September 2014 is upon us. That means football season, back to school and the end of the month brings the inaugural National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge TN. As I start each new month, we’ll take a look at the five most played Southern Gospel radio songs in my iPod over the preceding month. The Bowling Family, Whisnants and Browders make it a family sweep of the top three spots. Gold City and Mark Bishop round out the top five. Enjoy!
Hello All. Welcome to the return of Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row. After announcing my exit from Musicscribe, I received numerous emails of encouragement asking me to reconsider leaving the Southern Gospel blogging world.
It is because of those words of encouragement and the show of support that I re-start Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row. This will simply be a quiet comeback. I have no plans of advertising my return. Readers will slowly find their way back.
Folks that know me, understand my passion for this music. I have been around it my entire life and I have no plans of throwing in the towel now. If anyone feels the need to address my exit from Musicscribe, you can do it with me personally (firstname.lastname@example.org). Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row was always about the music, nothing else. It will remain that way.
So, as I slowly get back in the groove, expect what you would normally get from this site; Album Reviews, Best of the Year, Retro Spotlight features, the Smack Down feature and more new features ahead. Thanks again for your support. You will never know how much that means to me!
- Album – Legacy
- Artist – Greenes
- Label – ACA Records
- Style – Traditional, Progressive
- Release Date – 07/22/14
- Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes/Spotify)
Tim Greene, an original member of the Greenes, continues the legacy started by the family in 1979. A group that has left an impact in Southern Gospel music with former hits; “Hold On”, “In The Twinkling Of An Eye”, “Miracle In Me”, “Never Crucify Him Again”, “When God Has Another Plan” and “When I Knelt The Blood Fell” to name a few.
It is fitting that the Greenes 2014 album release is titled Legacy. The album is an eleven song collection filled with mainly new songs and a cover of one of the group’s biggest hits; “Never Crucify Him Again”.
The 2014 vocal line-up of the Greenes is composed of Tim (Lead), Keith Skiles (Tenor) and Daniel Albritton (Baritone). Legacy continues the long trend of Greenes music to the Southern Gospel listener. Tim has made sure to keep that distinct Greenes sound, even with the new group.
- The Greenes book-end Legacy by providing the two best songs at the start and ending of the album. The album opener is another in a long list of songs titled, “Redeemed”. Tim Greene has always been one of Southern Gospel’s best songwriters and he provides all eleven songs on Legacy. Tenor Keith Skiles turns in a great performance of “Redeemed”. This should easily hit Southern Gospel radio.
- Another original member, Kim (Greene) Hopper, joins Tim on the album’s closing song; “Where Would I Be”. This song was originally recorded by the Greenes on their 1990 album, Testimony. It is great hearing Tim and Kim together again. A must listen!
- Tim is featured on another stand out track; “My Sins Broke His Heart”. Tim has always been good at portraying a great lyric. Such is the case with this song.
- Of the few up-tempo numbers found on Legacy, “Waiting On A Train”, is definitely the best. This is a fun song, done like so many train songs before it.
- Baritone Daniel Albritton gets a feature on “Unbroken”. Daniel is another in a long list of strong vocalists to be a part of the Greenes.
- The 2014 edition of the Greenes turn in a nice cover of one of the group’s biggest songs; “Never Crucify Him Again”.
- Strongest songs included in order: “Redeemed”, “Where Would I Be”, “My Sins Broke His Heart”, “Waiting On A Train”, “Never Crucify Him Again” and “Unbroken”.
- With only three up-tempo songs on an eleven song recording, the pacing gets a bit tiring for the listener by the end of the recording.
- Anytime you feature kids on a song, you run in to territory of some listeners not finding it cute. Such is the case with “No Matter Who You Are”.
- Weakest songs included in order: “No Matter Who You Are” and “The Pastor”.
The Greenes impact on Southern Gospel music has already been written. There is no denying they will go down as one of Southern Gospel’s most influential groups. The music they were producing in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s was unmatched during that era. I applaud Tim Greene for carrying on the family legacy and keeping the Greene name in the minds of Southern Gospel listeners. If you have hesitation going to see this new Greene configuration in concert, don’t. Tim and the Greenes provide current audiences with not only the group’s newest material but still sing many of the group’s biggest songs through the years. If you enjoy the legacy the Greenes given Southern Gospel music, you will enjoy this new album; Legacy.
SONG/Featured Vocalist - Songwriter: 1. “Redeemed”/Keith - Tim Greene 2. “Waiting On A Train“/Tim; Keith - Tim Greene 3. “My Sin Broke His Heart”/Tim - Tim Greene 4. “Rock Bottom”/Keith - Tim Greene 5. “Never Seen A Day Like This”/Tim - Tim Greene 6. “Never Crucify Him Again”/Keith; Daniel; Tim - Tim Greene 7. “The Pastor”/Daniel - Tim Greene 8. “No Matter Who You Are”/Greene Kids - Tim Greene 9. “Never Separated”/Ensemble; Keith - Tim Greene 10. “Unbroken”/Daniel – Tim Greene 11. “Where Would I Be”/Kim Hopper; Tim – Tim Greene
Akins (Father David and sons; Dave, Nick and Eli) hit the Southern Gospel scene with their 2008 debut album, Good Tired. They followed that up with their self titled sophomore album and a #1 song from that recording, “I Want My Stage To Be An Altar”. 2014 brings the 5th mainline album release by Akins; Vintage.
Akins decided to step away from Crossroads Music to record Vintage. The group not only produced the album but recorded all music used on Vintage. I love it, because what you hear on the record you will also hear in the live concert setting. Novel concept for Southern Gospel music, but one I applaud!
Song list: (1) “Revive Us Again” - WP Mackay (2) “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” - Henry Van Dyke (3) “There’s A Land That Is Fairer Than Day (In The Sweet By And By)” - Sanford F Bennett (4) “When We All Get To Heaven” - Eliza E Hewitt (5) “Go Rest High On That Mountain” – Vince Gill (6) “There Is Power In The Blood” - Lewis E Jones (7) “There Is Power In The Blood” - Robert Lowry (8) “Arise My Love” - Eddie Carswell (9) “He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need” – Dottie Rambo (10) “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” – Louie Giglio, Chris Tomlin (11) “Sweet, Sweet Spirit” – Doris Akers (12) “I Saw The Light” – Hanks Williams Sr
- If you have read any of my album reviews for any length of time, you know that I love artists who are unique, who stand out and who are not carbon copies of someone else. Akins is one of those unique artists. They are country (in terms of vocals/harmonies/style). They actually tour as a band, meaning the concert audience actually sees the use of real instruments in the performance.
- One may quickly glance the song titles for Vintage and feel, oh no not another album full of songs that have been recorded 1,000 times before. Let me tell you, Akins takes these songs and arrange them to their own style (both vocally and musically) and turns Vintage in to an enjoyable listen.
- “Revive Us Again” comes barreling out of the gate with musical intensity and power. I guarantee it is unlike any version of “Revive Us Again” you’ve heard before.
- The same can be said of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”. So many Southern Gospel listeners are used to the ‘high church’ treatment this song is given by quartets. Akins takes this song to an entire different level with their Alabama-esque country style. Yes, I am talking about the mainstream country act, Alabama. Best song on the entire album!
- Akins show off their a cappella prowess on “There Is Power In The Blood” (great short arrangement), “He Looked Beyond My Fault And Saw My Need” and “Sweet, Sweet Spirit”.
- The musical interludes created by Akins on songs is what sets this album apart from being just another generic, previously recorded song, recording.
- I agree with everything Steve said!! There is so much energy from all of the instruments and vocals. The Akins really have made these songs their own style coming from their hearts.
- One of my favorites is “When We All Get to Heaven” with Eli’s happy little mandolin skipping along above the vocals! There’s also some great guitar picking, particularly in the instrumental interlude. I love this hymn anyway and the instruments add a freshness and joy to it.
- Kudos to young drummer Lucas Vaughn! With all the great instrumentation on this album, they needed great percussion to help them keep up the tempo and intensity. Lucas provides it – especially on “Revive Us Again,” “Joyful, Joyful” and “I Saw The Light.”
- One of the things that make The Akins’ a capella numbers so nice is that they are not rushed. With the exception of the short “Power In the Blood,” these are the slower songs on the album. You will hear a few different than expected harmonies and a healthy supply of moving parts that keep them from bogging down. If I didn’t like their instruments so well, I would want even more a capella!
- OK, I know it’s a little bit corny, but the little sound effects at the beginning and the end of the “record” make you feel like you might have been listening to an LP playing on the old Victrola phonograph!! How many of you young’uns even know what I’m talking about?! HaHaHa! And the vintage look to the CD label itself is the final little touch to make you think about a record that has been played so much it has the scratches and smudges to prove it.
- There were a couple previously recorded songs I could have done without, “Go Rest High On That Mountain” being a top that list. This seems to be the go to country (gospel based) song that seems to get recorded by so many artists.
- The other was “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”. The problem I have is not with Akins performance, my problem is the with the song. I have always seen this song as a rip off. For Chris Tomlin to take the classic standard, “Amazing Grace” and add a few extra verses and now make royalties off of that does not sit well with me. It reminds me of Vanilla Ice ripping off Queen’s “Under Pressure” to make a ton of money off of “Ice, Ice Baby”. Tacky to the highest degree!!
- I agree with Steve again here, but I’ll add one other thought. I let an office friend whom I had taken to an Akins concert listen to the new CD and she immediately said her favorite was “Go Rest High” because she has a very personal sentimental attachment to that song. I like the song but I think it’s probably been overdone. It does fit with the theme of the album though.
- This is more of a suggestion than a dislike, but I’d love to see a fast a capella song or two on the next album!
- YES – This album is a must buy just for the musical interludes alone. “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” is absolute musical perfection! I don’t know why Southern Gospel audiences don’t embrace groups like Akins, who actually produce a top notch concert experience with voices and instruments.
- YES – Most folks may already have albums with these songs but The Akins’ presentation makes this album worth the purchase.
- Album – Church In The Kitchen
- Artist – Dunaways
- Label – Custom Records
- Style – Progressive, Country, Bluegrass
- Release Date – 07/08/14
- Available For Digital Download? – No
The Dunaways began singing in 1993. It wasn’t until 2002 when the group released their first mainline album, Born Again Experience. “He Kissed My Heartache” and “With Arms Wide Open” were Southern Gospel listening audiences first introduction to the Dunaways on radio.
Since then the Dunaways have given Southern Gospel listening audiences, Beautiful Day (2003), Revival (2006) and It’s A God Thing (2011). 2014 finds the release of the group’s newest album, Church In The Kitchen.
The Dunaways are a family trio built around the voice of lead vocalist Kanah (daughter). Randall (father) and Tammy (mother) offer harmonies while periodically taking leads on several songs. The group has always had a traditional country style to their music with some progressive Southern Gospel sounds layered in to the music. They are a group that is unique musically in Southern Gospel music and easily identifiable when one of their songs come on the radio.
- Kanah is one of the best female voices in Southern Gospel music. The Dunaways entire sound is built around her lead vocal. She absolutely shows range singing a pure traditional country ballad like “Reassure Me” and then taking on a blues infused spiritual, “Somewhere Around The Throne”.
- The former (“Reassure Me”) is the stand out track on Church In The Kitchen. I love the traditional country sound given to this song and Kanah sings it to perfection. The latter (“Somewhere Around The Throne”), is a blues infused spiritual that Kanah tackles with precision. She gets some background help from Angie Primm and Gayle Mayes to really take this song to another level.
- The story in song, “When My Tears Wash The Scars” is the story of Mary washing the feet of Jesus. This a beautifully written story in song that features Kanah.
- Randall and Tammy is featured on the Dottie Rambo composition, “Let Go Of This World”. It was originally recorded on the Rambos, The Son Is Shining album. It is traditional country at its best. This song reminds the listener of something the Whites would record/perform.
- Tammy closes the album with a haunting ballad, “Never Give Up On You”. This story in song is talking about a friend who doesn’t have a personal relationship with Christ and never giving up on that individual. A must listen!
- I love the ‘hard driving’ country (bluegrass flavored) song, “Better Than My Best Day”. A great hook that uses the saying, …’my worst days saved is better than my best days lost’.
- Ronny Hinson’s #1 hit from 1988 (“Mercy Built A Bridge”) is covered by the Dunaways on Church In The Kitchen. He is also featured on the first verse of the song. Love this cover!
- Strongest songs included in order: “Reassure Me”, “Somewhere Around The Throne”, “Mercy Built A Bridge”, “When My Tears Wash The Scars”, “Again And Again”, “Never Gonna Give Up On You”, “Let Go Of This World (Get Wrapped In God)”, “Better Than My Best Day” and “His Word Is Written In Stone”.
- It is a rarity that I don’t have at least one critique for an album review, but I couldn’t come up with one with Church In The Kitchen. I thought long and hard about giving this an album an (A+) rating. I have said in the past I don’t believe in perfection so I had to settle on (A).
- Outside of that, it is a travesty that this album is currently not available for digital download. Every Southern Gospel listener needs to have access to this recording.
- Weakest songs included in order: “Where Grace Lives” and “Muddy Mississippi (Baptism Of Billy Ray Murray)”.
The Dunaways have always produced their own brand of Southern Gospel music and they absolutely outdid themselves with Church In The Kitchen. This is hands down the best Southern Gospel album I have heard so far in 2014 and maybe the best album of the last several years. Of course, traditionalists will dismiss that statement because of the group’s country style. They will say it is not pure Southern Gospel and shouldn’t be classified as such. They will consider it inferior because of its country style. Well I am dismissing you and claiming this the best album released so far in 2014. If you decide not to add this album to your collection, it is your loss.
SONG/Featured Vocalist - Songwriter: 1. “Again And Again”/Kanah - Tammy Dunaway, Kenna Turner West 2. “Where Grace Lives“/Kanah - Jerry Salley, Kenna Turner West 3. “Church In The Kitchen”/Kanah - Lee Black, Jerry Salley, Sue C Smith 4. “Mercy Built A Bridge”/Ronny Hinson; Tammy - Ronny Hinson 5. “Reassure Me”/Kanah - Ronny Stoots 6. “Let Go Of This World (Get Wrapped Up In God)”/Randall; Tammy - Dottie Rambo 7. “Better Than My Best Day”/Tammy; Kanah - Tammy Dunaway, Marshall McKellar 8. “Muddy Mississippi (Baptism Of Billy Ray Murray)”/Tim Spell; Randall - Drew Baldridge, Jerry Salley 9. “Somewhere Around The Throne”/Kanah; Les Butler; Angie Primm; Gayle Mayes - Public Domain 10. “Your Prayers Were Pulling Me Through”/Randall; Kanah; Tammy – Leonard Barrier, Tammy Dunaway 11. “When My Tears Wash The Scars”/Kanah – Tammy Dunaway 12. “His Word Is Written In Stone”/Kanah – Leonard Barrier, Tammy Dunaway, Chad Ward 13. “Never Gonna Give Up On You”/Tammy - Julie Anne Miller
The dogs days of summer have approached as August rolls in. As I start every new month, it is time to look at the most played Southern Gospel radio songs in my iPod over the preceding month. The Primitive Quartet has the top spot for August as Triumphant Quartet and the Nelons each have a revised classic song cover. The top five is rounded out by Legacy Five and Brian Free & Assurance. Enjoy!
The Ball Brothers have always seemed to be on the outside looking in when obtaining any type of substantial recognition from the Southern Gospel industry and fans. But, they have not let that deter them from continuing to provide listeners with their own brand of Gospel music.
Pursuit just hit retail outlets (07/29/14) and the music provided can be described as part Beach Boys, part big band and progressive Southern Gospel music. The Ball Brothers are unique in that they have four male voices in the group without being a traditional Southern Gospel quartet because of the lack of a bass singer.
Song list: (1) “It’s Gonna Be A Good Day” - William Gaither, Suzanne Jennings, Jeff Silvey (2) “Someday” - Dianne Wilkinson (3) “Who’s Gonna Stand In The Gap” - Squire Parsons (4) “Forgive Me” - Daniel Crews, Bryan Hattan (5) “Beautiful One” – Tim Hughes (6) “Just As I Am” - Jim Brady, Barry Weeks, Tony Wood (7) “Lead Them To Jesus” - Michael Fordinal, Ricky Free, Sue C Smith (8) “Nothing To Bring Him” - Public Domain (9) “You’re Gonna Need Him”- Public Domain/”If You Ever Needed The Lord Before” – Thomas Dorsey (10) “Look To The Cross” – Lee Black, Ricky Free
- Andy Tharp has the feature on the biggest Southern Gospel stand out track found on Pursuit. “Forgive Me” is the traditional Southern Gospel ballad that would do well at radio and in the live concert setting.
- Chad really brings that big band, Harry Connick Jr crooner style to the forefront. It can be heard on “Beautiful One” and “Everywhere You Go”. “Beautiful One” definitely gets points for being the better of the two tracks.
- The Ball Brothers stick to the trend of covering a CCM tune on their albums. This album finds “Just As I Am”, that Southern Gospel listeners may remember from Lauren Talley on her solo album Songs In The Night. Chad also has the feature on this song.
- Andrew Ball is featured on the light pop sounding “Lead Them To Jesus”. The infectious melody will have you singing along before the song ends.
- I mentioned the Beach Boys in my brief synopsis. The Ball Brothers really take that sound on with the song “Someday”. A definite throwback to a different musical era; the song was refreshing stylistically.
- You can expect absolutely gorgeous, rich, full harmony from the Ball Brothers and this project is overflowing with it! They have their sound perfected and I can always tell a Ball Brothers song as soon as I hear it.
- Former Ball Brothers pianist Cody McVey produced, arranged, and orchestrated the songs for the album and really shines with his instrumentations: from sweeping strings to the big brass, to simpler piano, percussion and woodwinds.
- I continue to be impressed with young Chad McCloskey’s versatility and range. I loved his crooner style on “Beautiful One” and his lead on “Just As I Am” and his ‘soul’ on the medley of “You’re Gonna Need Him” and “If You Ever Needed The Lord Before”. These guys are all awfully young to be so good at that big band, swing sound you’ll hear on many of their songs like “Nothing To Bring Him”!
- Sometimes the large brass accompaniment is too much. It comes off as a bit cheesy on “You’re Gonna Need Him”. I thought I was listening to a Jerry Lewis telethon.
- It is refreshing to find a group like the Ball Brothers who is not afraid to forge their own musical style in the face of traditionalists who resist change. It could also be the thing holding them back from obtaining a larger fan base in Southern Gospel music. I say stick to what you’re doing.
- I’ve got nothin’!!!
- YES – I was on the fence with this one. I had just as many reasons to say no as I did to say yes. The Ball Brothers gives listeners a break from all the four-part quartet male harmony prevalent in Southern Gospel music. For that refreshing sound/style I will sway my vote to the yes column in this case.
- YES – The Ball Brothers have their own style so you don’t have to worry that it will be like any other album you already have in your library! It has a great variety of styles and tempos, songs with very strong messages, and more different types of instrumentation then you’ll hear on any other album.
Soul’d Out Quartet was awarded horizon group of the year at the Singing News fan awards in 2010. Since that time they have continued to grow their fan base as well as start a recording relationship with Crossroads music. Great Life, which hit retail on 07/15/14, is the first Soul’d Out Quartet album to be released under Crossroads premier label, Horizon Records.
Great Life is a collection of ten new songs that continues the young quartet’s tradition of Southern Gospel quartet music.
Song list: (1) “Lord You’re So Good” - Matt Rankin (2) “God’s Grace Is Never Ending” - Matt Rankin (3) “He’s The One” - Matt Rankin (4) “If You Only Knew” - Matt Rankin (5) “There Is A Love” – Matt Rankin (6) “Holy Spirit Come” - Matt Rankin (7) “Hey Everybody” - Matt Rankin (8) “I Just Want You To Know Who Jesus Is” - Matt Rankin (9) “What A Great Life” – Matt Rankin (10) “The Answer Is The Cross” – Matt Rankin
- All the points go to tenor Dusty Barrett. His performance on “Holy Spirit Come” and the opening track, “Lord You’re So Good” are the stand out tracks on Great Life. “Holy Spirit Come” would make an awesome concert opening song. It is the type of song that could set the tone for the entire concert.
- “There Is A Love” is the best up tempo song found on Great Life. The song has a slight country feel, reminiscent of what Southern Gospel listeners got from the Dove Brothers on their Anything Is Ordinary album. This song should have been the first radio single (if the record company was picking the best up tempo song).
- Soul’d Out Quartet attempts to step out of the box stylistically on “He’s The One”. While it didn’t come together perfectly, it still ended up being a highlight on the album.
- Matt has his standard big ballad to close Great Life; “The Answer Is The Cross”. The message found in the song makes it a must listen. Another song that should go over well in the live concert setting.
- The listener can instantly hear the production value compared to previous efforts. That is what a label like Horizon records can do for an artist.
- You’re exactly right on your first point, Steve! I’ve been to two concerts where the opening song was “Holy Spirit Come“, and it was incredible both times. Every time I think Dusty’s vocals can’t get any better, they do!
- I liked that most of the songs were up-tempo or mid-tempo. It made the slower songs even more effective, like Ian’s feature on “If You Only Knew.”
- After several Re-Soul’d and Soulace albums, I was ready to hear some new Matt Rankin songs! I certainly got what I wanted since Matt wrote them all!
- “He’s The One” was such a strong, declarative song. This bold style reminded me of another of my favorite songs – “Who Is This Man.” The message could not be any clearer.
- Soul’d Out Quartet has been looking for that big song to take them to the next level. Great Life will not bring the group that song. While there were some musical highlights, nothing that left me blown away.
- Soul’d Out used to feature pianist Michael Howard on a song. I miss that song. “On My Way Home” was the best song on the group’s Blessed album. More Michael Howard please.
- Actually, Michael sings on “Hey, Everybody” during performances, but he isn’t featured. I agree that I’d love to see Michael featured on every album – on the keys or on a vocal – or both!
- NO – I have to compare an artist’s body of work when making this decision. Great Life did not hold up to the caliber of album the group released with What The World Doesn’t Know and Worth Every Mile. For that reason alone, I have to give Great Life a no.
- YES – I would give this a “must buy” just because of the ten new Matt Rankin songs, but I would also buy it because it’s a wonderful album with great singing by all of the members.