Gospel Music Legend Jim Hill Passes Away

Earlier this morning legendary Gospel Music singer & songwriter Jim Hill passed away. The news was announced by a friend of Hill’s, Dean Hickman of The Guardians. Born in Pourtsmouth, Ohio, Hill got his start in Gospel Music in 1945,  when he along with Harold Patrick and John Conley organized the Campmeeting Boys. Two years later in 1947, the group would add another member and change their name to The Golden Keys Quartet. Hill served the group as their tenor singer & manager.

While with The Golden Keys, Hill wrote that would go to become a classic. “What A Day That Will Be” was written in the early 1950’s and has been printed in millions of songbooks. It would go on to bless the hearts of generations of believers. In 1965, Hill left The Golden Keys to join a household name in Gospel Music, The Stamps Quartet. Hill remained with the group until 1968, and was a key member of the quartet during its transition of management to J.D. Sumner.

In 1968, Hill joined another one of Gospel Music’s top quartets, Hovie Lister & The Statesmen. However this time around, Hill would switch from singing tenor to lead. The Statesmen recorded some of their finest albums during Hill’s tenure with the group as Rosie Rozell & Sherill Nielsen both sang tenor with the group during those years.

In his later years, Hill was a fixture of the Bill Gaither Homecoming Series and was prominently featured on many of  the videos. He was also inducted in the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 2013. Jim Hill was not only an excellent songwriter, but a classicly trained vocalist. He had auditioned with several opera companies, but his passion was for Gospel Music and he made quite a mark on that industry. We offer our prayers and condolences to Hill’s family. Thank you Mr. Hill for a wonderful legacy that you left behind, your contributions to Gospel Music will never be forgotten.

Here are a few selections of videos featuring some of Hill’s finest singing.

One of my favorite Jim Hill songs that he wrote, “For God So Loved”, during his time with The Stamps.

Another one from his Stamps years, “The Homecoming Week”

One of my favorite songs from his time with The Statesmen, “God’s Not Dead”

A recent video of Hill onstage with The Guardians & The Booth Brothers, singing his signature song. “What A Day That Will Be”.

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Happy New Year!

I would like to wish all my readers a Happy New Year! Its my prayer that 2018 will be a great one for you and that you’ll experience great blessings in the days to come. 2017 has been quite busy for me and 2018 looks to be quite the same. This summer, my wife and I found out that we are going to be parents for the first time! Our little girl, Charlotte Faye Fuson, is due to arrive in just less than 8 weeks and we are extremely excited. I’ve also been singing with a group here in Michigan, The Royalheirs. We’ve had a busy year, recording a new project and traveling throughout the state and we’re looking forward to doing more of the same this year. Check out our website and Facebook page to find out more about us!

I’ve got quite a few things in the works here at the blog and I’m looking forward to posting some more Album Reviews shortly and from time to time, chiming in with more commentary pieces. No matter what I post here, my goal is to be honest, fair, and balanced. So stay tuned and I hope you enjoy the posts.

God Bless,

Brian

CD Review: “Long Run” by The Old Paths

I’ve made no secret down through the years how big of a fan I am of The Old Paths. When the group called it quits back in 2015, I was extremely disappointed. So when I heard the announcement early this year that the group would return,  I was delighted. Founding members Tim Rackley & Douglas Roark are joined by bass Daniel Ashmore with tenor Steve Ladd joining the group. Long Run is Ladd’ s first recording with the group; it’s also the first Old Paths project to be produced by Jeff Collins.

The project kicks off with a nice quartet number, “Peace Is On The Way“, a nice uptempo number written by Dianne Wilkinson. Right off the bat, you can tell the blend is perfect with Steve and it sets the stage for what the listener can expect. Up next is the title cut, “In The Long Run“, which features Rackley. It has a country feel, and the guys do a nice job on it. Steve Ladd is featured on the third track, “Broken People Like Me“. This is one of my favorite songs on the project; it sounds like it was written especially for Steve and the guys sound fantastic on it. Ladd is the perfect tenor for the group and this song is all the proof needed. “Tangled In The Middle” was the first radio single from the project, and its a group song for the most part, with Daniel Ashmore featured on the third verse of the song. Rackley is featured again again on a great ballad, “At The Name of Jesus“, written by Rebecca & Logan Peck. This song is a fantastic anthem, that I hope will be sent out as a radio single. The project comes to a close with a great uptempo tune, “My Everyday Life“, featuring Ashmore, Rackley, and Ladd on the verses.

Although Long Run is an EP that only contains 6 songs, it sure does wet the appetite for more! There is so much potential for this group, they undoubtedly have an all star quartet that could accomplish alot. The blend is dynamite and the guys selected great songs for this project. With Ladd’s busy solo schedule, the group hasn’t done a whole lot of concerts this year and it’s not clear just how busy these guys will be.  It’s my hope that this is not a one off release and that we will hear more from The Old Paths. Be sure to pick up a copy of Long Run and see for yourself!

 

It’s Just My Opinion: My Thoughts On NQC 2018

This past weekend was quite controversial in the Southern Gospel Community as the schedule for the 2018 National Quartet Convention was released. As has been the case the last several years, fans scoured the schedule looking to see when/if their favorite artists were on the schedule for Southern Gospel Music’s Premeire Event. There were quite a few names missing, but none bigger than The Booth Brothers. Voted Trio of the Year for the past 10 years consecutively by readers of The Singing News, it came as quite the shock to many fans that their favorite artist would not be part of the schedule.

One post on Facebook concerning this topic received over 400 plus comments from fans, artists, and other industry leaders. Some expressed their disappointment, others voiced their frustration and accusations. As a fan I am a bit disappointed; the Booths are my favorite SG artists because musically they are unlike any current artists in our genre. However, things like this happen and seem to be happening more frequently in recent years. Other artists who will not be a part of NQC 2018 are The Collingsworth Family, Brian Free & Assurance, and The Browders to name a few.

I want to try and be as fair and impartial in this post as I possibly can so I want to present both sides of the issue. For the organizers of the NQC, it is impossible to generate a program that will please everyone. There will always be fans complaining about artists who are not on the program, its part of the territory that comes with organizing an event. One board member, Mark Trammell, weighed in on the situation saying “Real truth…. REAL truth…. They (Booth Brothers) were invited. Not once, but twice. Real truth… Undeniable truth…. If you don’t see an artist on the schedule, don’t assume its the fault of the “board.” It might be that the “artist” just isn’t interested in spending the extra time away from home. They may have “outgrown” certain events. Or at least they think they have.” Now the board invites the artist, but the artist may reject the invitation. Maybe its not advantageous to them financially, maybe they just would rather stay home or they already have been booked elsewhere. I’m not saying thats the situation here because I do not know but those are usually the reasons given.

But here’s what I do know, the groups who are getting featured the most at NQC happen to be the groups whose members are on the NQC Board of Directors (Greater Vision, Mark Trammell Quartet, Jim Brady Trio, Hoppers, Second Half Quartet). As a fan, when I see that the Booth Brothers are not on the main stage, but the Second Half Quartet has two slots, which is a secondary group with 3 members of Greater Vision and Trammell himself in the group, something doesn’t seem right to me. Certainly there are other artists who would benefit from time on the main stage (Master’s Voice, The Williamsons, just to name a few), yet the board has the authority to decide who goes on the main stage and they have made their decision.

As consumers, we all have the right to voice our opinions about a product. Whether good or bad, we live in a free country with and we have the right to voice our opinions freely. Except if you’re a Southern Gospel Music fan on social media. Many artists and their family members took to the defense of the board, basically sending the message “if you don’t like it, don’t buy a ticket and stay home.” Certainly they have the right to voice their opinion as well, but the bottom line is this. These events are only gonna stay around as long as the fans do.  No matter your opinion, alienating your fan base is never a good move. Politics always rears its ugly head and it ultimately never has a good result. For many fans, this is the first time they have witnessed the politics of the NQC Board on full display. Below is Trammell’s full post, which I believe is important to read in its entirety.

Real truth…. REAL truth…. They were invited. Not once, but twice. Real truth… Undeniable truth…. If you don’t see an artist on the schedule, don’t assume its the fault of the “board.” It might be that the “artist” just isn’t interested in spending the extra time away from home. They may have “outgrown” certain events. Or at least they think they have. Haters are gonna hate. I have been on both sides of this fence. Spent almost 44 years “paying my dues.” I sometimes get sick to my stomach hearing what some of you think you deserve. All the while, you don’t mind at all berating someone who has paid their dues and honored God to the best of their ability. Even some of you go to the exaggerated extent of acting like you know what you are talking about. And you don’t. NOT At all. I will defend to my grave the men and the process. They care FAR more than any of you would even be aware. I challenge any of you to sit in that room and watch as these men labor over what should be easy. All of this garbage is the core of the reason that the world no longer will even look toward a “Christian.” I even wonder if satan is anymore concerned about stopping us. All he needs to do is sit on the sidelines and watch us destroy each other. Such a sad day for me… Oh and by the way. I’m saying this as one of the “old timers.” I am in no way saying this on behalf of the NQC board of directors. They are Godly men and they certainly do not deserve this kind of garbage. I’ve never been ashamed to tell my Tax preparer that I’m a Gospel Singer. Please, Please don’t make me change my mind. Proverbs 17:10 thru 13. It would behoove ALL of us to spend our energy telling people that Jesus is coming and it will likely be soon.”

Although Trammell may claim he was “not saying this on behalf of the NQC board of directors”, he is a member of the board of directors and his statement is very telling of a/the board members attitude towards the fans, the ones who financially & physically support this event. This is not the first instance of an artist telling a fan, “If you don’t like it, don’t come.“, and it won’t be the last.  I agree that some comments were made in a negative, possibly hateful manner. Criticism that is not constructive is just complaining. However, if you are paying for a product you should not be shamed because you voiced your opinion/displeasure with the product. Will the board listen? Do they care about the fans opinions? Obviously they are hearing the negativity but they do not seem to be interested.

So this begs a question. As a fan, why should I continue to support an event where my opinion is not valued? There are so many other things that a person can do with their time instead of paying for traveling expenses, accommodations, meals, NQC event tickets, and product from their favorite artists. In fact, staying home and not attending (and now buying the webcast) could save families quite a bit of money. Perhaps, the board of directors should think about that as well. Regardless of who is or is not there, NQC will go on.

In my opinion, there is an understanding that must take place with both NQC and the fans. The Board/shareholders need to understand that their event’s existence is not guaranteed, fans do have a choice of where they can spend their money and they may choose not to support NQC in 2018 or beyond. Continuing down the current path of apathy towards public opinion is not wise. Not everyone is right, but someone might just be. For the fans however, they need to understand that the board runs the show. They’re gonna do what they want and if the fans really want their opinions taken seriously, they might need to take a year off to send a message to leadership. The board might have to change course if attendance drops dramatically. Change needs to happen and the sooner it doesn, the brighter the future for NQC. You don’t have to agree, It’s Just My Opinion.

Former Cathedral Steve Lee Passes Away

Former Cathedral Quartet baritone Steve Lee has passed away, according to reports from his family. Lee is most well known to Gospel Music fans for his tenure as baritone with The Cathedrals from 1979-1980. He initially joined the group as a vocalist/pianist, along with tenor Kirk Talley. Both Lee & Talley encouraged group owners George Younce & Glen Payne to hire a young pianist named Roger Bennett. After Bennett’s arrival, Lee would play the bass guitar in addition to his singing.

Prior to joining The Cathedrals, Steve had sang with his brother Richard in their group, The Young Deacons. After his stint with The Cathedrals, Steve returned home to North Carolina where he served as a music director at his church in Burlington, NC. While there, he formed a trio with the pastors son & daughter, Chris & Robin Allman. The Allmans recorded several projects in the 80’s, featuring songs written by another church member, Savanah Foust (writer of Somebody Touched Me, Blood Washed Band).

Steve would later reunite with his brother Richard in the 90’s to start a new quartet, Crimson River. The group would also include Gospel Music veterans Phil Barker & Bill Starling. Although the group wasn’t around long, they had one of the finest quartets of the 90’s.

Although Steve did not have the longevity of his predecessor in the Cathedrals (Mark Trammell), he was a fine singer who was an asset to every group he joined. I strongly recommend listening to any of his recordings with the Young Deacons, Cathedrals, or Crimson River. We here at Fuson’s Findings offer our condolences and prayers to Steve’s family. Here’s a recording of Steve with The Cathedrals singing “Beulah Land”.

 

Flashback Friday – “Good Morning” by Palmetto State Quartet

I thought I would try and do something new here on the blog, since most of my posts have been reviews lately. I have been digitizing alot of old vhs tapes recently and I’ve come accross alot of stuff that I’m going to share here on the blog. This is the start of my new segment, “Flashback Friday“.

Today, we will feature Palmetto State Quartet and one of their most well known songs of the late 90’s, early 2000’s. As of 2000, the group was comprised of tenor Brion Carter, Kerry Beatty singing lead, Tony Peace on baritone, with Jeff Pearles on bass, and the great Jerry Kelso on piano. Their current recording at that time, “Forefront”, is one of the finest projects the group ever recorded and one of my favorites, and featured “Good Morning“, written by Carter.

The song was one of the most successsful radio releases for the group, and was one of the Top 10 songs of 2000. I hope you enjoy this Flashback Friday, be sure to check back next week!

 

CD Review: “Walk Worthy by Master’s Voice

Master’s Voice is one of the most dynamic quartets in Southern Gospel today. A couple years ago, we reviewed one of the finest recordings they’ve released, Undivided. Since then, the group underwent a personel change at the lead singer position, losing Justin Morphis but gaining a great talent in TJ Evans. Although TJ previously sang tenor with Allegiance Trio, he previously sang lead in Promise Trio. Walk Worthy is the first release with Evans joining the nucleus of tenor Ricky Capps, baritone Stan Watson, and bass vocalist Jerry Pilgrim.

The project kicks off with “He Saw Me“, a great mid-tempo number with a laid back feel that features TJ. Co-written by Phil Cross & Tony Jarman, Evans delivers a great vocal and the quartet sets the stage for what listeners can expect on this recording. Jerry is featured on the next cut, “Another One Like Him“. I remember this song when it was recorded by Mercy’s Mark Quartet, and I believe MV’s cut exceeds the original. Jerry does a fantastic job and the horns and swinging, big band feel really put this song over the top. Evans is also featured on a groovy tune, “Love Goes A Mighty Long Way“. Ricky is featured on “One Day Longer“, a tender song dealing with a familiar subject to many, Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Ricky delivers a tender performance and theres a great blend on this song.

Next up is an uptempo song, “Yes He Did, Yes He Does, Yes He Will“. Each member of the group is featured on step out lines, great quartet song. Stan is featured on “Without You, I Haven’t Got A Prayer“, a cover of a song originally recorded by MidSouth in the 90’s. Ricky is featured on the next song, “More Than Enough.” TJ is featured on another Phil Cross co-write, “Sowing The Good Seed“, one of my favorites. Evans also takes the feature on the next song, “Do What Jesus Did“.

The guys go back and pick up a great old hymn of the church, “Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary“, Jerry, TJ, and Ricky are featured respectively on the verses. Although the arrangement is very simple, with just piano instrumentation, the vocals are excellent. One of the highlights of the album for sure. Next up is the projects first single, “Where My Savior Is“, which features Stan. The project comes to a close with “Lift Up Your Hands When You Can’t“, which features TJ.

When the group released their last project, Undivided, I was quite amazed at how exceptional it was. Walk Worthy did not disappoint me as a listener, the group did an exceptional job in both the song selection and vocals. Bottom line, This project is definitely worthy of a listen. Master’s Voice have one of the finest, if not the best, blend of any quartet on the road today. Walk Worthy showcases this perfectly; its got something for everyone musically and its sure to be a hit with Gospel Music fans across the country. I have no problem rating this a 5 star recording, make sure to add Walk Worthy to your library.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Favorite Cuts: He Saw Me, Another One Like Him, Love Goes A Mighty Long Way, Sowing The Good Seed, Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary. 

Least Favorite Cut: More Than Enough

Review copy provided by Crossroads Music.