Video of The Week: “Somebody Prays” by The Guardians

My pick for video of the week is a concept video by The Guardians for their latest single, “Somebody Prays“. The group, made up of lead singer John Darin Rowsey, baritone Neil Uhrig, and tenor Dean Hickman, have really got a hit on their hands with this song. Be on the lookout for a cd review coming up soon, until then Enjoy!

Kingdom Heirs Announce New Baritone Vocalist

The Kingdom Heirs have announced that Brian Alvey will be the groups new baritone. Alvey will begin his duties with the group immediately. The group has spent the last 3 weekends with three different men auditioning for the baritone position, Bryan Walker (Perrys), Loren Harris (Wilburns, Perrys), and Alvey.

a2cf05bf-fb39-4f4e-a26a-7cc55f4c34d9In a press release today, group owner/bass guitarist Kreis French stated, A lot of prayer and consideration went into our decision and we are thrilled to welcome Brian and his family, into our family.”  

French continued to say, “During our time on the road this winter, we had the privilege to audition close to 60 men who traveled many miles for this chance and we thank each of you so much. We feel that God has led us to the man He wants for us.” 

 To say I am skeptical of how good of a fit Alvey will be is an understatement. While there is no doubt that he is a talented singer, he is not known for his longevity. His longest tenure with one group is the 3 years he spent with Tribute Quartet from 2008-2011. He also spent a year with singing with his wife, Lauren Talley, and her family The Talleys. Alvey was last seen traveling in a short stint with The Skyline Boys. The Kingdom Heirs are one of the foremost quartets in Southern Gospel, and one of the main reasons why is because of the members longevity. The baritone position is so vital in a quartet because it is the glue that holds the blend together. The Kingdom Heirs cannot afford turnover in this position and it would be sad to see the baritone in this group become slot a revolving door. It is my sincere hope that history will not repeat itself with Alvey.

The group, who are celebrating their 30th Anniversary this year, is currently working on a brand new recording which is slated to release in October on the Crossroads label. Until then, the only way to hear Alvey with The Kingdom Heirs will be at Dollywood. We wish both Brian & the group nothing but the best.

Feel free to Chime in with your thoughts in our Comments section. 

Album Review: Living In Harmony by Triumphant

There is no doubt that Triumphant is one of Southern Gospel’s most prolific artists. They have become a main stay in the industry, and have been voted by the fans as their Favorite Quartet. Last year saw the group deal with their first personnel change, a remarkable feat when you consider they have been together for 13 years! Even with the departure of group pianist/arranger/producer Jeff Stice, the group has kept the vocal core together. Living In Harmony is the group’s first project to be released without Stice’s touch, and produced by Wayne Haun, who has produced numerous projects for Triumphant (Everyday, Love Came Calling).

Triumphant - Living In HarmonyThe project kicks off with the title cut, Living In Harmony, which is one of two songs on the project written by baritone Scotty Inman. This is one of the most catchy songs to come along in recent years, with a real country flair to it, reminiscent of The Oak Ridge Boys. The pace changes a bit for Jesus Must Have Been Here, which also features Scotty. Scotty has long been one of the finest singers in the industry, but he really takes a step forward on this project. Amazing God is the third cut on the project, and features tenor David Sutton. This song is a bit of a departure from what fans have come to expect from Sutton, with a country sound. Yet it is excellent lyrically and David and the group deliver a great vocal.

Next up is a cut that’s a page out of the history of Southern Gospel. I was excited to find out the guys brought back The Singing Americans Black And White. Both lead singer Clayton Inman and Sutton are SA alumni, and the group brought the song back in grand style, putting their own stamp on the arrangement. It’s one of my favorite cuts on the cd and a is sure to be a real crowd pleaser live. Speaking of Clayton, he steps out for his first feature on the classic When He Reached Down His Hand For Me.

The second half of the project kicks off with Living In The Promised Land, which features Scotty. The song has a driving feel that reminds me a bit of Almost Home. Next up is a light hearted tune, Made For Gold, that features Clayton. Although Clayton does a good job on it, this song was not one of my favorites. I definitely think of this as more of an Ernie Haase & Signature Sound type song. I Belong To Jesus is a great ballad, another song written by Scotty, that features bass singer Eric Bennett. The guys also brought back an old Phillips, Craig & Dean song, A Friend Called Grace, which features Scotty. The project comes to a close with Has There Ever Been, which features Clayton. Although its a good song with a great lyric, the chorus seems a bit too wordy. I would have liked to have heard this song slowed down just a couple clicks.

CONCLUSION

RATING: 4 out 5 Stars

I have read a few reviews already that have hailed this as Triumphant’s best recording to date, even so far as to call this the best project of the year.  While I did enjoy the first half of the cd immensely (title cutJesus Must Have Been Here,  Awesome God, Black And White, and Living In The Promised Land), Made For Gold and Has There Ever Been didn’t make the same impression on me. Another aspect I noticed on this project was a more predominant country sound, which is nothing new when you listen to some of the groups past recordings, but it seems to be more apparent on this project. There’s no doubt that Living In Harmony is a good cd, but I do not believe it is their best work (I believe that to be Love Came Calling). While the group’s many fans are sure to love this project, I personally would like to see Triumphant move away from the country sound and venture back towards a more progressive yet traditional quartet sound.

You can pick up your copy of Living In Harmony at retail and digital outlets everywhere.

Review copy provided. 

Video Of The Week: Acoustic Allegiance with Special Guests

Our pick for video of the week is from one of Southern Gospel’s up and coming trio’s. Allegiance, formerly known as Declaration, is comprised of Jake Sammons (Baritone), Kasey Kemp (lead), and T.J. Evans (tenor). The group has been posting a series of videos on YouTube called “Acoustic Allegiance”, with the group performing some of their favorite songs and taking requests from viewers, via their social media pages.

The latest installment features the guys singing “I’ll Fly Away”, while a couple gentleman you may recognize, Michael Booth of The Booth Brothers and Christian Davis, are trying to get some attention. It’s a fun video to watch, so check it out!

 

To find out more about Allegiance, visit their website here. To see all the installments of “Acoustic Allegiance“, visit the groups YouTube channel here.

Joint CD Review: “Stay” by The Old Paths

The Old Paths are one of the top young quartets in the industry today, their recent dominance on the radio charts and energetic concerts have made them a hit with Gospel Music fans all across the country. Stay is the groups latest recording, featuring 10 brand new songs. For this review, I’ve asked my friend Brandon Coomer of Coomer’s Cove to weigh in with his thoughts. Hope you enjoy reading this!

BRIAN

10917263_10152751770471608_5173493950208540515_nThe project starts out with “Have You Ever“, a great old-timey quartet song featuring lead singer Tim Rackley. It’s also the first of many songs on the project written by Rebecca Peck & Dianne Wilkinson, The group slows it down a bit with “You Never Cease To Amaze Me”, a soulful song featuring tenor vocalist Jeremy Peace. This song is a little bit of a departure from what fans of The Old Paths have come to expect from Jeremy, who tends to sing more of the slow ballads. The song is very soulful, and Peace knocks it out of the park! The pace picks up a bit with “What Did They Call Him”, a rolling and rocking song featuring Rackley, that takes the listener on a journey from Jesus birth, life, and ministry, to his resurrection and ascension into Heaven.

Baritone Douglas Roark steps up for his lone feature on the recording, “I Just Can’t Get Over”, A great song about salvation and the change that it brings in our lives. Closing out the first half of project is “Washed In The Blood”, the first feature for bass vocalist Daniel Ashmore. A bouncy song with a rocking groove, that Ashmore sings to perfection. Daniel is one of the most talented young bass singers in the industry, whose continual growth on each project has been quite impressive and tremendous. The trend continues on Stay.

The second half of the project opens with a great ballad on the crucifixion, “How Great The Debt”, that features Rackley. This is one of my absolute favorite songs on Stay, showcasing a great lyric from Dianne Willkinson & Rebecca Peck and a flawless vocal from Tim. Next up is another Rackley feature, which also happens to be the projects first radio single, “Ordinary People”.  Written by Rodney Birch, writer of the groups previous radio hits “Battle Stand” and “Love Them To Jesus“, this song showcases what is becoming a signature sound for the group. Tim is also featured on the next cut, the title track “Stay”. The song offers a unique perspective, that of John the Beloved as he was leaning on the breast of Christ. “O What A Happy Morning” is a bouncy fun song, featuring Ashmore. The project comes to a close with a power ballad, “Out Of The Grave”, a fantastic song on the resurrection that features Peace. As the intensity dials up, The guys absolutely knock this song out of the park!

BRANDON

How Great The Debt” – It is daunting task for a group to follow up a huge song like “Long Live The King,” but this is a great effort and my favorite song on the project. Tim Rackley is still one of southern gospel’s most under-appreciated lead singers, even after being featured on multiple number one songs. The only way to improve on this song to my ears would have been to have gone with a smoother ending. The tag here is a little choppy.

Out Of The Grave” & “You Never Cease To Amaze Me” – Jeremy Peace’s features are two of the stronger tracks on the Stay project. Both of these songs are a little different musically than what you would expect from the Old Paths. As Brian pointed out, “You Never Cease To Amaze Me” has a soulful feel while “Out Of The Grave” features an almost soft rock ballad sound.

Ordinary People” – While the two songs mentioned above are a new sound from The Old Paths, the project’s first single is in line with what was heard on the group’s previous chart topping songs from the pen of the same writer, Rodney Birch. With the group’s sound evolving, I was almost disappointed by this song when I first heard it. However, after repeated listens, this track has become one of my favorites on the project and will do really well for the group on the radio.

Washed In The Blood” & “O What A Happy Morning” – Brian touched on this, but Daniel’s continued growth from project to project, and even concert to concert, is worth reiterating.

CONCLUSION

BC: Stay shows the group is willing to expand the musical ground they cover (shown on Jeremy’s features) while staying true to the style and sound that people expect to hear on radio and in concert (“Ordinary People”). This gives their third mainline release from Crossroads a fresh sound. I loved their previous release (These Truths), but the evolving sound found here makes Stay a better (if only slightly) and more enjoyable project than their earlier recordings. BF: As if we needed any further proof, Stay is an overwhelming exclamation point that The Old Paths are here to stay! They have crafted a project that stays true to the traditional sounds that fans have come to expect from them, but also pushed the envelope stylistically to keep their sound fresh. When I first heard Right Now, I didn’t think they could top it, and I thought the same thing when I heard These Truths, but Stay is just as good as, even slightly better, than These Truths.  The last three recordings The Old Paths have released some of the best projects in Southern Gospel, their song selection, vocal arrangements, and overall performances are among the best I have heard by ANY group at ANYTIME in the industry.

If you don’t believe us, check out Stay for yourself! Stay is now available at your local Christian bookstore and available through all digital outlets.

Review copy provided,

CD Review: “Still” by The Booth Brothers

I want to take a moment to apologize to those of you who have been reading this blog. Sometimes, life gets in the way and we get a little occupied. Nevertheless, I am still here and I have an overwhelming stack of music that I’ve been meaning to post about so without any further delay, let’s get to it.

Still is the first Booth Brothers recording in almost 13 years that will not include Jim Brady. The album was originally recorded and mixed with Brady. But in the fall of 2014, both Brady and The Booth’s announced that Jim would be leaving the group to form a new ministry with his wife, Melissa. You can read all about that here. Filling Jim’s shoes is one of Brady’s best friends and a fine singer in his own right, Paul Lancaster. Paul went right into the studio and added his vocals to make Still his first project as a member of The Booth Brothers.

stillThe project kicks off with Faith Keeps Walking On, which features Lancaster on the verses. Next up is a swinging, big band cover of Happy Rhythm. The Booths have always had a knack for taking standards and arranging them in such a way to fit them. Happy Rhythm is pure genius! The title cut, Still, is the project’s third track. The group had been staging the song for quite some time, with Brady on the lead throughout the song. The group employed a different strategy on the recording, with both Michael & Ronnie singing the verses, and Paul taking over the lead on the chorus and bridge. Still is one of the most powerful songs the group has ever recorded and is a fitting song for the change that the group has endured, assuring that listeners that no matter the situation, God is still in control.

Dirt On My Hands is a great song with a country twang, that features Ronnie. The lyric is a challenge to believers, “to go the extra mile, doing all that I can. Helping my fellow man, even if I have to get a little dirt on my hands“. The first half of the project closes with a take on a Couriers classic, “I Am The Word“. The original cut of this song is one of my all time favorite Couriers songs, but the Booths have put their own creative arrangement, with orchestration by the late Lari Goss, and have knocked it out of the park! Ronnie is featured on the verses, and takes the lead into a chord change, where Michael takes over. Definitely a must hear track.

The second half of the project opens up with a fantastic ballad, Touch Of The Master’s Hand, that features Paul. This song is sure to be a favorite among fans. The song is actually a companion to a poem of the same name, that many will remember as a recitation that was often used by the late great J.D. Sumner. Paul Lancaster absolutely sings the fire out of this song, one of my favorite songs on the cd. Next up is another blast from the past, Whenever I Speak His Name.  Originally cut by The Imperials way back in 1979 on their Heed The Call album, Ronnie is featured and sings one of the finest vocals I have heard from him. The orchestration and the groove of this song are absolutely fantastic. Next up is another song featuring Ronnie, Down By The River. This one is a foot stomping, hand clapping, song. There’s some cool vocal overdubs between the chorus and bridge, definitely not the normal from the Booths.

Wildflower (Vicki’s Song) is a tender ballad featuring Michael, that was written by Rebekah Peck especially for Michael’s wife, Vicki. A beautiful picture of how the Lord raises up beautiful wildflowers, and how he has created them to be special. Closing out the project is the anthem, Jesus Saves, that features Paul. This song was Paul’s introduction to many fans at last years NQC in Pigeon Forge. The song is the second on the project that was arranged by Goss, and also features backing vocals from The Collingsworth Family. Arranged to perfection, and performed flawlessly, the Booths & Collingsworths close out Still with a powerful exclamation point!

If there is anything that I appreciate about The Booth Brothers, it’s their ambition to be creative and not sound like everyone else. Both Happy Rhythm & I Am The Word are prime examples of this, and reason enough to love this project. But you also have powerful anthems, heartfelt ballads, and toe tapping numbers that fans have come to love from the group.  From top to bottom, Still is a great cd and although the project was originally arranged and recorded with Brady in the group, showcases how wonderfully Paul Lancaster fits into the group. It only wets the appetites of fans for the next project, which will include songs arranged for the group with Paul in mind. I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of Still and see for yourself!

Purchase Still here.

Review copy NOT Provided.

A Tribute To Lari Goss

10410722_10153014000303624_4065314481083775211_n Lari Goss, one of the most influential creative minds in the history of Gospel Music, passed away on Saturday, January 10th 2015. He was 69, passing just short of his 70th birthday. Today, Thursday January 15th, his funeral will be held in Nashville. I have always been an admirer of Lari’s work and it has only grown in time. I wanted to take an opportunity to remember this wonderful gentleman and honor him for all of his contributions to Gospel Music over 50 plus years. He began his musical journey with his family, singing with his brothers James and Roni. The Goss Brothers started off initially as a quartet, but found they’re niche as a trio. They were one of the most innovative groups to come along in the 1960’s, with vocal & musical arrangements light years ahead of their contemporaries.

 

 

The Brothers also held many distinctions, many would change the industry for years, like when they 543718_231858750258582_1957652235_nwere the first artist to perform with a soundtrack. The Goss Brothers were not only great singers, but fabulous musicians as well. With Lari on piano, Roni on bass, and James on guitar, the brothers cut their teeth in the Lefevres recording studio in Atlanta, as well as Don Baldwin’s Hymntone label in Pennsylvania, working on hundreds of recordings for both national and regional artists. However, in 1980 The Goss Brothers musical journey took a detour, due to James tragic death in an airplane crash.

Lari continued his work as a producer, becoming one of the most illustrious producers and arrangers in the gospel music. Chances are if you look at the credits of any recording in the 80s and 90s, Lari was either the producer or the arranger. Among the groups Lari produced that would be most notable are The Cathedrals, Singing Americans, Hemphills, Hoppers, The Sound, Masters V, Friends IV and so many others.  Lari also changed the game and the way that artists thought about arranging, most evidently shown in the Nelons “Oh For A Thousand Tongues”. and The Cathedrals “For What Earthly Reason”. Because of Goss’ ability as arranger, he took Gospel Music to another level. As a musician, his sound was so identifiable. Not just his piano playing, but his orchestrations.

Lari was not also just a great arranger, but his accomplishment’s as a songwriter should also be noted. Many of the songs that the Goss Brothers recorded were written by Lari, one of the most notable being “Shout Brother Shout”. But he also wrote such wonderful songs as “How Green Is Your Valley”, “For Thy Will I Pray”, Leading To Calvary“, and many other great songs. However, one of Lari’s most popular compositions was recorded by the Speers in the 70’s, “Cornerstone“.

10885125_10153017641498624_4063390550294998162_nLari has not just been a great contributor to Southern Gospel, but to the body of Christ overall. His numerous choral arrangements that he has put together over the years have been used by church choirs & ensembles across the country. He won numerous Dove Awards, and Grammy’s for his work throughout the years. He even worked with such secular artists such as Glen Campbell, Ray Price, and B.J. Thomas. Lari was also inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

In recent years, Lari continued to work even through illness, he was diagnosed with throat cancer. Some of his most acclaimed work came with artists such as the Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Quartet, The Whisnants, and most recently The Guardians and Jim Brady Trio. Although he has tutored many producers and his style has often been imitated by others, it will never be duplicated. It is not an overstatement to say that will never be another Lari Goss.

10930525_10153017707428624_5896707746408889295_nNow I’m not worshipping Lari, he was a human being just like the rest of us. But Lari was special, and his death is the end of an era. Lari was our last link from the legends of yesterday; there are not many men who can say that they stood in the same control room as J.D., James, Jake, Hovie, George, Glen, Rusty, Rex, Ben and Brock, up to today’s artists. I would say there is no one who has done more to mold and fashion Gospel Music as much as Lari Goss. One of my greatest regrets is that I never got to meet Lari and explain to him how much he impacted my life. But one day I will tell him face-to-face, and I can’t help but feeling now that he knows.

For all his success, Goss had a humility about himself. When a friend complimented him on all the awards in his home, he said, “All this means nothing if my music does not win people to Jesus, or draw them closer to Him“. There is no doubt in my mind that God has used this man so mightily because of that humility and passion that his music be used to the glory of God.

Lari’s music will live on, whenever choirs singing the music he arranged, or people listen to Pillars of Faith by Gold City or the Cathedrals Symphony of Praise and hear the majestic arrangements of that album or the countless others he produced and or arranged. He will live within the grooves of the records and within that great music as long as it is listened to. Lari, I never met you but your music was the soundtrack to my life. Thank You and God Bless You for your contributions that have blessed the body of Christ. Rest well.

To Lari’s wife Carolyn and their children, and his brother Roni, I offer my condolences and my prayers that the Holy Spirit will hold all of you so close in these days. Thank You all for taking the time to read this tribute to a hero of mine.