Southern Gospel: Best Heard, Not Seen??

I was talking with another Southern Gospel junkie several weeks ago.  We’ve both been around the industry and the music now for well over 30 years.

As one does in conversation, we tended to compare the music from 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago and now.  This friend made a statement, that I knew I would need to write about because I tended to agree.

He said, today’s Southern Gospel music is best heard, not seen.  When I thought about it, I knew what he was saying.  Live concerts don’t hold the same excitement or create the memories they did when artists were singing with actual musicians behind them.

I got a taste of that a month ago when I saw Goodman Revival in concert.  The excitement and spontaneity of having live musicians made the other artists on the program that night look like amateurs.

What are your thoughts on this brief statement?  Is today’s Southern Gospel music best heard, not seen?

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8 thoughts on “Southern Gospel: Best Heard, Not Seen??

  1. I 1000% agree that the live feel is not the same without a “LIVE” band, Kudos for the Goodman Revival for preserving this tradition. Gone are the days of the great bands produced by The Hinson’s, Hemphill’s, Kingsmen, Gold City, Nelons and others. I was honored to be a member and drummer of Mid South Boys, one of our musical goals was to replicate the recorded sound and bring it to life “LIVE”. I sat in on a southern gospel forum many years ago and, one of the committee members said the audience pays money to see the vocalists, not the band members, that one statement irritates me to this day! Southern Gospel Music has lost some flare and pizazz, the missing ingredient? THE LIVE BAND, Just one former band members opinion.

  2. I would also like to add here that most of the SG singers are better artists in the recording studio then live in concert. Also if the artists are so good live, why do they make concept videos to pre-existing studio cuts? I’m trying to grasp why today so many southern gospel artists are making concept videos. There are far too many trying to copy old MTV standards. That ship sailed a long time ago. The only thing that sounds good live is the Gaither projects with the studio musicians.

  3. Re: Music Videos – YouTube gives them an outlet that otherwise never existed for SG artists in years past, and they’re so inexpensive to produce now. Why not take advantage of it now that it doesn’t cost much and you have a free outlet?

    Re: Better singers in the studio – Prior to Antares, ProTools, etc., an artist had to at least TRY to get the song right in the studio. The longer a singer took in the studio to get a part right, the more it cost the group. If you couldn’t get it right fairly quickly, you became a financial liability. You HAD to be a good vocalist.

    Secondly, because you had to get it JUST RIGHT in the studio without any digital help, you were VERY familiar with your part by the time you staged the song. You had sung it over and over, so there was no reason for you NOT to get it right. Today, a vocalist will go sing a part once or twice and move on, and the engineer will fix everything later. You may sing a part one way, but when the finished album is released, it’s been altered to fit what the engineer or producer feels is correct, so what you have to re-learn the part, even after you thought (or were told) that you nailed it.

    **I had this happen to me personally on a recording. I sang the part one way, and in all the rough mixes, the part stayed the same. When the final mixes arrived, the part had been altered (incorrectly, I might add).

    What you wind up with is a group of singers who spend two days in a studio recording vocals that are anywhere from 50-80% right, and an engineer that fixes everything later. The singers then go about their live performances, singing the same wrong parts that were “fixed” in the studio.

    Then you have singers who are phenomenal vocalists but have absolutely ZERO stage presence. They may sing the snot out of a song, but have stage fright, anxiety, or just flat out no concept of how to PERFORM a song. That is where some SG groups are today. Great singers, no charisma.

    That’s why there are studio musicians and stage musicians. Studio musicians can be phenomenal instrumentalists and nail a song in one or two takes, but they may be absolute bores. Put some of them on a stage, and they’ll look like they’re about to fall asleep. Stage musicians have to take a song and adapt it to their band, then find something that is both comfortable and entertaining within the song. They may not be able to nail a song in one or two takes, but they will be playing those same songs night after night, so they have time to get comfortable with the songs, and they can put on a show.

    There are groups today that made up of very fine singers who look bored out of their minds on stage. They think all they need to do is show up and sing and that’s sufficient. There’s NO energy. Add the fact that there is NO band to interact with during those awkward turnarounds, and it’s not a very energetic experience.

  4. I always have enjoyed just a piano ,bass and drums and a steel at times. Remember The Cathedrals with only a piano and bass and they to me were better in a live performance. Also The Kingdom heirs still great with live band. What I do dislike is live performers singing along with their voices in the background on a recording like they do at NQC a lot.What it gets down to is some have got it and some don’t !!

  5. I’ll definitely agree with the statement. The only “full time” group I have seen in concert since NQC is the Kingdom Heirs. The reason for that is how disappointed I was at NQC. I enjoyed talking to artists and buying new CDs, but when it came to seeing the artists on stage, I quickly lost interest.

  6. As a former Weatherford member, Earl had 2 things he followed in recording and in live performance. Don’t use reverb on a recording if you’re not going to use it live. Secondly, he believed that the sound system only amplified what you put into it. Save the voice and let the mic do the rest. Glen Payne said if you can’t sing a song the same way on Sunday morning that you did on Saturday night, don’t do it. Again, save the voice.

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