Category Archives: Songs

Sing it Again: “Taking My God At His Word”

In 2005, Brian Free took a break from quartet singing and put out what is still one of my favorite solo efforts in southern gospel. Although I’ve never quite wrapped my brain around that other-worldly voice, his ear for a good song was as canny then as it is now. My personal favorite is the fresh, vigorous country rocker “Dare to Be a Daniel” (written by fellow Gold City alumnus Steve Lacey). Other highlights include “Anthem of the Ages,” which BFA could record today like new, and the tune I’m highlighting today, “Taking My God At His Word.” I could hear a number of artists doing this today, including the Perrys, Barry Rowland & Deliverance, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and Greater Vision.

I think I would be most excited to hear Chris Allman take a stab at it, but for Ernie to have a go would be great fun too. What do y’all think?

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Anatomy of a Song: “Come Back to Me”

It’s been a really long time since I did an entry in this series, formerly known as “Poetry in Song,” and I’m not even sure that the folks who seemed interested when I first began it a few years ago are still hanging around. But in case they are, and in case anyone else enjoys reading my rambling about songwriting and would like to explore what makes a song work lyrically with me, here is another installment! Today, we’re picking a song from the world of pop/rock country music: “Come Back to Me” (Artist: Keith Urban, Album: Fuse). This is a heart-wrenching song from the perspective of a man whose love is leaving to chase after things that he knows can’t satisfy her.

Before we dive in, mention must be made of Urban’s ravishing guitar work and the way it just melts into that synth backdrop. True musicianship dat. But I’ll save the full-on Keith fan-girling for another day. Now, on to the lyrics of the song, which was written by Shane McAnnally, Brandy Lynn Clark, and Trevor Joseph Rosen (three members of what I like to call “The Nashville Machine,” aka that faceless throng of writers whom nobody recognizes by name and without whom good and bad pop music alike would grind to a halt). I tucked away three main tips from them.

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Matt Fouch and Scott Inman on Writing for Legacy Five

Here are two neat videos I just found and enjoyed, where Matt Fouch and Scotty Inman take fans behind the scenes for two new songs on Legacy Five’s new album.

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SG vs. CCM Smackdown: “Who Am I” vs. “Because of Whose I Am”

We haven’t had a southern gospel versus CCM song smackdown in a while, so now seems as good a time as any. The two songs featured today are very similar lyrically, but they come from completely different generations stylistically. Representing the contemporary worship genre is Casting Crowns with their ballad “Who Am I?” When I first heard it I remember thinking it was one of the better worship ballads I’d heard in a while. I still think it’s a cut above average for this genre. Here is a newer, acoustic version featuring their female vocalist instead of Mark Hall:

And representing inspirational gospel, here is the Gaither Vocal Band song “Because of Whose I Am.”

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Borrowing: Brian Dunphy, “God Be With Those Days”

You might recall a post I wrote some time back comparing an Irish pop/folk band called The High Kings with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. (And if perchance you haven’t read it, do take a look an it please you, I’m partial to it and you might discover some good new music. Also, my favorite High King found and liked it, so there’s that.) Anyway, while the High Kings mostly stick to folk as a group, their solo tastes vary widely. Today I’m pulling a song from baritone Brian Dunphy’s solo project and offering it as a “borrowing” candidate for a southern gospel soloist. In my head, I think this would suit Devin McGlamery particularly well. Stylistically, I would compare it with his recent solo single “While I Still Can.” It’s a sweet tune, written by Dunphy himself together with band-mate Darren Holden, and I believe it’s dedicated to his parents. (I was also reminded of the tune “Ellsworth,” which I consider to be a compliment, but I know some readers don’t share my sentiments there. Perhaps they’ll be glad to know this one isn’t as transparently tear-jerking. ;-) ) Ronnie Booth is another singer who comes to mind.

They’d talk about forever

Hold each other close

Dream about the family they would raise

They were young and innocent

In their old-fashioned ways

God be with those days

This may not be the last High Kings solo entry in the “Borrowing” series. Darren Holden also has one or two country tunes that could translate over quite well.

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The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 12: Haven of Rest Quartet’s “As With Gladness”

First, my inner Anglican has to apologize—technically this final track is not a Christmas song but an Epiphany song. However, I’ve attempted to appease my Anglican spirit by pushing this to the very end of my series, looking forward to Epiphany as we say goodbye to Christmas.

Many of you are probably unfamiliar with this hymn, but you’re no doubt quite familiar with another carol written by the same author, William Chatterton Dix (1837-1898). It was he who gave us the classic “What Child Is This?” Interestingly, I read that he wrote many of his hymns confined to his bed as a young man with a near-fatal illness. “What Child Is This” came from that period. This song came from an even earlier period of illness, when he was only 22. Strange to think that we could have been brother and sister. It certainly goes to show how the quality of writing in the younger generation has declined down through the years. Just take a look at the last verse:

Holy Jesus, every day

Keep us in the narrow way.

And when earthly things are past,

Bring our ransomed souls at last

Where they need no star to guide,

Where no clouds thy glory hide.

You might recognize the melody. It was written a few decades before Dix by Konrad Kocher and is better known as the tune to “For the Beauty of the Earth.”

This recording by the Haven of Rest Quartet is the only professional “artist cut” of the hymn that I know of (i.e., besides faceless chorale singers). It’s very hard to find, so I put it onto my Youtube channel. The quality could be better, but the arrangement shines through despite the graininess. The album it comes from (Sounds of Christmas) is one of my all-time favorite Christmas records, and I think you’ll see why I consider this track essential. Trivia tidbit: Long-time member and arranger Walt Harrah sings the tenor solo. Harrah is the writer of the David Phelps sugar stick “No More Night.”

Enjoy, and thanks for coming along on this series with me!

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The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 11: David Phelps’ “O Holy Night”

It’s the penultimate day of our series, and I have saved the best for near-last! “O Holy Night” is quite possibly my favorite Christmas carol, but it’s hard to do it justice. On the one hand, it really needs the no-holds-barred, all stops pulled out treatment. On the other hand, singers with the technical  chops to get it done vocally are tempted to lapse into mere vocal showboating (paging Mariah Carey, Mariah Carey).

In my opinion, David Phelps’s version walks that fine line perfectly, resulting in a recording that is definitely a must for any Christmas collection. Anthony Burger on piano is certainly an added benefit. Without further ado, I present…

David Phelps’s “O Holy Night”

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The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 10: Mannheim Steamroller’s “Silent Night”

Mannheim Steamroller’s last entry in this series was their rockin’ “Good King Wenceslas.” But Mannheim Steamroller can do much more than just rock out. This closer from their debut album is far and away their best mellow cut. The background “oooohs” are clear and unpretentious behind the haunting opening bars on piano. Then around 2:00 is where the arrangement really transcends, at the entry of the violin. The rest is pure magic, with dry ice at the end to remind us that yes, this is still the 80s.

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The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 9: Take 6′s “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”

Happy New Year Everybody! We are starting to wrap up (har-har) our Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, with yet a third men’s acappella entry. Clearly I am partial to men’s acappella singing! However, the styles of acappella have definitely not been the same. Day 1 was pop acappella in the tradition of the Nylons, Day 7 was classical acappella, and today I’m featuring jazz acappella. And when it comes to jazz acappella, critical consensus seems to be that all other groups must bow before Take 6. Now, I have to confess that I sometimes find their arrangements overly busy, which can distract from whatever song they’re performing. However, their rendition of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” is tastefully simple and lush. There are still some frighteningly complex jazz chords in there, but the spirit of the carol is preserved with love. A must for any Christmas collection:

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The Twelve Essential Tracks of Christmas, Day 8: Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops’ “Sleigh Ride”

Minus the cloying lyrics, the melody of “Sleigh Ride” is allowed to soar free and take on a life of its own in this definitive arrangement by Arthur Fiedler. While the pitch-perfection of the studio track may be the absolute best take, I also love to watch the orchestra at work in this clip. John Williams conducting doesn’t hurt either! Enjoy. Oh yes, and Happy New Year!

Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops’ “Sleigh Ride”

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