Best Of 2017: #13/#14

REASON FOR RANKING:  The Old Paths returned to the scene in 2017 after a two-year hiatus.  They returned with a six song EP instead of a full album.  The positive to an EP is it allows the artist to pick the six best songs they can find.

FIVE BEST SONGS FROM THE ALBUM:  (1) “In The Long Run”; (2) “Tangled In The Middle”; (3) “Peace Is On The Way”; (4) “My Everyday Life”; (5) “At The Name Of Jesus”.

REASON FOR RANKING:  It just so happens to be coincidence that two EPs fall back to back on the annual countdown.  Misty Freeman released her first new album in a decade with Turn The Page.  Another example of six really strong songs.

FIVE BEST SONGS FROM THE ALBUM:  (1) “The Sermon”; (2) “A Day In The Life Of Jesus”; (3) “When God Speaks”; (4) “New Beginnings”; (5) “Garden Of Grace”.

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VOTE: Best Of 2017: Lead/Soprano/Tenor

Who were the top vocalists in Southern Gospel music for 2017?  Today, starts the voting for best lead, soprano and tenor vocalist.

You get one vote per day.  Poll closes 11/27/17.  Click the link on each nominee to see an audio/video of the nominees.

Long Run (EP): Old Paths

GRADE:  B

  • Album:  Long Run (EP)
  • Artist:  Old Paths
  • Label:  Sonlite
  • Style:  Traditional, Country, Progressive
  • Release Date:  07/14/17
  • Digital Download:  Yes (Apple Music)
  • Running Time:  20 Minutes

SYNOPSIS:

This week we take a look at a new EP from Old Paths, Long Run.

Anyone who follows Southern Gospel music on a regular basis knows the Old Paths stopped touring at the end of 2015 with the intent to return.  That return happened some 18 months later with the release of Long Run.

The 2017 edition of the Old Paths is Steve Ladd (tenor), Tim Rackley (lead), Doug Roark (baritone) and Daniel Ashmore (bass).

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • The EP only gave listeners (6) new songs.  The album kicks off strong with the Rebecca Peck/Dianne Wilkinson penned, “Peace Is On The Way”.  The arrangement on the song would cause a listener to think they were listening to the Kingdom Heirs.
  • Long Run has a consistent country Gospel sound.  A bit of a Cajun feel is found on the latest radio single, “Tangled In The Middle”.  The second verse allows bass vocalist Daniel Ashmore to shine a bit.
  • Rodney Birch has been good for the Old Paths.  He penned two early #1 hits for the group; “God’s Great” and “Battle Stand”.  His contribution on Long Run is “In The Long Run”.  This is a must listen.
  • The sole Southern Gospel power ballad on Long Run is “At The Name Of Jesus”.  This would be a strong choice for radio single.
  • The album closes with the up-tempo, “My Everyday Life”.  A fun song that will translate well to the concert stage.
  • Newest tenor vocalist and Southern Gospel veteran, Steve Ladd is featured on the ballad; “Broken People Like Me”.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Peace Is On The Way”, “Tangled In The Middle”, “In The Long Run”, “At The Name Of Jesus” and “My Everyday Life”.
CRITIQUE:
  • While the Old Paths chose six good songs, there was no single song that absolutely blew me away.
  • This is one case where the group needed a full length recording, not an EP.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Broken People Like Me”.

WRAP UP:

I, along with many Southern Gospel listeners, am glad to see the Old Paths return.  While Long Run might not blow you away, it is enough to whet your appetite until the next Old Paths album.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Peace Is On The Way”/Ensemble – Rebecca Peck, Dianne Wilkinson  2. “In The Long Run“/Doug; Tim – Rodney Birch  3. “Broken People Like Me“/Steve  – Lee Black, Kenna Turner West  4. “Tangled In The Middle”/Ensemble; Daniel – Regina Walden  5. “At The Name Of Jesus”/Tim – Logan Peck; Rebecca Peck  6. “My Everyday Life”/Ensemble; Tim; Steve – Sandy Knight 

Southern Gospel Tidbits

DID YOU KNOW?:  With the 2017 Academy awards tomorrow, I thought I would look at past best picture winners and see if there was a Southern Gospel song to match the title.  I found six:

“Wings” (1927):  Southern Gospel song by Ivan Parker

“Gone With The Wind” (1940):  Song by the Freemans

“All The King’s Men” (1950): Song by CrossWay

“Ordinary People” (1981): Song by Old Paths

“Silence Of The Lambs” (1992): Song by the Martins

“Unforgiven” (1993): Song by Crabb Revival

Best Of 2015 – #8

Old Paths #8In March, the Old Paths would release their latest recording, Stay.  One month later, they would announce that December 2015 would be the group’s final concert.

The Old Paths have risen in the ranks of Southern Gospel’s best artists the last several years with two big album releases and several chart topping singles.  Even though the buzz surrounding Stay faded when the announcement of coming off the road sunk in, the album was still one of the best recordings released in 2015.

There was quite a discussion regarding the title track after one review of the recording surfaced.  I don’t know, I guess intimacy offends some.

Personal favorites from this recording include:  “How Great The Debt”, “Stay”, “What Did They Call Him”, “You Never Cease To Amaze Me”, “Out Of The Grave”, “Ordinary People” and “Oh What A Happy Morning”.

Bowlings #8 (300x300)The Bowling Family had another successful year with the release of Moments Like These.  The family went back to a trio vocal configuration and this was the first recording for Hope to be featured soprano vocalist on the entire recording.

The song selection was some of the best of the group’s career and the album sparked two songs to land among the ten best recorded this year.  At #8 for 2015 is the Lyn Rowell/Tony Wood penned, “I Believe He’s Alive”.

Mike is featured on the song of triumph.  I see a huge hit during the 2016 Easter season with this particular number.

*Video Credit (Various Artists – Topic)

Best Of 2015 – #17

perrys #17The Perrys, most notably Tracy and Libbi Stuffle, have been living out the messages in their songs the last few years as Tracy continues to recover from the severe strokes he suffered.

From last year’s, “I Can Trust Him” to this year’s, “Keep On”; the Perrys have provided listeners with comfort in the midst of those moments we feel like throwing in the towel.  The Perrys, themselves, could have easily stopped traveling/singing but they just want to Sing.

2015 found the release of the Perry’s album, Sing, which finds a home at #17 among the best Southern Gospel albums released this year.  Libbi continued to prove why she is still one of Southern Gospel’s greatest alto voices.

Personal favorites from this recording include:  “Cry No More”, “I’ve Never Been There”, “Keep On”, “Did I Just Hear The Thunder”, “Sing”, “I Claim The Blood” and “I Have Seen The Power”.

Old Paths #17 (300x300)The Old Paths stunned Southern Gospel listeners when they announced in April that December 2015 would be their last concert.  As that final concert has now passed, all we have left are the songs the group left behind.

In March, the Old Paths would release what has now become their final album; Stay.  The group ended on a strong note as the Rebecca Peck/Dianne Wilkinson penned, “How Great The Debt” ranks 17th among the best recorded songs of 2015.

The hits the Old Paths left behind will no doubt still be circulating in musical playlists for years to come.

*Video Credit (#TheOldPaths)

2015 NQC – Thursday Night Recap

Canton Junction (300x300)The night started in the same vein as last night and I thought I was in for another long night.  But, the skies opened and the music performances got progressively better.  Here are Thursday’s hit and misses.

  • After seeing them in concert last week in North Carolina, I was excited to see what Canton Junction was going to stage tonight.  They did not disappoint with four great song choices.  Did I tell you how much I love the song; “Tumbling Down”!
  • How great was it to see former Perrys members join them on stage for “I Wish I Could Have Been There”.  Lets see; there was Loren Harris, Joseph Habedank, Mike Bowling, Nick Trammell and Debra Perry.  I think I got everyone.
  • The Mylon Hayes Family continue to impress.  They continue to rise in the ranks of groups that I want to keep in my musical playlists.  Their set tonight was technically perfect.
  • I have already told you how much I love Jeff & Sheri Easter’s, “Jesus Loves You”.  I can’t get enough this song.  Thank you Sheri for penning what will go down as one of the best songs of 2015!
  • The Taylors continue to bring that classic mixed quartet Southern Gospel sound to the stage.  Their style is reminiscent of the great mixed groups of the 1970’s/1980’s.
  • After the splash they made at last year’s NQC, it was bittersweet to know tonight was the Old Paths last set at NQC, since they are coming off the road in December.
  • I am surprised the NQC didn’t have full afternoon showcases of some of these finale events.  I know they did the Cathedral reunion showcase, but a heritage of gold and even a full Booth Brothers/EHSS showcase would have been nice.  I have enjoyed these finale segments each evening.

  • Thank you NQC for nearly ruining a great musical flow.  Things were really getting good with the sets of the Perrys, Mylon Hayes Family, Canton Junction and Jeff & Sheri Easter back to back, when you decide to bring on another individual to peddle his new book.  It took the wind right out of my musical enjoyment.  Why give this guy nearly ten minutes to hawk a book when he has an entire hour tomorrow to convince everyone to buy it.
  • As I mentioned at the start, I thought tonight was going to be a repeat of last night.  Four of the first five artists on the stage were train wrecks.  I’ll let you figure out which one of the five wasn’t.

 

**Now to crown the best of the night:

Best single song performances (in order of appearance):  (1) “Mercy Walked In” – Gordon Mote  (2) “Long Live The King” – Old Paths  (3) “As We Speak” – Greater Vision  (4) “There’s Still A Refuge” – Mylon Hayes Family  (5) “Tumbling Down” – Canton Junction  (6) “Jesus Loves You” – Jeff & Sheri Easter (**Favorite song performance of the evening)  (7) “He’s My Guide” – Taylors

Best Set of the Night:  I’ll have to give the honor this evening to Canton Junction.

Stay: Old Paths

oldpaths2015stayGRADE:  A-

  • Album – Stay
  • Artist – Old Paths
  • Label – Sonlite Records
  • Style – Traditional, Progressive
  • Release Date – 03/17/14
  • Available For Digital Download? – Yes (iTunes/Spotify)

SYNOPSIS:

I don’t know of any other quartet in Southern Gospel music who has had as strong a run the last several years than Old Paths.  Since the release of Right Now in 2012, the group has picked up four #1 songs (“Battle Stand”, “God’s Great”, “Long Live The King” and “Love Them To Jesus”).

Stay becomes the third album in this recent run of success for the Old Paths.  This is the group’s third recording for Sonlite Records (Crossroads).  The vocal line-up has also remained stable during the release of those three albums.  If you still are not familiar with Old Paths, the group is composed of Jeremy Peace (tenor), Tim Rackley (lead), Doug Roark (baritone), Daniel Ashmore (bass) and newest addition Josh Townsend (pianist).

Stay is a ten song collection of new material.  The group builds on the successes of Right Now and These Truths by adding some additional, out of the box, musical elements.  How does Stay stack up to the group’s two previous successes?  Lets find out.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • I may be off on this one, but after several listens to Stay, I feel the production quality exceeds that of Right Now and These Truths.  But, the song selection may not be as strong.
  • I don’t start putting together thoughts on any album review until at least three listens.  With that said, the album’s title track really stood out to me.  The Ray Scarbrough song, “Stay”, starts as any general Southern Gospel mid-tempo tune, but really transforms to this amazing song by the time the final notes are sung.  Tim Rackley takes the feature making this one of the best recorded songs of 2015.
  • After what I considered a lack of features on These Truths, tenor Jeremy Peace more than makes up for it on Stay.  Jeremy is featured on two stand out tracks.  The ballad, “You Never Cease To Amaze Me” adds a bit of a blues flair making for a song that should be considered for radio.
  • Speaking of ‘out of the box’ musical elements; the Old Paths attempt to tackle a big Gaither Vocal Band style production with the closing track, “Out Of The Grave”.  The first time I heard the song I can easily see David Phelps and the Vocal Band record this song.  Jeremy really shows his talent as he performs Rebecca Peck’s, “Out Of The Grave” with authority.
  • Jeremy, along with the rest of the group also shine on the first single from Stay, “Ordinary People”.  Another song to use the ‘same old everyday people’ concept, but this song really conveys that better than others I heard in the past.  A really enjoyable song.
  • The best up-tempo song found on Stay is the Tim Rackley feature, “What Did They Call Him”.  This should make a great song to stage in concert.  You can hear Dianne Wilkinson’s pen all over it.
  • I can’t close my review without mentioning Tim’s performance of “How Great The Debt”.  Another big ballad, while not as strong as “Long Live The King”, should still get a huge response from concert crowds.
  • Strongest songs included in order:  “Stay”, “You Never Cease To Amaze Me”, “Ordinary People”, “What Did They Call Him”, “Out Of The Grave”, “How Great The Debt” and “Oh What A Happy Morning”.
CRITIQUE:
  • Bass vocalist Daniel Ashmore’s two features are both up-tempo numbers.  While, “Oh What A Happy Morning” is really good, it would have been nice to hear Daniel tackle a nice slower paced tune to really showcase his vocal talent.
  • As mentioned earlier, I don’t know if Stay had as strong a song selection as Right Now and These Truths, but it is awfully close.
  • Weakest songs included in order:  “Have You Ever”.

WRAP UP:

The Old Paths continue their winning streak with the release of Stay.  There are more than enough winning moments for it to stand alongside Right Now and These Truths.  It looks like the Old Paths will be competing for best quartet album released in 2015.

SONG/Featured Vocalist – Songwriter:  1. “Have You Ever”/Ensemble – Rebecca Peck, Dianne Wilkinson  2. “You Never Cease To Amaze Me“/Jeremy – Rebecca Peck  3. “What Did They Call Him”/Tim – Dianne Wilkinson  4. “Just Can’t Get Over”/Doug – Karen Gillespie, Rachel McCutcheon  5. “Washed In The Blood”/Daniel – Rebecca Peck, Dianne Wilkinson  6. “How Great The Debt”/Tim – Rebecca Peck, Dianne Wilkinson  7. “Ordinary People”/Jeremy; Ensemble – Rodney Birch  8. “Stay”/Ensemble; Tim – Ray Scarbrough  9. “Oh What A Happy Morning”/Daniel – Larry Petree  10. “Out Of The Grave”/Jeremy – Rebecca Peck