The Kingsmen have a long and storied history within Southern Gospel. They have always been recognized by their high energy three chords and a cloud of dust style of performing; whether that be in the studio or on the stage, that is the one thing that has always set them apart from other Quartets in the industry. Lately, the Kingsmen have started blurring the lines some with their musical style; while still holding true to their roots, that is abundantly evident on their latest release Grace Says.The vocal lineup on this CD is Bryan Hutson, (lead) Harold Reed (tenor), Randy Crawford (baritone) and Ray Reese (bass).
1. There Is A Way Back To Grace- This country sounding song featuring Randy Crawford is a terrific way to kick off this album. It has a clear message, with extremely solid singing from Crawford and the rest of the guys. This is one of the more progressive songs on the album and is one I enjoy very much. 9/10
2. What A Hallelujah Day- This song stands in stark contrast to the previous one, it hearkens back to the vintage Kingsmen style. The harmony on the chorus is exceptionally good especially in the top three parts. Harold Reed really stands out on this one; he has refined his singing to a very pleasant tone much like his days with the Florida boys. 8/10
3. I Knew It Was Him- This is the first big ballad on the CD; it features Reed almost as a full solo, until the group comes in to end it with power. The Statement Of Faith Trio (the short lived group Jacob Kitson started) originally recorded this song, I prefer that version over this one; but as it stands the Kingsmen, and Reed in particular do a very respectable job with it. This is without a doubt one of the most powerful songs lyrically on the entire CD. 10/10
4. He’s Everything I Need- This song is getting a ton of rave reviews, (its also the first single) and justifiably so it is vintage Kingsmen with a modern twist. Written by Joe Habedank and Matthew Holt it fits this current lineup of the Kingsmen to a “T” Bryan Hutson gets his first solo lines with this one and he of course nails them. This is one you will find yourself hitting the repeat button on, if you like the upbeat vintage Kingsmen sound. 10/10
5. Grace Says- This is a beautiful song featuring some lovely singing from Randy Crawford. He has a very pleasant voice with a wide range I always liked his singing with the Carolina Boys (The Kingsmen) especially on his big feature ”Justified” from the Good News Album. This song has that quality about though it is a little more progressive than other Kingsmen hits has the opportunity to become Crawfords signature song of his career. The lyrics of this piece are what stands out the most it reminds us that even when we make mistakes Grace will always be there for us. 10/10
6. Ordinary Man- This is another one of those songs that is quite progressive. Bryan Hutson turns in a extremely strong performance, this song seems to fit him remarkably well both personally, and vocally. It also lyrically fits my life and testimony, so it is a favorite of mine on this project. This song would make a excellent single. 9.5/10
7. I Can Hardly Wait- This Harold Reed feature is another song that hearkens back to the vintage Kingsmen Style. This song is a toe tapper that will grow on you the more you listen it. Reed does a superb job singing his part, he keeps it down a little and does not over-sing on any of his phrasing. This is one that will probably do extremely well live. 8/10
8. If Not For The Love Of Christ- For some reason this song stuck out to me when I first heard this version of it. It has been previously recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys and Triumphant respectively. Even though, the Kingsmen version is almost identical arrangement wise to the Oaks version, I find the Kingsmens version to be superior. Now don’t go off saying that I believe the Kingsmen are superior to the mighty Oaks; but on this particular song they truly shine in my opinion. It has quickly made its way up my all time most played songs on my computer… I love the lyrics, and Crawford and Hutson stand out on the vocals, terrific cut of a great song. 10/10
9. After The Sunrise- This old classic is a highlight among the traditional songs on this album; it moves along at a very nice clip I love the tenor led modulation the end which Harold Reed nails with great precision. This is another song that I can not wait to see done live by this lineup. 9/10
10.Loving Shepherd, Gracious God- This new song written by Dianne Wilkinson (Daniel Mount interviewed her about this song here) may be the most lyrically profound on the entire album. It is a beautiful song led by Ray Reese on the verses, and Hutson on the chorus. It is a excellent way to close out an all around fantastic album, Dianne has done it again this time taking a passage out of the bible (the 23rd psalm, and writing a lyrical masterpiece). I have to say that this song has to be my favorite (lyrically) on the entire album. 10/10
Overall Rating- 9.5/10
Summary: The Kingsmen have recorded a excellent album, to say the least with Grace Says. I was impressed with the songs that were picked and the arrangements that were utilized. The blend of this current lineup is one of the best in Southern Gospel, they are I believe not far away from being near the top of the Southern Gospel world, as they once were with that unmistakable sound that they developed… I can highly recommend this album to either current fans of the Kingsmen, or to fans of good quartet harmony and ardent lyrics sung in a powerful way. In other words, go buy this album! You can order it here or here.
The Sisters have done it again; back in June they posted this video which blew everyone away including myself. Well a couple of weeks ago they posted another video, this time of them singing the “Star Spangled Banner” A Capella. It like the first video is breathtaking. Check it out for yourself below, the good stuff really begins at the 1:30 mark.
I have to say they might just have the best harmony of any group in any genre of music out there today… I wish nothing but the very best for these ladies, for that is what they truly deserve!
I have been blogging now for a little over two years. I have thoroughly enjoyed doing this, and I want to continue to do so for as long as I can. Sometimes my blogging has been sporadic, and sometimes it has been unreadable; but there are those of you that have stuck by me, and have continued to read my random and sometimes out of place thoughts on Southern Gospel music. For that, I am immensely grateful. I am planning big things in the next few months; but most of the time my “big” blogging plans fall flat onto the virtual floor, I guess that is what life is about. One thing that is long overdue is an interview that I did last summer at NQC. It was with a quartet owner, I was pretty excited about it at the time; but when I took a new job I never took the time to transcribe it, well I have started on that again, and I hope to have the interview up soon! I did another (with another singer) but that sound file got deleted on accident. Speaking of NQC I am planning on once again attending multiple days in which I am hoping to get a couple of more interviews. We will see, life is ever changing and we never know what tomorrow may hold…
The statement above is especially true today in this ever changing world, where technology seems to drive everything. I mean there seems to be something new, and supposedly life changing every month, something that companies advertise as a “must have” item. As I see it The one absolute “must have” that is truly all we need is Jesus Christ, and his eternal love and grace. I am not saying thought that technology is bad; but I do believe everything must be used in moderation… And since
I have recently entered into the ministry as a preacher I am finding that relying on God, and his word is a whole lot smarter than relying on technology (though I do use technology to prepare my sermons) everything has its place I suppose… I truly believe that this is what God wants out of my life. So with that said, with relation to my blog I am going to try, and post something on Sundays that will be encouraging and thought provoking. I might even review a church service that I attend who knows. That is what makes serving God so exciting you never know what is around the next bend; all I gotta do is hold onto his unchanging hand!
This has been reported in more than one place today; but I thought I would mention it as well. Brian Alvey (who recently married Lauren Talley) is joining the family group. They are changing their names back to simply the Talleys. Their “debut” will be in September, so I will get to hear them at NQC, I am definitely looking forward to that. Daniel Mount has a quick Q&A with Roger Talley about the move on his site.
- First off The Perry’s have announced on their friends page (on Facebook) that Libbi will be doing a solo CD due out around NQC. As a big Libbi fan I am pretty excited about this as I am sure many other fans of hers are as well! I personally believe this is long overdue, and this should be a big seller for Libbi whose fans have been clamoring for a solo CD from her for a long while.
- Speaking of CD releases Gold City has announced (on their facebook page) that they are re-releasing the Favorites CD they did last year with the new lineup. It is available now only on their website, or at one of their concerts; so if you want to hear how Dan and Craig sound on CD with Danny and Tim, here is your chance. I personally am looking forward to hearing it. The CD of new material is due out on September 13th.
- One more thing I am hoping to have a review up of the new Kingsmen CD Grace Says very soon!
Saturday night at The Bean Blossom Southern Gospel Jubilee was another fantastic night of Southern Gospel Music at its finest; on this night, the featured groups were The Perry’s (the host group) Legacy Five and Gold City. I reviewed the Friday Night festivities here. I will be doing the same review layout for Saturday night. Let’s get started!
Gold City- I have seen Gold City three times since their current lineup of Dan Keeton, Daniel Riley, Tim Riley Craig West and Bryan Elliot has been together. I can honestly say that they have gotten better each time. That is good news for Gold City fans, who have been getting frustrated with the lineup changes and whatnot. There were several highlight moments in Gold City’s set the first of which came when Dan Keeton stepped up to sing “God’s Building A Church” I linked a video of him singing that song elsewhere a few weeks ago. On Saturday, he and Tim Riley made that song come alive in a big way. Dan is the best tenor Gold City has had for quite a while. Another highlight also featured Dan. He sang a jaw dropping version of “O What A Savior” on which he sounds quite a bit like Rozie Rozell. The other prominent highlight for me was Craig West knocking “Midnight Cry” out of the park which was fitting in the setting we were in, especially since it was getting dark when he sang it. I certainly hope this iteration of Gold City stays together awhile, and brings Gold City back to where they belong in the Southern Gospel world. Hopefully their new CD that is supposed to come out on September 13th will start them in that direction, because though their older hits are fantastic songs (and this lineup does a great job singing them) they certainly need some new material that fits this lineup. Continue to pray for Gold City!
The Perry’s- The Perry’s picked up right where they left off on Friday night. Brian Walker was much more comfortable singing the Lead spot for Joseph Habedank. They featured him on “If You Knew Him” and well I have to say that Brian did an phenomenal job with a song that Habedank has made his signature song. The biggest highlight of their set came; however when Tracy Stuffle called Wayne Maynard (former Kingsmen baritone) and his son Kenyon up on stage to sing an unrehearsed version of Maynard’s signature song “Child, Child”. Maynard has a big powerful voice, with a broad range even at his slightly older age. His son sang a superb tenor (though not quite Ernie Phillips understandably) Walker and Stuffle filled the other two spots. They brought down the house for sure, the crowd had them encore it several times! Its moments like these in Southern Gospel that truly make this genre special. Its funny how sometimes the most spontaneous moments in music (or life in general) are usually the very best!
Legacy Five- Like Gold City, this was my third time this year seeing Legacy Five. They were as strong and consistent as they have always been. They have a smooth and refined yet powerful sound that is very pleasing to my ear. They with the addition of Gus Gaches have created a brand-able sound that they will hopefully be able to capture in the studio, and give L5 something I believe they have lacked that certain “sound” that when people hear just a few bars of a L5 song and know immediately just who it is… As for L5′s set, they covered quite a few songs out of their repertoire even pulling out a song from the “Heroes Of The Faith” album. That song was “Somebody Sing” on which Glenn, and Gus did a splendid job . Glenn Dustin also turned in a fine performance on “I’ve Been Changed” that number has turned into Glenn’s signature song, and he sings it like he means it! Their grandiose highlight of the night was them singing “We Shall See Jesus” they have been singing this one pretty much every night since releasing their latest CD last September. They have gotten better and better at it as well; the crowd ate it up as it is a timeless classic that NEEDS to be sung.
Summary- The closing night, though it did not feature as many groups as the night before was another great night especially for a quartet fanatic like myself! When you put two of my favorite quartets and my favorite mixed group on the same stage, well lets just say I was gobsmacked most of the night! I am already making plans to return to Bean Blossom next July, and I encourage anyone that lives close enough to attend to make plans to go, you will undoubtedly be blessed!
Last summer Southern Gospel promoter extraordinaire Bill Bailey, started Southern Gospels latest outdoor jubilee in Bean Blossom. Indiana at the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park which was once considered the mecca of Bluegrass. The event runs three days and features many of your favorite artists. It was enough of a success last year that they held another event this year. which was held this past weekend, Thursday through Saturday. I made it for the Friday night and Saturday night events. The Perry’s were the host group, and they did a terrific job. Below is a breakdown of the Friday night lineup (in the order in which the groups appeared) and my highlight moments from each. Lets get started shall we?
The Perrys- The Perry’s were without Joseph Habedank for the weekend as he had to sing in a wedding, so their lineup was a little different. Bryan Walker sang the lead part, Matthew Holt covered the baritone spot making for a softer, yet pleasing Perry’s sound. Bryan did a solid job manning Joe’s part and Matt Holt is a very good harmonizer. The highlight of their set was Libbi Perry Stuffle’s stirring rendition of “Celebrate Me Home” The Perry’s most recent radio hit. They of course closed with the ever popular “Wish I Coulda Been There” Bryan who was seemingly a little uncomfortable at the start of their set, was settled into a groove by the time this song rolled around and he knocked it out of the park! I thoroughly enjoyed The Perry’s set even without Joseph Habedank who is one of my favorite singers in Southern Gospel.
Brian Free And Assurance- Brian Free And Assurance was plagued with sound problems for most of their set. Jeremy Lyle’s (the bass singer) mic was turned down way to much, and I could barely hear him as I set in my camp chair about 10 rows back; but I digress BFA pulled off a great set, even with the sound issues. Highlighting their set was their opener “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee”, which was sung without any music, which amplified the groups superb harmony. They of course brought the house sky down with “For God So Loved” And “Long As I Got King Jesus”. The real fun began on their very last song of the night (after the intermission) when Brian Free brought Karen Peck on stage for a sing off between the two of them. They sang “Looking For A City” just like Vestal and Johnny did it back in the 70′s, except Brian and Karen went even higher and higher… They ended up in a tie around (and this is a guess) the Eb-F-sharp range… It was quite a sight to behold and something I will not soon forget…
Karen Peck And New River- Karen Peck has, like Brian Free one of those distinctive voices that just wows you every time you hear her sing. She was without her sister Susan on Friday night. Filling in for Susan was a young lady by the name of Stephanie Scragg, she was once a part of the Jody Brown Indian family. Jeff Hawes was the other singer on stage. Highlighting their set was what I believe is next big KPNR hit “On The Banks Of The Promiseland” it is a beautiful tune that features Karen doing what she does best. The crowd undoubtedly ate this song up and rightfully so. Jeff Hawes turned in a terrific performance on a excellent new song titled “This Is What Mercy Does” Hawes is a exceptionally talented singer; but he seems a little hesitant to truly let it all out… I am sure that will come with more time in the industry. They closed their set with a scorching version of “We Shall Wear A Robe And Crown” I will probably never get tired of hearing Karen whip this song into submission! It was encored four times and Tracy Stuffle joined them on the encores to add some serious bass singing. KPNR probably had the best set of the night, and that is no slight to any of the other groups!
The Kingsmen Quartet- The Kingsmen arrived very late after they had some bus trouble on their way from North Carolina. They had to hurry and set up their sound system, so they got off to a little bit of a rough start; but they overcame that,and turned in a very solid set. The highlight of their set for me was Brian Hutson’s rendition of “I Owe It All To Him”. Just Cody Mcvey’s excellent piano accompaniment, and Brian’s brilliant vocals made for a glory bump moment for me! Randy Crawford made his first return to the group after a one month medical leave, he was understandably not in top form; but he pulled through quite well. Another song that I immensely enjoyed is their latest single “He’s Everything I Need” That is a winner for sure, and the audience agreed with me. Another performance that I truly loved was Harold Reed on “God Saw A Cross” He was in top vocal form on Friday night and it certainly showed on that song. Overall the Kingsmen with everything they went through on Friday had a very enjoyable set that I truly enjoyed.
Summary of the night- Overall it was a great night of gospel singing from some of the best groups in this genre… It was my first ever outdoor Southern Gospel event, and I really enjoyed being able to sit in my comfortable camp chair and enjoy some splendid singing. If you like the outdoors, and can handle warm weather I encourage you to go to at least one in your life.
- The Dixie Echoes are now seeking both a new Bass singer, and a new tenor singer. Pray for them as they deal with the transitions; member changes are never easy on a group.
- Jeff And Sheri Easter were involved in Bus accident yesterday; Thankfully no one was hurt. Read the press release here.
- Daywind is hosting a online listening party for the launch of Karen Peck and New Rivers latest album; I have the CD, and I highly recommend it. Read more on the listening party here.
- Last night I attended the second night of a three day outdoor southern gospel event in BeanBlossom Indiana. The lineup included The Perry’s (the hosts for the whole event) Karen Peck and New River, Brian Free And Assurance and the Mighty Kingsmen Quartet. Tonight (Saturday Night) I will be attending once again. The groups tonight will be The Perry’s, Legacy Five, and Gold City. I will be posting a review of Friday nights happenings (which included a sing off between Brian Free and Karen Peck) on
MondayTuesday; and Saturday Nights happenings will be reviewed and posted on TuesdayWednesday.
Video Of The Week-The Booth Brothers-Masterpiece Of Mercy- This is an absolutely beautiful song that was written by Jim Brady and Rodney Griffin. It features the ever smooth Ronnie Booth; and will be on the Booths upcoming “Let It Be Known” album due out on August 23rd.
Greater Vision has put out many outstanding albums throughout the last twenty years; with some excellent material lyrically and musically. The vocals have always been top notch on every album they have put out, the lyrical content is usually very solid to exceptionally strong, and the tracks whether it be a big track or just a simple arrangement has also always been strong. Their latest effort showcases all of the above aspects of a Greater Vision recording in a big way. This is the first CD of mostly all original material since Chris Allman returned to the tenor spot, and he is featured prominently throughout this whole album anchoring a sound that many have missed since he first left back in 1995. He also contributed several songs written by his pen. Another note on the technical side of things is the fact that this CD is actually produced by Gerald Wolfe instead of Lari Goss. Lari did, however, produce the strings.(and he did a stellar job as always)Below is a song by song breakdown of The Only Way.
1. He Didn’t When He Could Have Passed By- The album opens with a great upbeat song that is lyrically reminiscent of My Name Is Lazarus or “He’d Still Been God. This should be a excellent live number for Greater Vision; it would also do very well as a radio single.9/10
2. Safe Within His Hand- This slower song has a country flavor musically with some extremely encouraging lyrics written by Chris Allman. This is one of my very personal favorites on the entire album. The vocals are exceptionally good with Chris Allman selling the second verse in a big way.10/10
3. No Longer Chained- This powerful song starts with a slow piano and strings intro that gives way to a more upbeat mid-tempo guitar driven sound. The lyrics (written by Rodney Griffin) are powerful (though Daniel Mount points out a historical mistake) and straight to the point, about how we are chained by our sins and how we can be “no longer chained” by accepting God’s wondrous grace. It certainly is a exceptionally lovely song. Rodney Griffin turns in a stellar performance on the verses. 9.5/10
4. I Know A Man Who Can- This song has for years been “owned” by Kirk Talley; but with this stellar version turned in by Chris Allman I have to say that Chris now OWNS this song… He put everything he had into singing his part, and just knocked it entirely out of the park! 10/10
5. The Only Way- This barn burner of a song is a typical upbeat Greater Vision. You will quickly find yourself tapping your foot along with the beat of the song, and find yourself singing along. This is one that clicked with me right away, and if you like the barn burner type songs than it should with you, as well. The lyrics are also stellar saying that Jesus is not the best way or just a good way to heaven; but he is the “only” way to life everlasting. I am looking forward to seeing this one performed live. 9/10
6. Like I Wished I’d Lived- This song serves as the projects first radio single; it is a excellent lyric written by Rodney Griffin. Chris Allman gets the feature and truly does a superb job with it; he keeps it slower and meditative. I truly enjoy this song on more than one level; I love the lyrics as it speaks to me on a intensely personal level; but it is also a very soothing song that is relaxing to listen to. 10/10
7. But God- Legacy Five recorded this song on their Live In Music City Project with Roger Bennett and Scott Fowler featured on the verses. Greater Vision makes it a Gerald Wolfe feature and slows it down a notch from the L5 version. I personally prefer L5′s take (maybe because it was live) However Gerald certainly did a superb job communicating the lyric with a passion in his voice that most singers have trouble pulling off in the studio. 9/10
8. We Still Have To Pray- Greater Vision almost always has a song about prayer on their latest albums, and this one of course was no exception. While this song is not quite as strong as “It Pays To Pray” it is still a great lyric that should speak to every christian; that even when we are in God’s will we still have to pray no matter what. 8/10
9. Eternity’s About To Begin- This song featuring Chris Allman, picks things up a bit. It is a great song about how we as Christians are watching and waiting for the second coming. The song starts out with some soulful singing from Allman that is quite enjoyable. The rest of the song is typical GV. I thoroughly enjoy the Hammond B-3 that is featured prominently in the track. 9.5/10
10. Heaven Cant Be Far Away- Greater Vision originally recorded this song on their “The King Came Down” project over 18 years ago. Well this version is similar; but in a way better. Gerald Wolfe really “sells” it this time around. You can tell he can not wait finally to go “home” he communicates a song in this vein like few singers can. I can not wait to see them stand on stage and possibly close a concert with this gem of a song. 10/10
11. Another Child’s Coming Home- This song is one of the strongest songs lyrically on the entire project. It takes a common lyrical theme (the prodigal son) and is written from the perspective of the father as he prepares for his son’s return (even though he has no assurance the son will return) It shows the fathers loving aspect in every aspect. Chris Allman does a gorgeous job singing the verses, It as if he is the father himself. 10/10
Overall Rating- 9.5/10
SUMMARY: This project is, in my opinion their very best since “Quartets” over eight years ago.They have released some solid projects since that time; but none that quite measured up to this recording. Having Gerald produce was a terrific move, he is a talented producer for sure; he also provided all the piano playing. The return of Chris Allman to the group has undoubtedly brought a breath of fresh air to the group. With his higher range, the other guys have a little more freedom with their own voices. This whole project is a joy to listen, and I would highly recommend fans of Southern Gospel music to go out and buy this project. Which can be ordered here, Or downloaded from Itunes.