Monday, April 30, 2012

Southern Gospel Artists' Books

At the Talleys concert a few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Lauren Talley Alvey's book Songs in the Night. I just started reading it this weekend, and so far I'm really enjoying it.

I've read a couple of other books by Southern Gospel artists and have found them all very interesting. The books give you insights into the lives of the artists. I think it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability for each of these artists to share such details about their lives. I really commend them for sharing their stories and putting themselves out there.

Several years ago I read Broken on the Back Row an autobiography of Sandi Patty. I was surprised by how open and honest she was about her life. She shared with readers where she had come from and how God had seen her through every aspect of her life. To me, the book showed so much courage on her part for her to tell about her life, her struggles and how she made changes to live and glorify Him.

More recently I have read Trusting God to Get You Through by Jason Crabb and Hear my Heart by Sheri Easter. They also have a great sense of transparency with their lives. Jason shares about his early beginnings in Kentucky and opens up about how hard his parents' divorce was as a young boy. He talks about the early start of the Crabb family and the joys of the first Grammy nomination. Jason also shares his struggles and his heartbreaks. The title speaks for itself in that Jason through it all trusted God to get him through all those times.

Sheri's book had me laughing and crying all within minutes. I loved hearing the fun stories such as how she and Jeff met and their family vacations. But it was also so heartfelt with her sharing about her battle with breast cancer and her taking care of her mother who is battling with Parkinson's and Lewy body dementia. She showed what strength God had given her as she faced cancer with her journal entries from this time period. Her honesty really allows the readers to have glimpses of her heart and exactly how she was feeling.

I really admire the artists who are willing to share their lives with their fans, the good and the bad, the proud moments, the struggles. I commend them on their honesty and transparency that it takes to write about their lives. We all have our struggles and our difficult times, and these books show that even if you have dedicated your life to serving Him, you are not immune.

Most importantly, for each of these artists, they show their fans how God was able to give them strength and see them through each situation. They are able point their fans in a different way to Christ than just standing on a stage singing and worshipping Him. They open up their lives to show the reality of their circumstances and how they have had to rely fully on God. These artists show that they live out what they sing about every weekend.

If you haven't read these, here's my plug for them! I look forward to reading more from Lauren Talley Alvey and learning her story.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Ruff Taff Tribute

Happy Friday to everyone! If you didn't catch the Dove Awards earlier this week, GMC will re air it on Saturday night. It was a great night for the Southern Gospel industry. The show featured performances by Karen Peck Gooch, the Isaacs and Jason Crabb. Also, the show had a stunning tribute to Russ Taff, where he was honored for his lifetime of service to gospel music. So this is your clip for the week! Enjoy!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

It Pays to Pray - When Lyrics Speak

Many times when we don’t see God at work right away, we take it as a sign that our prayers haven’t been answered. God doesn’t always give us a “yes” or “no,” but often it’s a “not right now.”

“Hand in hand at the altar
In tears of celebration
We’d never seen them smile like this before
She’d spent her life ‘a prayin’
On bended knee ‘a stayin’
And this morning he surrendered to the Lord
There’s a message in her story
Only God can get the glory
When a child of His keeps knocking at the door

“It pays to pray
It pays to call upon His name
It pays to pray
To see a miracle displayed
You’ll forget the word, “impossible”
When you seek the Savior’s face
You’ll know He will make a way
It pays to pray”

The song “It Pays to Pray” by Greater Vision is a reminder that when we get those “not right now” answers,  it does pay to pray and remain consistent in your prayer life. This song was written by Rodney Griffin about his father-in-law. For years he prayed daily for his father-in-law’s salvation, and wrote this song in faith that one day he would accept Christ. He eventually did, and actually passed away earlier this year.

I also have a family member whose salvation I’m praying for and have been for years. I continue to pray in faith that one day I’ll see him go before the altar and make his decision to follow Christ. This song gives the assurance that it does pay to pray. It can be discouraging when after a long time you don't see the results that you want. But God is listening. We can’t stop believing and having faith, because He always hears us.

I love the part in the chorus that says we can forget the word impossible when we seek Him. Even if our prayers seem inconceivable, we serve a God who with Him all things are possible.

“Prayer is just as big as God is.
Prayer is just as strong as God is strong
Prayer can reach as far as God can reach.
Don’t ever give up just pray.”

We can’t give up on praying even if that means bringing the same request to God day after day for years. It does pay to pray.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Tidbits

Here are several little noteworthy things going on in Southern Gospel:

  • The second round of voting for the Singing News Fan Awards is now open! You must be a subscriber to vote. Vote here!
  • The Dove Awards air on the Gospel Music Channel tonight at 7 p.m. (Central time). Jason Crabb and the Isaacs performed last Thursday night, so I expect they will be on the televised portion. Karen Peck Gooch also sang with other female artists in a tribute to Whitney Houston.
  • Also, Rob Patz and Rhonda Frye were in Atlanta last week for the awards. Listen to them talk about their experiences!
  • Congratulations to Mark Trammell and Jim Brady who were both named to the National Quartet Convention Board last week!
  • If you haven't seen Legacy Five's concept video of "Ask Me Why," check it out!
  • Leslie Taylor has announced her departure from the Taylors as the soprano. Wish her the best as she seeks new opportunities and ministries.
  • EDIT: The Ball Brothers announced this morning that Joshua Ball is retiring from the group. Read their statement on their Facebook page. (Probably the best group-member-leaving announcement I've seen!)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dove Awards and Fun Clip Friday

Last night the Dove Awards were held in Atlanta's Fox Theater. I made some predictions and wishes earlier in the week, and I was up front about being terrible at correctly guessing winners! I was very pleasantly surprised by all the winners yesterday! Both the Perrys and Karen Peck & New River took home their first Dove Awards! Also, Jason Crabb won two major awards. It was a great night for Southern Gospel, very well represented at the Dove Awards. I look forward to seeing the broadcast Tuesday night on the Gospel Music Channel.

Here's a breakdown of the Southern Gospel winners:

Artist of the Year - Jason Crabb
Male Vocalist - Jason Crabb
Southern Gospel Album - Reach Out by Karen Peck & New River
Southern Gospel Recorded Song - "Celebrate Me Home" by the Perrys
Country Album - Dreamin' Wide Awake by Doug Anderson
Country Recorded Song - "Good Things Are Happening" by Karen Peck & New River
Bluegrass Recorded Song - "Mama's Teaching Angels How to Sing" by the Isaacs
Bluegrass Album - Grassroots Rambos by Rambo McGuire
Long Form Music Video - Fear Not Tomorrow by the Collingsworth Family

For a full list of all the Dove Award winners, go to their website.

In honor of the Doves, this week's Fun Clip Friday is from the Dove Awards several years ago. Check out this rendition of "I Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now" by the Hoppers, Jeff & Sheri Easter and Karen Peck & New River from the 2008 Doves. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

When God Has Another Plan - When Lyrics Speak

Sometimes it doesn't take long for a song to strike a chord within you. I remember hearing "When God Has Another Plan" for the first time in my car after just buying the Greenes' Far Down the Road and crying the first time I heard it. It's such a powerful song that can fit a variety of circumstances for many people.

I am a planner. I want to know exactly what's going to happen and when. If I could, I would have the next 10 years of my life mapped out before me. But that's not how God works.

I've been participating in a Bible study on James and was reminded just this week about how we can't plan out our lives with these verses:

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.' You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'" - James 4:13-15

God's plan is so often very different from my own. I can look back on certain things and be very thankful that His plan is different. However, there are situations now that I certainly don't understand, but God does.

One of the things I love about this song is that it's one everyone can relate to. Whether your dealing with the death of a loved one, a situation at work or a health issue, we can all understand that God's plan is different from ours.

"When God has another plan, walk on and just say yes
When God has another plan, be assured that He knows best
When all your dreams are shattered, rest in His sufficient grace
We don't have to understand, when God has another plan."

We don't have to understand, we just have to accept that He knows best. He can see what's going to happen next when we can't. So many times I do wonder why God works the way He does, but I have to remember that His ways our higher than our ways. 

The lyrics of this song really rang true when Tony Greene passed away. I can recall hearing the song after this death and my heart breaking for TaRanda as I listened closely to the lyrics of the second verse:

"Alone and broken hearted, questions fill your mind
Changes can be hard that come by God's design
But if you could see tomorrow with a view from Heaven's throne
Every unexpected struggle has led you closer home."

The Greenes always sang this song with such conviction, and you knew they felt every word of what they were singing about. The song especially fit after Tony's death. We all thought God's plan would be his healing, but He had another plan. I included the clip above of TaRanda singing it after his death, and you can see the raw emotion of the song.

This is one of my favorite gospel songs of all time. I think that as believers we all have situations where we don't understand and can't see how God is working. However, we can be reminded that God has another plan and He does know best. Just walk on and say yes, resting in His sufficient grace.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Thoughts on the Dove Awards

The Dove Awards are Thursday night in Atlanta. However, the show won't be televised until Tuesday, April 24 on the Gospel Music Channel. I definitely plan to watch even though the Southern Gospel categories won't be in the televised portion. Jason Crabb and the Isaacs will be two of the performers that you will see on Tuesday night.

I like to make predictions on awards even though sometimes a lot of times I'm way off! So here are my thoughts on most categories where Southern Gospel artists are nominated, some predictions and some wishes:

I would love to see a Southern Gospel song win Song of the Year for the second year in a row. But honestly, I don't see that happening. There are several strong songs this year. "Blessings" by Laura Story is an incredible song!  I could definitely see it winning here.

For most other overall awards, Southern Gospel often gets overlooked, and unfortunately I can see that happening again this year.

Male Vocalist of the Year: I think Jason Crabb has a shot of winning this and would love to see him take home the award. He led all nominations this year and took home Song of the Year last year, so the Doves seem to like him!

Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year: Even though it's been covered before I could see "Please Forgive Me" winning here. However, I am a big fan of the Crabb Family's new album, and would like to see "If There Ever Was a Time" picking up the win.

Bluegrass Recorded Song: I would love to see the Isaacs walk away with the Dove for "Mama's Teaching Angels How to Sing."

Country Recorded Song: I feel like Jason Crabb is going to win this one with "Why Me." I would love to see Jeff and Sheri Easter win this one for "I Get To." Love that song! Also because I'm also a big fan of Karen Peck and New River, I wouldn't be mad if they walked away with the Dove for "Good Things Are Happening."

Traditional Gospel Recorded Song: I hope that Jason Crabb picks up the win here for "I Saw the Light."

Southern Gospel Album: Would love to see Karen Peck and New River win the Dove for Reach Out! I think Jason Crabb gets the win here for The Song Lives On. I also wouldn't mind a surprise win by the Bowling Family for Miracles & Memories. It would be great to see them win since the project is so special for this group!

Country Album: I'm pulling for either Wilburn & Wilburn or the Martins. I don't even have a good guess as to who will win this one!

What are your thoughts? Who would you like to see walk away with a Dove Award on Thursday? Will you be watching next Tuesday? Would love to hear what you think!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Sisters

Sisters had such a stunning performance at the Absolutely Gospel Music Awards on Tuesday evening that today's post is dedicated to them! I think vocally they are one of the top groups in the industry. They especially shine singing a cappella.

At the 2010 Dove Awards, they were asked to present at the preshow. Instead of just stating the category, they sang the hymn, "Blest Be the Tie," in the four different styles of music. This clip shows what excellent vocalists they are! Enjoy and have a great Friday!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Absolutely Gospel Music Awards

The Absolutely Gospel Music Awards were held Tuesday night at the River of Life Church in Smyrna, Tenn. If you missed it in person or online, you missed a great show!

Here's a breakdown of the winners:

Male Vocalist - Doug Anderson
Female Vocalist - Libbi Stuffle
Best Live Performer - Booth Brothers
Pacesetter Award - Gospel Music Today
Country Song - "Hear My Heart" by Jeff and Sheri Easter
Country Album - Why Can't We by The Isaacs
Traditional Southern Song - "Celebrate Me Home" by The Perrys
Traditional Southern Album - Somebody's Coming by Gold City
Progressive Southern Song - "On the Banks of the Promised Land" by Karen Peck & New River
Progressive Southern Album - Let It Be Known by Booth Brothers
Special Event Project - Christmas Must Be Tonight by Three Bridges
Engineer - Terry Thompson and Scott Godsey
Producer (Artist) - Ben Isaacs
Producer (Professional) - Lari Goss
Songwriters (Artist) - Sonya Isaacs Yeary and Becky Isaacs Bowman
Songwriter (Professional) - Kenna West
Susan Unthank Memorial Award - Karen Peck Gooch
Musician - Madison Easter
Breakthrough Artist - Wilburn and Wilburn
Mixed Group - Karen Peck & New River
Female Group - Sisters
Male Group - Triumphant Quartet
Fan Favorite Artist - Karen Peck & New River
Album of the Year - Why Can't We by The Isaacs
Song of the Year - "On the Banks of the Promised Land" by Karen Peck & New River

I was definitely surprised by some of the winners. I made a prediction list before the ceremony just to see how many I could get right, not necessarily who I wanted to win, but who I thought would. I'm embarrassed to say an actual number, because I did so poorly! I think that's one thing that I like so much about this awards show though, because sometimes the winners and even nominations aren't so predictable, or at least for me!

Karen Peck Gooch and Sonya Isaacs Yeary did a great job hosting the awards last night! They complemented each other well.

The best acceptance speech in my opinion goes to Kenna West. She was too funny when she got up there. But then she used the comparison of the boy with the lunch of five loaves and two fish. She talked about how she just wanted God to use her lunch. I thought it was a great moment!

Another standout moment for me of the night was when Deon Unthank was announcing the Susan Unthank Memorial Award. Karen Peck Gooch won the award and as a host was sitting right behind the podium. When he started talking about the winner, her face as she realized that he was talking about her was priceless! She was honestly surprised and very honored to receive it.

All groups and individuals who performed did a great job! One that stood out to me was Wilburn and Wilburn. Since they are new, I haven't had a chance to see them personally yet, but I was very impressed last night! I've been a big fan of Jonathan Wilburn since his Gold City days. I was glad to see them awarded Breakthrough Artist of the Year, and can't wait to see them in concert in person!

Sisters also had an outstanding performance last night that moved most of the audience to their feet! Check it out here!

Did you watch it last night? What did you think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Talleys as a Trio - Concert Review

The Talleys
Friday night the Talleys were in Little Rock. I was looking forward to seeing them as a foursome for the first time! However, Brian was sick this weekend, so it was just Debra, Roger and Lauren back as the Talley Trio. Even though I was a little disappointed not to see them with the new addition of Brian Alvey, Lauren's husband, the concert did not disappoint at all!

As the pastor of the church was introducing the Talleys, he asked how many people there remembered the Talleys in the 1980s. Several raised their hands. He then asked how many remembered Debra and Roger when they were with the Hoppers. Still some raised their hands. Then, he asked how many remembered when Roger tuned the first guitar for the Chuck Wagon Gang. Lauren and Debra thought that was pretty funny, I couldn’t see Roger from where I was, but I can imagine how he felt about it! He told people to put their hands down, because Roger wasn’t quite that old!

The concert started with “Good Things.” The song really showed off their family blend, and was a great way to start off the night! They then went into “The Promise,” which has always been one of my favorite songs by the Talleys. This live performance did not disappoint! The next song featured Roger on “Hands of Grace.” 

Lauren introduced her parents next. She told the pastor that she hoped he didn’t mind, but she wanted to use that Chuck Wagon joke!

 Roger went to the keyboard, and Debra talked about how her mom played piano at church and how she had been since she was 16 years old. This went into the hymn, “Amazing Grace,” that featured Debra. I love their arrangement of this song.

Lauren sings as her mother looks on
Lauren sang “The Broken Ones” next. This is one of my all-time favorite songs. She sang with just her dad accompanying her at the keyboard. At the end, she went right into “Orphans of God.” Lauren talked for a little bit about how much she loved the message of “The Broken Ones” because of the hope that we have in Christ.

“My Hope Is in the Lord” was the next song. Then, they picked up the pace with “Mountain Mover."

Debra told the story of a lady she has been visiting in the nursing home, Mrs. Minnie. Mrs. Minnie is sick and close to passing. She talked about how she could picture the scene as Mrs. Minnie crossed over into glory, which led into the song, “Applause.”

 The last song before intermission was “He’s Alive.” This was probably the song I was looking forward to hearing the most. The message of this song is always relevant, but Easter weekend, it especially is. The audience was on its feet midway through the song. It was the most powerful moment of the concert!

The second half started with “Surely, Goodness and Mercy.” Roger made mentions of several friends who were in the audience, including former Tribute Quartet bass singer, Dennis Duggar. They pulled him up for an impromptu performance of “Sweeter As the Days Go By.”

Lauren gave part of her testimony of how she grew up always hearing the songs and hearing about Christ, but never really knew Him. She had always watched her family sing about the love and grace of Christ, but it was as an 8-year-old girl that she gave her life to Christ. She said it was then that she met the greatest friend she has ever known. She sang “His Life for Mine.” I loved the family blend on the chorus of this song.

They sang “Thou O Lord” after the invitation. Two who were there said they wanted to pray to receive Christ.

They talked about product before what they thought would be the final song of the night. Roger told the deal of a combination of CDs and DVD that normally they offer for $35 but tonight they would cut it to $30. Lauren made a remark about how that was a good deal. Roger turned to her and kidding said that he wasn’t sure why he was excited because he knew she didn’t have $30. She came back at him and said that was true since she worked for him. They kept picking back and forth at each other which made for very funny moments!

Lauren Talley Alvey, Debra Talley, Dennis Duggar
and Roger Talley
 Roger asked if they could do “Testify” as their last song and had everyone stand to their feet. They got Dennis Duggar to come back on stage to join them! Everyone in the audience was on their feet clapping along.

At the end of the song, the pastor came back to the stage and asked if they could sing one more. He requested that Debra sing “Thinking About Home.” This song was such a reminder of what a great alto singer she is!

It was a great night with the Talleys! Everything they said and sang about made it evident that they are a group very ministry-focused. I look forward to seeing them again, hopefully with all four members!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Christ Arose

Happy Good Friday! Here's a precious Fun Clip Friday for you! I remember seeing this clip last year of these two little boys singing "Christ Arose" and thought it was too cute. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When Lyrics Speak - Your Cries Have Awoken the Master

Sometimes we just need a reminder that God hasn’t forgotten us. A friend and I recently had a conversation about this. She has been praying for something for a while, and after a while of praying for the same thing with no answers, it can be discouraging. But recently something happened to remind her that God had not forgotten her. He was still working behind the scenes. Even though we don’t know how the situation will turn out, it was a reminder from Him that He had heard her.

I love the song, “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master” by the Bowling Family. So many times we think Jesus is just asleep on us, not listening, not concerned with us individually and where we are. However, He hears our cries, and He’s listening. He has it all under control.

 “You’re up there worried that He’s fast asleep,
The winds are so deadly,
The water’s so deep, But try to be patient,
Cause soon he’ll bring peace,
Just one word from His voice and it all must cease.
Because you’ve prayed all night,
Cause you’ve held on with all of your might,
Child, your cries have awoken the Master,
Oh, He knows your voice,
Lift your hands; it’s time to rejoice,
Child, your cries have awoken the Master.”

We have the promise that He can give us peace in the midst of our storms. He has the power to change our situations and calm our storms with "just one word."

I love the line that says that He knows our voice. He not only hears us, but He knows that it’s us. He hears our concerns and our cries out to Him. He knows our situation, no matter how big or small it may be. So many times, we get wrapped up in small situations that we make into such a big deal. But God always hears our cries.

It’s easy for us to get worried when we don’t hear from God, or don’t see how He’s going to work things out. It’s hard to be patient and wait on His timing. We may feel that He’s just fallen asleep. But even though He may be sleeping, “child, your cries have awoken the Master.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Resurrection Songs

So many times we focus on songs about the cross. And while I love those songs, I love the Easter songs about the resurrection more. Nothing showed His love for us more than his death at Calvary, but because the tomb is empty we can celebrate. The empty tomb means that Christ is who He professed to be. He's alive, and those who believe in Him have the promise of eternal life.

Here's my list of standout resurrection songs. These aren't necessarily my favorite, and I'm sure I left off some obvious ones. However, these are the ones that came to mind when I started thinking about resurrection songs.

"He's Alive" - The Talleys

"Last Night" - Karen Peck & New River

"He's Living Today" - The Whisnants

"The Empty Tomb Says It All" - Kingdom Heirs

"If You Knew Him" - The Perrys

"In Christ Alone" - Booth Brothers

"Jesus Has Risen" - Cathedrals

"Christ the Lord Has Risen Today" - The Nelons

Because He Lives

What do you think? Which resurrection songs stand out to you? What are your favorite Easter songs?