DID YOU KNOW?: Roger Fortner, currently with the McKameys, has had a long career dating back to the early 1970’s with the Inspirations. Roger also spent time with the Singing Americans, Hoppers and the Greenes at one time in his career. Roger has only showed his singing prowess over the course of the last decade with the McKameys.
- Album – Pray For Me
- Artist – Inspirations
- Label – Horizon Records
- Style – Traditional
- Release Date – 01/08/16
- Available For Digital Download? – Yes (Apple Music/Spotify)
Catching up with one album review this week, missed when originally released; the Inspirations, Pray For Me.
The Inspirations are an institution in Southern Gospel music. Their simple Appalachian quartet style has been the same since the group hit the scene in the early 1960’s. The group saw their biggest decade in the 1970’s.
Pray For Me offers a lot of elements, including song covers, that hearken the listener back to the group’s prime of the 1970’s.
- In the many personnel changes the group has seen over the last several years, the biggest gains with the current vocal line-up is having Harold Reed on tenor and Joe Brown on bass. These two scream classic Inspirations.
- One such song is the up tempo, “Surely I Come Quickly”. The song features tenor Harold Reed and is classics Inspirations. But one only need to look at the song credits to see that it is a new song penned by Dianne Wilkinson.
- While not pictured on the recording, former Inspiration Melton Campbell is called on to take two features. The first, is hands down the best song on the album; “God’s Already There”. Another new song, this should be an easy choice for radio single possibilities.
- Melton also takes the lead on another stand out track, “What All The Shoutin’s About”. Another classic Inspirations up tempo song that will having you hitting repeat.
- Another, is “Onward To The Goal”. Rebecca Peck and Dianne Wilkinson penned the former and the latter. A must listen.
- Newest bass vocalist, Joe Brown, gets a chance to shine on the classic; “Pray For Me”. This was chosen as the first single and selected as the album title. Not the strongest on the recording, but good to hear this classic Dottie Rambo number.
- Scott Barnett, Jeff Collins and Martin Cook shared producing duties on Pray For Me.
- Strongest songs included in order: “God’s Already There”, “Surely I Come Quickly”, “Onward To The Goal”, “What All The Shoutin’s About”, “Pray For Me” and “It’s All Under The Blood”.
- If you are going to have a former member perform vocally on your recording, why would you not feature them on the cover?
- Classic song covers tend to weigh down Inspiration recordings. Such is the case with “Child Of The King” and “Sweet Beulah Land”. Although, I have to give the group props for turning in a nice a cappella rendition of the song.
- Weakest songs included in order: “Child Of The King” and “Sweet Beulah Land”.
The Inspirations are part of the 50 club; artists that have had 50+ year careers in Southern Gospel music. Their consistent sound shouldn’t be frowned upon; it is who they are. Why change that now? Inspiration fans will love adding Pray For Me to their musical playlists.
SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter: 1. “Daniel Prayed”/Ensemble – George Speer 2. “God’s Already There“/Melton – Joseph Habedank, Leah Sandlin 3. “Pray For Me”/Ensemble; Joe – Jimmie Davis, Dottie Rambo 4. “Child Of The King”/Joe – Cindy Walker 5. “Surely I Come Quickly”/Harold – Dianne Wilkinson 6. “It’s Under The Blood”/Matt – Leonard Fletcher 7. “Onward To The Goal”/Ensemble; Harold – Rebecca Peck, Dianne Wilkinson 8. “What All The Shoutin’s About”/Melton – Rebecca Peck, Dianne Wilkinson 9. “Jesus Picked A Rose”/Matt – Rebecca Peck 10. “Sweet Beulah Land”/Harold – Squire Parsons
*Video Credit (Various Artists – Topic)
During this era, the Singing News was muddied with all styles of Christian music, making an impact at the time. They did try to be everything to everyone. It wasn’t until around 1983 when Singing News shifted to focus on just Southern Gospel music.
That didn’t mean, the Southern Gospel artists at this time still didn’t dominate the radio singles chart. The Inspirations, “A Wedding Invitation”, was #4 on the March 1980 Singing News top 40. Penned by John Terry Frost, “A Wedding Invitation” was found on the Inspirations 1979 album; Have Something To Sing About.
- Louisville beat UCLA 59-54 in the 42nd NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
- Willard Scott became the weather forecaster on the Today Show.
- JR is shot on the hit TV series, Dallas.
- Mt St Helens became active after 123 years.
*Video Credit (Southern Gospel Music)
The 1970’s had plenty of mama songs from “Mama” to “Mama’s Last Amen” to “Heaven Will Never Welcome A Sweeter Mama” to “Mama Needs No Marker” to “Mama’s Alto” to “Mama’s Bible” to “Hello Mama”. You get the picture.
While the majority will agree they love their mama and several ‘mama’ songs are good, the majority come off cheesy. Of all the ‘mama’ songs written in the history of the genre, the least remarkable is the song ranked 15th; “Shake Hands With Mother Again”.
I believe the song can be attributed to W.A. Berry and was first recorded in Southern Gospel music in 1967. The most noted version of the song came from the Inspirations in the 1970’s, recorded on their 12th Anniversary Live recording in 1976.
Why is this particular ‘mama’ song the least remarkable? I believe the last thing one would do when they see their mother again is shake her hand. You’re not conducting a business transaction. Here is the Inspirations version of the song, “Shake Hands With Mother Again”.
The Cathedrals were enjoying their first wave of success winning group of the year at the Singing News fan awards. Heaven Bound won song of the year in 1982 with “Canaanland Is Just In Sight”. The Nelons also had a good year with Rex winning male vocalist and Kelly winning female vocalist.
“We Shall Behold Him won the song of the year at the Dove Awards for Dottie Rambo while the Rex Nelon Singers picked up Southern Gospel album of the year for One Step Closer.
The twenty best albums released in Southern Gospel music in 1982 are:
- Something Special – Cathedrals (Canaan)
- Chosen – Goodmans (Canaan)
- Hinsongs – Hinsons (Calvary)
- Live – Gold City (Heart Warming)
- Antioch Church Choir (Uncle Jesse) – Dixie Melody Boys (Lifeline)
- It’s Out Of This World – Paynes (Windchime)
- Sensational – Singing Americans (Mark Five)
- Feeling At Home – Rex Nelon Singers (Canaan)
- The Broken Rose – Squire Parsons (Dawn)
- Your Ride’s On The Way – Kingsmen (Heart Warming)
- Genuine – Heaven Bound (Windchime)
- Someday – Inspirations (Canaan)
- Come To The Wedding – Hoppers (Lifeline)
- All Together Now – Wendy Bagwell & Sunliters (Canaan)
- Assurance – Dixie Echoes (MorningStar)
- And Friends Live – Dixie Melody Boys (Demco)
- Presenting Opryland’s Gospel Quartet – Cumberland Boys (Opryland USA)
- Because He Loved Me – Primitive Quartet (Windchime)
- Ready Or Not – Paynes (Windchime)
- By Faith – McKameys (MorningStar)
Listen to a mash-up of music from the twenty best Southern Gospel albums released in 1982. Enjoy!
- The courage Libbi Stuffle displayed to even be in attendance was heart-felt. Prayers continue for Tracy.
- Several quartets displayed some strong singing tonight. They included the Dixie Melody Boys, Gold City, Legacy Five and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound.
- The respect I have for Ed O’Neal could fill volumes. He was the first quartet man I remember as a youngster and I am glad he is still singing. Great job on “What Remains Of Me”.
- It was refreshing to hear some more live music tonight during the Inspirations set. I sure miss hearing the steel guitar in Southern Gospel music.
- Jason Crabb continues to prove he is one of the best artists touring right now. Enjoyed “What The Blood Is For”.
- The Penny Loafers pulled off two more great a cappella features during their segment.
- There continued to be problems with the webcast cutting out. I think tonight was due to certain high volume log-in times because the down times centered around certain artists.
- The Cathedrals remembered segment will be remembered, but not for the performance. For Mark Trammell to not even know the words to the song is something that happens to every artist, but you think they would have at least rehearsed it before the performance.
- The showcase artists that performed on the main stage tonight were forgettable. The one even sang a Perrys song knowing the Perrys were to perform later in the evening.
- Performances that seemed to fall flat (at least from viewing it via webcam), in order of appearance are as follows: McKameys (“I Sing A Song”), Ernie Haase & Signature Sound (“Oh What A Savior”), the Cathedral remembered segment, Lore Family (“If You Knew Him”) and Kingdom Heirs (“Just Beyond The Sunset).
**Now to crown the best of the night:
Best single song performances (in order of appearance): (1) “When He Speaks” – McKameys (2) “It’s In The Savior’s Hands” – Inspirations (3) “Shut The Door” – Penny Loafers (4) “Valley Of Tears” – Dixe Melody Boys (5) “Everywhere I Go” – Legacy Five (6) “Scars In The Hands Of Jesus” – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound (7) “Calvary Conquers It All” – Gold City (8) “What The Blood Is For” – Jason Crabb (9) “When He Spoke” – Perrys (10) “Move The Stone” – Whisnants (11) “Anything Is Possible” – Brian Free & Assurance
Best Set of the Night: I went back and forth on this one. There were some really strong single song performances but no full set that just wowed me. I really enjoyed the new music performed by the Dixie Melody Boys, so I will give them set of the night.
The Inspirations are one of the few groups in Southern Gospel that attempt to get a new album out every year. 2013 finds the release of No Two Ways About It. This album features new vocalists Mark Clark (tenor) and Steve Srein (lead).
The Inspirations have held to the same music formula for over 40 years. They won’t stray from it, and No Two Ways About It continues that tradition.
Song list: (1) “Saved, Sealed And Going” – Rodney Griffin (2) “You Can Still Find Forgiveness” – Jim Brady (3) “I’ll Be A Friend To Jesus” – Johnson Oatman Jr (4) “He Made A Change” – Jim Brady (5) “I’ll Never Get Over” – Jeremy Simpson (6) “Just A Little Talk With Jesus” – Cleavant Derricks (7) “Jesus Is Coming Soon” – RE Winsett (8) “No Two Ways” – Kevin Jones (9) “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” – Roscoe Reed (10) “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion” – Terry Pillow
- Baritone Jon Epley is featured on the two stand out tracks found on No Two Ways About It. “You Can Still Find Forgiveness” is my pick for best track. I never thought I would see the Inspirations cut a Jim Brady tune, but they did and it is a winner.
- The second Epley feature is the title track, “No Two Ways About It”. This is a nice up-tempo Inspirations style song that should go to radio.
- New lead singer, Steve Srein, has a strong first performance on an Inspirations recording with another Jim Brady penned song; “He Made A Change”. He continues the long tradition of Inspirations lead singers in the vein of Troy Burns.
- Half of No Two Ways About It is filled with song covers. The strongest is “On Heaven’s Bright Shore”. It allows the listener to hear new tenor Mark Clark nail an Inspiration’s classic.
DAVID BRUCE MURRAY
- Studio musicians Jeff Collins (piano), David Johnson (guitars, fiddle, harmonica) and Tim Surrett (acoustic bass) create a solid foundation for the vocals.
- “You Can Still Find Forgiveness” is my pick for a radio single. The lyric is a direct, clear statement of faith in a style that has resonated with radio DJs in the past.
- “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion” is a fun closing song. When I saw the title I was expecting the 1941 Hurdist Milsap lyric (Stamps-Baxter Music & Printing Co.), but this is a Terry Pillow song from the Stamps Quartet publishing company’s catalog .
- I was disappointed with the other songs covered on No Two Ways About It. “Just A Little Talk With Jesus” and “Jesus Is Coming Soon” should be reserved for table/classic type recordings, not used on mainline releases. These songs have been recorded so many times through the years, there is nothing that can be added to a newer version.
- Mike Holcomb is featured on the new album, but not enough. I missed his slower type features like “God Makes No Mistakes” and “If You Only Knew” on previous albums.
DAVID BRUCE MURRAY
- As Steve mentioned, Mike Holcomb is under-utilized on this CD. As you’d expect, he is the featured singer on Clevant Derricks’ classic “Just A Little Talk With Jesus.” Some sections feature Holcomb’s great trademark rhythmic bass singing, but this arrangement is sadly spoiled by a slow section featuring several very ugly, unnecessary ultra-low growls.
- Mark Clark and Stephen Srein sound like they have been singing with the Inspirations for years, but they don’t quite match the vocal quality of the Ragan/Hosterman combination.
- NO – This was only a slight no because of the worn out song covers used. The new material is strong enough to warrant getting those songs. Don’t pass up picking up “He Made A Change”, “I’ll Never Get Over”, “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion”, “No Two Ways” and “You Can Still Find Forgiveness”.
DAVID BRUCE MURRAY
- NO – Die-hard Inspirations fans will want to buy a copy, but it’s not a collection I’d consider to be a must buy for my own library.
It has been nearly two months since the last definitive Southern Gospel collection feature. As we all celebrate some time off for the 4th of July holiday, I know I enjoy spending some time listening to music. This feature will take a look at the twenty best albums released in Southern Gospel music in the year 1983.
The Cathedrals were enjoying their first dominant period during this era. They won group and song (“Step Into The Water”) of the year at the Singing News fan awards. Singing News was still awarding Queen of Gospel Music (instead of female vocalist) during this time period. Connie Hopper won that honor in 1983.
The definitive top 20 albums released in the year 1983 are as follows:
- Live In Atlanta – Cathedrals (RiverSong)
- We Shall Behold The King – Rex Nelon Singers (Canaan)
- Live At The University Of Alabama – Kingsmen (Heart Warming)
- Louisiana Live – Hemphills (Heart Warming)
- I Think I’ll Read It Again – Gold City (Heart Warming)
- Passin’ The Faith Along – Gaither Vocal Band (Dayspring)
- More Than Just Good Ole Boys – Dixie Melody Boys (Lifeline)
- Everybody Ought To Praise His Name – Singing Americans (RiverSong)
- The Wonder Of Wonders – Inspirations (Canaan)
- Think On The Good Things – Hoppers (Lifeline)
- Keep Rolling On – Florida Boys (Canaan)
- Live Featuring The Speer Sisters – Speers (Heart Warming)
- Voices In Praise A Cappella – Cathedrals (RiverSong)
- I Am With Thee – Heaven Bound (Windchime)
- Gloryland Gold – Lesters (Skylite)
- Because He Loved Me – Primitive Quartet (Windchime)
- He Redeemed Me – Squire Parsons (Dawn)
- Keepsake – McKameys (MorningStar)
- Have You Heard – Freemans (Custom)
- Damascus Road – Dumplin Valley Boys (Custom)
Listen to a mash-up of music from the twenty best albums of 1983. Enjoy!