Buzz Worthy 2017: “When Grandpa Sang Amazing Grace”

buzzworthyThis week’s buzz worthy clip comes from the Nelons.  The group released two new albums in 2016 and both were among the top ten in my annual countdown.

The latest single from the album, Family Harmony, is in tribute to the late Rex Nelon.  Autumn and Amber share verses on this folk infused tune.

“When Grandpa Sang Amazing Grace” was penned by Barbara Huffman and Wayne Haun.

American Evangelicalism And The Future Of Southern Gospel Music

evangelicalOn January 12, 2017, I put up a poll asking my readers to choose the evangelical denomination with which they associate.  Some of you may have thought I have forgotten about that, but I haven’t.

The reason for the poll coincides with a periodic year-long commentary on American evangelicalism and the future of Southern Gospel music.

The next post on this commentary will take a look at the roots of American evangelicalism.  From there I want to approach how out of this religious culture, what we now know as Southern Gospel music was born.

I will take a look at how the Southern Gospel industry went from a wholesome Christian entertainment industry to the use of the ‘ministry’ label for artists to market themselves.  This transition occurred in the late 1960s, early 1970s.

I will close the commentary by discussing the American evangelical landscape in 2017 and how its loss of cultural influence will ultimately hinder the future of Southern Gospel music, unless the industry re-brands itself.

POLL STATS OF MY READERSHIP

  • Baptist Affiliated Denominations = 48%
  • Pentecostal Affiliated Denominations = 22%
  • Other (Non-Affiliated) = 9%
  • Methodist = 6%
  • Mennonite = 4%
  • Anglican = 3%

Simply: Sisters

sisters2017simplyGRADE:  B+

  • Album – Simply
  • Artist – Sisters
  • Label – Custom
  • Style – Progressive, Inspirational, CCM
  • Release Date – 02/17/17
  • Available For Digital Download? – YES

SYNOPSIS:

This week we take a look at the new album from Sisters, Simply.  As a listener, I was wondering when Sisters was going to release a new album.  This is the first album from the trio since 2014’s, Atmosphere.

Simply picks up where Atmosphere left off, giving listeners a more CCM, inspirational sound/style.  The album is filled with reflective, soothing ballads.

As a Southern Gospel listener, don’t let that deter you from Simply.  There are several strong numbers that will find a home on Southern Gospel radio and in your musical playlists.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Heather (Ruppe Bennett) and Kim (Ruppe Sheffield) trade verses on the album’s stand out track, “It Was Finished On The Cross”.  Church choir members should already know this Regi Stone Easter song.  This happens to be the first radio single from Simply.  It could easily be a top ten hit!
  • The most Southern Gospel friendly song on Simply is the country flavored up-tempo number, “Another Day”.  This song will hearken listeners back to the Ruppe days in Southern Gospel.
  • Kim continues to prove why she is one of Southern Gospel’s greatest female vocalists.  Her performance on the reflective, worshipful ballad, “Still” deserves a listen.
  • Youngest sibling, Valerie (Ruppe Medkiff), is allowed to shine on the funky, mid-tempo, “So Smile”.
  • “A Day Will Come” starts with an exquisite 50 second musical opening that turns into an album highlight.  Valerie takes the lead on another song that could find a home at Southern Gospel radio.
  • Jeremy Medkiff and Gordon Mote joined with Sisters to produce this elegant, sophisticated arrangement recording that will impress the staunchest of listeners.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “It Was Finished On The Cross”, “Another Day”, “Still”, “To Be Forgiven”, “A Day Will Come”, “So Smile” and “God Loves The Broken”.
CRITIQUE:
  • From listening to the recording, you can tell Sisters was going for a reflective, ballad heavy recording.  Total listening time for the ten song recording clocks in just under 43 minutes.
  • The stylistic approach to Simply may not appeal to a portion of Southern Gospel listeners.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Soar” and “Never Too Broken”.

WRAP UP:

I have followed the music of the Ruppes since the early 1990’s.  The Ruppe siblings continue that tradition as Sisters.  As already mentioned, Simply is an exquisite, beautifully arranged piece of musical art.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “For You”/Kim – Jason Cox, Gordon Mote, Sue C Smith, Kenna West  2. “A Day Will Come“/Valerie – Lee Black, Sue C Smith, Kenna West  3. “Soar“/Kim – Meredith Andrews, Mia Fields, Seth Mosle  4. “It Was Finished On The Cross”/Heather; Kim – Kristie Braselton, Regi Stone  5. “God Loves The Broken”/Heather – Jeff Ferguson, Regi Stone  6. “So Smile”/Valerie – Lee Black, Ben Storie  7. “Still”/Kim – Igor Alexandre, Elena Veronica Haefeli, Tonra  8. “Another Day“/Kim – Lee Black, Michael Farren, Kenna West  9. “Never Too Broken”/Kim – Simon Hawkins, Michael Puryear, James Tealey  10. “To Be Forgiven”/Valerie – Michael Waddle

Best Album Openers: “Meet Me At The Table”

kingsmen1986standupmaxLets start a new week by taking a look at another of Southern Gospel’s best album openers.

That opening song on an album sets the tone for the entire recording.  It is even more important when the artist is recording a live album.

This week’s best album opener comes from the Kingsmen’s 1986 live recording, Stand Up At Opryland USA.  The Kingsmen were in fact kings of the live recording.  They recorded more live albums than any other artist in Southern Gospel music.

“Meet Me At The Table” is one of the Kingsmen’s best album openers.  Ronny Hinson and Mike Payne came together to pen this, now, classic.

Southern Gospel Tidbits

DID YOU KNOW?:  Tim Surrett (of Kingsmen fame) spent several years in the early/mid 1980’s with a quartet out of western North Carolina, the Carolinians.  Tim was also a resident songwriter of the group having penned several songs during his tenure.

Speaking of Surrett’s Kingsmen connection, his current bluegrass group, Balsam Range recorded and singled his biggest performance with the Kingsmen, “Wish You Were Here”.

Buzz Worthy 2017: “Reach Of His Hand”

buzzworthyThis week’s buzz worthy clip comes from solo artist John Bowman.  John toured many years with the Isaacs and is the husband of Isaacs member Becky Bowman.

John’s latest album, Beautiful Ashes, released in December 2015.  The third single from the recording, “Reach Of His Hand”, is a song every Southern Gospel listener should have in their musical playlists.

Penned by Sonya Isaacs and Tim Surrett, “Reach Of His Hand” was originally recorded by the Isaacs on their 2000 recording, Stand Still.

The Gospel: Lauren Talley

talleyGRADE:  B-

  • Album – The Gospel
  • Artist – Lauren Talley
  • Label – Horizon Records
  • Style – Progressive
  • Release Date – 02/10/17
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (Apple Music)

SYNOPSIS:

The Gospel is the first solo album for Lauren Talley since Songs In The Night (2010).  Lauren also took more of a songwriter role on The Gospel, helping co-write four of the ten songs.

The Gospel is similar in style to what Lauren has provided Southern Gospel listeners in the past; progressive Southern Gospel sounds tilting toward CCM.

The album is an even mix of new music and previously recorded songs.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • It is fitting the best song on The Gospel is the Dawn Thomas penned classic, “I Am Not Ashamed”.  Originally recorded and made popular by Janet Paschal, Lauren Talley adds her own signature to this must listen!
  • Lauren teamed with Cindy Morgan and Kenna West to provide listeners the best new song on the album, “Everything”.  The song is actually a duet with CCM legend, Cindy Morgan.  This would make a great choice for radio single possibilities.
  • The Gospel offers very little in the way of up-tempo songs.  “The God Who Never Changes” is the one exception.  Another Lauren Talley co-write.
  • The other up-tempo number is a duet with Gordon Mote, “I Hear A Song”.  There is enough good things in the most Southern Gospel friendly song on the album to warrant a listen.
  • The Gospel closes on a duet with Riley Harrison Clark.  The performance and lyric make up for the fact the melody was a rip off of “Danny Boy”.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Everything”, “I Am Not Ashamed”, “The God Who Never Changes”, “I Hear A Song”, “Our Song Will Be Jesus” and “What Grace Is Mine”.
CRITIQUE:
  • When you have a ten song recording run 41 minutes, it can become tiring for the listener.  The lack of up-tempo songs on The Gospel contributes to this issue.
  • I have a problem with songwriter’s ‘ripping off’ old melodies in an attempt to create something new.  “What Grace Is Mine” using the melody of “Danny Boy” is a lack of creativity.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Hallelujah What A Savior” and “The Cradle, The Crown & The Crown”.

WRAP UP:

Lauren Talley has already proven to Southern Gospel listeners she is one of the industry’s great female vocalists.  The Gospel reinforces that point.  If you’ve been a long time listener of her music, you will want to add The Gospel to your collection.

SONG (Style – All Progressive Southern Gospel) – Songwriter:  1. “I Believe”/with Brian Free & Assurance – Travis Cottrell  2. “The Cradle, The Cross & The Crown” – Mike Spanhanks  3. “I Am Not Ashamed” – Dawn Thomas  4. “I Hear A Song”/with Gordon Mote – Lauren Talley, Kenna West, Tony Wood  5. “Everything”/with Cindy Morgan – Cindy Morgan, Lauren Talley, Kenna West  6. “The God Who Never Changes” – Lauren Talley, Kenna West, Tony Wood  7. “Our Song Will Be Jesus” – Lee Black, Lauren Talley, Kenna West  8. “The Blood Of Jesus Speaks For Me” – Travis Cottrell   9. “Hallelujah, What A Savior” – Traditional  10. “What Grace Is Mine”/with Riley Harrison Clark – Kristyn Getty

Song Hall Of Fame: “King Jesus”

Hall of Fame (350x202)It is time to honor another of Southern Gospel’s greatest compositions by placing it into the Southern Gospel song hall of fame.

Today’s inductee goes back to 1973; “King Jesus”.  A slew of artists recorded the song during this time but it was one rendition that became the most popular.  That rendition was from the Oak Ridge Boys.

The song was found on the group’s 1973 album, Street Gospel.  A year later (1974) the Oak Ridge Boys would record a live version of “King Jesus” on Gospel Gold.

Maurice Delamont is honored by writing this Southern Gospel classic.