Voting Rounds – Cutting Edge/Underrated Artist

1stThe 1st annual Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row honors continues today with best cutting edge and most underrated artist of 2014.  Cutting edge artists are those who think outside the box; who create their own brand/style of Southern Gospel.  Most underrated are artists who had a strong album release or hit single that gets little recognition from fans/industry.  There is a musical mash-up of each category to showcase why they were chosen to represent the best of 2014.

CUTTING EDGE ARTIST

  1. Akins
  2. Brian Free & Assurance
  3. Ball Brothers
  4. Jason Crabb
  5. Taranda Greene

MOST UNDERRATED ARTIST

  1. Ball Brothers
  2. Down East Boys
  3. Dunaways
  4. Freemans
  5. High Road III

Voting Rounds – Tenor/Bass Vocalists

1stWhile some of us may not be happy that it is already Monday and another weekend over, we have the chance to take a little time away from work and vote for best tenor and bass vocalists in Southern Gospel music for 2014.  This will close out the six vocal spots that make up Southern Gospel music.  Voting polls will be open one week.  A music mash-up is provided for each category to showcase why the nominees were chosen to represent 2014.

TENOR VOCALIST

  1. Chris Allman (Greater Vision)
  2. Riley Harrison Clark (Tribute Quartet)
  3. Gus Gaches (Legacy Five)
  4. Thomas Nalley (LeFevre Quartet)
  5. Jeremy Peace (Old Paths)

BASS VOCALIST

  1. Daniel Ashmore (Old Paths)
  2. Jeff Chapman (Kingdom Heirs)
  3. Anthony Davis (Tribute Quartet)
  4. Matt Fouch (Legacy Five)
  5. Paul Harkey (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)

Voting Rounds – Soprano/Lead Vocalist

1stToday we continue with our voting rounds for the 1st annual Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row honors.  Things started strong yesterday with alto and baritone vocalist.  If you haven’t voted yet, bet sure to do so.  Today we take a look at the nominees for the best soprano and lead vocalist of 2014.  Voting polls will be open for one week.  I have provided a music mash-up of the five nominees in each category that showcases why they were chosen to represent 2014.

SOPRANO VOCALIST

  1. Angie Aldridge (Hoskins Family)
  2. Kelly Bowling (Bowling Family)
  3. Amber Eppinette (11th Hour)
  4. Karen Peck Gooch (Karen Peck & New River)
  5. Amber Thompson (Nelons)

LEAD VOCALIST

  1. Mike Bowling (Bowling Family)
  2. Devin McGlamery (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)
  3. Tim Rackley (Old Paths)
  4. Arthur Rice (Kingdom Heirs)
  5. Bill Shivers (Brian Free & Assurance)

Voting Rounds – Alto/Baritone Vocalist

1stThe voting rounds have now begun for the 1st annual Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row honors.  I released the nominees last week.  Now it is up to you (the reader) to decide the victor in each category.  Today we start with best alto and baritone vocalist of 2014.  All readers of this blog can vote and the polls will be open for one week.  Nominees will be listed along with a music mash-up for each category that showcases why the specific nominees were chosen to represent 2014.

ALTO VOCALIST

  1. Becky Bowman (Isaacs)
  2. Kelly Nelon Clark (Nelons)
  3. Sheryl Faris (McKameys)
  4. Libbi Stuffle (Perrys)
  5. Suzanne Taylor (Taylors)

BARITONE VOCALIST

  1. Doug Anderson (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)
  2. Aaron Dishman (Dixie Melody Boys)
  3. Mike Rogers (Brian Free & Assurance)
  4. Mark Trammell (Mark Trammell Quartet)
  5. Brian Walker (Perrys)

In Honor: Norman Wilson (Primitive Quartet)

It was announced yesterday evening that founding member, Norman Wilson, of the bluegrass Southern Gospel group the Primitive Quartet had passed away.  Along with Norman, brother Furman Wilson and the Riddle brothers (Larry and Reagan) the group started singing in 1973.

Norman had held down the tenor singing and playing the mandolin for the past 41 years.  Even with the group’s bluegrass/acoustical style, the Primitive Quartet always had a home in Southern Gospel music and among Southern Gospel listeners.

They rose to prominence in the 1980’s with songs such as “Because He Loved Me”, “Drifting Away”, “Flowers We Love”, “Gloryland”, “I’ll Never Walk In The Valley Again”, “Just A Pilgrim”, “Only Fire I’ll Ever Feel” and “When I Get Home”.  Here are a couple of YouTube clips honoring the legacy of Norman Wilson.

1.  “Gloryland” (published by Bluegrass Country Gospel)

2.  “Gloryland” – original album cut (published by sloopjohnb324)

3.  “My Hope Is In The Blood” (published by Gary King)

Battle Cry – Kingsmen

kingsmen2014battlecryGRADE:  A-

  • Album – Battle Cry
  • Artist – Kingsmen
  • Label – Horizon Records
  • Style – Traditional, Progressive
  • Release Date – 10/14/14
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes/Spotify)

SYNOPSIS:

Yesterday (10/14/14) saw the release of another new Southern Gospel album; the Kingsmen’s Battle Cry.  This is the first album of new music for the Kingsmen since 2011’s Grace Says.

This is also the second album from the Kingsmen to feature the current vocal line-up; Chris Jenkins (tenor), Bob Sellers (lead), Randy Crawford (baritone) and Ray Dean Reese (bass).  I have been anticipating the release of this album since hearing several of the songs performed during NQC 2014.

Battle Cry has a lot for traditional Southern Gospel quartet listeners and longtime fans of the Kingsmen will absolutely love the classic Kingsmen moments captured on this new effort.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Speaking of classic Kingsmen sounds, no other song captures that more than “Oh Yes I Am”.  The current radio single features tenor Chris Jenkins and he performs in true Kingsmen tenor fashion on this song.  From beginning to end this song is one of my favorite recorded this year.  A must listen!
  • An elder statesmen in Southern Gospel music, Ray Dean Reese proves he still has the vocal talent to perform another of the album’s stand out tracks; “I Know”.  This Ila Knight composition is classic Southern Gospel at its finest.  Another song that reminded me of the Kingsmen of the 1980’s.  This has to be a single.
  • The up-tempo songs on Battle Cry are right out of the Kingsmen playbook of yesteryear.  The album kicks of with the title track (classic Kingsmen) and if that is not enough you get the same up-tempo treatment on “Beautiful City” and “Come And Dine”.
  • If you’re a fan of the progressive Southern Gospel ballad, you will enjoy the Randy Crawford feature, “It Should Have Rained”.  It is nice to hear the Kingsmen tackle a song that would fit in to Brian Free & Assurance’s repertoire.  They do a great job.
  • Lead vocalist Bob Sellers gets his chance to shine on the song, “Faith”.  Another progressive style ballad that may have you hitting repeat before moving on to the rest of the album.
  • When you choose songs from the list of songwriters found on Battle Cry, an artist is almost guaranteed a power house recording.  The Kingsmen make the most of the songs they chose.  This may be the best selection of songs the Kingsmen have chosen for an album in over a decade.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Oh Yes I Am”, “I Know”, “Battle Cry”, “It Should Have Rained”, “Come And Dine”, “I’ve Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken” and “Faith”.
CRITIQUE:
  • I tried to come up with one critique of this album but couldn’t find one.  There really is no filler song on this entire album.  A rarity for sure.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “He Took Away My Burden”.  This song really isn’t weak it just so happens to be the lowest ranked of the eleven songs on the recording.

WRAP UP:

I believe the Kingsmen may have just released the best Southern Gospel quartet album of 2014.  I don’t see any other quartet album coming out before the end of the year to change that.  If you have been a long time listener of the Kingsmen you will absolutely love Battle Cry.  If you are a casual listener of the Kingsmen, this is the one album (of the last several years) in the group’s discography you will want to own.  What I enjoyed most about Battle Cry was the classic Kingsmen treatment given to most of the album.  I will be listening to this album for many months to come!

SONG/Featured Vocalist - Songwriter:  1. “Battle Cry”/Ensemble; Bob - Lee Black, Joel Lindsey, Sue C Smith  2. “I’ve Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken“/Bob; Chris - Rebecca J Peck  3. “He Took Away My Burden”/Ensemble; Ray - Scott Inman, Daryl Williams  4. “Oh Yes I Am”/Chris - Regina Walden  5. “Cross Of Grace”/Randy - Rebecca J Peck  6. “Beautiful City”/Ensemble; Ray - Ashley Franks  7. “I Know”/Ray; Bob - Ila C Knight  8. “It Should Have Rained”/Randy - Rusty Golden, Dianne Wilkinson  9. “Faith”/Bob - Belinda Smith, Kenna Turner West  10. “Come And Dine”/Ensemble; Randy – Dianne Wilkinson, Daryl Williams  11. “Here I Stand Amazed”/Bob – J Randall Crawford

Sometimes It Takes A Mountain – Gaither Vocal Band

gvb2014mountainmaxGRADE:  B+

  • Album – Sometimes It Takes A Mountain
  • Artist – Gaither Vocal Band
  • Label – Spring House Music Group
  • Style – Traditional, Progressive, Modern Country
  • Release Date – 10/14/14
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes/Spotify)

SYNOPSIS:

One of the most highly anticipated albums of the fall season has arrived with the release of Sometimes It Takes A Mountain by the Gaither Vocal Band.  This is the first album with the new vocal band line-up with Adam Crabb on lead and Todd Suttles on baritone.

Bill Gaither along with David Phelps and Ben Isaacs produced this new effort for the Vocal Band.  Sometimes It Takes A Mountain allows newest members Adam Crabb and Todd Suttles to shine as they receive the majority of features on the album.

The Gaither Vocal Band doesn’t change their approach/style with the personnel shifts.  Actually, what the listener gets is a more layered approach to the four vocals/harmonies throughout the entire recording.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The album starts strong with the Wes Hampton feature; “Jesus Gave Me Water”.  Long time listeners of Southern Gospel music may remember this song from the early 1990’s, recorded by Chronicle (Kingsboys).  A strong opening to the album and a strong radio single possibility.
  • The music of drums on a battlefield is heard throughout “We Are Coming Home At Last”.  This is the first song on the recording that allows listeners to hear the vocal stylings of Todd Suttles.  This song builds in intensity throughout making for a huge finish.  Think “Let Freedom Ring”.
  • The up-tempo, “You Brought Us Out” is a progressive Southern Gospel crowd pleaser that will require several repeats.  The melody to this song is eerily similar to another mainstream song that still has me trying to figure out.  Maybe one of my readers can help me out.  Todd Suttles also shows off some bass singing on this particular song.
  • Speaking of Todd singing bass, he is also featured as bass singer on the Mosie Lister classic; “Happy Rhythm”.  While you can hear Bill in the mix, he is not featured on Sometimes It Takes A Mountain.
  • New lead vocalist Adam Crabb is featured on the album’s title track and first radio single, “Sometimes It Takes A Mountain”.  This song is right out of the Crabb Family playbook in terms of presentation.
  • I don’t want to leave tenor David Phelps out as he turns in a great rendition of the Gordon Jensen classic, “Written In Red”.  Many may remember this song from Rusty Goodman or Janet Paschal.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “You Brought Us Out”, “Jesus Gave Me Water”, “We Are Coming Home At Last”, “Written In Red”, “Sometimes It Takes A Mountain”, “Let Is Start In Me” and “Happy Rhythm”.
CRITIQUE:
  • The Gaither Vocal Band has always been known for taking songs that have previously been recorded and covering them.  Such is the case with Sometimes It Takes A Mountain.
  • The biggest fail is the cover of “Peace In The Valley”.  This song has been recorded so many times, I can’t believe another version was warranted.
  • While church choirs will love the Vocal Band’s versions of “Resurrection” and “The Night Before Easter” at Easter season, I didn’t enjoy the big choral production given to “Resurrection” on the album.
  • The album also ends on a slow note with “Praises” and “Heaven Came Down”.  They would have been better off to close with the strength of “You Brought Us Out”.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Peace In The Valley”, “Praises” and “Heaven Came Down”.

WRAP UP:

The Gaither Vocal Band are guaranteed to produce a musical product that will please listening audiences.  Sometimes It Takes A Mountain continues that trend.  If you really wanted to know how the group sounds with newest vocal members (Adam Crabb/Todd Suttles) you will be pleased with all the features the two of them receive.  No doubt, one of the top Southern Gospel album release of 2014.

SONG/Featured Vocalist - Songwriter:  1. “Jesus Gave Me Water”/Wes - ??  2. “We Are Coming Home At Last“/Ensemble; Todd - Geron Davis  3. “Sometimes It Takes A Mountain”/Adam - ??  4. “Happy Rhythm”/Ensemble; Todd - Mosie Lister  5. “Resurrection”/Ensemble - Bill Gaither, Gloria Gaither, Michael W Smith  6. “The Night Before Easter”/Todd; Adam; Wes - Dwayne Friend, Donnie Sumner  7. “That’s When The Angels Rejoice”/Ensemble - Larry Bryant  8. “Written In Red”/David - Gordon Jensen  9. “Let It Start In Me”/Todd; Adam; Wes; David - ??  10. “When Fear Comes Knockin'”/Adam – Paula Breedlove, Gerald Crabb  11. “Peace In The Valley”/Todd – Thomas Dorsey  12. “You Brought Us Out”/Ensemble – ??  13. “Praises”/Ensemble; Wes – Bill Gaither, Marshall Hall, Jeff Silvey  14. “Heaven Came Down”/David – John W Peterson

The Southern Gospel Story Of My Life (1983)

Kingsmen 83The Southern Gospel story of my life series continues this week with the year 1983.  I only attended one concert in 1983.  The annual concert in my hometown of Westminster MD featured three artists on the same program.  The first up was my favorite group to see in concert as a kid; the Kingsmen.

This was the second time for the group to make an appearance at the annual concert event and I was waiting with anticipation knowing they were going to be there.  The concert came and I waited for the emcee to announce the Kingsmen (who headlined) and I was so enthralled by the group’s performance once again.  I was two years older than the first time I saw them and I couldn’t wait to get to the record table and buy their newest record album.

Jim Hamill remembered this lanky boy from the previous concert and joked with me and told my mom to make sure she bought me as many record albums as I wanted.  Even though I only went home with two new albums I was still happy and couldn’t wait to play them.  At this point I had been to enough concerts and accumulated enough records that I started playing DJ as a kid and somehow the Kingsmen were always #1 on my show!

Listen to a mash-up of music from the Kingsmen in 1983.

dmb1983goodoleboysmaxAnother hero of mine, as a kid, was also on the same concert in 1983.  That was Ed O’Neal and the Dixie Melody Boys.  The group became a fixture at this particular annual concert event and I was always pleased to see them.

1983 was the year the sound/style of the Dixie Melody Boys shifted to a country-style.  Their album release that year was More Than Just Good Ole Boys.  I loved playing the title track from this record, because as a kid my favorite show was the Dukes Of Hazard.  If you remember the show, you’ll know the theme song by Waylon Jennings was “Good Ole Boys”.  The Dixie Melody Boys version was a play on this theme song.

Here is a mash-up of music from what the Dixie Melody Boys were staging in 1983.

Lesters 83The third group on the program that year was a family group I had never seen; the Lesters.  The Lesters rarely ventured to the mid atlantic region, considering they were based in St Louis MO.  But, they made the trip and allowed this kid to add another family group to my collection of record albums.

This was around the time that ‘Big’ Mo Ostrander traveled with the group and I remember Jeanie Cameron on the piano.  I also remember Brian and Ginger’s mom (Alene) and dad (Herschel) joining the group on stage for a song.

The Lesters also had a song out at the time; “Gloryland Gold”, that resembled the Gatlin Brothers country hit, “All The Gold In California”.  This was another song I remember playing a lot as a kid.

Here is a mash-up of music of what the Lesters may have been staging in 1983.  Also, watch out because 1984 was the year my family began traveling to concerts and the slew of artists I seen in 1984 was unforgettable.

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