.” I didn’t get to see them do that one at the concert in the fall, so this was a pleasant surprise. (Though I guess it wasn’t a surprise, since most of the artists were singing some material from the new Gaither Homecomings.)

Break for a product pitch. Bill announced the CDs, and Rory was shown holding them up. It was humorous when he would get “mixed up.” The best moment was when Bill was pitching something else and Mark Lowry sneaked up behind Rory to wave his new solo project in everyone’s face. “I can’t believe he did that! Shameless self-promotion!” cried Kevin indignantly, proceeding to display his two new projects (thanks for the free copies Kevin!)

Bluegrass time with the Isaacs. A highlight of their set was when they showed Aedan Isaacs on the screen, chewing on something or other. Bill said, “There’s nothing in that honey. But go for it, go for it.” Then, “Enjoy that. One of these days, you’ll have to get a job.” The baby’s reaction was so perfectly timed that my dad was literally trying to argue that the footage had been shot beforehand and spliced in. I don’t know if the rest of us quite convinced him that baby Aedan really was there, sitting on Charlotte Ritchie’s lap and reacting in real time. They sang “It’s Christmastime Again,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Why Can’t We,” and “I Will Praise Him.” I always love to hear them sing that hymn acapella. Because it’s not as familiar to me as some other hymns, it strikes me fresh every time.

Then Bill introduced Gene McDonald singing “Lonesome Road.” He’s excellent! I’m not sure why people have said he’s overrated, but he has the complete package—smooth as silk and killer lows. It’s just a matter of time before he becomes the Gaither Vocal Band’s official bass singer.

Then, the moment everyone was probably waiting for… the Gaither Vocal Baaaaand! They started with a great choice: “Hide Thou Me,” for which Bill has taken to accompanying them on the piano. David was himself. Next they pulled out an unexpected tune from the Wes/Guy/Marsh lineup, “I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em.” Mark Lowry sang the step-outs. It wasn’t the same without Guy but still fun.

Here there was some comedy with Bill and Mark where Mark asked the different denominations in the audience to identify themselves. “Church of Christ! You get to hear a PIANO. It’s almost like SINNING, isn’t it? [evil cackle]” My favorite moment was when Mark told the Catholics, “Oh, God bless you. Thank you for coming to hear Baptist Protestants sing. Tell Mary I said hey. We’re not allowed to talk to her. Tell her I said thanks for that song though, I appreciate it.”

Next was “My Journey to the Sky,” then “Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored.” Wes Hampton was in great form. Then… the moment I’d been secretly dreading… David Phelps, “Nessun Dorma.” Very impressive, of course, but still too frilly… that scooping thing he does on the word “splendera” still drives me batty. He had a nice new haircut though—Shirley Temple isn’t quite so envious anymore. And he certainly landed in the center of each note, that is, when he wasn’t deliberately dancing around it. I think in all fairness he may actually have been a little less “pop” than usual that night, a bit more true classical.

Then they gave Wes his moment with “He is Here.” Putting him and Phelps back to back was obviously intentional, but for me, it served as a reminder of why I’ve always preferred Wes to David. Even though Phelps is more talented, Wes appears to put more of his heart into what he sings. There’s such a feeling of authenticity about Wes that’s just not as obviously apparent when David sings. Though by that I certainly don’t mean to imply that David is a cold fish or Wes has no talent. So no letters, please! :)

Then it was time for Mark to sing “Mary, Did You Know?” Powerful moment, as always. I was expecting a standing ovation, but it was a relatively quiet crowd that night, so no standing-O for Mark, or even Phelps! (Shock.) The live band provided a great touch.

Michael English sang “Please Forgive Me,” and then David launched into “He’s Alive.” It was an appropriately exciting finale for the first half.

[Intermission]

Gordon Mote played a piano instrumental to start the second half. Meanwhile, Dad fixed Mom’s lighter. Then Bill led the audience in “Joy to the World.” Next was  “Come and See What’s Happening” (Gordon Mote sang the solo with some assorted female backup singers—perhaps Charlotte Ritchie and the Isaacs?) Bill played the Christmas Homecoming video along with this song and did so again with several others throughout the night.

Next was the Martins’ “Rejoice With Exceeding Great Joy.” It was the first time our family had heard this song, and it was a HUGE hit. We’ve been walking around the house singing it ever since. Mom asked a picky musical friend whether it sounded Jewish, and he said it was more just white jazz. ;) The audience had fun blinking their lighters back and forth in time to make starlight (under Bill’s instruction of course). A local choir was singing by the stage, but they were virtually hidden in the shadows.

Bill and Buddy Greene had some harmonica fun at this point. Buddy showed off his mad skillz with a little stylistic sampler (Mark Lowry had a rather loud “stomach growl” during the prairie snippet and said “That’s what Michigan Mexican food will do to you!”) and then the famous Classical Medley. Then he sang “Little Drummer Boy” and forgot some of the words on the first verse. He stopped, looked dazed and said, “Oops, what happened?” “You forgot the words!” Mark offered helpfully. That was priceless, and I’m confident it was unplanned, partly because he also stumbled a little on later verses.

Then Mark Lowry did his recitation “Piper the Mouse” with some whimsical piano accompaniment from Gordon Mote, eliciting many “awwwwwws.” After this, Bill led the audience in “White Christmas.” Ronnie Booth sang a solo, and his voice was a perfect fit for the song. Then Bill played a video clip of Jake Hess singing a solo.

Then it was the Gaither Vocal Band’s turn to come back. They sang “Glorious Impossible,” originally on Give it Away but fitting perfectly with the Christmas spirit. It was written by my friend Wendy Wills, who also co-wrote the recent hit single “Jesus is Holding My Hand” with Lyn Rowell.

The Isaacs then did an acapella rendition of “Away in a Manger.” Afterwards Bill played a clip of Gloria Gaither doing a monologue from a Christmas homecoming. It set up the GVB’s next song, “Reaching.” They did this with just piano accompaniment. It worked brilliantly. Afterwards, Buddy’s harmonica led the audience on “Silent Night.” And FINALLY, David Phelps sang “O Holy Night,” which I had been hoping he would do all evening. He started in complete darkness, but I think it was the first key change when they switched to a pure white spotlight on him. Then after he hit the high note and everyone joined in, the whole stage lit up. It was pretty electrifying. As I’ve said before, I genuinely enjoy what he does with this song, even though he still can’t resist just a few “tweaks.” ;) I think you have to see David Phelps live to really appreciate his talent. Nothing beats being in the same auditorium as he is when he unleashes “it.” I was astonished that it didn’t get a standing ovation.

So there you have it! My first Homecoming. I’ve already discussed my between- and after-concert chats with various artists like Buddy Greene, Gordon Mote, and Kevin Williams. Other members of my family also met artists like the Martins. Everyone we met was wonderfully kind and gracious. If “them Gaithers” are ever in your area, and for some reason you’ve never seen them, you should make an effort to do so. The variety of music they offer is incredible. Anyone is sure to find something he will like. That’s the beauty of a Homecoming. Certainly it’s a must for any southern gospel fan to experience, but even if that isn’t necessarily your bag, a Homecoming concert will incorporate elements of other genres like pop, folk, bluegrass and classical as well. So whether you have a passionate love for southern gospel or not, the bottom line is that Bill Gaither has a knack for picking good music.

And with that, I leave my readers for the Christmas weekend. I hope to be back some time next week. Until then, Merry Christmas to all!

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