Apr 16

‘Happy Rhythm’ from The Ball Brothers featuring new bass vocalist, Jon Epley

I am looking forward to hearing all of the new project from the Ball Brothers. This clip from the recent tour in Ireland gives us a small taste of good things to come. These guys have a great sound!

Be happy today! Here's a clip from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Featuring our newest member Jon Epley on bass. Proverbs 15:13 Feel free to SHARE. :)

Posted by The Ball Brothers on Thursday, April 16, 2015

Apr 15

The Inspirations – First Look At New Vocal Lineup

Here’s an extended video of the new lineup for the Inspirations Quartet.  The Inspirations welcome Harold Reed as their new tenor and Joe Brown singing Bass.  They join Melton Campbell and Matt Dibler, their baritone and lead singer respectively.

Apr 13

Album Review: As We Speak (Greater Vision)

AsWeSpeakAs Greater Vision embarks on their 25th year in gospel music, fans have come to expect a high level of quality in their music.  Time and again, they meet those expectations, and they remain at the pinnacle of gospel music, with no descent in sight.  As We Speak is the latest album from one of gospel music’s most acclaimed groups, another collection of meaningful songs with rich harmonies.

The album opens with a blaze, an exciting Rodney Griffin-penned song that sounds like a slam-dunk number one hit.  “Put Out the Fire” places us at the Jordan River with John the Baptist, proclaiming the coming of the Lamb of God.  The lyrics relay the stirring implications of that name for Christ, who was the universal and perfect sacrifice for the sin of the world.  What I didn’t realize until listening to the song and going back to the Scriptures, was that John’s proclamation was the first time recorded in the Bible that Jesus was referred to as the “Lamb of God”.  What a striking statement that must have been to the Jews gathered around Jordan that day!  “Put Out the Fire” lays it all out, and I haven’t stopped singing it for days.

As We Speak contains a few other strong uptempo songs, and not all written by Griffin.  It’s been seven years since Greater Vision recorded a new song not written by Griffin or Chris Allman, but they picked out a good one with “Never Will I Ever Again,” from then pen of Regina Walden (whose “Oh Yes I Am” just went to #1 for the Kingsmen).  A fiddle-laced country style number, it contains a catchy and slightly tongue-twisting lyric, the likes of which has been a Greater Vision hallmark over the years.  Griffin’s “Toes in the Water” is a more hard-driving song with a practical message of commitment to God’s service.  “The Sandals of Daniel” has a more easy-going sound and is another in a long line of Biblical narrative and self-examination lyrics from Griffin.

Of course, Griffin’s not the only great songwriter in the group.  Chris Allman’s songs, like “Another Child’s Coming Home” from The Only Way or “I Can Trust You” from For All He’s Done, tend to bring something a little different to the table musically for Greater Vision.  Such is the case for “He Does,” a slower song with a gradual melodic lift that corresponds with a lyrical lift about Christ’s love for us.  Allman teamed with Griffin to write “Saved by the Same Grace,” which tells the story of two seemingly opposite sinners, backed by by a B3 organ and electric guitar.

As We Speak contains two more songs from “outside” the group.  “We Can’t Tell It All” is the first new Phil Cross song Greater Vision has recorded in a decade.  It is a mid-tempo number with a very strong country flavor and a simple lyric of God’s greatness, which is beyond description.  The album’s one “old” song is a brilliant, even if obscure, pull from the Hemphills’ discography, “Let the Blood of Calvary Speak for Me”.  What a lyric it contains, against an exquisite orchestrated backdrop by the late, great Lari Goss, who also co-wrote the song.  Griffin turns in a great vocal feature on this one.  He seems to be one of those singers who gets better with age, and in my opinion, he’s never sounded better than he does on As We Speak.  I don’t think I’m the only one who notices, because he is featured on six of the album’s ten songs.

Goss provided the orchestrations for the project prior to his passing earlier this year.  Greater Vision paid a classy tribute to him on the album’s artwork, dedicating the recording to his memory.  These arrangements on As We Speak are not the majestic and epic variety that is so well-associated with Goss, but the more understated and poignant type.  One such example is “I Do Know,” a soothing song of heaven written by and featuring Griffin.  The album’s closer and title song is its most moving, with a tender lyric expressing a desire for close fellowship with the Father.  Much like “Seeking for Me” on the group’s last major recording, it is the sole feature for Gerald Wolfe.  It is a tremendous, delicate vocal performance, one that I can see being a staple at the end of Greater Vision concerts this year.

As We Speak doesn’t contain any memorable, high-flying vocals, or any dramatic power ballads with eight key changes.  But that’s not why we listen to Greater Vision, is it?.  It does contain what Greater Vision recordings always contain: substantive and Biblical lyrics, and musical excellence.  Hearing their music is a constant reminder that the main thing is the quality of the song, and what the song is telling us.  You will enjoy what these songs have to say, as they speak to us.

Album Rating: 4.5 stars

Song List:

1. Put Out the Fire (Rodney Griffin)

2. We Can’t Tell It All (Phil Cross)

3. Toes in the Water (Griffin)

4. He Does (Chris Allman)

5. In the Sandals of Daniel (Griffin)

6. Let the Blood of Calvary Speak for Me (Joel Hemphill/Candy Hemphill Christmas/Lari Goss)

7. Never Will I Ever Again (Regina Walden)

8. I Do Know (Griffin)

9. Saved by the Same Grace (Allman/Griffin)

10. As We Speak (Griffin)

Mar 26

“I’m Praying For You” – concept video from the Troy Burns Family

Take a few moments and watch this video from Inspirations’ alumni, Troy Burns, and his precious family.  What a message!

Mar 24

Album Review: Stay (Old Paths)

StayIt’s been said here and elsewhere in the gospel music world over the last few years that the Old Paths were one of the best up-and-coming quartets in America.  Let’s go ahead and remove one of the modifiers and call the Old Paths, simply, one of the best quartets in America.  They’ve had four songs reach #1 on the Singing News chart since December 2012; no artist can claim more.  They are reaping the rewards of consistency in their vocal lineup, working on three and a half years of Jeremy Peace at tenor, Tim Rackley at lead, Doug Roark at baritone, and Daniel Ashmore on bass.  With their third major Crossroads release, Stay, the Old Paths are no longer out to show their worth among the top quartets in gospel music, but to continue providing the quality of music and songs that already put them on that tier.

With the fantastic radio success the Old Paths have had, they are sure to draw the attention of gospel music’s top songwriters.  And as songwriters go, there are none better right now than Dianne Wilkinson and Rebecca Peck.  They wrote, individually and together, six of the ten songs featured on Stay.  The three co-writes are three of the strongest songs on the recording.  The opener, “Have You Ever,” is a bluesy number that sounds right out of the Kingdom Heirs playbook.  It’s a sort of new sound for the Old Paths, but it works very well.  “Washed in the Blood” busts out the fiddle for a fun country-style tune.  Ashmore has one of the very best features of his young career on this song that declares the one true method of salvation.  Finally, “How Great the Debt” is an outstanding big ballad feature for Rackley, out of the same stylistic mold as the hit, “Long Live the King”.  After “racking” my brain, I can’t think of five lead singers in gospel music right now as good as Rackley, and he delivers again on this one.

The Old Paths are always strong on the hard-driving quartet songs, and this recording’s best example is Wilkinson’s “What Did They Call Him”.  If you’ve heard “It’s Jesus,” which Wilkinson wrote and the Mark Trammell Trio recorded more than a decade ago, you’ll find this song’s pattern familiar, but still enjoyable.  A Peck composition found at the end of the album, “Out of the Grave” brings a much different type of high energy, trumpeting the victory of Christ’s Resurrection. Jeremy Peace is one of southern gospel’s singular talents, and he delivers this song in a way only he can.  Peace also shines brightly on “You Never Cease to Amaze Me,” a worship ballad from Peck’s pen.

Two names I’ve seen on lots of quality songs in the last couple of years are Rachel McCutcheon and Karen Gillespie, who co-wrote “Just Can’t Get Over,” Roark’s lone feature on Stay.  With a memorable hook and an easy melody, it’s the kind of song that easily rings in the listener’s mind all day.

Despite the large number of contributions from songwriting giants, the Old Paths still make sure to go back to the well of songwriters with whom they had previous success.  Rodney Birch, most impressively, has written three of the quartet’s #1 hits: “Battle Stand,” “God’s Great,” and “Love Them to Jesus”.  On Stay, he contributes “Ordinary People,” which bears a strong musical kinship to “God’s Great”.  Would you believe they are releasing it as the first single from the new project?  You can’t argue with that kind of success.

The recording’s most poignant lyric comes from the title song, written by Ray Scarbrough (whose “He’s My Song” and “I’m Saved” the Old Paths have recorded).  It illustrates the setting found in John 13 and 14.  Jesus has just conducted the Last Supper, washed the disciples’ feet, and told them that He would be betrayed.  The heaviness of chapter 13 gives way to the comfort of chapter 14, when Jesus promises both Heaven and the Holy Spirit to the grieving disciples.  “Stay” will be sure to resonate with listeners with its touching message the Lord’s enduring closeness to His children.

The main thing that keeps Stay from being one of my very top favorites, like the most recent efforts from the Kingdom Heirs, Mark Trammell Quartet, and the Kingsmen, is that there aren’t any strong convention-style quartet songs.  That’s more of a personal stylistic preference than anything.  The closest song to that on the recording is “Oh, What a Happy Morning,” which is another good bass feature for Ashmore.

By now, the Old Paths shouldn’t be surprising any southern gospel fans with the quality of their music.  They deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Triumphant, the Mark Trammell Quartet, Legacy Five, the Kingdom Heirs, and the other top quartets in the industry.  Stay will help keep them on that level, and they don’t appear to be letting up any time soon.

Album Rating:  4 stars

Song list:

1. Have You Ever (Dianne Wilkinson/Rebecca Peck)

2. You Never Cease to Amaze Me (Peck)

3. What Did They Call Him (Wilkinson)

4. Just Can’t Get Over (Rachel McCutcheon/Karen Gillespie)

5. Washed in the Blood (Wilkinson/Peck)

6. How Great the Debt (Wilkinson/Peck)

7. Ordinary People (Rodney Birch)

8. Stay (Ray Scarbrough)

9. Oh, What a Happy Morning (Larry Petree)

10. Out of the Grave (Peck)

Feb 13

Remembering Mosie Lister

MosieGospel music lost another giant yesterday with the passing of Mosie Lister, author of many classic songs that rank among the greatest in the history of the genre.  At age 93, he was one of the last remaining, or maybe even the last remaining of the songwriters of the classic era of gospel music, pre-Gaither.  Along with convention era greats like Vep Ellis, “Dad” Speer, Albert Brumley, and Lee Roy Abernathy, his songs shaped the sound of southern gospel music, and that influence extends immeasurably to the modern day.  Indeed, especially through the Booth Brothers, he was still churning out quality songs in the last decade or two.

Lister’s songs have not just been recorded hundreds or thousands of times, but they are well-known to the church at large.  Several of his compositions are standards in hymnals.  So most any Christian can probably list a favorite or two or twenty.  The following is a list of some of my favorite recordings of Mosie Lister songs.  The Booth Brothers, whose close relationship with him (Lister is Michael Booth’s father-in-law) has been mutually beneficial, appear several times.  They match up extremely well with Lister’s songs, but they are of  such immense quality and variety, that you can find them in the catalogs of virtually every gospel music artist.

(In alphabetical order)

1. “Down on My Knees,” Cathedrals, Old Convention Song (1985)

2. “Goodbye, World, Goodbye,” Gaither Homecoming Friends, Ryman Gospel Reunion (1996)

3. “Happy Rhythm,” Booth Brothers, Still (2014)

4. “His Grace Is Sufficient,” Booth Brothers, Pure Southern Gospel (2004)

5. “How Long Has It Been,” Mark Trammell Quartet, Testimony (2010)

6. “I’m Feeling Fine,” Cathedrals, Goin’ in Style (1988)

7. “I’ve Been Changed,” Booth Brothers, Pure Southern Gospel (2004)

8. “I’ve Got a Wonderful Feeling,” Gaither Homecoming Friends, Something Beautiful (1996)

9. “Land Where Living Waters Flow,” Hoppers, Joy for the Journey (1999)

10. “Love Was in the Room,” Booth Brothers, Will You Love Jesus More (1998)

11. “Still Feelin’ Fine,” Booth Brothers, This Stage of Grace (2001)

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

13. “Then I Met the Master,” Booth Brothers, Declaration (2010)

14. “‘Til the Storm Passes By,” Greater Vision, When I See the Cross (1997)

15. “Where No One Stands Alone,” Gaither Vocal Band, I Do Believe (2000)

16. “While Ages Roll,” Gold City, Having Fun (1996)

 

It doesn’t get any better than this rousing rendition from the original Greater Vision of Lister’s most celebrated and enduring work, “‘Til the Storm Passes By”.

Feb 05

Album Review: Still (Booth Brothers)

StillStill is the latest release by one of gospel music’s most outstanding trios, the Booth Brothers, and is their first including baritone Paul Lancaster, who replaced 12-year mainstay Jim Brady.  Even with a new member in tow, this recording still finds the Booths applying their trademark tight harmonies to quality songs in a variety of styles.  Any fans who may have been concerned about the group losing ground after a rare personnel change have a resounding answer with Still: the Booth Brothers are as good as or better than ever.

My first exposure to songs on Still was hearing eight of them live on the Gospel Music Celebration Caribbean Cruise a couple of weeks ago.  To hear songs for the first time live, instead of on a CD, is quite a rarity for me, and I’m very glad that was the case for this album, especially since the Booths are such gifted live performers.  I will forever associate the album’s opener, “Faith Keeps Walking,” with the cruise, because I remember thinking when I heard it how well it fit the atmosphere.  With an easy, mellow groove, and water-themed lyrics, it just sounds like good “beach music”.  This track is quintessential ultra-smooth Booth Brothers all the way and one of my favorites on the disc.

Speaking of memorable live performances, that opener is followed by a cover of the quartet classic, “Happy Rhythm”.  Honestly, I’ve always felt the song was a little dumb and not one of my favorites, but it gets a totally new treatment here.  Instead of the standard bass boogie, it is given a big band sound, and moves at a frenetic and exciting pace.  This version keeps the listener on his toes throughout, and is now my favorite version of the song.  Another high-energy number is found near the end of the album.  “Down by the River” is a hard-driving call-and-response song featuring Ronnie that was quite a treat live.  On the recording, the energy doesn’t quite come through as much for me.

Of course, the Booth Brothers are known as much for their quiet deliveries of meaningful lyrics as they are for their energy, and there are a couple of great examples of that on Still as well.  The title track stays quiet and contemplative throughout, and contains a beautiful message on the enduring faithfulness of God.  I love this touching sequence of lines in the chorus: “His plans could never fail, not even one detail, His purpose will prevail”.  Another poignant standout, “Wildflower” is a Rebecca Peck composition written for Michael’s wife, Vicki, and is his primary vocal feature on the album.  The specific message of the song is obviously deeply personal and may not apply to every listener, but every Christian can draw inspiration from lyrics about God’s tender care for his children, even when all else have forsaken.

You can always count on the Booth Brothers to include very strong Biblical lyrics in every recording and live program.  One of the finest examples on Still is “I Am the Word,” an energetic anthem set to a stirring Lari Goss track, with a message on the sovereignty of the incarnate Word of God.  When I saw it live, Michael set it up by reading Scripture, and it was a memorable moment for sure.

Newest Booth Brother Paul Lancaster gets two outstanding features on Still, and they are my two favorite tracks.  Both were new to me when I heard them live on the cruise, though I’ve since learned that they were “borrowed” from other Christian music genres.  “Touch of the Master’s Hand” sets to music the familiar poem about the violin at auction, a beautiful picture of God’s grace.  Lancaster nails it here, and got rousing ovations both times he performed the song on the cruise.  But no song got as strong a reaction live as “Jesus Saves,” which is the final song on Still.  This track is one of the late Lari Goss’s last masterpieces, out of the same mold as the big ballads on the Booths’ 2009 Declaration recording.  Lancaster really gets an opportunity to show off his prodigious vocal abilities, but the real star here is Goss and his thrilling invigoration of the popular worship song.  This is another one of a long line of “guaranteed standing ovation” Goss productions. (And listen for the Collingsworths in the backing choir!)

As you know, I’m a big time traditional and quartet guy.  Still is not traditional, and it’s certainly not quartet.  But is a collection of outstanding songs, performed expertly by some of the best in the business.  Still is a must-have for the gospel music fan in 2015 and beyond.

Album Rating: 4.5 stars

Song list:

  1. Faith Keeps Walking (Jim Brady)
  2. Happy Rhythm (Mosie Lister)
  3. Still (Brady)
  4. Dirt on My Hands (Brady/Woody Wright)
  5. I Am the Word (Phil Enloe)
  6. The Touch of the Master’s Hand (Myra Brooks Welch/John Kramp)
  7. Whenever I Speak His Name (Russ & Tori Taff)
  8. Down by the River (Al Anderson/Mac McAnally)
  9. Wildflower (Vicki’s Song) (Rebecca Peck)
  10. Jesus Saves (Travis Cottrell/David Moffitt)

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