In an industry that has been constantly changing, for the past 80 years there has been one name that has been a consistent part of Gospel Music. That name is Blackwood. It all started back in 1934 when three brothers (Roy, Doyle, and James) along with Roy’s son R.W. , formed the group. Since their formation, the Blackwood Brothers have been one the most prominent groups in Southern Gospel Music. That tradition continues today with James son, Billy, leading the group and singing baritone. Today’s lineup also includes tenor vocalist Wayne Little, lead singer Mike Helwig, and Butch Owens on bass. Their brand new recording, Forever, celebrates the group’s 80th Anniversary with new songs and some older favorites that many long time Gospel Music lovers will remember.
The recording kicks off with “You Can Find What I Found“, which is also the first single from the project that has been sent to radio. It’s a bouncy tune that features tenor Wayne Little with an echo in the verses. The next cut, “I’ll Fly Away Home”, is a great song with an old timey feel that features Mike Helwig. Forever is the Blackwood’s first mainline recording with Helwig, who replaced Jimmy Blackwood last year. Although Mike’s voice is stylistically quite different from Jimmy’s, he is a great fit with the group and their blend is better than ever, in my opinion. The third cut of the project, Forever Forgiven, is a ballad that features Little. Wayne Little is one of the most underrated tenor singers in Southern Gospel today. You would be hard pressed to find a finer tenor than this gentleman. With a style more comparable to Pat Hoffmaster than Bill Shaw, Little can sing his way into your heart. The arrangement & orchestration on this song is fantastic, and the vocals are delivered incredibly.
Next up on the project is a song the Blackwoods recorded way back in 1962, their iconic bass singer J.D. Sumner’s composition, “Walkin’ and Talkin’ with My Lord“. Bass singer Butch Owens sings it in his own style, and the guys do a great job on the harmonies behind him. “Long Gone” marks the halfway point of the project and features a special guest appearance by The Oak Ridge Boys. The Blackwoods take the first verse, with Billy taking the lead, and then The Oaks sing the second verse, with Duane Allen featured on the solo. Both bass singers, Owens and The Oaks Richard Sterban, have a cool step out line on the bridge as well. This song is definitely a cool moment and a must hear for everyone.
The second half of the project picks up with a smooth quartet tune, “Heaven Will Be Mine Someday“, that features Helwig. This is the epitome old time, four part harmony. This song is definitely one of my favorite cuts on the project, a must hear for sure. The group reaches back to cover another classic song, When I Cross To The Other Side Of Jordan, and does a good job tackling it. Helwig is also featured on the second ballad on the project, “I Know In Whom I Have Believed“. This song is excellent all the way around, great lyrics, wonderful arrangement, fantastic vocals. Another must hear track and I wouldn’t be surprised to see this song go to radio. “Oh, No You Don’t” is another peppy tune, that features Owens. It’s a great song that assures Christians that we’ll never face a trial that Jesus faced and conquered. The project comes to a close with the classic, “Dear Jesus, Abide With Me”. The song was recorded with just a piano and four voices and it is absolutely perfect. A great ending to a project c0mmemorating the Blackwood’s legacy.
I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this project for quite some time, especially when I heard that both Ricky Free & Trey Ivey would be producing it. And I have to say, I was not let down. With a mixture of great new songs and sterling classics, the Blackwood Brothers have turned in a great project. This is the finest recording they have released in quite some time, and easily their best since joining the Daywind roster. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Forever. You will not be disappointed.
Here’s a video with samples of the project.
Review copy provided by Daywind Records.