Small Town: Jeff & Sheri Easter

Small-Town250GRADE:  B

  • Album – Small Town
  • Artist – Jeff & Sheri Easter
  • Label – Custom
  • Style – Country, Modern Country
  • Release Date – 06/23/15
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes/Spotify)

SYNOPSIS:

Jeff and Sheri Easter are approaching 30 years as a group.  During the length of their career they have provided Southern Gospel listeners with a country/bluegrass and now modern country-style that hasn’t wavered.

2015 finds the release of a 30th anniversary album of new music; Small Town.  This is the first album of new music from the group since 2012’s Eyes Wide Open.

The family vocal unit consists of Jeff, Sheri and daughter Morgan.  Sheri has also come into her own as a songwriter, contributing to five songs on Small Town.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Sheri has always had a way of conveying a song directly at the listener.  Such is the case with the group’s first single from the recording, “Jesus Loves You”.  Everyone has those days or even extended periods in their life where they need to be reminded someone love’s them for who they are.  The greatest love is that of Jesus.  As the song says, I am also here to remind you that “Jesus Loves You”!
  • Sheri knocks it out of the park on “Hallelujah Coming From The Valley”.  Radio should get used to Sheri’s vocal because I believe every radio single from this album could be Sheri features.
  • Another Sheri feature is the album’s opening track (and another stand out), “Small Town Someone”.  The album and style of the group convey’s that small town America vibe.  “Small Town Someone” conveys the story of the kid with the loaves and fishes and portrays him as a small town boy who was able to give so much to so many even though he didn’t realize what he had would help so many.
  • That small town America vibe continues with the country-style love song, “The Light”.  The first verse conveys the story of young love and that first kiss at the stop light and the song goes on to talk about the light that can save a life.
  • Even though Madison and wife Shannon no longer travel with the group, Madison and Jeff trade verses on the album’s closing track, “My Wave”.  A song conveying the message of getting the most out of this life and getting to the end with no regrets.
  • Jeff’s strongest feature is on the song “This Side Of The Dirt”.  We are given one mortal life on this earth, we need to make the most of what we are given.
  • Morgan’s strongest feature is the song, “Someone’s Listening”.  This song follows the style Morgan gave listeners on her solo album.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Jesus Loves You”, “Hallelujah Coming From The Valley”, “Small Town Someone (Lunch)”, “My Wave”, “More Than Enough”, “This Side Of The Dirt” and “The Light”.
CRITIQUE:
  • I wish the listener would have been given at least one Jeff and Sheri Easter ‘barn burner’.  Every song on Small Town is in the mid to slow tempo range.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “I Love You”.

WRAP UP:

Jeff and Sheri Easter have given Southern Gospel listeners nearly 30 years of musical consistency.  Small Town continues that trend.  While the recording doesn’t quite match the caliber of their last two recordings (Eyes Wide Open, 2012 and Expecting Good Things, 2009), there are enough strong musical moments (especially from Sheri) to keep listeners happy until the next album release.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Small Town Someone (Lunch)”/Sheri – Jason Cox, Sheri Easter, Kenna Turner West  2. “This Side Of The Dirt“/Jeff – Jason Cox, Sue C Smith, Kenna Turner West  3. “Someone’s Listening”/Morgan – Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington  4. “Jesus Loves You”/Sheri – Sheri Easter, Don Poythress, Kenna Turner West  5. “The Light”/Jeff; Sheri – Jeff Easter, Sheri Easter, Bradley Gaskin  6. “More Than Enough”/Sheri – Jason Cox, Sheri Easter, Kenna Turner West  7. “Like You’re Still Here”/Jeff – Tom Botkins, Jon Henderson, Mo Pitney  8. “When The Harvest Comes”/Morgan – Lee Black, Sheri Easter, Kenna Turner West  9. “I Love You”/Jeff; Sheri – Edd Easter, James Easter, Russell Easter  10. “Hallelujah Coming From The Valley”/Sheri – Steve Chapman, Jeff Pearles  11. “My Wave”/Madison; Jeff – Ben Hayslip, Jimmy Yeary

Search For Southern Gospel’s Greatest Song: Semi Final Voting

Today concludes semi final voting in our search for Southern Gospel’s greatest song.  130 songs transferred from first round voting.  Today will find the final five polls (of 65 songs).  The top five in vote tally for each of the five polls will advance.  Rules are as follows:

  1. All readers of this blog can participate.
  2. Please vote in each poll.
  3. You get three choices in each poll.  Be sure to select three choices in each of the polls.
  4. The top five songs in each poll by vote tally will advance to the semi-finals.

Semi Final Round – Poll 6

  1. “But For The Cross”
  2. “For All He’s Done”
  3. “Grace Will Always Be Greater Than Sin”
  4. “Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored”
  5. “I Stand Redeemed”
  6. “Jesus Built A Bridge”
  7. “Jesus Saves”
  8. “Look For Me At Jesus Feet”
  9. “Night Before Easter”
  10. “On The Banks Of The Promised Land”
  11. “What A Beautiful Day”
  12. “When He Was On The Cross”
  13. “You Can’t Ask Too Much Of My God”

Semi Final Round – Poll 7

  1. “Because He Lives”
  2. “Blue Skies Coming”
  3. “God Walks The Dark Hills”
  4. “I Got A Hold Of God This Morning”
  5. “Leavin’ On My Mind”
  6. “Outside The Gate”
  7. “Reason Enough”
  8. “Somebody Touched The Lord”
  9. “Then Came The Morning”
  10. “We Shall Behold Him”
  11. “What We Needed”
  12. “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More”
  13. “Wish You Were Here”

Semi Final Round – Poll 8

  1. “Borrowed And Barely Used Tomb”
  2. “Canaanland Is Just In Sight”
  3. “Good News From Jerusalem”
  4. “He’ll Carry Me”
  5. “He’s Still Waiting By The Well”
  6. “I Can Pray”
  7. “I Wish I Could Have Been There”
  8. “If You Knew Him”
  9. “Master Of The Wind”
  10. “My Name Is Lazarus”
  11. “Oh Yes I Am”
  12. “Say Amen”
  13. “There Rose A Lamb”

Semi Final Round – Poll 9

  1. “God Likes To Work”
  2. “He Is Here”
  3. “I Believe In A Hill Called Mt Calvary”
  4. “I Will Rise Up From The Grave”
  5. “I’m Not Giving Up”
  6. “In The Valley He Restoreth My Soul”
  7. “Jesus Is Coming Soon”
  8. “Midnight Cry”
  9. “Never No Never”
  10. “Somebody Touched Me”
  11. “When I Knelt, The Blood Fell”
  12. “Who Am I”
  13. “Whosoever Will”

Semi Final Round – Poll 10

  1. “Blessed Be The Name Of The Lord”
  2. “God Saw A Cross”
  3. “God’s Building A Church”
  4. “He Made A Change”
  5. “He Saw It All”
  6. “He’d Still Been God”
  7. “Here I Am”
  8. “I Am Redeemed”
  9. “Step Into The Water”
  10. “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings On Me”
  11. “The Great I Am Still Is”
  12. “The King Is Coming”
  13. “Unspoken Request”

Southern Gospel Tidbits

love-winsDID YOU KNOW?:

  • “Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
  • “Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”
  • “Love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”
  • “Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
  • “Love is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”
  • “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”
  • “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”
  • “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”
  • “We love because he first loved us.”
  • “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
  • “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
  • “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”

Depending on what version (translation) of the bible you read, the word love is used over 550 times.  In contrast the word hate is used about 80 times.  That tells me that LOVE WINS!!!

Ten On Ten (Redux) – Kingsmen

kingsmen2010livefromnqcmaxThis week the ten on ten (redux) will re-visit the Kingsmen. On November 8th, 2011, I presented the original ten on ten feature for the Kingsmen highlighting the group’s ten best albums. Since that time, the group released Front Row Live (2013) and Battle Cry (2014).  One of these albums actually changed the original top ten list of the Kingsmen’s ten best albums.  This redux feature will also shine the spotlight on the three lowest ranking albums of the group’s career thus far.  First, the original list highlighting the group’s ten best recordings.

  1. Live…Naturally (1981)
  2. Chattanooga Live (1977)
  3. Mississippi Live (1987)
  4. Big And Live (1973)
  5. Stand Up At Opryland USA (1986)
  6. Proven Time And Time Again (2000)
  7. Anchors Aweigh (1988)
  8. Live At The University Of Alabama (1983)
  9. Just A Little Closer Home (1977)
  10. When God Ran (2008)

kingsmen2003readymax**NEW TOP TEN LIST:

  1. Live…Naturally (1981)
  2. Chattanooga Live (1977)
  3. Mississippi Live (1987)
  4. Big And Live (1973)
  5. Stand Up At Opryland USA (1986)
  6. Proven Time And Time Again (2000)
  7. Anchors Aweigh (1988)
  8. Live At The University Of Alabama (1983)
  9. Battle Cry (2014)**
  10. Just A Little Closer Home (1977)

The lowest ranked albums in the Kingsmen’s discography are as follows:

  1. Live! Performances From The NQC (2010)
  2. Front Row Live! (2013)
  3. Ready (2003)

Honoring Southern Gospel’s Greatest Albums – 1950’s (#1)

weatherfordquartet1959inthegardenmaxEarlier this year I began a series honoring the best Southern Gospel albums released by decade.  The rankings were a result of you, the readers, voting in the search for Southern Gospel’s best album series last year.  For the decade of the 1950’s I honored the top five.  Here is a quick re-cap.

5.  Hymn Sing – Blackwood Brothers (1956)

4.  The Bible Told Me So – Statesmen (1958)

3.  The Statesmen Quartet With Hovie Lister – Statesmen (1957)

2.  The Statesmen Quartet Sings With Hovie Lister – Statesmen (1958)

Now to crown, the top Southern Gospel album released in the 1950’s.  To no one’s surprise, that honor goes to the Weatherfords 1959 recording, In The Garden.  Many Southern Gospel historians consider In The Garden one of the best albums released in the history of the genre.  After the final overall vote tally, the album landed 16th among over 500 albums considered for the series.

The album contained such favorites as “He’s The Lily Of The Valley”, “House Of Gold”, “I Heard God Today”, “In The Garden”, “Let The Lower Lights Be Burning” and “What A Precious Friend Is He” among others.  The vocal line up on this recording was Lily Fern Weatherford (tenor), Glen Payne (lead), Earl Weatherford (baritone), Armond Morales (bass) and Henry Slaughter (pianist).

Next week we’ll begin counting down the top ten albums from the 1960’s.

*Video Credit (HarmonyCentral)

What If: McKameys

mckameys2015whatifmaxGRADE:  B-

  • Album – What If
  • Artist – McKameys
  • Label – Horizon Records
  • Style – Traditional, Appalachian
  • Release Date – 06/16/15
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes)

SYNOPSIS:

The McKameys are one of the few groups in Southern Gospel music who attempt to still get one new album out per year.  2015 finds the release of What If.

Considering this follows up their 2014 album, 50; What If is now the 51st album released in the group’s career.  The McKameys have built a loyal fan base over the course of their career with their traditional Appalachian mountain style.

The group’s last several albums have built a formula of one feature each from Eli, Roger and Ruben; two features from Connie and Peg and three from Sheryl.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Connie’s two features are the strongest on the recording.  Sandy Blythe’s, “Your Prayers Have Been Heard” stands as the strongest from What If.  Maybe the record label is saving it for a later release, but this should have been the stand out choice for radio single from the album.
  • Connie’s vocal tone on both features is a bit lower than previous albums and it really suits her.  The second stand out is “While I Wait”.
  • Sheryl turns in two strong performances on the albums best up-tempo songs.  The album opener, “I’m Gonna Give It Away” sets the tone for the rest of the album.  Using the ‘it is better to give than to receive’ concept, makes for an enjoyable listen.
  • The other up-tempo must listen is the convention style, “I’ll Give You Grace”.
  • Eli and Roger’s features on What If both have a bluegrass style.  Roger’s is the strongest of the two and considering the label’s track record, “Work In The Field” may find a home at radio.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Your Prayers Have Been Heard”, “While I Wait”, “I’m Gonna Give It Away”, “I’ll Give You Grace”, “Work In The Field” and “What If”.
CRITIQUE:
  • I was surprised “I Have A Home” was chosen as the first single.  Considering the other stand out songs on What If, I didn’t feel this song quite measured up.
  • What If has some good moments, but doesn’t quite stack up to the group’s last effort; 50.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Lift My Voice” and “I Have A Home”.

WRAP UP:

The McKameys contribution to Southern Gospel music is cemented.  A long career that has now given the group 51 recordings.  And, they have done that by providing listeners a style that they have not strayed from.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “I’m Gonna Give It Away”/Ensemble; Sheryl – Sheryl Farris  2. “Your Prayers Have Been Heard“/Connie – Sandy Blythe  3. “There Is A Peace”/Peg – Adina Bowman  4. “Where He Is”/Eli – Steve E Hamby  5. “While I Wait”/Ensemble; Connie – Sheryl Farris  6. “I’ll Give You Grace”/Sheryl – Richard Blythe  7. “Lift My Voice”/Ruben – Robert Deel  8. “I Have A Home”/Peg – Sheryl Farris  9. “What If”/Sheryl – Sheryl Farris  10. “Work In The Field”/Roger – Linda Nixon

Search For Southern Gospel’s Greatest Song – Semi Final Voting

Today begins semi final voting in our search for Southern Gospel’s greatest song.  130 songs transferred from first round voting.  Today will find the first five polls (of 65 songs).  The top five in vote tally for each of the five polls will advance.  Rules are as follows:

  1. All readers of this blog can participate.
  2. Please vote in each poll.
  3. You get three choices in each poll.  Be sure to select three choices in each of the polls.
  4. The top five songs in each poll by vote tally will advance to the semi-finals.

Semi Final Round – Poll 1

  1. “By Your Grace, For Your Glory”
  2. “Champion Of Love”
  3. “For God So Loved”
  4. “God On The Mountain”
  5. “He Touched Me”
  6. “He’s Still In The Fire”
  7. “Just One More Soul”
  8. “Long Live The King”
  9. “Meanwhile Back At The Cross”
  10. “Meet Me At The Table”
  11. “Miracle In Me”
  12. “Sheltered In The Arms Of God”
  13. “Sweet Beulah Land”

Semi Final Round – Poll 2

  1. “Call Me Gone”
  2. “Do You Know How It Feels”
  3. “I Can’t Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand)”
  4. “I Sing Because”
  5. “In My Robe Of White”
  6. “In Time, On Time, Every Time”
  7. “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before”
  8. “Please Forgive Me”
  9. “Redemption Draweth Nigh”
  10. “The Answer Is Christ”
  11. “Through It All”
  12. “What A Lovely Name”
  13. “Your Cries Have Awoken The Master”

Semi Final Round – Poll 3

  1. “Celebrate Me Home”
  2. “Forever Changed”
  3. “Four Days Late”
  4. “God Wants To Hear You Sing”
  5. “God’s Great”
  6. “Gone”
  7. “He Didn’t Throw The Clay Away”
  8. “I’ll Know I’m Home”
  9. “Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City”
  10. “Through The Fire”
  11. “We Shall See Jesus”
  12. “We Shall Wear A Robe And Crown”
  13. “When I Get Carried Away”

Semi Final Round – Poll 4

  1. “Battle Stand”
  2. “Boundless Love”
  3. “Glory Road”
  4. “Had It Not Been”
  5. “He Locked The Gates”
  6. “I Want To Be That Man”
  7. “I’m Glad I Know Who Jesus Is”
  8. “I’m Standing On The Solid Rock”
  9. “Just Beyond The Sunset”
  10. “O For A Thousand Tongues”
  11. “Oh The Thought That Jesus Loves Me”
  12. “One Scarred Hand”
  13. “Wedding Music”

Semi Final Round – Poll 5

  1. “Come And See”
  2. “Greatest Of All Miracles”
  3. “I Found Grace”
  4. “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow”
  5. “I Rest My Case At The Cross”
  6. “I’ve Just Started Living”
  7. “Love Came Calling”
  8. “Never Walk Alone”
  9. “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power”
  10. “The Lighthouse”
  11. “Til The Storm Passes By”
  12. “Truth Is Marching On”
  13. “When God Has Another Plan”

Southern Gospel Tidbits

DowningsDID YOU KNOW?:  Simon & Garfunkel had a huge pop hit in the early 1970’s with “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  The Downings decided they would cover this particular tune on their 1971 recording, This Is How It Is Live.  That same year, the Blackwood Brothers, Imperials and Statesmen also recorded the song.  But, it was the Downings version that would actually chart in the Singing News.

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