The Down East Boys have consistently been releasing quality projects, especially since they transitioned back to a quartet configuration several years ago. Although the group has endured some personnel changes, lead vocalist and group owner Ricky Carden has never failed to surround himself with talented individuals who have helped him put out great recordings. Ransomed, due to release This Friday, March 18th, may very well be the best recording in the group’s history. Carden is joined by longtime baritone Daryl Paschal, while both tenor Steve Lixey and the group’s newest member, bass vocalist Rick Walls are making their mainline debuts.
The cd kicks off with one of many songs you’ll find on the project written or co-written by the great Dianne Wilkinson, “A Reason To Sing”. It’s a great quartet song with Ricky carrying the lead and some great group singing. But what really blew me away with this song is what they did with the bridge. Steve takes over and there’s some really tight harmony that is absolutely fantastic, the best I’ve ever heard the DEB sound. The pace picks up a bit with, “Somebody Left The Door Wide Open”. Ricky is featured on the verses, and the song has a rockin’, bluesy feel with a choir backing up the group on the chorus. Next up is another great song, “I Still Remember”. Ricky is featured on another ballad, “The Song Of The Ransomed”. Next up is another uptempo number, “That’s What You Get For Loving Him”. Carden really shows off his versatility on the first half of the project, reminding us of what a talented vocalist he is in his own right. From smooth four part harmony to up tempo quartet songs and even powerful ballads, Ricky handles them all on this project and excels.
At the midway point of the project, tenor Steve Lixey steps up for a feature on a great song penned by Darryl Williams, “A Thief’s Paradise”. This song is different from anything you’ll hear on Ransomed because Steve is the only vocalist. It’s a gentle song, describing the thief on the cross who found forgiveness when he asked Jesus to “remember him when he came into his kingdom”, and Steve sings it superbly. Lixey has really come a long way vocally since joining the group, and his growth is on full display on Ransomed. He possesses a distinctive tenor voice that really makes him somebody Gospel Music fans need to listen to.
The seventh cut of the project, “One Way, One Door, One Name”, is the first radio single and features baritone Daryl. Paschal possesses one of the finest baritone voices in our genre, and does a great job on this cut. “That Wonderful Land” is another great quartet song about Heaven that features Ricky on the second verse. “The Cross Speaks Louder” is a nice ballad featuring Daryl, that reminds us that “the cross speaks louder than our sin“. “Now A Witness Am I” is another great uptempo quartet song from another great writer, Regina Walden. Closing out the project is a great song written by Ray Scarbrough, “Pray”. Each member of the group is featured on the verses, and it’s a great song that encourages believers to “get down on their knees”. Aside from a few step out lines and a couple lines of the first verse of “Pray’, we don’t hear much from Rick Walls in terms of solos. But I must say I enjoyed Rick on this project, he sounds great in the group’s blend and seems to be a great fit.
I don’t hand out praise for everything I listen to, in fact it’s hard for me to listen to a cd all the way through without skipping a single song. But I didn’t have that problem with this project. Compared to their previous project, Beyond The Blue, The Down East Boys have raised the bar for themselves with excellent song selection, great arrangements, and dynamic vocals, Ransomed is a great project that Quartet fans and Gospel Music lovers will enjoy. My only real critique is that I would have loved to have heard another song featuring the bass, balancing out the features. Irregardless, Ransomed is a great project and one of my favorites this year. I would also like to say kudos to the musicians at Crossroads Studios, they have been doing some great things musically and it’s a lot of fun to hear the arrangements that Jeff Collins has been coming up with lately.
To pick up your copy of Ransomed, visit the Down East Boys website here. You can also download your copy on iTunes
Brian’s Favorites – A Reason To Sing, That’s What You Get For Loving Him, A Thief’s Paradise, Pray
Rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
Review copy provided by Crossroads Entertainment.