Southern Gospel Tidbits

DID YOU KNOW?:  The 2016 edition of the National Quartet Convention gets under way in Pigeon Forge, TN tomorrow evening.

I will be providing evening recaps of this year’s event providing all the hits and misses as I’ve done the last five years.  Are you looking forward to NQC 2016?

*Video Credit (Clarke Beasley)

Southern Gospel Tidbits

johnson_sistersDID YOU KNOW?:  The National Quartet Convention was first held in 1957 in Memphis Tennessee.  From its inception the quartet convention included more than just all male quartets on the program.  That very first event invited the Chuck Wagon Gang, Johnson Sisters and Speer Family to name a few.  So the next time someone complains that the quartet convention is misleading because it doesn’t feature all quartets, let them know it was never designed to be that way.

**With the 2015 edition of the National Quartet Convention getting under way tomorrow evening, Southern Gospel Views from the Back Row will once again be providing nightly recaps of all the hits and misses from the concert stage as I will be watching the event via webcast.

*Video Credit (Dean Adkins)

1st Annual Southern Gospel Views From The Back Row Honors – Wrap Up

1stbrian-freeThe 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)

  1. “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)

  1. 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)

  1. “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)

  1. “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”.

MTQVideo – Short Form (best concept video – links to the videos will be provided during the voting rounds)

  1. “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.

Songwriter

  1. 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.

Songwriting Collab

  1. 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 PathsQuartet

  1. 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)

  1. Nelons

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)

  1. 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.

Solo Artist

  1. 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.

ErwinsNew Artist

  1. Erwins

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)

  1. 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)

  1. 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)

  1. 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.

NelonsPianist

  1. 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.

Musician

  1. 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.

Tenor Vocalist

  1. Chris Allman (Greater Vision)

No arguments here.  My readers and I were on the same page.

Lead Vocalist

  1. 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.

Baritone Vocalist

  1. 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.

GVBass Vocalist

  1. 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.

Alto Vocalist

  1. 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.

Soprano Vocalist

  1. Amber Thompson (Nelons)

Amber Thompson has continued her winning streaks of late.  The readers and I agree on this choice.

Emcee

  1. 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.

Fan Event

  1. 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.

2014 NQC – Saturday Night Recap

Old PathsThe 2014 National Quartet Convention has come to a close.  The first year in Pigeon Forge TN seemed to be a success, at least in terms of attendance.  Lets run through the final nights hits and misses.

  • The Old Paths came out firing on all cylinders again tonight proving they were one of the best main stage artists of the entire week.  Their performance of “I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy” was outstanding.
  • I also thought the LeFevre Quartet turned in one of the best sets of the night.  I enjoyed it from start to finish especially “Put It Right There”.
  • I never tire of hearing the Hoppers perform “Something’s Happening”.  What a power house song!
  • It was nice to hear some classic Gold City tonight with “There Rose A Lamb”.  I believe it has been a couple of years since they staged that song at NQC.
  • Tribute Quartet proved again tonight that “Homecoming Day” is their best recorded/performed song.

  • Did anyone else think the ‘grand finale’ was way too long?  Clocking in at 45 minutes, I nearly fell asleep several times waiting for the program to end.
  • After stellar, crowd pleasing performances for the last several years, I thought all (3) Collingsworth Family sets this year lacked something.  Maybe it was just needing some new material.
  • It seemed the biggest problem of NQC 2014 was the parking/traffic.  It was a shame that Claude Hopper had to personally apologize to the crowd tonight on behalf of the NQC board.  As with any new venue, I guarantee changes will be made for future events, but will the nightmares of this year keep folks away next year?

**Now to crown the best of the night:

Best single song performances (in order of appearance):  (1) “He’s Leading The Way” – Sneed Family  (2) “There Rose A Lamb” – Gold City  (3) “Worthy The Lamb” – Keepers Of The Faith  (4) “For All He’s Done” – Greater Vision  (5) “Something’s Happening” – Hoppers  (6) “I Bowed On My Knees And Cried Holy” – Old Paths (**Favorite song performance of the evening)  (7) “I Rest My Case At The Cross” – Perrys  (8) “The Healer Is Here” – Collingsworth Family  (9) “Put It Right There” – LeFevre Quartet  (10) “Holy Spirit Come” – Soul’d Out Quartet  (11) “Homecoming Day” – Tribute Quartet

Best Set of the Night:  I know they were already given best set earlier this week, but the Old Paths once again deserve that honor on closing night.  Goodbye NQC 2014, see ya next year.

2014 NQC – Friday Night Recap

IsaacsJust one night remains for the 2014 edition of the National Quartet Convention.  This was also the first year in many that Friday’s program didn’t include the Gaither Vocal Band.  So how did a Gaitherless NQC Friday night go?  Let’s find out.

  • Tonight was filled with some nice single song moments, but I don’t know if any artist pulled together an entire set that stands out.
  • If there was any it was the Isaacs.  After losing their grandmother earlier that day, the Isaacs siblings still presented the listening audience with some powerful, heartfelt singing.  “If That Isn’t Love” was phenomenal.
  • The Erwins definitely proved they deserve an entire set next year.  These kids are the next big thing in Southern Gospel music.
  • I was surprised after getting a three song set last year, 11th Hour was reduced to one song this year.  I am so glad they sang one of my favorite songs of 2014; “How Will You Plead”.

  • You can tell the week is winding down.  A lot of worn out voices could be heard tonight.
  • I am going to go out on a limb and say Jason Crabb’s set was promoting a new album.  At first I thought he was attempting a tribute to Hank Williams Sr.
  • I will say that I missed the Gaither Vocal Band at NQC.  While Ernie Haase & Signature Sound and Canton Junction both had nice sets, it still didn’t make up for the Vocal Band’s absence.
  • It was bittersweet that this was the last NQC appearance of Jim Brady with the Booth Brothers.  We know how much Southern Gospel listening audiences like change.  How much of a hit to the group’s dominance will this create, if any.  Time will tell.

**Now to crown the best of the night:

Best single song performances (in order of appearance):  (1) “Undeserved” – McKameys  (2) “Crumbs From The Table” – Dixie Echoes  (3) “I Made It By Grace” – Erwins  (4) “If That Isn’t Love” – Isaacs (**Favorite song performance of the evening)  (5) “His Life For Mine” – Talleys  (6) “All Is Well” – Whisnants  (7) “The Son Shines Down On Me” – Canton Junction  (8) “This Blood” – Triumphant Quartet  (9) “Scars In The Hands Of Jesus” – Diplomats  (10) “Tell Me” – Booth Brothers  (11) “How Will You Plead” – 11th Hour  (12) “Oh Yes I Am” – Kingsmen

Best Set of the Night:  Tonight I literally threw a couple of names in a hat and drew one out.  It looks like the Isaacs will get best set.

2014 NQC – Thursday Night Recap

DMBThursday night is done and not too soon.  Maybe it was the long day at work and getting home after missing the first four artists, but tonight truly lacked in memorable moments.  So hold on to your hats because tonight the misses may actually outnumber the hits.

  • Master’s Voice was the first artist of the evening that actually grabbed my attention.  It may have only been one song (“This Ship Was Made To Sail”), but it was a good one.  When you see a new artist like this come out and give everything they got on one song and the crowd (at least from what I could gather from the webcam) seems like they could care less, it is a bit disheartening.  I guarantee you if it was the Booth Brothers out there singing this same song the crowd would have been on their feet cheering for an encore.  Am I missing something?  Was Southern Gospel ever really a song driven market?  Is the artist on stage really all the audience cares about?  Would it even matter what songs those artists would stage?  The crowd would probably still eat it up.  Ugh….
  • The Isaacs are always a bright spot in a sea of mediocre.  Live instruments, powerhouse vocals and great song selection.  Can’t ask for more than that.
  • I was really impressed with the Taylors set tonight; even more so than their Tuesday set.  Leslie’s husband, Aaron came out and sang some bass on a couple of quartet classics.  Strong set!
  • Ed O’Neal proved again tonight why he is one of Southern Gospel’s greatest quartet men.  He introduced another young tenor singer (who showed out on “Little Is Much”) to the Ed O’Neal university.  With that voice it won’t be long before another group comes along and snatches him away from Ed.

  • Speaking of the Dixie Melody Boys, I thought it was a bit disrespectful to put the Dixie Melody Boys on last.  Ed is a true elder statesmen of this industry and he should be treated as such.  Any of the number of younger, currently more popular groups could have taken the stage last (ie Booth Brothers/Brian Free & Assurance) so the crowd wouldn’t be leaving in mass exodus while the group was singing.  NQC, overall you do well but then there are some moves like this that are oh so bad.
  • I guarantee you as the Florida Boys neared the end of their musical journey they were never put last on an NQC program.
  • Speaking of Brian Free & Assurance; was the mix off for certain groups tonight?  I thought the group sounded a bit out of their element vocally.  Their set lacked any type of power house song.
  • I missed High Road III, Karen Peck & New River, Gospel Harmony Boys and the Bowling Family.  I will watch it back on demand but maybe someone can fill me in on how these groups did tonight.
  • Since I was at work I missed the Singing News fan awards but did Gerald Wolfe say the Hyssongs won best new trio.  The same group that sang one song tonight?  You can’t be serious….
  • Some of the other one song artists deserve a full set next year (see Master’s Voice and Driven).
  • The Kingdom Heirs shouldn’t feel too bad about Steve French’s absence this week.  I think the group is sounding great with Andy singing baritone.

 

**Now to crown the best of the night:

Best single song performances (in order of appearance):  (1) “This Ship Was Made To Sail” – Master’s Voice (**Favorite song performance of the evening)  (2) “The Living Years” – Isaacs  (3) “I’ll Know I’m Home” – Kingdom Heirs  (4) “I’ll Worship Only At The Feet Of Jesus” – Hoppers  (5) “Thanks To Calvary” – Taylors  (6) “Until You’ve Known The Love Of God” – Greater Vision  (7) “Little Is Much” – Dixie Melody Boys

Best Set of the Night:  Because you proved to the Southern Gospel world you’ve still got it, best set of the night goes to Ed O’Neal and the Dixie Melody Boys.

2014 NQC – Wednesday Night Recap

Old PathsHalf way there already.  Wednesday night of the 2014 National Quartet Convention is in the record books.  Most of the evening came off as filler for me.  It was like listening to a group’s new album only to have a strong beginning, a strong end but not much in the middle.  Here are the evenings hits and misses.

  • Two people many folks have been praying for (due to recent health battles) made their way to the stage tonight.  Connie Hopper got a great report from doctors that their was no sign of cancer in her pathology reports.  She returned to a standing ovation as she performed what has become her signature song; “I’ve Come Too Far”.  How true those words were tonight as she sang them.  Memorable moment!
  • Tracy Stuffle returned to the stage with the Perrys again tonight (also appeared with the group Monday night).  He remained with them the entire set and the group brought the house down with “If You Knew Him”.  First time I heard the song performed by the group since Joseph’s exit.  Andrew did a great job.
  • It was a great mix of family groups and quartets tonight.  Of the quartet sets, the Old Paths and Kingsmen shined.  From start to finish, the Old Paths picked the right songs for their set.  They featured the tenor (“He’s My Song”), bass (“God’s Gonna Do the Same”) and lead (“Love Them To Jesus”), but it was their closing number (“Long Live The King”) that took their set over the top.  One of my favorite radio songs of 2014.
  • The Kingsmen featured music from their soon to be released album, Battle Cry.  From what I heard I am already anticipating the release.  I thoroughly enjoyed the new song, “I Know”.
  • Several of the one song artists are proving they deserve an entire set next year.  So if anyone from NQC is reading this, the Mylon Hayes Family need a full set next year.
  • Legacy Five has one of the best recorded songs of 2014 with “He Heals”.  It is hands down the best song on the group’s current album, Great Day.  The sad part is a song like this will never make it to radio.  Thank you Legacy Five for performing this song tonight!
  • I enjoyed Dean and Kim’s emcee work tonight.  They cheered on and even complemented every artist that came on the stage.  They added some humor and showed the crowd the relationships they built with other artists over the many years they have been on the road.  True professionals!

  • We got a couple Christmas songs tonight.  I know folks love Christmas music and it is ok to hear them any time of the year if they are Christ centered, but I find it hard to break out any Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.
  • Folks that know me understand my opinion on modern-day praise and worship music.  Of all the musical art forms, it is near the top of my list of least favorite (though it does beat rap).  Guy Penrod’s set was lost on me as a result of said music.  At least now I know to avoid his new album.

 

**Now to crown the best of the night:

Best single song performances (in order of appearance):  (1) “My Lord Will Lead Me” – Lesters  (2) “I Know” – Kingsmen  (3) “I’ve Come Too Far” – Hoppers  (4) “That’s Why” – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound  (5) “Little Is Much” – Mylon Hayes Family  (6) “God’s Been Faithful” – Mark Trammell Quartet  (7) “He Heals” – Legacy Five (**Favorite song performance of the evening)  (8) “Long Live The King” – Old Paths  (9) “How Long” – Perrys  (8) “In The Valley He Hears My Voice” – Tribute Quartet

Best Set of the Night:  I went back and forth on a couple of artists, but from start to finish I think the best set tonight was the Old Paths.

2014 NQC – Tuesday Night Recap

NelonsThe Tuesday edition of the 2014 National Quartet Convention is now in the record books.  Tonight started rather slow but really picked it up to provide some really strong moments at the end.  What was the best and worst of the night?  Lets find out.

  • The Nelons absolutely knocked it out of the park.  Their set was so far ahead of everything else that was presented tonight.  I didn’t realize Autumn was such a strong vocalist.  Her and Amber on the same stage!  What a powerhouse vocal duo that will be.  Thanks to the organizers for switching theirs and the Collingsworth Family sets to allow for what Kim Collingsworth provided to close the night.
  • It seemed to be a family kind of night in terms of stand outs.  The Sneed Family opened it up singing with a live band and providing classic 1970’s/1980’s material.
  • I still call the Taylors the Downings of this generation.  Their progressive Southern Gospel arrangements stand out.  I just wish the group would open up more on stage.
  • The Browders brought listening audiences their own brand of Southern Gospel music with a country Gospel flair.  I really enjoy the group’s latest radio single; “Listening For The Shout”.  That song could have used an encore.
  • It was nice to see the Crist Family get a worthy send off by the NQC crowd.  Thanks for ten years.
  • Of the few quartets on the program tonight, I thought the Down East Boys provided the best quartet set.  “I Want To Be Just Like My Lord” and “Holy All Over Again” were both outstanding.
  • No matter how many times the song has been sung, Michael Booth can still bring a house down with his performance of “Look For Me At Jesus Feet”.  Something can be said of performances with just vocal and piano.  Powerhouse performance!
  • Like last night, the program moved along with little talking (sans Dennis Swansburg).  For the second night in a row I believe the program actually ended ahead of schedule.  Kudos to the production team.

  • Speaking of Dennis Swansburg; when is the man going to come up with new material.  Isn’t it the job of a comedian to stay fresh with new material.  When you tell the same recycled jokes for the 40th time, they tend to lose effectiveness.
  • The Inspirations walk down memory lane wasn’t so memorable.  I would have rather heard a couple of the classic songs in full then several short clips.
  • Gold City is just not the same without the bass voice of Tim Riley.  Here is praying for a speedy recovery.

 

**Now to crown the best of the night:

Best single song performances (in order of appearance):  (1) “He Will Calm The Troubled Waters” – Sneed Family  (2) “Holy All Over Again” – Down East Boys  (3) “Empty Me Lord” – Primitives  (4) “Measure Of Grace” – Taylors  (5) “Listening For The Shout” – Browders  (6) “My Heart Knows” – Crist Family  (7) “Look For Me At Jesus Feet” – Booth Brothers  (8) “How Great Thou Art” – Nelons (**Favorite song performance of the evening)

Best Set of the Night:  Hands down; the Nelons!