Live Again: Susan Whisnant

GRADE:  B-

  • Album:  Live Again
  • Artist:  Susan Whisnant
  • Label:  UIA
  • Style:  Traditional; Progressive
  • Release Date:  08/04/17
  • Digital Download:  Yes
  • Running Time:  49 Minutes

SYNOPSIS:

Today we take a look at the latest solo recording from Susan Whisnant, Live Again.

Live Again becomes Susan’s second solo recording.  It has been a decade since her first solo album, For The Life Of Me.

Susan is the alto/lead vocalist for her family group, the Whisnants.  Live Again is a nice mix of traditional and progressive Southern Gospel sounds.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Susan got the help of several Southern Gospel friends to do background vocals on the album.  It adds an extra touch, than just having one voice record thirteen new songs.
  • The stand out track on Live Again is the country flavored, “Noah”.  Songwriter Monty Lane Allen helps with some background vocals that is also the strongest choice for radio single.
  • Susan consistently provides Whisnant listeners her standard ballad that have become big hits with the Whisnants.  She continues that trend with this solo effort.  “The Father Knew” is the biggest with background vocals provided by Karen Peck and Kim Hopper.
  • The first radio single from Live Again is another strong ballad, “I Prayed Through It”.  Prayer is key in our day-to-day lives and through life’s biggest struggles.
  • Chris Allman is given a feature on the second verse of another must listen, “This Is Why”.  This is another strong choice for radio single possibilities.
  • Up-tempo songs are few and far between on Live Again.  Along with “Noah”, I would give “A Lot Out Of A Little” a listen.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Noah”, “The Father Knew”, “This Is Why”, “I Prayed Through It”, “A Lot Out Of A Little”, “You Can Live Again” and “Covering Of Grace”.
CRITIQUE:
  • The baby giggle recorded at the beginning of “Let Them Be Little” is a bit terrifying.  Sounds like something I’ve heard in horror movies.
  • Listener fatigue definitely sets in by the time one gets to the end of the thirteen song recording.  Susan could have cut the three weakest songs from the album.
  • That is where pacing also comes into play.  Ten of the thirteen songs is in the slow to mid-tempo range.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Let Them Be Little”, “Faith In Place” and “Treasure”.

WRAP UP:

Susan Whisnant is one of the best female vocalists in Southern Gospel music.  She has been at the forefront of the Whisnants radio successes with her stirring vocals.  There are some strong moments on Live Again that warrant a listen.

SONG/Background Vocalists – Songwriter:  1. “You Can Live Agian”/Chris Allman – Karen Gillespie, Marcia Henry  2. “I Prayed Through It“/Monty Lane Allen – Marcia Henry, Barbara Huffman  3. “A Lot Out Of A Little”/Jim Brady; Paul Lancaster – Karen Gillespie, Helga Kaefer, Rachel McCutcheon  4. “The Father Knew”/Karen Peck Gooch; Kim Hopper – Rachel McCutcheon  5. “Let Them Be Little”/Jeff Whisnant – Billy Dean, Richie McDonald  6. “Noah”/Monty Lane Allen – Monty Lane Allen  7. “Faith In Place”/Chris Allman – Barbara Huffman  8. “Treasure”/Kennedy Hayes; Wendy Hayes – Marcia Henry, Susan Whisnant  9. “This Is Why”/Chris Allman – Rachel McCutcheon, Dixie Phillips  10. “Love Them While They’re Here” – Jeff Bumgardner  11. “Fear Not”/Jim Brady; Paul Lancaster – Wendy Ferguson, Marcia Henry  12. “Covering Of Grace”/Monty Lane Allen – Monty Lane Allen  13. “Every Door You Closed” – Adina Bowman, Kristi Fitzwater, Brian Principe

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Still: Greater Vision

GRADE:  B+

  • Album:  Still
  • Artist:  Greater Vision
  • Label:  Daywind
  • Style:  Traditional
  • Release Date:  08/04/17
  • Digital Download:  No
  • Running Time:  44 Minutes

SYNOPSIS:

Today we take a look at the latest album from Greater Vision, Still.

Greater Vision is coming up on 27 years in Southern Gospel music.  Still marks the 45th recording the group has given listeners in those 27 years.

Still also marks the first Greater Vision recording to not include Gerald Wolfe vocally.  Instead, listeners are treated to newest vocal member Jon Epley.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Chris Allman proves why he was voted favorite tenor vocalist at this year’s Singing News fan awards.  He has all the best features on Still.
  • The stand out track is the up-tempo, “Rolled Back Stone”.  This Lee Black/Dianne Wilkinson co-write is a future hit in the making.  Chris performs it perfectly.
  • I can hear Marcia Henry’s touch on the Rodney Griffin co-write, “Nothing To See”.  Kudos to the arrangers who decided to use a crying steel guitar on this country flavored song. Another Chris feature that I absolutely enjoy!
  • Chris also performs his own composition, “God Doesn’t Care”.  The message contained in this song makes it one of the strongest on the recording.  God doesn’t care where you’ve been or what you’ve done.
  • The album’s first radio single features and was also written by Rodney.  “Still” is a proclamation type song that may very well top the Southern Gospel radio singles chart.
  • Newest member, Jon Epley, takes the second verse on the up-tempo, “All The Above”.  One you will want to add to your musical playlist.
  • Its been 20 years since Greater Vision recorded “Common Garments”.  Listeners are treated to a cover of what I consider to be one of Griffin’s greatest compositions.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Rolled Back Stone”, “God Doesn’t Care”, “Nothing To See”, “Still”, “All The Above”, “Common Garments”, “His Grave Wrote The Song” and “I Believe It All”.
CRITIQUE:
  • Greater Vision has decided not to make Still available for digital download; not even from their website.  I still don’t understand the reasoning.  I will venture to say that it will be made available at some point, but the newness of the recording will be long passed by then.
  • Have to admit, I missed not having at least one Gerald feature on a Greater Vision recording.  Will have to get used to that.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Forgiven By The Lord” and “Jesus Stood”.

WRAP UP:

Greater Vision has had a consistent trend of top-notch recordings.  For any listener who thinks Greater Vision is past their prime recording years; I would have to argue the opposite.  This decade has provided some of the trio’s strongest albums.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “There Is Hope”/Chris – Chris Allman, Rodney Griffin  2. “Still“/Rodney – Rodney Griffin  3. “Rolled Back Stone“/Chris – Lee Black, Dianne Wilkinson  4. “I Believe It All”/Ensemble; Chris – Janice Crow  5. “God Doesn’t Care”/Chris – Chris Allman  6. “His Grave Wrote The Song”/Ensemble; Jon – Rodney Griffin  7. “Jesus Stood”/Rodney – Rodney Griffin  8. “Forgiven By The Lord”/Chris – Chris Allman  9. “Common Garments”/Rodney – Rodney Griffin  10. “All The Above”/Ensemble; Jon – Rodney Griffin, Babbie Mason  11. “Nothing To See”/Chris – Rodney Griffin, Marcia Henry  12. “The Gospel”/Rodney – Chris Allman

We Have This Moment: Gaither Vocal Band

GRADE:  B+

  • Album:  We Have This Moment
  • Artist:  Gaither Vocal Band
  • Label:  Spring House Productions
  • Style:  Progressive, Inspirational
  • Release Date:  10/13/17
  • Digital Download:  Yes (Apple Music)
  • Running Time:  50 Minutes

SYNOPSIS:

Today we take a look at the new album from the Gaither Vocal Band, We Have This Moment.

The Vocal Band has seen their fair share of personnel shifts the last couple of years.  The vocal line-up on We Have This Moment includes Wes Hampton (tenor), Adam Crabb (lead/baritone), Reggie Smith (baritone/lead), Todd Suttles (bass/baritone) and Bill Gaither (baritone/harmony vocals).

We Have This Moment gives current listeners a taste of the Vocal Band style in the mid/late 1980’s.  The group’s progressive Southern Gospel sounds are combined with the inspirational sounds of the mid ’80’s group to create this newest recording.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The album kicks off on a strong note with the fun, up-tempo, “Hallelujah Band”.  The song was chosen as the first radio single from the album and it is definitely the best choice.
  • Another fun song, “Manna From Heaven”, has a 40’s flair.  Todd Suttles gets to show off a bit on a song that would translate well to the concert stage.
  • Wes goes into falsetto mode on his stand out feature, “Livin’ In The Rhythm Of Grace”.  This inspirational country-style tune is one that could find a home on Southern Gospel radio.
  • Adam is featured on the modern country, praise/worship style song, penned by father Gerald Crabb; “You Amaze Me”.  Adam originally recorded this song with his own group, Crabb Revival.
  • Big production style songs are evident on We Have This Moment.  Songs like “Hymn Of Praise” and “Man Of Sorrows” will please your palate, if you enjoy this style of song.
  • Todd and Adam trade verses on the Bill and Gloria classic, “I’ll Worship Only At The Feet Of Jesus”.
  • Kudos to Gordon Mote for co-producing We Have This Moment with Bill Gaither.  Captured the excitement of a live Gaither Vocal Band experience on a studio recording.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Hallelujah Band”, “Manna From Heaven”, “Livin’ In The Rhythm Of Grace”, “Man Of Sorrows”, “You Amaze Me”, “Hymn Of Praise”, “We Are The Sands We Are The Stars” and “I’ll Worship Only At The Feet Of Jesus”.
CRITIQUE:
  • Another version of “Chain Breaker”.  See the Freemans review from earlier in the week.
  • The Gaither Vocal Band go all praise/worship on the Chris Tomlin cover, “Jesus Messiah”.  No thank you.
  • “We Are All God’s Children” also crosses too far on the inspirational spectrum to be enjoyable.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Jesus Messiah” and “We Are All God’s Children”.

WRAP UP:

The Gaither Vocal Band has consistently been the highest selling artist in Southern Gospel music, with each album release.  I have no doubt We Have This Moment will also sell a ton of records for the group.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Hallelujah Band”/Ensemble – Becca Mizell, Sam Mizell  2. “Man Of Sorrows“/Reggie; Ensemble – Phillip Bliss  3. “Livin’ In The Rhythm Of Grace“/Wes – William J Gaither, Larry Gatlin  4. “I’ll Worship Only At The Feet Of Jesus”/Todd; Adam; Reggie – Gloria Gaither, William J Gaither, JD Miller  5. “Chain Breaker”/Adam – Mia Fieldes, Jonathan Smith, Zach Williams  6. “Manna From Heaven”/Todd; Ensemble – Chip Davis, William J Gaither, Dony McGuire, Reba Rambo McGuire  7. “We Are The Sands, We Are The Stars”/Todd – Gloria Gaither, Dony McGuire, Reba Rambo McGuire  8. “We Are All God’s Children”/Ensemble – Benjy Gaither, Todd Suttles, Sarah Beth Terry  9. “Jesus Messiah”/Wes; Adam – Daniel Carson, Ed Cash, Jesse Reeves, Chris Tomlin  10. “You Amaze Me”/Adam – Gerald Crabb  11. “We Have This Moment Today”/Bill – Gloria Gaither, William J Gaither  12. “Hymn Of Praise”/Wes; Reggie – Gloria Gaither, William J Gaither, Gordon Mote

Tower Of Song: Freemans

GRADE:  B

  • Album:  Tower Of Song
  • Artist:  Freemans
  • Label:  Custom
  • Style:  Country
  • Release Date:  08/11/17
  • Digital Download:  No
  • Running Time:  39 Minutes

SYNOPSIS:

This week we take a look at the latest album from the Freemans, Tower Of Song.

The Freemans are about to celebrate 35 years in Southern Gospel music.  In that 35 years this family has been consistent in the country gospel style they’ve provided listeners.  That influence coming not only from Darrell’s family group, the Pathways but also Chris’ time spent with the Hinsons, in the 1970’s.

Tower Of Song is representative of that country gospel style.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Darrell’s traditional country vocal could fit in with country legends Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.  “Wide River To Cross” is the best representation of this classic country sound.
  • One of the best radio singles of the entire year is “It Still Takes The Blood”.  Also one of the best songs of the Freemans recording career!
  • Long time member and keyboardist, Joe Freeman is featured on one of the best songs on Tower Of Song; “When He Loves Me Most”.  The song was originally recorded on the group’s 2001 recording, Highway.
  • Darrell provides his traditional country vocal on another stand out, “God Of The Storm”.  This mid-tempo song would make a strong choice for radio single.
  • The album closes on a fun note with the up-tempo “Send An Angel By My Way (King Jesus)”.  The song was penned by Darrell and Joe’s uncle.  This song is perfect for the concert stage.
  • Can’t leave a Freemans review without mentioning Chris.  Her best feature on Tower Of Song is the mid-tempo, “One Foot On The Water”.
  • Dony McGuire and Michael Sykes helped Darrell on producing duties.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “It Still Takes The Blood”, “When He Loves Me Most”, “Wide River To Cross”, “God Of The Storm”, “Send An Angel By My Way (King Jesus)”, “One Foot On The Water” and “God Put A Rainbow In The Clouds”.
CRITIQUE:
  • “Chain Breaker” is the 2017 song to be recorded by multiple artists.  Why?  While a good song, I don’t believe it is of the caliber that every group should jump on the bandwagon to get their own version out.
  • I know she just released a solo EP, but I thought listeners would at least be treated with one Misty Freeman feature.  Not so.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Chain Breaker” and “Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City”.

WRAP UP:

Tower Of Song is traditional country sounds at its best.  If you like that mixed with your Southern Gospel listening, you’ll want to find yourself a copy of Tower Of Song.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “It Still Takes The Blood”/Ensemble; Chris – Gerald Crabb  2. “God Of The Storm“/Darrell – Reba Rambo McGuire, Tery Wilkins  3. “Chain Breaker“/Darrell – Mia Fieldes, Jonathan Smith, Zach Williams  4. “One Foot On The Water”/Chris – Chip Davis, Dony McGuire, Reba Rambo McGuire  5. “When He Loves Me Most”/Joe – Wayne Carson, Rodney Lay Jr, Mike Richards  6. “She Sang The Fire Out Of It”/Chris – Jerry Salley, Kenna West  7. “Wide River To Cross”/Darrell – Buddy Miller, Julie Anne Miller  8. “God Put A Rainbow In The Clouds”/Darrell; Ensemble – Larry Petree  9. “Back To God”/Caylon – Dallas Davidson, Randy Houser  10. “Tears Will Never Stain The Streets Of That City”/Chris – Dottie Rambo  11. “Send An Angel By My Way (King Jesus)”/Ensemble – Joe Freeman

Southern Gospel Tidbits

DID YOU KNOW?:  On this Indigenous People’s Day, we honor America’s Native American heritage and culture.  It is important we remember those who made America home way before European settlers arrived.  And for many, like myself, it is a time to honor our Native American ancestry.

Did you know, Southern Gospel music, has been graced with several Native American artists.  The first and most prominent would be the Klaudt Indian Family out of North Dakota.  Their history in music dates back to 1929.

More recently Southern Gospel music had the Jody Brown Indian Family and solo artist Quinton Mills.

What Do You Think? Create A Tribute Album…

I started a series where I provide my readers a way to express their view/thoughts on Southern Gospel music.

I thought I would make it fun this time around.  If you were given the task of creating a tribute album for a particular artist:

  1. What artist would you choose?
  2. Which ten songs would be on the tribute album?
  3. Which ten current artists would perform the ten songs you chose?

My example: A Tribute Album to the Lesters

  1. “Ain’t God Good” – Dunaways
  2. “He Didn’t Throw The Clay Away” – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
  3. “Gloryland Gold” – Nelons
  4. “The Return Of El Shaddai” – 11th Hour
  5. “I’ll See You Again” – Kingdom Heirs
  6. “Hold On Tight” – Mylon Hayes Family
  7. “I Am” – Hoppers
  8. “He’ll Only Need It For The Weekend” – Joseph Habedank
  9. “No Longer A Stranger” – Ball Brothers
  10. “I Plead The Blood” – Mark Trammell Quartet

Beyond Amazed: Brian Free and Assurance

GRADE:  B

  • Album:  Beyond Amazed
  • Artist:  Brian Free and Assurance
  • Label:  Daywind
  • Style:  Progressive, CCM
  • Release Date:  09/29/17
  • Digital Download:  Yes (Apple Music)
  • Running Time:  36 Minutes

SYNOPSIS:

This week we take a look at the new album from Brian Free and Assurance, Beyond Amazed.

Beyond Amazed is the second album since the group went back to a trio vocal configuration.  Brian Free and Assurance also continue their long recording career with Daywind Records.

The group continues their progressive Southern Gospel style and Beyond Amazed even drifts a bit further into the CCM spectrum.  Will it be too much for the general Southern Gospel listener?  Let’s find out.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Brian takes the lead on the album’s first radio single, “He Can Take It”.  Hearing Brian move closer to a lead vocal range and away from the sometimes shrill tenor vocal is an absolute must hear.  Long time listeners will get Brian’s famous tenor range in the chorus.  Enjoyed this song!
  • The most Southern Gospel friendly song on the album is a Lee Black/Aaron Wilburn co-write; “Everything He Forgot”.  Lead vocalist Bill Shivers works his usual vocal magic on this particular number.
  • Bill also gets the feature on the album’s opening track, “Anything Is Possible”.  This is the progressive Southern Gospel sound listeners have come to expect from the group.
  • Bill closes the album with a touching song, “Unheard”.  It is a nice reminder that no prayer goes unheard.
  • Baritone vocalist Mike Roger’s best feature is the CCM infused “The Voice Of Jesus”.  An all around fun song.
  • The songwriters found on Beyond Amazed is beyond amazing!  Song selection is the best you’ll find.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “He Can Take It”, “Everything He Forgot”, “Unheard”, “Anything Is Possible”, “The Voice Of Jesus”, “The End Of Grace” and “Beyond Amazed”.
CRITIQUE:
  • While I thoroughly enjoyed “He Can Take It” and Brian’s vocal approach, I thought Brian had one of the weaker performances of his recording career on “At The Cross”.
  • The stylistic approach taken on Beyond Amazed may have gone a bit too far for the general Southern Gospel listener.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “At The Cross” and “Sometimes You Need A Song”.

WRAP UP:

Brian Free and Assurance have been innovators of progressive Southern Gospel music in this modern era.  They continue to test stylistic boundaries on each new recording.  The Brian Free and Assurance you hear in 2017 is not what you heard in 2007.  You need to decide if the stylistic boundaries is too far for your listening pleasure.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Anything Is Possible”/Bill – Lee Black, Kenna Turner West  2. “He Can Take It“/Brian – Jeffrey Bumgardner, Sue C Smith, Kenna Turner West  3. “Beyond Amazed“/Mike – Jason Cox, Dan Koch, Sue C Smith  4. “Leave With Nothing Left”/Bill – Lee Black, Dave Clark, Michael Farren  5. “The Voice Of Jesus”/Mike – Lee Black, Dan Koch  6. “Everything He Forgot”/Bill – Lee Black, Aaron Wilburn  7. “At The Cross”/Brian – Lee Black, Devin McGlamery, Sue C Smith  8. “Sometimes You Need A Song”/Mike – Marty Funderburk, Sue C Smith  9. “The End Of Grace”/Brian – Joseph Habedank, Sue C Smith, Tony Wood  10. “Unheard”/Bill – Lee Black, Gina Boe

NQC 2017: Saturday Night Recap

The 2017 edition of the National Quartet Convention has wrapped.  The final night brought some good memories.  Here are the hits and misses.

  • The reunion segments were all noteworthy this evening.  Great to see both Tim Riley and Jay Parrack during the Gold City reunion.
  • The Perrys line-up of 30 years ago started their reunion segment.  I remember seeing the group for the first time during this era.
  • The Nelons segment honoring Rex Nelon was also strong.  Going through many of the group’s early signature songs was awesome!
  • Outside the reunion segments, the Isaacs had a strong set.  Everything from the Hebrew song to the rousing “He Ain’t Never Done Me Nothing But Good”.
  • The Kingdom Heirs proved at the end of the night that you don’t need tracks.  It would be nice to hear more of that in Southern Gospel music.

  • Since it was the end of the week, listeners were treated to a bunch of recycled songs that had already been performed during the week.
  • I don’t know if anyone else did, but there were webcast issues all evening.  it would freeze, then crash and freeze again and I guarantee you it wasn’t my internet connection.
  • You think they would have chosen a closing song that all the artists on stage, knew.

 

**Now to crown the best of the night:

Best single song performances (in order of appearance):  (1) “I’d Rather Have Jesus” – Blackwood Brothers  (2) “I’m Not Giving Up” – Gold City  (3) “When The Prodigal Comes Home” – Tribute Quartet  (4) “We Shall Reign” – Perrys  (5) “Never No Never” – Joseph Habedank  (6) “He Is Mine And I Am His” – Hoppers  (7) “I Have A Father Who Can” – Isaacs  (8) “I Love You More” – Isaacs  (9) “Come Morning” – Nelons  (10) “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down” – Nelons  (11) “Give Me Jesus” – Ernie Haase and Signature Sound  (12) “I Know He Heard My Prayer” – Kingdom Heirs (*Best Individual Performance of the Night)  (13) “Jesus The One” – Hoppers

Best Set of the Night:  The Isaacs