Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Southern Gospel Picnic Preview 2014 - Silver Dollar City

Friday I leave for Branson for Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic. This is my one big gospel event I get to attend each year. This year I have to miss one day, because I had a previous commitment in Arkansas next Tuesday night. But thankfully, I live close enough where I can go and come back and only have to miss a day!

There are several groups I am looking forward to seeing this year, some for the first time. Probably the part of the festival I am most excited about is the Chosen Few Reunion on Sunday, Aug. 31. Chosen Few was the house gospel group for Silver Dollar City for many years and one of my first exposures to gospel music. The group stopped touring but still does reunion events occasionally. I haven't seem them perform together in about 10 years, so this is definitely something I'm excited about.

There are a number of artists I will be able to see for the first time like the Hoskins Family, the Dunaways, the Akins, Red Roots, Aaron and Amanda Crabb and the Sneed Family. To get a list of all performers, check out

If you are in the area or considering attending a southern gospel event, I strongly encourage coming. It's 11 days full of gospel music with six theaters during the day and the large amphitheater at night! Duane Garren is the emcee during the day at the largest theater as well as at night. They also offer gospel cruises on the Showboat Branson Belle at noon. I'm sad to miss some of those groups on park, but it's another way to get more groups involved and offer more ways for people to enjoy this great music!

KWFC, a southern gospel radio station in Springfield, always supplies fans with fans during the first few days of the festival while supplies last. And from the looks of the weather forecast, we will need the fans this year! The fan also features a schedule on the back, so it comes in really handy. The posted a picture of the back of the fan on their Facebook earlier, so you can see a full time schedule here.

One thing that I'm also looking forward to is hymn sings. Several nights before the show starts at Echo Hollow, they are having hymn sings for 30 minutes. It's going to be a great 11 days, and I look forward to being there for 10 of them!

Anyone else going to be there? Would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Worshipping with Declaration - Concert Recap

I had the chance to see Declaration in concert for the first time on Aug. 16. Thanks to social media I felt like I knew the group already. I even had the chance to interview them last year. The group consists of Kasey Kemp, Jake Sammons and T.J. Evans who joined the group in January. It was great to hear them live.

The concert was at a small church in Conway, Ark. The pastor mentioned that he grew up in North Carolina where Southern Gospel was plentiful. He had lived in other places though where it was not as abundant. I believe this was the first time the church had a group and certainly hope it's not the last. I'm glad he's doing his part to bring it to Arkansas and very happy that he decided to start with Declaration!

Declaration - Jake Sammons, Kasey Kemp and
T.J. Evans
The night started with "Come to the Water," and then they picked up the pace with "One More Time." It's fun song that had the audience clapping along! Next they sang a song written by Jake called "I Know He Loves Me." This is an incredible song. T.J. took the verses of the song and proved what a great addition he is to the lineup! Then they sang the familiar "Feeling Mighty Fine."

Kasey introduced the group and said that the most important thing that Declaration wanted the audience to realize that night was that Jesus loves you. Then they sang, "All the Way" followed by "Feel Like Traveling On."

Kasey talked about how they carefully pick songs and always want to make sure their songs line up with scripture. He talked about how precious the old hymns are not just because they are old, but because of the theology behind them. They recently recorded a collection of hymns and sang a few from the collection including "In the Garden," "He Touched Me" and "Put on a Crown."

Kasey told the story of a revival they had done a while back in Illinois. He said that they had had some really good services. During the revival on the third night about three songs into the service, they noticed a lady come in the back. She was a biker type and sat in the back. About three or four songs later, the lady jumped out of her seat and ran to the altar in tears. She threw up her hands in surrender and said that she couldn't take it anymore. She was on her way to a bike rally and something told her to turn around and go in the church. When she ran to the altar, she made the decision to ask Jesus to be Lord of her life. Kasey said that in talking to her after the service, she actually used to be a member of the church and members of the church had been praying for her. Kasey said that God taught them all a lesson that night. It doesn't matter where you have been, what you have done or who you have been in the past, God is interested in where He wants to take you.

They then sang "Whosoever Will" which they said they consider this to be their testimony song. They closed the first half with "It Wasn't Me." I love this song! Jake does an incredible job on it!

The second half started with the familiar favorite "Heaven's Jubilee." Before the song, Kasey talked about growing up on the Red Back Hymnal and how they had gotten to be part of the tribute to the hymnal on TBN.

Declaration changed the style up a bit for the next one. They sang a soft shoe, rat pack type song "I'm Glad I Know." They had the audience snap along during it. "Standing on the Solid Rock" was next with the audience clapping and standing enjoying every note!

They slowed things down a bit next. They took seats on the stools, and Jake picked up the guitar. They did a hymn sing inviting the audience to join them on the songs.

Kasey then gave his testimony of his recent illness. He had been having severe headaches. He had planned a trip to see his family in Illinois. When he got home his blood pressure was extremely high. He went to the hospital and the doctors ran several tests. Through all the tests, they found no bleeding or aneurysms. But the years of traveling had caused pinched nerves in his neck and spasms. After spending the night in the hospital, they got his blood pressure down and were able to regulate his medication. He still was not feeling 100% but praised God for him being on the mend. It made him think about how good God has been to him, no matter what comes our way. Then he was featured on "In Good Hands." Loved hearing him sing this! Great job and powerful moment after hearing his testimony!!

T.J. then sang "He Is Here" just before the offered the invitation for the evening. They really brought the focus back to a worship service and not just a concert.

They closed the night with "Don't Try to Tell Me" which had everyone standing and clapping along!

It was an incredible night of worship. I'm so glad I got to see these guys for the first time live. I hope it's the first of many trips for them to Central Arkansas!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - Aug. 16

Here's some news items from this week in gospel music.

  • The Dove Award nominations were announced Wednesday. If you missed all Southern Gospel nominations, check them out here. For a full list of nominees, see them here.
  • The Erwin Family is the latest artist to sign with StowTown Records. The family group consists of the four siblings - Keith (21), Kody (20) and Kris (18), and sister Katie (13). Check out this recent interview I did with them.
  • Tim Riley was released from rehab on Thursday sooner than expected due to the progress he has made. Doctors expect a full recovery, and the group continues to tour as he regains his strength. For those wishing to send Tim an email, you may do so at Cards may be sent via mail in care of Gold City, PO Box 2100, Gadsden, AL 35903. 
  • Speaking of Gold City, the quartet is one of the latest groups to release a concept video for their song "Power of the Cross." Check it out here.
Anything that I've missed this week?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fun Clip Friday - Gaither Vocal Band at Dove Awards

The big news of the week in Christian music was the Dove Award nominations announced on Wednesday. In honor of that, here's a clip from last year's Dove Awards. The Gaither Vocal Band were one Southern Gospel artist who got to perform during the ceremony last year. Enjoy this for today's Fun Clip Friday!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dove Award Nominees 2014

The Dove Award nominees were announced yesterday morning. The Dove Awards will be in Nashville at Lipscomb University on Tuesday, Oct. 7. Artists from all genres within Christian music helped announce nominees yesterday including Karen Peck Gooch, Wayne Haun and Gordon Mote.

Southern Gospel was well represented. I would have liked some representation in the overall Artist of the Year category, but still there are several notable nominations. I was glad to see the Cathedral Family Reunion project pick up a couple of nominations. Wayne Haun gathered 17 nominations including Producer of the Year. Musicscribe also has a great post about Brian Free and Assurance's nomination for "Say Amen." I'm predicting this could be a big year for them! StowTown Records has really come out strong with several of their artists nominated.

Here are some of the nominees you might be interested in -

For Song of the Year, Southern Gospel had four songs nominated

  • "I Can Trust Him" - The Perrys
  • "Revival" - Karen Peck and New River
  • "Say Amen" -  Brian Free and Assurance
  • "That's Why" - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
Southern Gospel Performance of the Year
  • "Love Is Stronger" - Jason Crabb
  • "Revival" - Karen Peck and New River
  • "Say Amen" - Brian Free and Assurance
  • "Search Me O God" - Cathedrals Family Reunion
  • "That's Why" - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
Producer of the Year
  • Ricky Free
  • Wayne Haun
Inspirational Song of the Year
  • "As Long as You Will Walk With Me" - Devin McGlamery
  • "Lift Up His Name" - The Browders
  • "Stronger" - TaRanda Greene
Southern Gospel Song of the Year
  • "I Can Trust Him" - The Perrys
  • "Love Is Stronger" - Jason Crabb
  • "Revival" - Karen Peck and New River
  • "Say Amen" - Brian Free and Assurance
  • "That's Why" - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
Bluegrass Song of the Year
  • "Daniel Prayed" - The Isaacs
  • "If These Old Walls Could Talk" - Wilburn & Wilburn
  • "Lord, In the Morning" - The Little Roy and Lizzy Show
  • "Won't It Be Wonderful There" - Dailey & Vincent
Country Song of the Year
  • "Love With Open Arms" - Doug Anderson
  • "That Whosoever Was Me" - Adam Crabb
  • "While I Still Can" - Devin McGlamery
Inspirational Album of the Year
  • Everlasting - Sandi Patty
  • Love Is a Verb - Devin McGlamery
Southern Gospel Album of the Year
  • For All He's Done - Greater Vision 
  • Oh What a Savior - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
  • Revival - Karen Peck and New River
  • The Lord Is Good - The Collingsworth Family
  • Unashamed - Brian Free and Assurance
Bluegrass Album of the Year
  • I'd Do It All Over Again - Easter Brothers
  • The Living Years - The Isaacs
  • Through It All  - The Harper Family

Country Album of the Year
  • All Things New - Gordon Mote
  • Drive - Doug Anderson
  • Here Comes Sunday - Wilburn & Wilburn
  • Surrender - Adam Crabb
  • Triplicity - Red Roots
Special Event Album of the Year
  • Cathedral Family Reunion 
Christmas Album of the Year
  • Christmas - The Hagees
Musical of the Year
  • Bethlehem Morning - Russell Mauldin, Sue C. Smith
  • Good News From Jerusalem - Dianne Wilkinson
  • Highest Glory - Marty Funderburk
Choral Collection of the Year
  • Everlasting Praise 4 - Mike Speck and Stan Whitmire
  • Everyday Sunday - Lari Goss
Short Form Video of the Year
  • Love Is Stronger - Jason Crabb
Any surprises? What song/ album or artist were you hoping to see nominated? Any winner predictions?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Names You Might Not Know Yet - Punches Family

The Punches Family is a bluegrass gospel group who make their home in Ozark Mountains. The group consists of parents Bruce and Bobette and their kids Graham, Owen, Brooke and Emily. Get to know more about this family from patriarch Bruce Punches -

Question - Did you grow up with a strong southern gospel influence? When did you first become interested in southern gospel?

Bruce Punches - We’ve been involved in Bluegrass for many years and didn’t get exposed to much southern gospel until about 10 years ago. It was love at the first note. There’s something about great 4 part harmony and the drive of southern gospel music that really strikes a chord in us and we’ve been hooked ever since.

Question - How did you get started singing and traveling as a family?

Bruce - Bobette and I have been involved with music all our lives. Bobette grew up in a musical family where her parents and siblings all played and sang for years before we met. In fact, we met at a bluegrass festival and it was a natural fit. The kids all started playing when they were about 7 and it wasn’t long before they were good enough to play a part in the band. It was at that point in 2009 that the Lord seemed to be calling us into the music mission field and the rest is history.

One of our first performances was with Martin Cook and the Inspirations. Martin invited us to ‘Singing In The Smokies’ and it was through that event we met many great folks like Danny and Dee Kramer, the producers of Great American Gospel television. It wasn’t long before we filmed for their show and have been on national television ever since. It’s through Great American Gospel that we have met so many great groups and people that we count as friends. God has really blessed us with these folks.

Question - What's the one thing that you want people who walk away from your concerts to know about your family?

Bruce - I would want people to take away an impression of a real family with joys and struggles just like anyone else; nothing fake or put on. We just want God to shine through us and uplift our audience wherever we perform. We’re always striving to be a good witness and pray that God may use us to lead someone to Christ as well as encourage those who already know the Lord.

Question - Do you have a favorite song that you sing? And what song from another group has ministered to you?

We have so many favorites. Seems like we perform a handful of new songs for a while and can’t get enough of them. Then, a new batch of songs will come along and we’ll be hot on those for a while. Personally, I love every song we do and always look forward to sharing them with others.

Our newest song is one which was written by Jennifer Walley, a songwriter/singer in Alabama. She and her two daughters have a very good trio and they write all their own music. They gave us a couple of songs and we made one the title cut on our latest cd. It’s called "Can I Wash Your Feet."  It’s a song about serving the Lord and it has a great melody with fantastic lyrics.

A song that made a huge impact on me and my family was one recorded by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver entitled "He Will Remember Me."  Again, the melody and lyrics really ministered to my heart.

Question - What artists have been your biggest influence (musically and/or personally)?

Bruce - We’ve always been a fan of Doyle Lawson, but the Isaacs have been a big influence as well. They are so creative and their music is obviously anointed. We don’t believe we’re alone when we say that the Isaacs rock!

Question - What has been your favorite memory so far in your ministry? Do you have a certain concert that stands out?

There are so many memories over the years that it’s hard to pin one down. However, we recall the time when we played a bluegrass festival in Pontiac, Illinois. The festival was held at a fairground where there had just been an Old Threshers Reunion a few weeks earlier. Old Threshers Reunions involve old tractors and steam equipment and the grounds had fist-sized lumps of coal scattered all over. Brooke was 9 at the time and had been listening to the song "I’m Just An Old Lump Of Coal, But I’m Gonna Be A Diamond Someday."  She wondered how God can turn a lump of coal into a diamond and we explained to her that God places it deep in the earth and puts it under great pressure. Brooke picked up a lump, put it in a plastic baggie and brought it on our bus and sat on it for several days in hopes that the coal would turn in to a diamond. We explained to her 2 Corinthians 5:17, and we all had a great laugh and a great memory out of that.

The concert that stands out the most would have to be in Bemidji, Minn. at the Berge Family festival. This was an all gospel event and It was all family bands. There were probably 3,000 people in attendance and about 2,000 of them were kids. Lots of Christian homeschool and conservative families just like ours, we had great fellowship and the holy spirit was very present that weekend.

Of course, Silver Dollar City is always a favorite and they host a Bluegrass festival in the spring and a southern gospel festival in late summer. They’re always family friendly and we’ve been playing there for years. We always see many folks we know and make new friends every year. We go out in the evenings with other families and have some great fellowship every time we play there.

Question - What new things are coming up for the Punches Family?

Bruce - Our kids are leaving in a few days for a trip with the youth choir from our home church and they’re very excited. After that, we’re headed to Nebraska, Iowa and then down into Georgia again. At the same time, we’re working on a Christmas CD which will be out in November. Great American Gospel is also working on film footage that we shot not long ago in Charlotte NC and should be out soon on the airwaves. It’s our latest work and our newest songs. Our newest CD just came out a few weeks ago, and we’ve been getting lots of orders. It’s a blessing from God to be a part of a family.

Thanks Punches Family! Make sure to check them out on their website to order the group's new CD and find out when they will be near you!