2011 Blogging Year In Review

As we get ready to turn over a new year and look ahead to 2012, I thought my readers would want to know what interested you the most as it concerned this blog in 2011.  By looking at individual post visits, these were the topics that got the most views by you, the reader.

  1. Album Reviews – six of the top ten most viewed posts of 2011 were artist album reviews.  That is a bit surprising considering I wasn’t doing album reviews when I started this blog and never intended on doing them.  When I started receiving recordings to review I decided to go ahead and do them.  Now it seems it is one of the most valued parts of what I do according to the readers.
  2. NQC recaps – It is not surprising September had the most site visits of any month all year.  As much as folks try to write off the validity of the National Quartet Convention, readers still want to know all the happenings and thoughts on what is going on.  As long as that continues, I will continue offering highlights each year of NQC.
  3. The Church Across The Street – The most read individual commentary of 2011 was my post and thoughts on the song “The Church Across The Street”.  A top 10 song for Susan Whisnant in 2011, this commentary got a lot of attention.
  4. Nancy Harmon – It seems the readers couldn’t get enough of a YouTube clip I posted of Nancy Harmon singing her hit song, “I’ve Come Too Far”.  It was the fifth most viewed post of 2011.
  5. Smack Down!! – A feature I introduced when I started this blog still continues to be a favorite of readers.  Expect more smack down in 2012.
  6. Ten On Ten – A new feature I introduced in 2011 was the ten on ten feature that highlight the top 10 albums of Southern Gospel’s biggest artists.  This feature caught on quickly and was one of the most viewed features of the last quarter of 2011.  Expect more in the new year.

I am continually amazed by the fact that individuals continue to stop by and read this site on a daily basis.  While I am far from being considered an expert, my years around this music and amassing a fairly large collection of Southern Gospel, I can at least provide some insight on not only what is currently being offered by artists but also on the history of this genre’s great music.

As we look ahead to 2012, expect more of the same.  This blog will remain a Southern Gospel MUSIC blog and will present Southern Gospel music in the many forms that are offered by the many artists that make up this genre.  The most popular features of this blog will return in 2012 and I already have a few new features in the works that will start in the new year.

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Best Of 2011 – Most Played Radio Songs

The amount of Southern Gospel music I listen to in the course of a year is staggering when I take the time to reflect.  What are you currently listening to is a question I get asked often.  In the course of a year I am an equal opportunity listener.  I hear the good, the bad and the ugly.  So I decided I would go back over the course of the last year and look at my most played songs.  Technology is a wonderful thing in that there are programs that can track every time you listen to a specific song.

So I decided I would look at just songs that were radio singles during the year 2011.  I then ranked those songs by most plays and this was the result.  So what was I listening to in 2011?  Here is a list of my 40 most played radio songs from this year.  What were some of your favorite radio songs from 2011?

  1. You Do Not Owe Me – Phil Cross
  2. Evidence Of Love – Chris Hester
  3. Until The Storm In Over – Michael Wayne Smith
  4. When He Chose Me – Tony Gore & Majesty
  5. Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored – Gaither Vocal Band
  6. Never Walk Alone – Brian Free & Assurance
  7. Blue Skies Coming – Perrys
  8. How Blessed – Bowling Family
  9. On The Banks Of The Promised Land – Karen Peck & New River
  10. The Love Of God For Me – Nelons
  11. Unredeemed – Martins
  12. He’s Everything I Need – Kingsmen
  13. Saved By Grace – Triumphant Quartet
  14. Mercy Always Finds A Way – Crystal River
  15. I Recall – Dove Brothers
  16. Don’t That Sound Like Heaven – Palmetto State Quartet
  17. I Was There When It Happened – Voices Won
  18. I Believe – Brian Free & Assurance
  19. Something’s Happening – Hoppers
  20. Dawning Of A New Day – Tony Gore & Majesty
  21. Love Came Calling – Triumphant Quartet
  22. Any Day Now – Akins
  23. Special Love – Karen Peck & New River
  24. Calvary Stands In My Way – Michael Wayne Smith
  25. Unforgiven – Adam Crabb
  26. Everything The Blood Touches Lives – Master’s Voice
  27. I Go To Jesus – Paid In Full
  28. Take It Up With Jesus – Mark Lowry
  29. Well Done, Well Done – Kim Hopper
  30. Set Me Free From Me – Heaven’s Highway
  31. The Coming Of The King – Beyond The Ashes
  32. Victory Shall Be Mine – Hoppers
  33. Land Of No Goodbyes – Browders
  34. God Delivers Again – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
  35. What If God Says No – Akins
  36. Pray Anyway – Bowling Family
  37. There Is A Way – Nelons
  38. He’s Living Today – Whisnants
  39. The Heaven I’m Headed To – Crawford Crossing
  40. When There’s No Hope (There Is Grace) – Dunaways

Best Of 2011 – #1

The time has come to crown the #1 album and recorded song of 2011.  It took until the end of the year for the best album of 2011 to be released, November in fact.  It had been two years since the release of the group’s last album. The wait was well worth it as the group ended up releasing one of the best album’s of their career.

#1 among the best album releases of 2011 is the Isaacs, Why Can’t We.  The Isaacs have a way of delivering a lyric with passion and sincerity.  Group members Becky Bowman and Sonya Isaacs have also become one of the best songwriting teams in Southern Gospel music.  The duo delivers the goods on Why Can’t We, offering messages of hope, healing and answering the listener on those ‘why’ moments we all experience in life.

This album had just enough to edge out Wilburn and Wilburn’s Family Ties recording to claim the top spot for 2011.  The year had some strong album releases but few were ‘landmark’ albums for the respective artist.  The Isaacs, Why Can’t We, happened to be a ‘landmark’ album for the group ranking as one of the best of their career and is the #1 album of 2011.

Personal favorite songs from this recording include:  “Waiting In The Water”, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It”, “Why Can’t We”, “I Still Trust You”, “You Can’t Take My Joy”, “I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary”, “He Knows All About It”, “Why” and “Four Men Walkin’ Around”.

                                                                                                                                                  The consistency of Karen Peck and New River lands them a top the list of best recorded songs of 2011.  The song became another #1 hit for the group in the fall and anchored one of the best album releases of the year, Reach Out.

The #1 recorded song of 2011 is “On The Banks Of The Promised Land” by Karen Peck and New River.  The song was the brain child of writers Jason Dyba, David Moffitt and Sue Smith.  The inspiration for the song came after the passing of David’s grandfather.  Karen added that special vocal touch with some great harmony singing by group member Jeff Hawes to create a song that will be sung and remembered for years to come.

‘Hallelujah, what a morning, when I reach for that nail scarred hand.  And I’m led from grace to glory on the banks of the promised land.’  Listen to the first verse and chorus to the #1 recorded song of 2011; “On The Banks Of The Promised Land”.

Best Of 2011 – #2

I trust everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday.  As we close out 2011 and look ahead to 2012, there is an annual count down to finish.  One more day will crown the #1 album and recorded song of 2011.  First, lets honor the album and recorded song that rank #2 among the best of the year.

Wilburn and Wilburn released their debut album in September; Family Ties.  There was anticipation surrounding this recording, wondering what would be offered to the listener considering Jonathan’s quartet background.  At first listen, I was blown away by how different this recording was compared to what I was expecting.  It far exceeded my expectation because Wilburn and Wilburn threw hard-driving country melodies, bluegrass tinged tracks and even blues flavored vocals into a stellar Southern Gospel recording.

Ben Isaacs should be commended on his production work.  He brought out the best in each musical track and they seemed to fit the vocals perfectly.  I am glad Jonathan Wilburn didn’t take the easy road and record/release just another average Southern Gospel album that would be long forgotten after a few listens.  This album has remained in my iPod rotation since the first listen.  Wilburn and Wilburn does have a huge hurdle in front of them; how are they going to top this debut effort?  This album just missed being named the #1 album of 2011 by a thin margin.  What album beat it to claim the #1 spot?  Find out tomorrow.

Personal favorite songs from this recording include:  “Devil Be Gone”, “Jesus Will”, “A Cross Became My Saving Grace”, “It’s A Shore Thing”, “I Ain’t Giving Up On Jesus”, “You’ll Still Be There”, “I John”, “Family Ties” and “Things I’ve Never Done”.

I guess it is fitting that Wilburn and Wilburn would also have the song ranked at #2 among the best recorded songs of 2011.  “Devil Be Gone” was an instant ‘hit repeat’ song when first listening to Family Ties.  The slick production and hard-driving country melody could land it on any mainstream country music station.  What disqualifies it from mainstream country radio is the straight ahead Gospel lyric.

Kelly Garner and Dianne Wilkinson should be commended on writing a great song.  Ben Isaacs also has to be given kudos on the musical direction he took this song.  The musical interlude in the middle of this song is one of the best you’ll hear on any song all year.  #2 among the best recorded songs of 2011 is “Devil Be Gone” by Wilburn and Wilburn.  Take a listen to the second verse, chorus and musical interlude.

Tomorrow:  the #1 album and recorded song of 2011.

Best Of 2011 – #3

The big three are here.  The final three in the count down of the best albums and recorded songs of 2011.  The Martins returned to the Southern Gospel recording scene in 2011.  New Day was the trio’s first new album in eight years.  Picking up right where they left off, the Martins offered the listener their progressive Southern Gospel sounds with some modern country and pop stylings mixed in throughout.

Jay Demarcus’ production work was flawless, bringing out the best vocally in all three members.  While some may consider New Day too progressive to be considered a Southern Gospel album, it doesn’t stray that far from what the Martins have offered the Southern Gospel listener in the past.  My boundaries for what I classify as Southern Gospel is also a lot broader than some.  While the style found on New Day may not be to every Southern Gospel listener’s liking, it doesn’t diminish the fact that the album ranks #3 among the best Southern Gospel albums of 2011.

Personal favorite songs from this recording include:  “Unredeemed”, “I Surrender”, “The Truth”, “New Day”, “Tell Them That I Love Them”, “Somebody Like Me”, “Good To Me” and “Love Enough”.

It just so happens the Martins also claim the #3 spot in the best recorded songs of the year.  Covering the CCM song “Unredeemed”, Judy Hess took this lyric and conveyed it to the listener in a way the original CCM version did not.

Penned by Chad Cates, Brian Petak and Tony Wood, “Unredeemed” is a rare case where the Southern Gospel cover version actually bests the CCM original.  Southern Gospel music is built around songs of redemption.  The way in which the writers took that concept and used the word unredeemed as the title, allows the listener to really listen to the song and understand that redemption is the message being conveyed in the song.

Listen to the first verse and chorus of the song that sits at #3 among the best recorded songs of the year; “Unredeemed”.

Coming on Tuesday (12/27/11):  #2.

Best Of 2011 – #4

The best of 2011 is nearly wrapped up.  Today brings the album and recorded song that is #4 among the best of the year.  New trio Beyond The Ashes has been at it now for a little over three years.  2011 brought the release of the group’s first major label album.  Treasures Unseen was a power house start for Beyond The Ashes and is #4 among the best album releases of 2011.

Group owner and tenor singer Anthony Facello is about to celebrate his 20th anniversary of singing professional Southern Gospel music.  Starting his career in the early ’90s with Heaven Bound and also spending time with the Journeymen Quartet, Mercy’s Mark and now Beyond The Ashes.  Treasures Unseen has a fresh sound, on the progressive side of Southern Gospel.  Also, the song arrangements found on Treasures Unseen enhance the vocal ability of the trio.

Personal favorite songs from this recording include:  “Treasures Unseen”, “Whenever We Pray”, “What I Have I Give”, “We’ll Soon Be Done With Troubles And Trials”, “When I Look Upon My Savior’s Face”, “The Coming Of The King” and “Test Of Time”.

As most of my regular readers are aware I battled some health issues in 2011.  There were songs I heard in 2011 that spoke to me in my situation and held a special place as the year continued.  One such song is the song found at #4 among the best recorded songs of 2011.

Singer/songwriter Michael Wayne Smith is still new to the majority of Southern Gospel music listeners.  I discovered Michael’s music about a year and a half ago.  I enjoy listening to songwriters interpret their own compositions.  The song found at #4 for 2011 is “Until The Storm Is Over”.  Even now when I listen to this song it brings back the memories of the struggles I faced earlier in the year and while I’d rather not remember, it also allows me to see where I am now, on the other side of the storm.

Thank you Michael Wayne Smith for writing this song; a song that means a lot to me.  Listen to the first verse and chorus.

Tomorrow:  #3.

Best Of 2011 – #5

The Christmas holiday is upon us as we kick off another week.  We continue to take a look at the best albums and recorded songs of 2011.  We’ve made it to the top five for the year.  The best quartet album release of 2011 comes in at #5.  Holding down that spot is Somebody’s Coming by Gold City.  When was the last time Gold City and the Kingsmen had the two best quartet albums released during the same year?

An album that was several years in the making as a result of personnel changes, finally hit retail in November.  Overall, the album was worth the wait.  Somebody’s Coming may not go down as one of Gold City’s best albums, but it is one of the best albums released in 2011.  Strong song selection, slick production and Tim Riley back holding down the low notes all warrant a top five ranking for this recording.

Does this mean Gold City is back, ready to stake a claim as the elite quartet in Southern Gospel music?  That is a question that is still too early to answer.  A little stability and more quality album releases will sure help in that goal.

Personal favorite songs from this recording include:  “Leave That Burden”, “Showers Of Blessings”, “Lord Of Life”, “Somebody’s Coming”, “Footprints On The Water” and “I Have An Anchor”.

The Isaacs have had another great year in terms of album releases.  The group’s 2011 release Why Can’t We contained several stellar songs to be considered among the best recorded songs of the year.  The stand out track and top choice comes in at the #5 among the best recorded songs of 2011.

“Waiting In The Water”, penned by group members Becky Bowman, Sonya Isaacs and Jimmy Yeary, relates the story of the man waiting by the water for his miracle in the first verse.  The second verse then brings that message to the listener.  A message of faith and hope in walking on and believing that our miracle is in sight.

Listen to the second verse and chorus to “Waiting In The Water”, #5 among the best recorded songs of 2011.

Tomorrow:  #4.

Best Of 2011 – #6

Lets close out another week and take a look at the album and recorded song at #6 for 2011.  One of the most consistent recording artists in Southern Gospel music is Karen Peck and New River.  From their debut album to current, this trio has provided the listener with Southern Gospel music and a mix of country and light pop sounds that are now uniquely New River.

The album that lands at #6 among the best releases of 2011 is Reach Out.  Filled with lyrically strong material and two of the best recorded songs of 2011, as is evidenced in this annual count down, Reach Out should keep radio busy with airplay.  Karen Peck Gooch, Susan Jackson and Jeff Hawes combine to release one of the best albums of the year, at #6.

Personal favorite songs from this recording include:  “On The Banks Of The Promised Land”, “Broken Into Beautiful”, “This Is What Mercy Does”, “Faithful Love Of Jesus”, “Sustaining Grace”, “Good Things Are Happening” and “Mighty Big God”.

Crabb Revival released Going Places back in February 2011.  At the same time it was announced the group would no longer be touring and Adam Crabb would venture out as a solo artist.  If it wasn’t for the disbandment of Crabb Revival, Going Places may have been among the top 20 albums of the year.

There were several songs from that particular album that were considered among the best recorded songs of the year.  One song was strong enough to rank #6 among the best recorded songs of 2011.  Gerald Crabb must have been listening to the Wilburn’s classic “God’s Promised Land” when writing “The Crossing”.  The verses to both songs are eerily similar musically.

Since he is now touring as a solo artist, I’ll credit Adam Crabb as having #6 among the best recorded songs of 2011 with “The Crossing”.  Listen to the first verse and chorus.

Monday will kick off the final five:  #5.