Mar 18

Album Review: The Light (Barry Rowland & Deliverance)

the-light-CD-300x298This is my fourth review of a Barry Rowland & Deliverance recording in five years, and it’s always a recording I look forward to.  With The Light, Barry, his wife Tammy, and Shawn Rupert return with another collection of (mostly) Kyla Rowland compositions showcasing their signature Appalachian gusto.

If anyone out there still isn’t familiar with Shawn Rupert, they continue to miss out on one of gospel music’s most powerful voices.  Barry Rowland & Deliverance are at their best when they turn Rupert loose on a song with some juice to it.  The album opener, “God Delivered Me,” is an example, as is “He’s Still on the Throne,” which has always been one of my favorite songs in Gold City’s catalog.  Deliverance’s version gives Rupert the lead throughout, as opposed to handing it off to a higher voice in the chorus, which I think gives a more energetic effect.  Rupert also has an outstanding feature on “The Light,” another excellent pull from Kyla Rowland’s vast bank of songs.  This one has a slower tempo, but probably the most powerful delivery on the album.

“The Light” is just one of a handful of mid- to slow-tempo songs in 3/4 or 6/8 time (how do you tell the difference anyway? Ha.)  This is, of course, Mrs. Kyla’s staple.  These include excellent features for Tammy (“Looking at a Risen Lamb”) and Barry (“God’s Word Will Stand”).  The latter is a particularly well-executed lyric on the supremacy of Scripture, which is always a worthwhile song subject.

The slower songs are broken up by a couple of quality uptempo numbers.  “That Tomb Is Empty Now” is, obviously, a Resurrection lyric, and one I gladly found stuck in my head quickly.  “Holy, Glory to the Lamb” tells of the new song we will be singing in Heaven.

In a day where many groups are trying to make their music sound shiny and slick, I always love the contrasting quality of Barry Rowland & Deliverance, who just rare back and SANG.  (Where I’m from, SANG is a present tense verb.)  With Shawn Rupert’s power, the group’s straight-ahead harmonies, and mama Kyla’s Spirit-saturated songs, Deliverance always delivers.

Album Rating: 4 stars

Song list:

  1. God Delivered Me (Kyla Rowland)
  2. Looking at a Risen Lamb (Rowland)
  3. The Light (Rowland)
  4. That Tomb Is Still Empty (Harvey Gene Smith)
  5. God’s Word Will Stand (Rowland)
  6. So, I’ll Tell Jesus (Rowland)
  7. He’s Still on the Throne (Rowland)
  8. God Understands (Claude Ely)
  9. Holy, Glory to the Lamb (Rowland)
  10. Marching in Victory (Rowland)

Available: Crossroads

Jan 19

Album Review: Pray for Me (Inspirations)

Prod.Pray_Did the year 2015 seem different to you, but you couldn’t put your finger on why?  I figured it out for you: best I can tell, it was the first calendar year in over two decades that the Inspirations did not release a new recording of exactly 10 songs.  Never fear…the boys from Bryson City decided instead to kick off 2016 with Pray for Me, their new CD of, you guessed it, 10 songs in their singular traditional quartet style.

After nearly a decade with the same vocal lineup in the 2000s, this is now the sixth different vocal configuration to record for the Inspirations in the last seven years, with multiple changes coming at all four parts.  On this CD you’ll hear Harold Reed for the first time on tenor, Joseph Brown for the first time on bass, and longtime Inspirations both on their second tour of duty, Matt Dibler and Melton Campbell.  While Campbell’s vocals are on the CD, he has left the quartet since recording, replaced by Roland Kesterson.  I hope that they will give Kesterson the baritone features and keep them in concert rotation, since they are very good.  “God’s Already There,” written by Joseph Habedank and his mother Leah Sandlin, is a beautiful and tender ballad out of the same mold as the outstanding “I’ve Found a Faithful Friend,” which featured Campbell on the last Inspirations recording.  On the other end of the spectrum, Campbell shines on “What All the Shoutin’s About,” a fun and fast-paced number.

You can’t have an Inspirations recording without an assortment of uptempo quartet songs.  If you want those, where better to turn than Dianne Wilkinson and Rebecca Peck?  They contribute the aforementioned “Shoutin,” and  “Onward to the Goal,” featuring Reed.  Wilkinson flies solo writing “Surely I Come Quickly,” which also features the tenor.  The latter two are more of a light convention quartet style, Inspirations all the way.  They also throw in a cover of the classic “Daniel Prayed,” which will likely be a concert staple.

Matt Dibler has always been one of my favorite lead singers in gospel music.  His clear and solid voice are perfect for what the Inspirations do.  There may be no greater match between singer and song this year than Dibler and “It’s Under the Blood.”  I love the combination of Pastor Leonard Fletcher’s writing with this quartet, going back to the truly great “I’m Not Ashamed”.  “It’s Under the Blood” is not a brand new song, but I am not aware of any national groups recording it until now.  It’s the highlight of Pray for Me, and should also be a shout-‘er-out highlight of the Inspirations’ concerts this year and in the years to come.  I hope the Inspirations will record Leonard Fletcher songs ’til Jesus comes!

If you have been reading here for a while, you know that I always “root for” the Inspirations.  I have a personal attachment to their music going back to my childhood unlike any other group, and I feel they occupy a much-need space in gospel music.  Though these days you may not be exactly sure what singers you will hear, you will always know what the Inspirations will sound like, and I find that comforting.  With a batch of quality new songs on Pray for Me, there is no reason to stop anytime soon.  Keep on keepin’ on, Inspirations.

Album Rating: 4 stars

Song List:

1. Daniel Prayed (G.T. Speer)

2. God’s Already There (Joseph Habedank/Leah Sandlin)

3. Pray for Me (Dottie Rambo/Jimmie Davis)

4. Child of the King (Cindy Walker/James Wills)

5. Surely I Come Quickly (Dianne Wilkinson)

6. It’s Under the Blood (Leonard Fletcher)

7. Onward to the Goal (Wilkinson/Rebecca Peck)

8. What All the Shoutin’s About (Wilkinson/Peck)

9. Jesus Picked a Rose (Peck)

10. Sweet Beulah Land (Squire Parsons)

Available at: Crossroads Music

Dec 30

2015 Year in Review: Top Albums

MHF-devotedIt seems impossible that it was a year ago that I was debating whether to name the Mark Trammell Quartet or Kingsmen CD as my favorite album of the year.  But here we are again, looking back at all that 2015 offered us in the gospel music world.  I’m obviously not a professional “critic” or qualified to be anything more than a fan, but I still love to bestow upon someone an “Album of the Year” title, for whatever my little opinion is worth.

This year, the decision was not difficult.  One album clearly stood out among the others, and it was from a group that had never before appeared in my year-end rankings.  When I bought the Mylon Hayes Family’s Devoted, I fully expected to enjoy the recording, because of exposure I had to their music online.  But I did not expect to be blown away like I was.  Because I believe so much in what the Mylon Hayes Family is doing, I’ve never been more pleased to put a CD at the top of my list of favorites.

Devoted has it all: fantastic convention-style singing, orchestrated ballads, hard-driving uptempo songs, and quieter meditative numbers.  Mylon, Wendy, Conner, Bailey, and Kennedy execute those songs with a talent clearly honed through expert training and hard work.  A lot of the credit also goes to Rebecca Peck, who penned more than half the tracks on the album (four co-written with Dianne Wilkinson).  It was my only 5-star album reviewed this year, and was as close to perfection for me as you can get.

With that, I give you my list of top ten albums of the year.  Thanks for reading this year, and I hope you’ll continue to honor me with your presence on the blog in the year to come.

 

  1. Devoted, Mylon Hayes Family (review)
  2. That Day Is Coming, Collingsworth Family (review)
  3. As We Speak, Greater Vision (review)
  4. A New Chapter, Jim Brady Trio
  5. Still, Booth Brothers (review)
  6. A New Look, Kingdom Heirs (review)
  7. All That Matters, Edwards Family (review)
  8. Walk of Faith, Whisnants
  9. Ready to Sail, Erwins
  10. Stay, Old Paths (review)

Dec 29

2015 Year in Review: Top Songs

dayiscomingI have not been able to write as much this year on the blog as in years past, due to church and job obligations occupying more of my time than ever.  I hope in 2016 to be able to return to the frequency of posting as in years past.  But I still listened to gospel music as much as ever, and found a lot to like.  Once again, I’d like at the end of the year share with you my favorite songs and recordings that made their way into my collection this year.  If last year was the year of the quartet, with the Mark Trammell Quartet and the Kingsmen dominating my favorites, this year is the year of the family groups.

There is no doubt that the Collingsworth Family is at the top of their game, setting the bar for excellence in gospel music very high.  The honor for my Song of the Year goes to the majestic ballad “When He Carries Me Away,” from their outstanding That Day Is Coming recording.  Written by Rachel McCutcheon and Adina Bowman, the lyric, melody, and soaring Wayne Haun arrangement combine to give the listener the feeling of being “carried away” to a truly heavenly place.  Kim Collingsworth delivers one of her best vocal performances, which is saying a lot, and the rest of the family produces that signature wall of sound that sets the Collingsworths apart from most other groups.

McCutcheon had a strong showing on my favorite song list, with three selections out of the twenty.  Dianne Wilkinson, who had the most on my list in 2013 and 2014, also had three.  But they were both bested by Rebecca Peck, who, mainly due to the stellar Mylon Hayes Family recording Devoted, composed five songs in my year-end list.  Therefore, Rebecca Peck is my 2015 Songwriter of the Year.

See below for my the full list of my top 20 songs of the year.

*I am counting the Booth Brothers’ Still recording in 2015 for the purposes of this year in review, since it came out so late in 2014, and I didn’t get it until late January.

 

  1. “When He Carries Me Away,” Collingsworth Family, That Day Is Coming (Rachel McCutcheon/Adina Bowman)
  2. “Jesus Saves,” Booth Brothers, Still (Travis Cottrell/David Moffitt)
  3. “What an Anchor,” Mylon Hayes Family, Devoted (Dianne Wilkinson/Rebecca Peck)
  4. “Put Out the Fire,” Greater Vision, As We Speak (Rodney Griffin)
  5. “It’s Not a Problem for the Answer,” Mylon Hayes Family, Devoted (Rebecca Peck)
  6. “It’s Just Like Heaven,” Mylon Hayes Family, Devoted (W. Oliver Cooper)
  7. “Touch of the Master’s Hand,” Booth Brothers, Still (John Kramp)
  8. “Grace Happened Here,” Mylon Hayes Family, Devoted (Rodney Griffin/Natalie Harp)
  9. “Gotta Get to Jesus,” Collingsworth Family, That Day Is Coming (Rachel McCutcheon/Karen Gillespie/Helga Kaefer)
  10. “I’ll Take It Like It Is,” Mylon Hayes Family, Devoted (Dianne Wilkinson/Rebecca Peck)
  11. “Let the Blood of Calvary Speak for Me,” Greater Vision, As We Speak (Joel Hemphill/Candy Hemphill Christmas/Lari Goss)
  12. “I Choose to Be a Christian,” Erwins, Ready to Sail (Rachel McCutcheon)
  13. “Steppin’ Out in Faith,” Jim Brady Trio, A New Chapter (Jim Brady/Melissa Brady)
  14. “Ever Faithful,” Collingsworth Family, That Day Is Coming (Joel Lindsey/Jeff Bumgarner)
  15. “How Great the Debt,” Old Paths, Stay (Dianne Wilkinson/Rebecca Peck)
  16. “One More Opportunity,” Mylon Hayes Family, Devoted (Rebecca Peck/Allen Guyer)
  17. “What the Bible Says,” Collingsworth Family, That Day Is Coming (Wayne Haun/Randall Garland/Val Dacus)
  18. “I’m Not Going to Hell,” Edwards Family, All That Matters (Stacy Pearcy)
  19. “There’s Still Power in the Blood,” Collingsworth Family, That Day Is Coming (Kirk Talley)
  20. “I Love You This Much,” Whisnants, Walk of Faith (Sandy Blythe)

Nov 11

Album Review: Miles Pike – Candid

miles pike - candidI’ll be honest with you….over the past couple of years or so I’ve became disenchanted with Southern Gospel music as a whole.  Not sure the exact reason of this, perhaps it’s just a season of life to go through.  During this time I’ve been on a hiatus from listening to anything other than some old favorite recordings of mine.  Yesterday, I received a package from artist Miles Pike of Jacksonville, TX.  I opened it up to find his new recording inside.

To be honest, my initial reaction was “meh…another CD.”  I started looking over the song titles and some really grabbed my attention.  One track in particular caught my eye… “Would Jesus Wear A Rolex”.  Being a huge Ray Stevens fan & collector, I remember when he released this song in 1987 on his “Crackin’ Up” recording.  I thought to myself, “If someone is brave enough to sing a song like this, they deserve a listen.”  I immediately threw the album into my computer and started listening, although not really hopeful of hearing anything worthwhile.  Honestly, I jumped to track 3 because I was ready to compare Miles’ version to Ray Stevens’ efforts.  I was more than surprised when the track played.  The arrangement of the song was similar to Stevens’ version, but Miles certainly made it his own…and I love it!!!!  Afterwards, I set the project to loop over and over for the rest of the day and it truly never got old.

To say that I’m blown away with this project is really an understatement.  It’s not your typical Southern Gospel or Country Gospel recording whatsoever…and it’s right up my alley.  I suppose you could say this is type of crossover project…not exactly strictly Country or Southern Gospel, but enough flavor from both to make it really good.

From the first song to the last, I have honestly enjoyed this project as much as any I have any that I have ever received.  Yes….any.  And that says a lot about this project.  It was good enough to bring me from review seclusion to let you know just how good this recording is.  It

The song selections are great, the music and production quality is phenomenal and the vocals are top notch.  I especially love the quartet styling on songs like “Modern Man” and “Talk About The Good Times”, which unless I’m mistaken is Miles singing each of the four parts.  Miles’ range is uncanny!

This CD will be available soon for your purchase and I hope you will do your self a favor and buy it.  It really is a fantastic recording.  I’m still looping it in my office now and I like it more now than when I first listened.

Miles, thank you for sending this CD to me!  You have rekindled my interest in listening to new recordings.

Album rating: 5 stars out of 5


 

Track List (with scripture & notes from Miles Pike):

1. Hard – Rich Mullins
1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Galatians 5:17, Romans 7:14-25
When I came to Christ, I had an idea of what being a Christian would mean in my life. A few changes here and there and get rid of some bad habits. Now, years after my conversion, I realize I had no idea what Christ had in mind. More than that, I realize I had no idea what He had to work with — or rather, the lack thereof.

2. Don’t Unpack Your Bags – Steve & Annie Chapman
Hosea 4:6-9, 2 Timothy 4:1-5
In the beginning, people flocked to Christ for his powerful speaking and for his amazing miracles. But the truth He spoke offended people; rubbed salt in their decaying souls. And in the end, the majority of those that had followed him rejected what He said, and for three years of ministry, all the Son of God had to show for it was perhaps 500 people. Somehow, this is encouraging to me, in a round about way. Every preacher desiring to follow in Christ’s steps should consider seriously what He said — if I was rejected, you will be rejected. If I was hated, you will be hated.

3. Would Jesus Wear A Rolex – Margaret Archer/Chet Atkins
Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 8:20, 1 Timothy 6:3-12
The only reason I can get away with bringing this issue up is because the song is funny. Otherwise it would be judgmental and “surely you don’t mean Bro. So-And-So” would start flying through the air. To me, the very fact that Bro. So-And-So popped into your head at all is a little telling. Obviously there’s a little doubt there already. And there shouldn’t be. God’s spokesmen should have an untainted reputation, in the world as well as in the church. Period. Is that a tall order? You betcha.

4. You Love The World – Keith Green
James 4:3-10, 1 John 2:15-17, Luke 9:23-26, Luke 21:34-36
When I read what Christ said about loving the world, I find that His emphasis is on the love of it’s security, the love of it’s respect, the love of it’s entertainment — simple everyday loves. And I find the love of the world hiding in the shadows of my own heart, and once again have to cry out for forgiveness and grace.

5. Why Aren’t We Waiting – Chaz Bosarge
Colossians 4:2-4, Isaiah 26:8-11, 2 Peter 3:11-14, Psalms 37
“Why aren’t we waiting?” I can easily answer with a quickly manufactured theological mini sermon, but “why am I personally not waiting,” is not so easily answered. Wonderfully good and needful things keep me from my Lord. I find myself Martha (the Biblical Martha — this is not a jab at my wife), wishing I could be Mary (the Biblical Mary — not any Mary you know), but too practical to actually let some of the good and needful things go undone.

6. Brother’s Keeper – Rich Mullins/Beaker
Genesis 4:9, Luke 10:25-37, Luke 6:27-42
I want to be good to the people in my life so badly. And I know that’s part of the evidence of salvation — loving your neighbor and wanting to be true to the love that Christ places in your heart. But there’s not much that I fail at more regularly. I’m forever needing to go back to the Lord to ask Him to help me do what He has given me the desire to do — make me my brother’s keeper.

7. Man Against Man – Buddy Greene
Colossians 3:1-17, Deuteronomy 10:17-19, Leviticus 19:15, James 2:1-17
When Christ looked at a person, I guess there was really only one category He ever saw. Adams race, all created in God’s image, all broken, all sinful, all needing a Savior. And when I forget that, my condemning, judgmental, stereotyping reflex demonstrates that it is alive and well in my flesh.

8. Recovering Pharisee – Buddy Greene
Romans 7:21-8:11
My Christian life is very similar to what I imagine rehab is like. I’m in recovery — the cure has been given and it is even now at work. My mind is being changed to reflect the mind of Christ. But my flesh has got ruts a mile deep where the wheels of old habits go round and round. I know Christ is at work within me, but sometimes I wish He’d speed up the process.

9. Live Your Life – Tim Lovelace
Proverbs 11:10, Matthew 12:33-36, Luke 6:43-49
I’ve sung the standards at dozens of funeral and heard some whitewashed (sometimes completely erroneous) eulogies by pastors who either did not know the person or knew them and lied as big as Dallas. And then there were the sweet funerals where we grieved for the gaping hole left in our lives, yet knew we’d see them again. That’s what I want my funeral to be like.

10. Modern Man – Stephen Hill
Romans 3:10-18, Isaiah 59
When people come to our house, they are often surprised by the quiet. In the beginning of our marriage, we decided to do without cable TV; at the same time, living in the sticks, we have internet that is limited and slow. Not having those things, we gradually reacquired the sensitivity to filth that had somewhat eroded for both of us with prolonged exposure to media before marriage. When we see live TV now, it amazes us to think that we were at one time comfortable to be entertained by that. That’s an issue previous generations never had to deal with. Evil that used to be shut out of the protected atmosphere of the home is now piped in at every moment without pause. You can hold it in your hand, you can put it in your ear; it is readily accessible anywhere you go.

11. Hard to Get – Rich Mullins
Psalm 73, Isaiah 55:8-11, Luke 22:39-46, Isaiah 53:4
What stands out most to me about the person of Christ is that He’s absolutely unpredictable. He’s full of contrasts. In every given circumstance He does exactly the right thing — but the right thing is rarely what I would have thought the right thing would be. If I had been a disciple, I’m very sure I’d have been yelling with the rest of them, “Master, wake up! Don’t you care that we’re gonna die?” Very sure, because that’s exactly the way I am now.

12. You Get Back Each Single Minute – Mark Bishop
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:2, 1 Peter 5:10, Romans 8:18-37
“I will restore the years that the locusts have eaten.” I love these words in Joel. I know so many people who are like the saints of the Old Testament — they don’t understand the ‘why’ of their present circumstances, but they look ahead with eyes of faith and know that in the end, God will make it right.

13. Talk About the Good Times – Jerry Reed
1 Peter 1:3-9, Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah 11:1-9, Isaiah 2:1-5
This song reminds me so much of my Grandad — a man who loved Jesus, loved his family, and loved his community. He was told that he needed open heart surgery by the doctor, and when his sister got onto him for cooking his eggs, bacon, biscuits, & gravy, he told her, “There’s somebody bigger than the doctor. I’m hurting, I’m tired, and I’m ready to go.” It makes me smile to think of him seinin’ for minners in the River of Life, humming “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Talk about a good time.

Recorded and produced by Tommy Cooper
Tracks recorded at OmniSound Studio,
Nashville Engineers: Tommy Cooper, Lee Unfried, Mike Walter
Vocals recorded at AFAB Studio,
Nashville Mixed at AFAB Studio,
Nashville Strings recorded at Little Big Sound,
Nashville Orchestra Engineer: Jeff Pitzer Mastering – Keith Compton,
Nashville Graphics – McClearan Design Studios
Cover Art – Lorianne Hubbard
Replication – TCA (Tape Corporation of America)

Piano/Organ/Keyboards: Gary Prim
Drums/Percussion: Tommy Harden, John Hammond
Bass: Duncan Mullins
Electric Guitars: Kelly Back
Acoustic Guitar/Banjo/Fiddle: Bruce Watkins
Fiddle/Bouzouki: Glen Duncan
Steel Guitar/Dobro: Scott Sanders
Penny Whistle/Recorder: Sam Levine
Accordion: Jeff Taylor
Harmonica: Buddy Greene
Cello: John Catchings
Jug: Tommy Cooper
Background Vocals: Miles Pike, Martha Pike, Angela Primm, Gale Mayes, Reggie Smith, Buddy Greene
String Arrangements & Orchestrations: Milton Smith
Orchestra: Violins: David Davidson, David Angell/Viola: Monisa Angell/Cello: John Catchings


For more information on Miles Pike and adding his music to your library, visit www.MilesPikeMusic.com.

Oct 20

Album Review: Devoted (Mylon Hayes Family)

MHF-devotedThe Mylon Hayes Family have been singing for several years, but seem to be on an upward trajectory of late.  The family consists of Mylon, a veteran on the gospel music scene with the classic Hayes Family, wife Wendy, twin sons Conner and Bailey (17) and daughter Kennedy (13).  They certainly caught my eye (and ear) with video performances of gospel convention classics like “Rock of Ages, Keep My Soul” and “Jesus Spoke to Me,” and their involvement in the Gospel Music Hymn Sing events.  To hear a young family singing the old-fashioned way is an incredible treat, so I made sure to pick up their latest recording, Devoted.  I got the CD looking for some great convention singing, but I ended up getting a whole lot more.

Because of my love for convention songs, the title that jumped out at me first was ol’ Page 2 in the redback Church Hymnal, the delightful but rarely-recorded “It’s Just Like Heaven”.  And a tremendous cut it is, sung note-for-note from the redback (down to the fermata in the middle of the verse!), with an energetic track.  My reaction: repeat, repeat, repeat.  While that’s the only classic convention number on the album, it’s not the only convention-style singing.  Two new songs, “The Coming of the Lord” and “I’ll Take It Like It Is” break into a little counterpoint in the chorus as well.  They are outstanding and fun tracks.  I especially like the latter, with a strong lyric on the supremacy of the Bible.  There are no better sources today for new, but old-fashioned, gospel songs than Rebecca Peck and Dianne Wilkinson.  Peck wrote “The Coming of the Lord” and the two co-wrote “I’ll Take It Like It Is”.  Peck, who is Mylon’s cousin, wrote or co-wrote eight of the thirteen songs found on Devoted.  That is what I call a recipe for success.  Another fast-paced highlight among hers is “One More Opportunity,” which is an ideal concert opener encouraging the listener to join in a time of praise.

Besides their obvious aptitude in technical convention singing, the teenagers can all hold down a strong feature, and each gets one on Devoted.  Conner sings “At the Foot of Calvary’s Cross,” with a mid-tempo country style.  Bailey gets the smooth, easy-listening tune “He Is All I Need”.  Young Kennedy shines on the hard-driving “I Choose to Stand”.  Kennedy’s voice is an absolute “ear magnet,” meaning that any time she does anything in a song, be it a solo or step-out line, it demands the attention of the listener.  This is a quality all the great singers have.

If you’ve been paying attention in the last year or so in gospel music, you already knew the Mylon Hayes Family could sing something fast and fun.  What surprised me on Devoted was a trio of power songs that rank among the best new songs I’ve heard all year.  A few measures into “Grace Happened Here,” Rodney Griffin’s hand is already apparent.  Mylon is featured on this lyric that supposes an answer to the age-old question of what Jesus wrote on the ground in John 8, and makes a beautiful application.  Mylon is also featured on the Wilkinson/Peck anthem “What an Anchor”.  What a lyric, what a song!  The talented Cody McVey deserves a lot of credit for his orchestration and arrangement of these two stirring power ballads.  The album closes with a mid-tempo ballad from Peck, “It’s Not a Problem for the Answer,” which features Wendy.  I haven’t stopped singing this one since I first heard it.  There is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t be a smash #1 hit and Song of the Year candidate.  It’s that good.

I listen to a lot of new CDs each year, and there are usually only one or two that make me want to call up all my friends and tell them to buy it.  I’ve heard excellent new music from the “big names” like Greater Vision and the Collingsworth Family, but in 2015, I found that excitement with the Mylon Hayes Family and Devoted, which is now my favorite recording of the year.  Go get it.

Album Rating: 5 stars

 

Song List:

1. Praise Him! Praise Him! (Fanny Crosby/Chester G. Allen)

2. One More Opportunity (Rebecca Peck/Allen Guyer)

3. Love Medley [The Way That He Loves (Elmo Mercer), The Wonder of It All (George Beverly Shea), The Love of God (Vep Ellis)]

4. At the Foot of Calvary’s Cross (Peck/Amber Maxwell)

5. He Is All I Need (Peck/Dianne Wilkinson)

6. The Coming of the Lord (Peck)

7. Grace Happened Here (Rodney Griffin/Natalie Harp)

8. I Choose to Stand (Sandy Blythe)

9. Devoted to You (Peck/Wilkinson)

10. It’s Just Like Heaven (W. Oliver Cooper)

11. What an Anchor (Peck/Wilkinson)

12. I’ll Take It Like It Is (Peck/Wilkinson)

13. It’s Not a Problem for the Answer (Peck)

 

Available at: Mylon Hayes Family

Oct 06

Album Review: A New Look (Kingdom Heirs)

kingdom-heirsThe end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 found the Kingdom Heirs in a state of flux with the departure of longtime owner, MC, and baritone Steve French.  I must admit as a big Kingdom Heirs fan, I wondered about what would happen with the group in the long term after such a significant change.  My fears were assuaged with the addition of the talented Brian Alvey to fill the baritone role, and the continuance of the recording process with Sonlite Records.  The result is the group’s brand new album, A New Look, the title of which has an obvious double meaning.  While A New Look does contain some new wrinkles, it continues with the solid musical foundation laid by one of gospel music’s most consistent and talented quartets.

The biggest difference to me between A New Look and the Kingdom Heirs’ other recordings in recent years is less reliance on Dianne Wilkinson’s songs.  Do not get me wrong…no one’s a bigger Dianne Wilkinson fan than me, and one of my favorite things about the Kingdom Heirs is that they record her tremendous songs.  But it’s also good to get some other writers involved when the right songs come up.  The quartet’s most recent Sonlite recording, Redeeming the Time, had eight Wilkinson cuts.  Before that, We Will Stand Our Ground had ten, When You Look at Me had nine, and True to the Call had eight.

A New Look contains only four Wilkinson gems, but they are up to the usual quality.  The album opener and title track is a co-write with the amazing Rebecca Peck, a classic Kingdom Heirs-style quartet number with a lyric on the supremacy of Scripture.  That’s followed by “Power in Those Bones,” a co-write with lead singer Arthur Rice, which is the recording’s biggest ballad.  It took a couple of listens to really take hold of this song’s message, which is a little unusual.  Drawn from a story in 2 Kings about the bones of the prophet Elisha bringing a man back to life, it is probably the most pointed message specifically to older Christians I remember hearing.  When I thought about that, and I thought about the age of the typical southern gospel concert attendee, I understood the need for this lyric.  The message on the ability of all Christians to contribute to the Kingdom of God can be applied to anyone, though.  It took a couple of listens, but “Power in Those Bones” became one of my top picks from the recording.  The final Wilkinson cut is the album closer, “The Church Will Overcome,” which new baritone Alvey recorded first with the Talleys a couple of years ago.  This hard-driving burner was one of my favorites then, and is just as good now, a great addition to the Kingdom Heirs’ repertoire.

With other writers getting involved more, it is a tremendous pleasure to see another Rodney Griffin song on a Kingdom Heirs record.  The quartet was a huge outlet for some of his best songs in the early 2000s, but in the past decade or so, the mega-hit “He Locked the Gates” was the only Griffin song they recorded.  “As Many Times” is a fun country-style song that has Rodney all over it, and it does not disappoint.  The immensely talented Mark Bishop contributes “The Chain Gang,” which serves as the recording’s first radio single.  This is a very unique song that evokes imagery of the classic “chain gang” of prisoners, in a minor key and with a heavy rhythm corresponding to their repetitive and arduous work.  It is bass Jeff Chapman’s main feature on A New Look, and he does his usual great job.  Terry and Barbi Franklin contribute their first cut to quartet in many years with “God’s Gonna Do More,” the recording’s most energetic fast-paced song.

The Kingdom Heirs didn’t have to look very far for another one of their song sources.  Drummer Dennis Murphy has penned a couple of hits in the past, “God’s Word” and “No Bones About It,” and he has two cuts on this record.  “More Like Jesus” is another in a long line of fun and light upbeat tunes from the quartet.  The ballad “Pieces” has the potential to be a major hit, in my opinion.  It is probably tenor Jerry Martin’s strongest feature with the Kingdom Heirs, and is also one of the strongest lyrical messages on the album.  Another big message song is found in “Never Made a Promise,” which is a very strong vocal showing from Alvey.  The songwriting trio of Sue Smith, Kenna Turner West, and Lee Black is usually found on more progressive groups’ recordings, and this song is a little bit outside of what the Heirs have recorded in the past, but it is outstanding.

I hope the Kingdom Heirs will always record at least one convention-style number, and they fulfilled my wish here with Wilkinson and Peck’s “Saving Us a Place in the Choir,” which contains full four-part counterpoint in the chorus.  It doesn’t have nearly the sheer energy of “The Joys of Heaven” and “Just Beyond the Sunset” from the quartet’s last album, but it is still a delight.  Keep ’em coming, songwriters and quartets!

The Kingdom Heirs may have a “new look,” but they haven’t gone anywhere, and don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.  While different in spots, it is still true-blue southern gospel quartet music, and I hope that never changes.  Every Kingdom Heirs mainline release in the last decade and a half has been one of the strongest quartet recordings of the given year, and that continues in 2015 with A New Look.

Album rating: 4.5 stars

Song list:

1. A New Look (Dianne Wilkinson/Rebecca Peck)

2. Power in Those Bones (Wilkinson/Arthur Rice)

3. More Like Jesus (Dennis Murphy)

4. The Chain Gang (Mark Bishop)

5. As Many Times (Rodney Griffin)

6. Pieces (Murphy)

7. Saving Us a Place in the Choir (Wilkinson/Peck)

8. Never Made a Promise (Sue C. Smith/Kenna Turner West/Lee Black)

9. God’s Gonna Do More (Terry & Barbi Franklin)

10. Pass the Torch (Sandy Knight/Jeff Collins)

11. The Church Will Overcome (Wilkinson)

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