With the passing of the National Quartet Convention last month, a whole slew of new recordings were released. One of them that I have been anxiously awaiting is the subject of today’s review. Full Sail is the latest recording by the Mark Trammell Quartet. This is the first proper MTQ mainline project to feature both bass vocalist Randy Byrd and tenor singer Blake Buffin, last years release Rewind was a new recording of songs from the group’s Trio years with new vocals. This is also the second recording the group has released on their own label, Crimson Road Productions.
The project kicks off with “All The Way Home”, a nice uptempo quartet song featuring Nick and Blake on the chorus. We then move on to the first ballad of the project, a cover of an old Gaither tune, “My Faith Still Holds”. Mark is featured on this one and I’ve got to say, it may be one of the finest performances he’s turned in since forming MTQ. He sings with conviction, compassion, and excitement. Next up is “Go Show John”, an uptempo song with a country flavor that features Nick. This song is a great example of Nick’s growth as a lead singer, and I enjoyed his vocal. “Treasures In Heaven” slows things down a bit and features Byrd on the verses. The first half of the recording comes to a close with another uptempo song “Already In Canaan Land”, written by Rodney Griffin. I really liked this song and was even more surprised to find Rodney wrote it. It’s a different song stylistically than what I associate with Griffin and the guys do a great job with it.
The second half of the project kicks off with one of my favorite hymns, “He Hideth My Soul”. The guys used Tommy Fairchild’s arrangement that he made famous with the Blackwood Brothers of the late 70’s/early 80’s. Now, Blake Buffin may not be Pat Hoffmaster, but he does a great job on this song. Randy Byrd steps back out front to take the feature on the classic, “Led Out Of Bondage’. While it is a good cut and I enjoyed Randy’s vocal, I wasn’t really a fan of the arrangement as the guys extended it out a bit.
The guys do another cover, this time of The Imperials “More Than You’ll Ever Know”, which features Blake. This one was surprised me quite a bit and Blake did a fantastic job on it. Mark steps up to the mic to do another cover, “God Takes Good Care Of Me“. I enjoyed this song as well, but once again the arrangement really extended the song a bit more than I thought it should have. The project comes to a close with a great Rebecca Peck/Dianne Wilkinson song, “Redeemer of My Soul”.
For me personally, Full Sail is miles better than their last mainline project, Your Walk Talks. One reason this rings true for me is the addition of Blake Buffin as opposed to the group’s previous tenor, Dustin Black. Blake is a true tenor and has a more pleasing tone which is really an added bonus on this project. The guys have a great blend right now and of course, Mark Trammell is a master at picking the right songs for a project. The song selection and vocals for this project are excellent. However, my biggest critique of the project would be that Treasures In Heaven, Led Out Of Bondage, and God Takes Good Care Of Me seemed to drag on just a bit too long, like the arranger did not know how to wrap it up. Overall, Full Sail is a great project and one of the most enjoyable releases of the year for me, I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Favorite songs: All The Way Home, My Faith Still Holds, Go Show John, Already In Canaan Land, He Hideth My Soul.
Review copy not provided.