The 1st annual Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row honors is now in the record books. I initially chose the five nominees in each category that I thought best represented Southern Gospel music in 2014. I then let you, the reader, decide on the best of the year. Here were your decisions and a brief statement of each category.
I want to thank everyone who participated in the voting rounds. While I am not a huge fan of ‘fan’ voted popularity award shows, I do enjoy an awards program that honors the best in a specific musical genre for a given year.
Recorded Song of the Year (song recorded on a 2014 release, did not have to be a radio single)
- “Say Amen” – Jason Cox/Michael Farren/Kenna Turner West; recorded by Brian Free & Assurance (Unashamed)
I am not surprised at the reader’s decision here. “Say Amen” was one of the biggest recorded songs of the year and this would not be the only win for this particular song. If I was asked to choose the winner of the five nominees, my choice would have been “Falling” by Amber Nelon Thompson. I have not heard a more exquisite song in Southern Gospel music.
Album of the Year (had to be a 2014 release)
- Your Walk Talks – Mark Trammell Quartet (Crimson Road Records)
Quartets will always dominate when stacked up against other artists, such was the case with Your Walk Talks winning album of the year. No doubt this was Mark Trammell Quartet’s best album release to date. My choice would have been Church In The Kitchen by the Dunaways.
Radio Single of the Year (had to be a chart hit from January 2014 to current)
- “Long Live The King” – Chris Binion/Dianne Wilkinson; recorded by Old Paths (These Truths)
The readers gave the Old Paths a couple of wins in 2014 including radio single of the year. You and I were on the same page with this category as “Long Live The King” was also my choice.
Song Cover of the Year (a previously recorded song covered on a 2014 album release)
- “When He Calls, I’ll Fly Away” – Talleys (The Test Of Time); Vep Ellis
If the readers were not choosing traditional quartet options, you were going for traditional quartet songs. The Talleys cover of “When He Call, I’ll Fly Away” dominated the song cover of the year category. Good choice, but I would have given the honor to Master’s Voice for their cover of “The Saving Kind”.
- “Say Amen” – Brian Free & Assurance
“Say Amen” picked up a second win with short form (concept) video of the year. The popularity of the song definitely carried over to the video win. I particularly loved the mainstream country treatment given to the Freemans video for “Where I’ve Been”. That would have been my choice.
- Dianne Wilkinson
No one can argue the choice for songwriter of the year. I was glad to see Kenna Turner West rising among the ranks of well deserved songwriters and see her finished second to Dianne.
- Jason Cox/Michael Farrren/Kenna Turner West
Give “Say Amen” its third win for the year as the songwriting collaboration team of Jason Cox, Michael Farren and Kenna Turner West win the songwriting collab of the year. Just like my recorded song choice, I would have chosen Gina Boe, Ronnie Freeman and Tony Wood the win for collaborating on “Falling”.
- Old Paths
Even though “Say Amen” dominated and gave Brian Free & Assurance (3) wins, the Old Paths would win the quartet prize. This gave the Old Paths two wins for the year. Good to see this quartet finally getting recognition. Old Paths would have also been my choice for 2014.
Mixed Group (at least 4 vocalists)
The Nelons moving to a four vocal configuration allowed them to pull off a win for mixed group of the year. The music this group has given Southern Gospel listening audiences the last several years makes this a well deserved honor. The Nelons were my choice as well.
Duo/Trio (no more than 3 vocalists)
- Greater Vision
When the Booth Brothers are not a contender for trio, you are guaranteed that Greater Vision will be there to claim the prize. Greater Vision did have a great year with the success of radio songs from their For All He’s Done album. If I was looking at just 2014, I would have given the prize to 11th Hour.
- Taranda Greene
Stronger will end up being one of the top album releases of 2014. Taranda has already proven she is one of the top female voices in any genre of music. Well deserved win; my choice as well.
Erwins fans came out in force and crushed the competition for new artist of the year. Erwins fans know what they were talking about because the Erwins was also my choice for best new artist of 2014.
Most Underrated (based on 2014 releases/hit singles)
- Ball Brothers
The Ball Brothers have been around Southern Gospel music now for nearly a decade and still get very little recognition. Winning most underrated is fitting. The artist I would have chosen fits in to the same mold; the Dunaways.
Cutting Edge (artists who create their own sound/think outside the box)
- Brian Free & Assurance
As you already see, Brian Free & Assurance were the big winners of 2014. Winning cutting edge gave the group their 4th honor. My choice for the year would have gone to Akins.
Concert Performer/Touring Artist (artists selling out venues in 2014)
- Booth Brothers
After the Collingsworth Family led this category for most of the week it was up, the Booth Brothers squeaked out a win in the end, proving they are still at the height of their popularity. If I was hand picking the winners, the Collingsworth Family would have been my choice.
- Kim Collingsworth (Collingsworth Family)
No surprise Kim Collingsworth was honored with pianist of the year. Fans love her. My choice would have been Michael Howard with Soul’d Out Quartet.
- Ben Isaacs (Isaacs) – Bass
Bass playing Ben Isaacs was honored with musician of the year. All five of the nominees were deserving. My choice for 2014 would have been Eli Akin.
- Chris Allman (Greater Vision)
No arguments here. My readers and I were on the same page.
- Arthur Rice (Kingdom Heirs)
After years of nominations in the major ‘fan’ voted award shows, readers of Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row finally give Arthur Rice a lead singer of the year honor. Long overdue. As overdue as it was, my choice of 2014 would have been Tim Rackley (Old Paths) by a small margin.
- Mark Trammell (Mark Trammell Quartet)
Another win that is hard to argue. In this case with a solo album release in 2014 I would have gone with Doug Anderson.
- Jeff Chapman (Kingdom Heirs)
Just like band mate Arthur Rice, Jeff Chapman has never been given the recognition as bass singer. Readers have rectified that in 2014.
- Libbi Stuffle (Perrys)
Libbi Stuffle is always an obvious choice when looking at alto vocalists. Another good year for Libbi on radio with the success of “I Can Trust Him”. While Libbi is always deserving I would have leaned slightly to Kelly Nelon Clark in 2014.
- Amber Thompson (Nelons)
Amber Thompson has continued her winning streaks of late. The readers and I agree on this choice.
- Gerald Wolfe (Greater Vision)
While a little long-winded at times there is no denying Gerald Wolfe will go down as one of Southern Gospel’s greatest emcee’s of all time. To move from humor, to serious, to read a crowd and change a program accordingly. Only the best can do this with precision.
- National Quartet Convention (Pigeon Forge, TN)
Even with the less than stellar reviews of its first year in Pigeon Forge TN, the National Quartet Convention is still the most popular Southern Gospel fan event. This event dominated its competition in this category.