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

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)

Sep 28

Album Review: That Day Is Coming (Collingsworth Family)

dayiscomingThe Collingsworth Family’s third mainline release with Stowtown Records, That Day Is Coming, continues to build on the catalog of musical excellence that has brought them to the top of the gospel music genre.  Indeed, the first word that comes to mind when I think of Collingsworth music is that word: excellence.  They are perhaps the greatest ensemble of pure talent in gospel music, but real excellence doesn’t come from just talent.    A series of videos the family put out ahead of this release covering the recording process is a testament to their dedication to their craft and attention to detail.  With Wayne Haun once again in the producer’s chair, That Day Is Coming is, as usual, one of the best gospel music recordings of the year.

With the Collingsworths’ ability to create an awe-inspiring wall of sound, their big, sweeping arrangements are a hallmark of their recordings.  The one getting early buzz is the inspirational ballad, “You’re About to Climb,” featuring the eldest sibling, Brooklyn.  Though she is most often the one carrying the melody, she has not gotten as many opportunities as one might think to be spotlighted in a big song.  This one changes that, and as such, stands to become a potential signature song for the young soprano.  The recording’s other power ballad, “When He Carries Me Away,” is absolutely one of my personal favorites on the album.  Featuring the rich alto tones of mama Kim, it starts softly before “carrying away” the listener to heaven with a mighty orchestrated arrangement.

The family’s previous mainline recording, The Lord Is Good, contained what I thought to be their best collection of uptempo songs to that point.  That Day Is Coming has very good ones, too, but once again, I find myself wishing there were one or two more on a recording that leans on the slower tempo side.  The title song has a catchy energy befitting its Second Coming theme and will surely be a crowd-pleaser.  “There’s Still Power in the Blood” is an outstanding Talleys cover featuring papa Phil, and the turnaround of the hymn “There’s Power in the Blood” is most welcome.  The supremely talented Phillip Jr. doesn’t get nearly as many features on this recording as on The Lord Is Good and Hymns from Home in 2013, but he makes his opportunity count with another personal favorite, the fun and rollicking “What the Bible Says”.

Middle daughter Courtney is perhaps underrated because she is so strong at anchoring the middle of the stack of harmony, but the family has consistently picked great songs to feature her, like “I Can Trust Jesus” and “I Found It All”.  They picked another very good one here with “Gotta Get to Jesus,” with a stirring message launched from the story of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment.  The youngest sibling, Olivia, has been gradually worked into the family’s presentation as her voice has matured, and it’s clear she has now solidified a keystone role.  Her features on the recording, the easy-going “I Love Living in Love With Jesus” and the Martins cover “Wherever You Are,” are her best vocal showing yet.  For the first time, the Collingsworths get an in-law involved in their recording.  Phillip’s wife Sharlenae shows she has plenty of vocal chops as well on the beautiful “Redeemer of the Rain,” most of which is a husband/wife duet.  All of the songs mentioned in this paragraph fall in a more slow tempo, contemplative category, of which That Day Is Coming contains plenty of examples.  Among them, my favorite is probably “Saints Love to Sing About Heaven”.  Brooklyn has the feature, but the highlight is the ensemble singing in the chorus, which one has to think bears a resemblance to the singing that will be heard in that heavenly home.

One more name needs to mentioned as a star of this album in addition to the seven vocalists.  Is it possible that Rachel McCutcheon has become to the Collingsworth Family what Dianne Wilkinson is to the Kingdom Heirs?  McCutcheon has eight, count ’em, eight cuts on That Day Is Coming, and there is not a dud among them.  Plucked from seemingly out of nowhere by Wayne Haun just a couple of years ago, McCutcheon’s songs and Collingsworth voices are a match made in heaven.

The Collingsworth Familty has been blessed with an abundance of talent, and with seven different voices featured, they are capable of a variety of different sounds, all of which are executed to near perfection.  The slight dearth of fast songs is only a mild criticism; it’s really just the group going with what has brought the most success.  And it’s hard to argue with the kind of success this family has enjoyed in recent years.  If That Day Is Coming is any indicator, that is not going to end any time soon.

Album Rating: 4.5 stars

Song List:

1. Awesome, Magnficent (Rachel McCutcheon)

2. I Love Living in Love With Jesus (McCutcheon)

3. That Day Is Coming (McCutcheon/Karen Gillespie)

4. He Will Abide (McCutcheon/Dianne Norton)

5. Ever Faithful (Joel Lindsey/Jeff Bumgardner)

6. There’s Still Power in the Blood (Kirk Talley)

7. Wherever You Are (Lindsey/Joyce Martin/Harrie McCollough)

8. You’re About to Climb (McCutcheon/Helga Kaefer)

9. What the Bible Says (Wayne Haun/Randall Garland/Val Dacus)

10. Gotta Get to Jesus (McCutcheon/Gillespie/Kaefer)

11. Saints Love to Sing About Heaven (McCutcheon)

12. When He Carries Me Away (McCutcheon/Adina Bowman)

13. Redeemer of the Rain (Lee Black/Dixie & Sharon Phillips)

Sep 01

Songs From Scripture: “With All the Many Miracles” (Greater Vision)

FirstBaptistAtlantaMy all-time favorite Greater Vision recording, so far, is Live at First Baptist Atlanta, which contains several of my favorite Rodney Griffin-penned songs.  It’s hard to pick a favorite among them, but if pressed, I’d probably have to choose “With All the Many Miracles”.  It’s not a big power ballad, and it’s not a blazing toe-tapper, but it contains one of the most effective Biblical narrative and application lyrics I’ve ever heard.  So I can’t think of a better candidate for the “Songs From Scripture” series!

The text on which the lyric is based is found in Numbers 13 and 14.  At this point, Moses had led the people of Israel all the way from Egypt, to the very doorstep of the promised land of Canaan.  God instructed Moses to send twelve spies, one from every tribe, to “search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel” (13:2).  It’s important that God never wanted the spies to judge how easy or difficult the entry into Canaan would be; the land was already theirs!  But Moses, when relaying the instructions, told the spies to do just that: “see the land…the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many…what the land is…whether it be good or bad…” (13:18-19).  Predictably, ten of the spies brought back an “evil report,” warning of a land that “eateth up the inhabitants thereof” and “men of great stature” (13:32-33).  They summarized their findings: “We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.” (13:31)

Griffin, in the first verse of “With All the Many Miracles,” introduces the story of the spies and their pessimistic and faithless report: “But when the spies returned to tell the others what they had learned / They said ‘For us to win, there’s just no way.'”  From there, he goes right into the second verse and the good news: “Still, two of them trusted God: Caleb and Joshua.”

Of the twelve spies, Caleb and Joshua were the only ones to bring back the report that God really wanted, in Numbers 14:7-9.

And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land.

If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey.

Only rebel not ye against the Lord, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the Lord is with us: fear them not.

The people of Israel seemed to have a serious short-term memory issue.  In the weeks and months prior to this bit of espionage, God had miraculously delivered the people from bondage in Egypt, parted an entire sea to provide safe passage, destroyed their enemies behind them, provided pillars of cloud and fire as guidance, brought water from a rock when they were thirsty, and rained manna from heaven when they were hungry.  So how could they not believe God now?  The chorus of the song asks the question in outstanding fashion; the third line is one of my all-time Rodney Griffin favorites.

With all the many miracles, why don’t you think it’s possible?

With all the many things we’ve seen, why do you think it’s just a dream?

With all the things He’s done for us, don’t you think it’s time we trust?

Remember what is possible, with all the many miracles.

The third verse of the song lists off the miracles Israel experienced, that you would think would prove once and for all that they could put their faith in God.  It’s easy to criticize the people of Israel for their lack of faith, but here is the truth.  All of us Christians have already experienced the greatest miracle God could ever do for us when he gloriously saved us from our sin and an eternity in hell.  Yet we, too, fail to trust in God for even the smallest things!  It turns out we have the same memory problem that Israel had.  Griffin’s fourth verse is the application to where we are, and the encouragement we need: “So here you are my friend, you face a battle you cannot win…Consider how good God’s been, He’s been faithful time and again!”

There is no problem we can face that is even remotely as big as our God!  Putting our trust in Him is a guarantee of a victorious Christian life.  Unfortunately, in Numbers, the children of Israel had to learn the lesson the hard way.  They believed the faithless report instead of the faithful report, and God’s judgement was severe.  Caleb and Joshua were the only adults over 20 years of age at the time who would enter into Canaan. The rest would die in the wilderness over the next forty years, and the next generation would finally conquer the Promised Land.  And to think that they had “seen [God’s] glory, and [God’s] miracles” (14:22), but would never see God’s promise of victory fulfilled!  Let’s not be guilty of the same!

Aug 13

Best of the Best: The Booth Brothers

declarationThis “Best of the Best” series will not just cover my favorites from years past, but also my favorite recordings broken down by artist.  I won’t cover every single group represented in my music collection, because my collection isn’t extensive, and my knowledge not expansive, for every artist.  I thought I’d just go in alphabetical order, so I’ll kick this part of the series off with one of gospel music’s most celebrated and awarded trios, the Booth Brothers.

The Booth Brothers have covered a lot of stylistic ground over more than two decades on the gospel music scene, but what has remained consistent is their smooth, seemingly effortless harmony, which is among the best of the genre.  Though they are perhaps better known for a quieter, soothing sound, my favorite Booth Brothers recording is their biggest departure from that.  Declaration is chock full of grand, epic arrangements and soaring harmony, powerful from beginning to end.  It presents deep, lyrical truth in a most stirring fashion, with a big assist from the maestro himself, Lari Goss.

Here is my list of my favorite Booth Brothers albums, with Declaration leading the pack.  Their most recent offering, Still, with a mix of big arrangements and more easy-going tunes, makes a strong showing as well.

1. Declaration (2010)

2. Still (2014)

3. Let It Be Known (2011)

4. A Tribute to the Songs of Bill & Gloria Gaither (2012)

5. Pure Southern Gospel (2004)


And the songs:

1. “Then I Met the Master”, Declaration (2010)

2. “God Did It All”, Declaration (2010)

3. “Jesus Saves”, Still (2014)

4. “In Christ Alone Medley”, Declaration (2010)

5. “He Saw It All”, The Blind Man Saw It All (2005)

6. “Thank Him for the Miracle”, The Booth Brothers (2003)

7. “A Higher Throne”, Declaration (2010)

8. “I See Grace”, Declaration (2010)

9. “Touch of the Master’s Hand”, Still (2014)

10. “What About Now”, Let It Be Known (2011)


What are your favorite songs and recordings by these masters of harmony?

Jul 07

Album Review: All That Matters (Edwards Family)

All That Matters CoverThe Edwards Family has been delighting congregations in southern Appalachia for several years, with their energetic brand of traditional family harmony.  From inception, the group has consisted of Adam (this site’s creator and owner), his wife Patricia, and Patricia’s mother, Anna Scott.  Recently, the family added the talents of tenor Jacob Ellison.  With their new recording, All That Matters, the Edwards Family debuts Adam and Patricia’s daughters, Keanna and Sarah, who were 11 and 8 years old, respectively, at the time of the recording.

The girls are definitely not a cute “novelty,” as is heard on many recordings with children so young.  They are featured on seven of the album’s twelve songs, and are surprisingly polished vocalists for their age and inexperience with recording.  The quality of the vocal blend is just as good on these songs as it is when the adults are featured.  The CD kicks off with the young ‘uns, on a stirring rendition of “All That Matters”.  I must also add that it is a real treat to hear these young ladies singing old-fashioned, toe-tapping southern gospel.  Strong examples of this include “I Know My Lord’s Gonna Stand by Me,” “I’d Rather Be Saved,” “When We All Get There,” and “I Thank You Lord”.  There is truly not a bad egg in that bunch.  With the obvious natural talent and training these girls have received, the future is very bright for the Edwards Family.

The balance of the songs feature the “classic” Edwards Family, if you will.  Patricia sings most of the melodies in a distinctly Appalachian alto, with Adam on the lower harmony and either Scott or Ellison providing the middle part.  The highlight among these songs is “I’m Not Going to Hell,” written by Stacy Pearcy, a pastor in East Tennessee.  Pearcy’s “God Makes No Mistakes,” “I Choose the Lord,” and “My Lord Is Taking Good Care of Me” were recorded by the Inspirations a few years ago.  (The latter is also found on this Edwards Family recording.)  But his finest work I’ve heard is “I’m Not Going to Hell,” which was introduced to me by this family a couple of years ago.  The best way I can describe it is that it’s a big “nanner nanner boo boo” to the devil. I’ve yet to hear this song in a church service where it didn’t elicit a powerful response.  I long for the day when a national group picks this song up (I hear the McKameys) and puts it in the ears of people across the country.  But any such group would have a hard time doing it as well as the Edwards Family does.  Like many gospel groups from the mountains, this group is most adept with mid-tempo, 3/4 time fare, like “A Risen Savior,” and “I’ve Heard of a Land,” along with the aforementioned Pearcy compositions.

My favorite aspect of All That Matters is the song selection.  The vocals are as clean and solid as the Edwards Family has ever sounded, and the instrumentation and production are spot on.  But those aspects only serve to allow for the effective delivery of the messages of these songs.  Several found on this recording are songs I’ve heard for years in churches across the Carolinas, but had never heard a recording of until now.  If you’ve gone to a traditional Baptist revival in this region in recent years, chances are you have heard “I’m Not Going to Hell,” “Why Should I Worry,” or “All That Matters”.  Now, we can hear them all the time, courtesy of the Edwards Family.  If you like old-fashioned, Spirit-filled singing, you will certainly enjoy All That Matters.

Song list:

1. All That Matters (Micah Henson)

2. Why Should I Worry (Charlotte Sons Baker)

3. My Lord Is Taking Good Care of Me (Stacy Pearcy)

4. I Know My Lord’s Gonna Stand by Me (Luther G. Presley)

5. Altogether Lovely (Lori Metcalf)

6. I’ve Heard of a Land (Harvey Gene Smith)

7. I Thank You Lord (Jason Camp)

8. I’m Not Going to Hell (Stacy Pearcy)

9. I’d Rather Be Saved (Rodney Griffin/Kirk Talley)

10. A Risen Savior (Chris Allman)

11. Let Me Tell You ‘Bout Jesus (Alphus LeFevre/Charles Matthews)

12. When We All Get There (Shekinah Camp)

Available at: Edward Family website, major digital outlets

(Though Adam is a friend and my “boss” as far as this blog goes, he did not in any way request or suggest a review from me of this CD.  I just flat out like it, and think others will, too.)

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