It has been 3 years since Ernie Haase & Signature Sound have released an album of original material. Since 2009, it has been a period of transition for the group. Ryan Seaton left in ’09 & Tim Duncan departed just last year (Duncan’s departure left baritone Doug Anderson as the only remaining charter member, other than Ernie Haase), Devin McGlamery & Ian Owens filled the lead and bass spots respectively. Here We Are Again is the first album of new material to feature both.
There are 9 brand new songs on the project, 3 covers. Most of the new material was written by Haase, producer & group pianist Wayne Haun, and co-writers. There has been much hype and anticipation regarding the project, and Haase & Company have delivered a great album.
1. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – The first of three standards on the project, this one is redone a bit more to fit the group. Devin takes the lead on a couple of verses with Owens to follow. It’s a light-hearted feel that is a EH&SS trademark (ala Happy Birthday, Anniversary Too, Are You Enjoying The Show and so on). Not really a big fan of this song.
2. Singing In The Midnight Hour – This is the first song to feature baritone & charter member Doug Anderson. The rolling piano and bass intro is awesome. Bluesy and rocky, Doug does a great job as usual with the vocal, and the song is a pleasure to listen to.
3. Here We Are Again – Many are describing this as a worshipful ballad, you could call it a typical laid back quartet number. Owens & Haase sing the verses respectively, with McGlamery taking the lead at the tag. Very good song
4. I Believe – The second standard is one Ian Owens has been singing since he joined the group. Owens tone is very similar to Armond Morales of the Imperials (Ian replace Armond in the Imperials, as bass singer) , and he does a fantastic job on this song. The group has a great blend right now, and its on full display on this job. Great arrangement.
5. I’ve Been Here Before – This is the albums first single, and its unlike anything the group has ever released. I love the intro to this song, the band has a Maroon 5-esque groove going on, that is just awesome, then launches into the first verse. Devin McGlamery has been in Gospel Music for over 10+ years, but really does not have a signature song that he’s known for. I’ve Been Here Before is going to change all of that for him. The bluesy feel of this song fits Devin like a glove. This song is a MUST HEAR!!!!
6. You Are Welcome Here – A beautiful, tender song sang by the groups producer & pianist, Wayne Haun. A beautiful picture the everyone is welcome in the kingdom of God, regardless of their past mistakes. The group supplies backing harmonies on this one.
7. Love Carried The Cross – A big ballad, with Anderson, McGlamery & Haase singing the verses respectively. I love the song, and the blend is great. The orchestration is huge on this song, and although the song is good, the orchestration is over powering the vocals a bit too much for my taste. Don’t be surprised to hear this song in an Easter choral book sometime.
8. Stand By Me – The group made an interesting choice to tackle the song, that Haase said, “brought them to the party”. They haven’t done the song in a while, and it was done purposefully. It’s a new arrangement, with Ian Owens took a different approach on this song, than his predecessor Tim Duncan. The arrangement has a little twist, with the guitar and horns, and gives it a nice effect. It’s a good recording, but I still prefer the original arrangement.
9. Everytime – This song has been described as “Get Away Jordan on steroids”. It is definitely a high energy song. Musically, it sounds like something from Hair Spray or some old Motown song. I love the orchestra and horns. Vocally, Wayne told Ernie to just go crazy, and it sounds like he took his advice. Ernie even channelled his inner Little Richard, with his “whooooo’s” on the chorus. It’s a fun song, and enjoyable to listen to.
10. Sometimes I Wonder – Doug takes the lead on this one, a very thought-provoking song about Heaven. Ernie & Joel Lindsey wrote this song regarding the loss of their loved ones, the second verse is about George Younce. I think anyone who has ever thought about Heaven, has wondered about the same questions that the song asks.
I love the vocals on this song, almost sounding like old school Chicago. You just can’t say enough about Doug as a singer, the guy can sing any song, any style.
11. Thankful – This one is a worship song, that reminds me a bit of the Gaither-penned, “We Are So Blessed”, or even “Jesus, We Just Want To Thank You”. A great song of praise of thanksgiving.
12. Any Other Man – This is the song that has everyone talking, and will be very interesting to hear them perform this song live. This sounds like a straight up Third Day, southern-rock feel. This recorded live in Romania, where the group debuted the song. This is a group number, with McGlamery & Anderson splitting the first verse, Owens & Haase doing the same on the second.
The energy of the band sells this thing, I’ve never heard a bass player in Gospel Music play a slide like what you’ll hear on the chorus, and the guitar solo is quite phenomenal. Make no mistake, EH&SS are breaking new musical ground in Southern Gospel Music, and trying to reach a new group of people.
Conclusion – This is a very important album for EH&SS. It has some great moments, and some silly ones as well, just like Get Away, Jordan & Dream On. Production wise its great, I like what they do on vocal arrangements. Theres a lot of different influences that you can hear in this recording, musically and vocally. While its too early to call this their best album, I believe this is one of their finest albums. While in the past they have lacked focus, this cd is very focused and the group knew what they were doing.
Stylistically, there’s something for everyone on this project. If Any Other Man is any indication of the future direction of the group, EH&SS may be breaking some new ground in Southern Gospel, and you can look back to Here We Are Again as the groups foundation. My plea is don’t judge this album without listening to it, check it out for yourself.
Here We Are Again will be released February 7th. You can pre-order now at www.erniehaase.com, and receive a special dvd free. You may also listen to clips of the project at the following link, http://www.erniehaase.com/music.html?dd_id=19
My Favorites: Singing In The Midnight Hour, Here We Are Again, I’ve Been Here Before, Love Carried The Cross, Thankful, Any Other Man
Review copy provided.