Southern Gospel Tidbits

DID YOU KNOW?:  Several years before the Kingdom Heirs were asked to be a resident performer at Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge TN, the Cumberland Boys started at the Opryland theme park in Nashville TN.  Their first two recordings were released as the Orpyland Gospel Quartet before the name change to the Cumberland Boys.  The Opryland theme park was closed in 1997 to make way for a shopping mall.

*Video Credit (Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row)

VOTING: Greatest Songwriter: Round 1 – Poll 5

Happy Friday.  Sorry for my absence the last two days; life happens.  Today continues the voting in our search for Southern Gospel’s greatest songwriter series.  The song of the day on the sidebar is a sequence of eleven songs that were written by poll 5’s eleven contenders.  Here are the rules for voting:

  • All readers of this blog can vote.
  • You are allowed to vote for up to three choices.
  • You are allowed one vote per day.
  • The top (5) by vote tally will advance to round 2.
  • Voting closes Wednesday (07/27/16).

So Much Sweeter: Pruitt Family

Pruitt FamilyGRADE:  B

  • Album – So Much Sweeter
  • Artist – Pruitt Family
  • Label – Custom
  • Style – Traditional, Progressive, Country
  • Release Date – 04/15/16
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (Apple Music)

SYNOPSIS:

The Pruitt Family are celebrating three years in Southern Gospel music; so in terms of Southern Gospel years they are brand new.  I was introduced to the group’s music with their 2015 release, Sweet Southern Joy.

2016 brings the Pruitt Family’s newest effort, So Much Sweeter.  The Pruitt Family follows in the long tradition of family groups in Southern Gospel music.

The sound of the Pruitt Family is built around lead vocalist, Brooke Pruitt.  She is already an accomplished vocalist, at 18.  Her future is bright.  The remaining group members are Tina (alto), Alexis (soprano/harmony) and Mark (harmony).

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • After my commentary yesterday on Southern Gospel’s unoriginal trend, I was pleased that this was the album in my review list this week.  The Pruitt Family’s, So Much Sweeter, is Southern Gospel by its very definition.
  • The group accomplishes that from the start by covering Joel Hemphill’s classic, “Jesus Built This Church On Love”.  Using an arrangement close to the original, Brooke shows her vocal abilities on a classic worth hearing again.
  • Brooke takes the lead on another stand out penned by John Darin Rowsey.  The country flavored, “Love At First Sight” would be a strong radio single choice.  I could have heard this song on Southern Gospel radio in the 1980’s alongside the Hinsons and would have been very happy.
  • The matriarch of the family, Tina Pruitt is featured on the group’s latest radio single; “God’s Appointed Time”.  One of Southern Gospel’s strongest songwriters of this decade, Matthew Browder, wrote this powerful number that may give the Pruitt Family their second top ten hit.
  • New Journey was a group, with songwriter John Darin Rowsey as vocalist, in the 1990’s.  Many will not remember a song the group recorded in the early 1990’s titled “He’s Making A Way”.  The Pruitt Family give listeners an amazing send off, by closing the album on this absolutely fun, up-tempo cover.  I dare you not to hit repeat on this song.  Loved it!
  • The production quality of So Much Sweeter is about as good as any artist can ask for.  The Pruitt Family has a winner with So Much Sweeter.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Making A Way”, “Love At First Sight”, “God’s Appointed Time”, “Jesus Built This Church On Love”, “But For The Blood” and “Bless His Name”.
CRITIQUE:
  • The a cappella ensemble work on “Till The Storm Passes By” could have been left off the album.  This song has been recorded too many times and it is hard to come up with an arrangement that will add anything to the countless versions already circulating Southern Gospel playlists.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Till The Storm Passes By” and “Mama’s Prayer”.

WRAP UP:

As an artist, your goal should be to top your last album and especially if you’re a new artist trying to get Southern Gospel listener’s attention.  The Pruitt Family have done just that by creating a better recording with So Much Sweeter than their last effort, Sweet Southern Joy.  Another plus, I heard an entire album of Southern Gospel music, not 1980’s CCM being pawned off as today’s Southern Gospel.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Jesus Built This Church On Love”/Alexis; Brooke – Joel Hemphill  2. “Sweeter As The Days Go By“/Alexis – Kirk Talley  3. “God’s Appointed Time”/Tina – Matthew Browder  4. “Till The Storm Passes By”/Ensemble – Mosie Lister  5. “Bless His Name”/Brooke – Matthew Browder  6. “Mama’s Prayer”/Brooke – Matthew Browder, Brooke Pruitt  7. “Grateful”/Mark – Chip Davis, Marcia Henry  8. “But For The Blood“/Tina – Mike Upright  9. “Love At First Sight”/Brooke – John Darin Rowsey  10. “Making A Way”/Brooke – John Darin Rowsey

*Video Credit (The Pruitt Family – Topic)

The Absolutely Unoriginal Southern Gospel Trend – Part 2

micOver a month ago, I started a commentary on what I called the absolutely unoriginal Southern Gospel trend.  You can find part one, here.  To refresh your memories, it came about as a result of an email I received from a reader after my review of Cana’s Voice debut album, This Changes Everything.

What exactly is the unoriginal trend?  It is Southern Gospel producers/arrangers feeling that somehow Southern Gospel’s style evolution has to sound like what CCM was giving audiences in the 1980’s/1990’s.  That my friend, is unoriginal and boring.  Let me explain further.

Here is one opinion many in the music industry may not agree with, but it is mine and I’m stating it; music styles/trends do not evolve, new ones are created.  I am a huge fan of alternative rock music.  It hearkens me back to my high school/college days in the 1990’s when groups like Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and Pearl Jam were creating a new style of music.  Initially many in the music industry labeled it grunge rock but it ultimately became know as alternative rock.

songwriting1Some 20+ years later, alternative rock is still going strong with artists like the Foo Fighters, Weezer and Mumford & Sons.  I can turn on an alternative rock station today and here a Foo Fighters song alongside Pearl Jam and the Pearl Jam song from 20 years ago still fits the style being produced today; it doesn’t sound outdated.

Lets now equate this to Southern Gospel music.  CCM was created in the late 1970’s as an alternative to what is now known as Southern Gospel music.  Lets make this distinction; it was created as an alternative to Southern Gospel music, not as a replacement.  Disco was created as an alternative to the psychedelic sounds of the 1960’s, not as a replacement.

So, Southern Gospel producers/arrangers creating CCM sounds of the 1980’s and marketing them to Southern Gospel audiences as a sound/style today is not going to work with this listener.  You can be guaranteed any album I review that continues this trend will automatically receive low marks for being unoriginal.  If as a producer you want to pay homage to Southern Gospel music, create an album with crying steel guitars to honor the sounds of our industry in the 1970’s.

While several different styles can fall under the Southern Gospel umbrella (traditional (4) part harmony, progressive, country, Appalachian, bluegrass), it is still Southern Gospel.  Remember CCM was created as an alternative to Southern Gospel, not a replacement.  Trying to re-brand today’s Southern Gospel with the style of 1980’s CCM is not going to work.

VOTING: Greatest Songwriter: Round 1 – Poll 4

Happy Friday.  Today continues the voting in our search for Southern Gospel’s greatest songwriter series.  The song of the day on the sidebar is a sequence of eleven songs that were written by poll 4’s eleven contenders.  Here are the rules for voting:

  • All readers of this blog can vote.
  • You are allowed to vote for up to three choices.
  • You are allowed one vote per day.
  • The top (5) by vote tally will advance to round 2.
  • Voting closes Wednesday (07/20/16).

VOTING: Greatest Songwriter: Round 1 – Poll 3

Today continues the voting in our search for Southern Gospel’s greatest songwriter series.  The song of the day on the sidebar is a sequence of eleven songs that were written by poll 3’s eleven contenders.  Here are the rules for voting:

  • All readers of this blog can vote.
  • You are allowed to vote for up to three choices.
  • You are allowed one vote per day.
  • The top (5) by vote tally will advance to round 2.
  • Voting closes Tuesday (07/19/16).

Southern Gospel’s Greatest Songwriter – Clarification

heyI’ve had several questions why certain songwriters were not included in the first two polls posted lasted week in our search for Southern Gospel’s greatest songwriter feature.  If you remember the original list I posted, we had a total of 155 contenders (songwriters) spread over six decades.  Instead of creating one huge poll for 155 contenders, the series will take several weeks to narrow down that list until we get to the championship poll.  This first round will have ten polls to narrow down the original list of 155.  Top five (by vote tally) in each poll will advance to round 2.  Any more questions, please leave them in the comments section.  Thanks.

Strength Renewed: Anchormen

anchormen2016strengthrenewedGRADE:  B

  • Album – Strength Renewed
  • Artist – Anchormen
  • Label – Custom
  • Style – Traditional
  • Release Date – 07/08/16
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (Apple Music)

SYNOPSIS:

The Anchormen may very well have the best vocal line-up in over twenty years.  The 2016 edition of the Anchormen is composed of Chris Jenkins (tenor), Phillip Hughes (lead), Terry Carter (baritone) and Will Lane (bass).

For all you traditional quartet music lovers who think traditional Southern Gospel music is being overlooked need to look no further than this newest recording from the Anchormen.

Strength Renewed is a ten song collection of mostly song covers, but many done in a way that they sound new.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The Anchormen are at the best on the song, “The Hand Of The Lord”.  Chris takes the second verse and knocks it out of the park.  I was impressed with Chris in his time spent with the Kingsmen.  The Anchormen have picked up one of the best tenors in the industry.  Send this song to radio now!
  • Chris takes command of another stand out track, “I Heard About A Man”.  Fans have taken notice as Chris was among the top ten contenders in this year’s Singing News Fan Awards.  He keeps singing like this it won’t be his last.
  • I am a sucker for a nice up-tempo traditional Southern Gospel quartet song.  There have been plenty throughout the genre’s history.  The Anchormen go back and cover a classic, classic.  One song old enough that it sounds brand new.  You have to hear, “I’m Ready” and good luck if you don’t end up repeating this song several times before finishing the recording.
  • It was good to see Terry Carter, an original member of the group, return several years ago.  He defines the Anchormen, in my opinion.  My first memories of the Anchormen in the late 1980’s was Terry’s emcee work and commanding baritone vocal.  Terry is featured on the album’s opening number, “Walking On”.  Another fun up-tempo song that will have you singing along.
  • Congrats to the Anchormen on producing/releasing a recording they can be proud of.  I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this newest effort.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “The Hand Of The Lord”, “I’m Ready”, “Walking On”, “I Heard About A Man”, “I’m Gonna Run” and “Wherever I Am”.
CRITIQUE:
  • Will Lane is a very talented bass singer.  He is featured on three classics; “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings”, “Run On” and “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power”.  How many times have these songs already been recorded, especially “Run On”.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Run On” and “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings”.

WRAP UP:

There have been some decent Southern Gospel quartet recordings released thus far in 2016.  You can add the Anchormen’s, Strength Renewed to that list.  Give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Walking On”/Ensemble; Terry – Michael Wayne Smith  2. “Thank You Lord For Your Blessings“/Will – James Easter  3. “Hand On The Plow”/Phillip – Shane Roark  4. “I Heard About A Man”/Chris – Paul Rhoden  5. “Run On”/Will – Traditional  6. “I’m Ready”/Ensemble – David Hill  7. “Wherever I Am”/Phillip – Shara McKee  8. “The Hand Of The Lord“/Ensemble; Chris – John Mathis, Rebecca Peck  9. “I’m Gonna Run”/Phillip – Traditional  10. “The Blood Will Never Lose It’s Power”/Will – Andrae Crouch

*Video Credit (The Anchormen – Topic)

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