Full Sail is the Mark Trammell Quartet’s first major recording of new material with bass Randy Byrd and tenor Blake Buffin. Father and son Mark and Nick Trammell continue to round out the vocal lineup, of course. Full Sail is a typical MTQ mix of traditional quartet songs and orchestrated ballads, with five new (or almost new) songs, and five older songs that cover a nice spectrum of styles.
Most of the new songs are of the uptempo variety, and they come from the best of the best of gospel music songwriters. Full Sail kicks off with a rousing traditional quartet number, “All the Way Home,” a Dianne Wilkinson/Rebecca Peck composition. A quartet can always score bonus points with me for tossing in some counterpoint in the chorus, and it is executed well here. It sounds very much like something the Kingdom Heirs of the last few years would record. The same can be said for “Go Show John,” which is a touch more country in style, but still quartet all the way. “Go Show John” is the first ever songwriting collaboration between Wilkinson and Rodney Griffin, my two all-time favorite writers. Is it any surprise that their first song is a Bible narrative and application? I’ve heard these two have more in the works, and I personally can’t wait!
Griffin has one more song on Full Sail, a catchy number entitled “Already in Canaan Land”. It is a happy song about those times when it seems like God allows a little heaven on earth in the life of a Christian. The catchiest of all the songs on the CD is “Treasures in Heaven,” from the pen of Peck. You may remember this song being recorded by the “Jubilee” gang a few years ago. It is almost a completely different song here. It is midtempo and jazzy, as opposed to the much faster Jubilee version. On first listen, when the song started at the much slower pace, I worried because I usually like ‘em as fast as they can sing ‘em. But by the end of the song, the great arrangement had me hooked. This one should go over well live.
Mark Trammell and his team made some very interesting and effective choices when pulling older material for Full Sail. First is a tremendous rendition of the hymn, “He Hideth My Soul,” as recorded by the Blackwood Brothers in the 1970s and arranged by Tommy Fairchild. Indeed, Fairchild is credited in the liner notes as directly teaching the quartet his arrangement. Performed only with a piano and bass, it is a real highlight of the recording. Then there are two Imperials covers, from two different Imperials eras. Mark picks up the mantle of Jake Hess and turns in a fun rendition of Henry Slaughter’s “God Takes Good Care of Me”. Then we fast forward a decade or so in the Imperials discography and hear “More Than You’ll Ever Know,” which is a very different sound for the Mark Trammell Quartet. Blake Buffin turns in a fantastic performance of this beautiful song originally featuring Jim Murray. This is a must-listen, if only for the fact that we’ve never heard this quartet sing a song like this. The more I listen, the more I like it. Also included is the classic “Led Out of Bondage,” featuring Randy Byrd. It’s pretty typical in arrangement, but, as usual, MTQ sings it better than most.
It wouldn’t be a Mark Trammell Quartet recording without a couple of orchestrated ballads featuring Mark. Trey Ivey is the man behind the orchestrations on Full Sail. This talented young man shows himself worthy of helping to carry on the legacy of Lari Goss. One of the big songs is a new one from Wilkinson and Peck, “Redeemer of My Soul”. This is a hymn-like anthem, with lyrics rich in the doctrines of salvation and redemption. There was a time when hymns were used to teach and rehearse Bible doctrine, when having a personal copy of the Bible was not as common. This song is worthy of that era, and we need more like it.
Mark Trammell is in his mid-50s now, and sounds better than ever. What a testament to his talent and dedication to his craft, that he seems to somehow get better every time his quartet records a new CD! Some of the greatest singers to ever pick up a microphone have sung gospel music, and Mark Trammell takes a back seat to none of them. That’s just my opinion, and you have the right to disagree and be wrong. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard Mark sing better than he does on the Gaither classic, “My Faith Still Holds”. This song is the biggest highlight of Full Sail. Ivey’s orchestration paired with Trammell’s vocal will have audiences everywhere on their feet.
The music of the Mark Trammell Quartet always seems to have an extra dose of class. The tracks just seem to fit like a glove with the lyrics, staying mostly simple and letting the message shine. The singers stay in their range (in Mark’s case, approaching infinity), and don’t over-perform anything. This is due to the leadership and vision of Mark Trammell and those talented individuals, like co-producers Trey Ivey and Jeff Collins, whom he enlists to create the music. Full Sail is yet another collection of top-notch songs sung by top-notch singers. This is some of the best that gospel music has to offer today.
Album Rating: 4.5 stars
1. All the Way Home (Rebecca Peck/Dianne Wilkinson)
2. My Faith Still Holds (Bill Gaither/Gloria Gaither)
3. Go Show John (Rodney Griffin/Dianne Wilkinson)
4. Treasures in Heaven (Rebecca Peck)
5. Already in Canaan Land (Rodney Griffin)
6. He Hideth My Soul (Fanny Crosby/William Kirkpatrick)
7. Led Out of Bondage (Bob Prather)
8. More Than You’ll Ever Know (Dave Crawford/Roy Lee Johnson)
9. God Takes Good Care of Me (Henry Slaughter)
10. Redeemer of My Soul (Rebecca Peck/Dianne Wilkinson)
Available at: Mark Trammell Quartet