Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row (Steve Eaton) and Musicscribe (David Bruce Murray) once again present the ‘must buy or not’ feature. Highlights and dislikes will be offered along with a definitive yes or no on whether the album is a ‘must buy’.
In this edition of the ‘must buy or not’ feature, we take a look at a new group who released their first album for Crossroads music. Steppin’ Out by 11th Hour made its way to retail on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012. While this is their first release on Crossroads, 11th Hour’s debut album, Gather ‘Round, was released in 2010, making Steppin’ Out the group’s second album.
For those listeners being introduced to 11th Hour, the group is a mixed trio composed of Amber Eppinette (lead/alto), Candice Jordan (soprano) and Justin Morphis (lead/baritone). The group mixes three-part Southern Gospel harmony with a style that can be labeled as ‘Hinson-esque’ mixed with a little Crabb Family flair.
Song list: (1) “It’s A Wonderful Life” - Adam Kohout; Tery Wilkins (2) “Bloodline” - Betty Kirk Gurganus (3) “God’s Still God” - Dianna Gillette (4) “He Sees What We Don’t” - Amber Eppinette; Joseph Habedank (5) “A Real Old Time Revival” – Allan Eppinette; Brandon Meeks (6) “Steppin’ Out” - Frances Simpson (7) “Room With A View” - Joseph Habedank; Dianne Wilkinson (8) “I Like The Promise” – Ronny Hinson (9) “Tomb To The Table” – Amber Eppinette; Joseph Habedank (10) “Wake The Land” – Regina Walden
- I was introduced to the music of 11th Hour as a result of their first radio single “Adam’s Fall” and the power house vocal put in by group member Amber Eppinette. Amber shines on this new effort offering the two stand out tracks on Steppin’ Out.
- The ballads “Bloodline” and “He Sees What We Don’t”, both featuring Amber, offers the best in not only vocal but lyric. Amber has an immediately identifiable voice, that reminded me of country artist Kimberly Perry of the Band Perry. Both songs would make great radio single choices.
- The sole male vocalist in the group, Justin Morphis, has a commanding lead voice with the power of a vocalist like Jason Crabb. He excels on the Eppinette/Joseph Habedank collaboration “Tomb To The Table”. The song paints a picture of Lazarus coming from the tomb to take a place at the table. The second verse then takes that concept to everyone who was brought from death (by salvation), and now we all have a place at the table. Great lyric!
- The ballads are the strongest songs found on Steppin’ Out, with the exception of one up-tempo number. The title track and latest radio single does stand out as the best up-tempo song.
- Listeners who enjoy the music of the Hinsons, Crabb Family or even remember the classic group the Perry Sisters would enjoy the music of 11th Hour.
- I favored most of the up-tempo songs more than the slower tracks, particularly “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “A Real Old Time Revival,” “Steppin’ Out” and “I Like The Promise.”
- Of the ballads, I agree with Steve that “Bloodline” and “He Sees What We Don’t” are the highlights. The imagery in both lyrics is memorable, and the performances are very good, too.
- The song “It’s A Wonderful Life” has made its rounds over the last half-dozen years. The Beene Family, Master’s Voice and the Old Paths have all recorded the song in that time period. Even though this song seemed tired to me, 11th Hour had the best version of this song.
- As already mentioned, the up-tempo songs on Steppin’ Out didn’t quite match the caliber of the ballads. The cover of the Hinsons’ “I Like The Promise” needed to step it up more than the arrangement that was used.
- This doesn’t affect the quality for the listener, but my personal preference is to hear vocals that can be reproduced by the group in a live setting. The chorus of “It’s A Wonderful Life” features the full trio singing with alternating featured vocals overlapping the trio parts. The same thing happens briefly on “I Like The Promise” when there’s an ad-libbed part layered over the trio. It can’t happen that way on stage without adding at least one more vocalist or including some of the out-front vocals in the track.
- “Room With A View” has a great lyric, but the performance felt off due to a lack of dynamic and vocal contrasts. This song would be more effective if it would build up to a high point and then relax at the end.
- The only up-tempo song that felt like a filler was “God’s Still God.” Granted, the lyric is simple, and there’s nothing wrong with being simple. This one just seems more like a generic list than a creative lyric. I realize it’s a cover of a 1995 Perry Sisters song, but I’ve heard too many other songs since then that use a similar approach. A couple have the same title.
- YES – While the group’s style may not appeal to everyone, it was enjoyed by this listener enough to recommend Steppin’ Out. While you’re at it, go ahead and pick up the group’s debut effort Gather ‘Round also.
- NO – My overall impression of Steppin’ Out is positive, but I wouldn’t quite put it in the Must Buy category.