Sunday, August 31, 2014

Not Giving Up on Day 9 - Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

I’ve been going to the Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City since before it was its own festival. I’ve been known to sit out in the rain to see a group either waiting in line or during the concert. And last night was another one of those nights. But before the great downpour, I had a full day of gospel music.

I made sure to get to the park this morning to see 11th Hour. They were my first stop, and I actually saw two of their concerts. They sang several from their latest project including “No Death,” “Heal My Wounds,” “Waving on the Other Side,” “Jesus Is In the House” and “How Will You Plead.”

Jaquita was featured on “Heal My Wounds” and “God’s Still God.” It’s good to hear more from her. The last time I saw them in full concert, she had not been with the group for very long. It’s great to hear more from her. She adds a lot to the group.

I’m glad someone requested Amber sing “How Will You Plead!” One of my favorite new songs! They also asked that she sing “Adam’s Fall” in the last show. Love hearing Amber sing this one!

The Akins are a family group who I had not seen before. However, I can assure you that after their show I want to see them again! I could be wrong, but I don’t think they used any tracks, all live music!!

They started their set with “How Great Thou Art” a cappella. They sang a few more hymns and standards like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Blessed Assurance” and they sang an a cappella version of “He Looked Beyond My Faults” that was incredible!!

They also wrote a few of the songs they sang. My favorite was “I Want My Stage to be an Altar.” The father of the group said that it was his testimony song and his prayer for every concert they sing.  They ended the set with “Arise My Love.” It’s interesting that this is the second Southern Gospel group to sing this song. Still just as powerful!!

From there, I went to see Three Bridges. I saw this group for the first time at last year’s festival. They started with “House of Good News” and then sang the hymn “He Touched Me.”

They got the audience going with “I Feel a Little Song Coming On.” This is probably the song I was most familiar with of theirs. I also loved hearing them sing “Shadrach” live, but the highlight of their set was the song “Unknown Soldier” that they dedicated to all the veterans.

Gold City was the headliner of the night in Echo Hollow. But before, they took the stage, a new group called New Road sang. The group won a competition hosted by a radio station in Northwest Arkansas. They sang four songs, “Newborn Feeling,” “Oh What a Savior,” “I Would Crawl” and “Glory Road.” They were a great group!!

Gold City started with “Somebody Sing Me a Gospel Song.” It’s been several years since Gold City has been in Echo Hollow and you could tell the audience was glad to have them back there!!

It was good to hear a few songs from their latest release, a hymns project, like “I Must Tell Jesus” and “Redeemed.” They also sang the modern hymn “Power of the Cross” after intermission. This was probably a highlight of the night!!

They sang several favorites as well like “Peter James and John,” “I’m Rich,” “I Cast My Bread Upon the Water,” and “I’m Not Giving Up.”

Chris West was filling in at bass, and they featured him on “I’m Free.” He did a great job with them. I think they said he had filled in one weekend a while back but had not sung with the group much.

During the first half, the sky had been threatening rain. We all were bracing for in rain jackets, umbrellas and ponchos nearby. At intermission, it started to hit, only slightly raining at first. However, when the group started the second half the rain picked up more and more.

They were singing “When I Get Carried Away,” and Daniel got to the line “until it looks like rain,” and I think we all started laughing. The bottom fell out of the sky shortly after. At the end of the song, Duane Garren came out on stage, and they called the show with the system coming through and serious lightning in the area. So the brave ones of us who didn’t give up trekked back to the front of the park to get on a tram to get to our cars. I don’t think I had one dry thread on me by the time I reached my car! But it wasn’t the first time I sat in the rain for a concert, and it probably won’t be the last! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mixing the Old and the New - Day 8 Recap of Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

Friday was a mixture of the old and the new at Silver Dollar City. The groups are park were very diverse from a traditional male quartet who had been around for 80 plus yeas to three red-headed young girls just getting their starts to family groups who are making a name for themselves.

My day started at Red Gold Hall with Red Roots. This was my first time seeing these girls sing live. I was extremely impressed with the level of talent these girls have. I’d heard them sing before, but I never realized what talent they have as musicians. I think I counted eight different instruments on stage, and they played them all!!

I was actually surprised that I was more familiar with some of their songs than I thought I would be. They started with “Christian Country Girl,” which I had heard a lot on radio. I also had heard “Seven Days,” but my favorite of what I heard them sing was “Grow.”

I was impressed not only by these girls’ musical abilities but also by what they said in between songs. You can tell these girls are passionate about sharing Christ through music and living for Him. It was also fun to see a lot of young girls in the audience who you can tell are big fans. These girls are definitely making impressions on young fans.

From there, I went to see the Sneed Family at the Riverfront Playhouse. I got the chance to interview them last year, but this was my first time seeing them live. They had a full live band with keys, drums and two guitars. They started the set with “Sail on Over to the Other Side.” Then Jeff, the patriarch of the family, was featured on “I’ve Got More to Go to Heaven For.”

They sang other familiar songs like “If You’ll Move Over, I’ll Help You Carry Your Load” and “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now.” However, the highlight of the set was Amanda singing “Hallelujah Square.” She, Caleb and Seth repeated the chorus a cappella. Amazing job!!! They ended the show with “He Is Leading the Way.”

My afternoon was spent with Karen Peck and New River catching a couple of the group’s shows. Kari, Karen’s daughter, joined them on stage singing for the last show. They repeated a few songs, but pretty much had completely different sets each time. They repeated “Revival” and of course “Four Days Late,” but I didn’t mind one bit. That song never gets old. I don’t care how many times I hear it, it still speaks to me and you can see how it still ministers to others. During the second show, Karen sang “Amazing Grace” a cappella and then went into “Four Days Late!” Absolutely beautiful!!

It was good to hear other songs from their most recent project like “Everybody’s Going Through Something,” “Finish Well” and “You Did It Anyway.” “Finish Well” is becoming one of their most powerful and most requested songs. Jeff gave a heartfelt testimony during the last show of how his pastor died suddenly just days before they went into the studio to record that song. They left straight from the funeral to the recording studio. He said it was the last thing on his mind, but as soon as Karen started singing that song the Spirit was in the room and he had the peace that passes all understanding.

Karen made sure to close each show with prayer, praying for those who were hurting and those who might not know Christ. I absolutely love the heart of this group!!

The night concert featured Aaron and Amanda Crabb, the Blackwood Brothers and the Bowling Family. This was my first time seeing Aaron and Amanda live. It is so sweet seeing this couple minister together as a duo. They sang several classics like “Going Home,” “He Looked Beyond My Fault” and “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.” I also loved that they chose to sing a few from their latest project “If I’m Guilty” and “Take Him to the Place.” Amanda talked about the last one being her testimony song and how she had written it from John 11 when Jesus said to take Him to the place where Lazarus lay. Incredible song!!

The Blackwood Brothers took the stage next. They started with “Feelin’ Mighty Fine” and then went into “Jesus Is Coming Soon.” A highlight of their set was Butch Owens featured on “I’ve Got to Walk That Lonesome Road.” Michael Helwig also sang “It Is No Secret,” another great moment!

They had the entire audience on its feet standing and clapping along with “I Wanna Be More Like Jesus.” They repeated the chorus a few times. Normally groups would end with a song like that, but they chose to end on a hymn “Blessed Assurance.”

The Bowling Family closed the night. They started with “I’ll Be Alright As Soon as I Touch Calvary.” Then they sang two songs from Safe After the Storm, “Come Along Let’s Fly” and “I Know Enough.”

They brought back an older song that Hope sang when she was younger, “Jesus Pilots My Ship.” If you thought she was incredible on this song before, you should hear her sing it now!! She, Troy and Mike repeated the chorus a cappella! It was amazing!! They also brought up their younger daughters to sing “My Country Tis Of Thee” in honor of the veterans. Their harmonies at such a young age are incredible.

Kelly was featured on the Crabb Family song “Don’t You Wanna Go.” Aaron was in the sound booth and ran down to join them on stage! It’s always good to see a mini Crabb reunion!! Mike made the comment after the song that he thought he would be cooked after being under those hot lights, but Kelly said it was hard to cook a Crabb! Haha!

Kelly gave the testimony of the bus accident to set up “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master.” This is always such a powerful song and a highlight of the night! However, I think my favorite song from last night was “I Still Glory in the Cross!” After that song, they ended on the barnburner “I Never Shall Forget the Day” bringing up Duane Garren to sing the last part with them!

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - August 30

I've spent most of this week at Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic as most of you already know. This has been a busy week for me, but also in the way of Southern Gospel news. Here are news and tidbits from this week -

  • Jim Brady announced his resignation from the Booth Brothers. He will stay with the group through the end of the year. He and his wife Melissa along with a third vocalist yet to be determined will start the Jim Brady Trio next year.
  • Connie Hopper released a personal statement about being diagnosed with cancer after doctors found a small malignant mass during her annual mammogram. Doctors are very optimistic about her upcoming surgery on Sept. 2. Keep her and the Hoppers in your prayers.
  • Tony Jarman has announced that he is leaving the Down East Boys. He has been tenor for the group since January 2011. He is leaving to pursue other ministry opportunities.
  • Matt Felts is leaving the Dixie Melody Boys and is joining the Lesters replacing Justin Wells.

Anything that I've missed?

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's a Great Day - Silver Dollar City Southern Gospel Picnic Day 7

We have reached the point in the week where there is more of the festival behind us than ahead. It’s always a little sad to me when we get to this point. If you are within a few hours of the Ozarks and love gospel music, this is an event you don’t want to miss next year.

The Whisnants were first on my agenda yesterday morning. I caught two of their shows. They sang several standards like “King Jesus Is Coming,” “Be Not Afraid,” “I’ll Pray for You” and their “Ready Medley.” Austin and Ethan sang with Jeff on “Road to Emmaus.” I love hearing them do this one! Austin also sang “I’ll Make Heaven Home.” Their sons are really going to be ones to watch as they mature and have a bigger role in their ministry! I also got to hear Susan sing “Is Anything Too Hard for God?” which I had never heard her sing live.

The Whisnants
One of the highlights was hearing Aaron on “I’m Trusting the Blood.” This is becoming one of my favorite Whisnant songs! However, the definite highlight came at the end of their last show. Susan told about her mom’s cancer scare. She said her mom was really the one reassuring her, because Susan had admitted that her faith had been weak. At the doctor’s appointment, the doctor couldn’t explain what they had seen weeks before but it wasn’t there any more. Susan said her mom knew that God had done a work in her life, but she had the faith that “all was well” no matter what the outcome had been that day. She then sang “All Is Well.” Incredibly powerful moment!!!!

2nd Generation
 I also got to see 2nd Generation at the Riverfront Playhouse yesterday. I saw them in Arkansas at the end of last year when Randy Barnes had not been with them long, and he wasn’t feeling well that night. It was great hearing them yesterday with Randy in full force. This trio is sounding great together!! They started with “One More River to Cross,” and then went into the classic hymn “What a Day That Will Be.” Brenda was featured on the first verse, and Randy on the second. It was good to hear “Hanging on a Nail” again live! This is one of my favorites that they sing. They got the audience involved on “Feel the Joy.” It was great to see the audience all standing doing the motions with the group! One of the highlights was Elaine singing “Sheltered in the Arms of God.” They ended the set with “Redemption Draweth Nigh,” also featuring Elaine.

In Red Gold Hall, Soul’d Out Quartet had three show yesterday afternoon. I was able to catch two of them. I am more impressed with this quartet each time I see them. They sang a lot of familiar songs like “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before,” “Singing and Rejoicing on my Way,” “Jesus Is Coming Soon” and “I Believe,” which featured Ian, love hearing him sing this song! They also got the audience really clapping along with “Fare Thee Well!”

Soul'd Out Quartet
It was great hearing Bryan sing “I Want to Thank You.” Love the message of this sing, and it was great to hear it live. Dusty was featured on “You Were There,” which was a highlight of their final show of the afternoon! Incredible job! They ended each set with “Arise My Love,” which is such a powerful song for them!! I was glad I got to hear it twice!!

Legacy Five was the final show of the night. This was probably one of the biggest crowds they have had in Echo Hollow so far in the festival. They started the night with “Great Day” and then sang “Bloodwashed Band.”

They sang several more from their latest project including “That’s a Hallelujah,” “Great Medley,” “Who Is This Man,” “He Is To Me” and “Christ Is Still the King.” I loved the “Great Medley” that includes “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “How Big Is God” and “How Great Thou Art.”

Legacy Five
Scott Fowler talked about loving the old hymns of the church. Before the concerts at night, we have been having a hymn sing, so the guys got to hear the audience sing some tonight. There were several hymnals on top of the piano. Scott picked up the redback hymnal. He talked about the taping they had done at TBN and found “Grand and Glorious Feeling” that they had sung that night and they sang it.

Scott talked about how Trey had been trained in classical piano at a conservatory. He asked Trey to play a piece that weaves classical with a hymn, so Trey played classical with “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” Scott Howard asked what that was at the beginning when he finished and Trey said that it was a sonata. Scott said that made sense to him since “it’sonata hymn.”

Before the end of the first half, Scott Fowler read the resurrection story from Luke, and then they sang “Christ Is Still the King.” It was a great moment! Probably the highlight of the night for me!!

In the second half, they sang a few requests like “Strike Up the Band” and “Ask Me Why.” They were going to end on “Champion of Love,” which would have been great, but the audience wanted one more. So they closed the night with “What a Happy Day” with audience standing and clapping along!

It was another great day, now on to Day 8!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Enjoying a New Day - Silver Dollar City Recap Day 6

Since I had to miss Tuesday, I wanted to make up for it. It was a new day, and I wanted to see all I could. I got to the park early yesterday to see the first shows of the morning. In fact, I had the chance to see several groups twice!

My morning started with Spoken 4 Quartet. I walked into the front of the park just a few songs into their first show. They had a special guest performing with them Tuesday and Wednesday, their producer Jeff Stice! I was able to catch part of their first show and all of their second show. They did sing a few that I heard them sing Monday, but I didn’t mind! Jon Charles sang the song about the prodigal song, “Back to Me,” love this song from their latest project. Steven was featured on “Who Am I” and “Beulah Land,” love hearing him sing those classics. Cecil showed off his bass skills on “Life’s Evening Sun.” Jeff Stice made him repeat the chorus and go even lower!! Of course, when you have Jeff playing keys for you, you’re going to let him show what he can do. Jeff played a couple of songs solo. It was great to hear him play again, because he is definitely one of the best!! The highlight of both sets had to be the song “That’s My Boy.” They closed the second show with this song!

I also two shows of the Taylors. They started each show with “New Day Dawning,” but from there did completely different sets. I love that they sang several from their latest project like “I’m Committed to You, Lord,” “He Goes Before Me” and “Measure of Grace.” However, my favorite had to be “I Tremble.” I’ve always loved this song. They featured Suzanne on the song. They brought out Leslie’s husband Aaron Perkins and son Isaiah in each set I saw. Jonathan told that he was a miracle baby. Not only had doctors told Leslie that she would probably never be able to have children of her own, but he was born with one functioning kidney and doctors thought that it wouldn’t be functioning at the level it needed to be. However at the last checkups, it was functioning at 100%. Aaron is a bass singer, so he joined them for two songs, one in each set, “Roll Away” and “Up Above My Head.” Leslie held the baby as the five of them sing together. Little baby Isaiah seemed perfectly content on stage in his mom’s arms. They had two great sets!!

The Kingsmen were at Red Gold Hall yesterday afternoon. I had the chance to also see them twice. They sang a mix of favorites and new songs. It was good hearing “Meet Me at Table,” “Travelin’ Home” and “Glory Road.” They sang probably my favorite Kingsmen song, which is “That’s All I Need.” They sang a couple of newer songs including their single, “Oh Yes I Am,” which they closed both sets with. They also sang “Beautiful City,” a newer one and Randy joked they might have to sing watermelon a bit with this one. Ray Dean threw watermelon in there a few times at the end for some laughs. Chris, their tenor, sang “Look for Me at Jesus’ Feet” in both sets, which was a definite highlight. However, one of the sweetest moments occurred in the second set. They told that a brother and sister came to the table and requested a song for their dad who is serving in Afghanistan. They didn’t know the song that the siblings requested but still wanted to sing something for them and their dad, so they sang “Land of the Free.” The siblings and family were on the front row and the group acknowledged them. I’m not sure there were many dry eyes in the house!

The Martins were the headline group tonight! I love seeing them back in Echo Hollow. The night started with “New Day” featuring Judy. They sang several of their a cappella songs, which I love to hear them do! They sang some classics like “Holy Holy Holy” and “Softly and Tenderly” and a couple from their new project like “Shut De Door” and “Never Walk Alone.” The last one was a highlight of the night!! They even sang a little bit of “Count Your Blessings” a cappella, but it wasn’t exactly intentional. Apparently the sound guy couldn’t find the track, so Joyce just started singing a bit of the chorus and Jonathan and Judy just jumped in!

Being from Arkansas, their parents were there sitting proudly on the front row and Jonathan had several family members there as well. Jonathan recognized his mom and talked about what an incredible influence she was on their lives. She’s the one who taught them to sing. She and his daughter Amelia were celebrating birthdays this week, so he had the audience sing to both of them.

Each sibling gave a bit of testimony. Judy talked about her struggle with depression and how God had allowed this struggle to remain in her life, but it was a reminder to her that we all have a desperate need for Jesus. Then they sang "Wherever You Are." Jonathan talked about the struggles in life and no matter what we face there is nothing that hasn't passed through the Father's hands. This set up "The Promise." I love this song, and for me this was the highlight of the night!!

Joyce talked about how they started out at Silver Dollar City at the gazebo. Then, they gradually moved up and now had sung at Echo Hollow for several years. She talked about their challenges and struggles that they have overcome over the years as a family. Then, they sang "Unredeemed."

They ended the night with "Love's Gonna Drive This Train" with everyone on their feet! It was a great night!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Matt Felts to Join Lesters

Matt Felts recently announced his resignation from the Dixie Melody Boys. This week, the Lesters made the announcement that Matt Felts is joining their ministry. Here was the statement they issued -

Matt and his family reside just outside of Nashville, Tenn., but he is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He was actually raised not too far from where we live in South City St. Louis. His wife's name is Jennifer, and they are blessed with a beautiful daughter whose name is Abbey and is 5 years old. Matt is a Graduate of Missouri University in Columbia, Missouri, with a degree in marketing, and he'll be the first to tell you his desire is to "serve the Lord" through singing gospel music and will use everything he has learned to get the message of Jesus Christ out to the world! He has traveled with several different gospel groups in his young life, including just finishing a nearly five year stay with the legendary Ed O'Neal & The Dixie Melody Boys. We are grateful to the Lord for sending Matt our way and we're looking forward to what God has in store for this ministry as we continue our journey for Him. Matt will join us beginning the week of September 8th, so be watching our Tour Schedule and come join The Lesters in concert; get to know Matt, and welcome him to the family.
Matt also issued a statement
Growing up in St.Louis, our home was filled with the sounds of great gospel groups like the Cathedrals and the Happy Goodmans but one group stood out to us above the rest , the Lesters. One of the first songs I ever sang in my local church was "He didn't throw the clay away." I never dreamed I would have the honor to sing that song with them on stage. I'm thrilled to be apart of such a rich legacy of ministry and great music. Brian, Jon and all of the Lester family have already made my family feel so welcome. Joining the Lesters is truly like coming home. I look forward to getting to know all of their friends and fans very soon.

Look forward to seeing more from Matt and the Lesters!