Friday, June 29, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Brian Free and Assurance

Brian Free and Assurance posted this clip recently in their video blog. If you are not catching their video blogs, you definitely should check them out! There's a lot of fun stuff from the guys on the road. Here's today's Fun Clip Friday with Brian and Jeremy switching parts! Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

When Lyrics Speak - A Miracle Today

Most mornings getting ready for work I listen to gospel music. And yes, a lot of mornings I'm singing right along with the artists, much to my neighbors' dismay I'm sure. Last Tuesday, one of the songs that came on was "A Miracle Today" by the Bowling Family. As I was singing along, it was just what I needed to hear then.

Last week, my grandfather we discovered might have leukemia. (Read more here.) Tuesday that was at the forefront of my mind. And this song became my prayer. Today it is especially my prayer, because this afternoon we will get the results from his tests.

"You see the puzzle not the piece
You see the forest not the trees
You know what's best for me
Lord, you have bottled my tears
You see my questions and my fears
And the way it has to be.

I know that there are others more deserving than I.
I know that I'm not worthy but You listen when I cry.
So if this cross is mine to bear, I'll praise You anyway.
Lord, I could sure use a miracle today."

As I was singing along Tuesday, I got to the phrase, "So if this cross is mine to bear, I'll praise you anyway," and I stopped. I couldn't manage to get the words out, so I let the lyrics soak in. If the worst happens, if it is leukemia, God, I'll praise You anyway because You are God. But God, I'm still praying for that miracle.

"You are faithful more than words
You feed the lilies and the birds
You catch the sparrow when it falls.
You know exactly where I am
So I'm not questioning Your plan
There's a reason for it all."

The second verse reminds us that God is faithful, and He has a plan. We certainly don't always understand why He works the way He does, but He has his reasons. He knows our situation better than we do, because he sees the big picture, the puzzle not the piece.

The song has literally been my prayer for the past week. God, I know that there are those more deserving than I for you to hear their cries, but I'm praying for a miracle, for healing. I'm praying that God works in a mighty way for my grandfather and our family. We're asking for a miracle. It's a comfort to know that He's hearing us as we cry out to him with our needs and requests. But no matter what happens, I'll praise Him.

His appointment is early this afternoon. He had a bone marrow test early last week to see if it is leukemia, and we will get the results then. I covet your prayers for my grandfather and our family. I'll try to update this afternoon. No matter what the news is, God has heard our cries and sees our questions and fears. God knows where we are and has a bigger plan than we can see. And no matter what, we will praise Him because He is worthy.

UPDATE: We received the news this afternoon that he does in fact have leukemia. The doctor said it best when he said it's not as good as it could be, but it's definitely not as bad. We can praise Him because it's a chronic kind and not acute. It's treatable by medication and not chemotherapy. Thanks for all the prayers for my family and me. Keep praying that he will be able to take the medication and that it will be effective in treating him! The doctor said that he really expected it to be the acute kind and that my grandfather would have to be hospitalized almost immediately. God is so good, and He is in control! He is answering prayers!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sunday Afternoon With the Bowling Family

Bowling Family - Terah Penhollow, Kelly and Mike Bowling
The Bowling Family was at Rock City Harvest Church in Sherwood, Ark. on Sunday. They sang a few songs in the morning service, and had a full concert that afternoon. I got to be there Sunday afternoon for their full concert. It was such a blessing, as it is every time I get to see them!

The pastor, Arthur Ward, and his son Chopper sang a couple of songs before the concert started.

Mike, Kelly and Terah started the concert with "I'm on the Battlefield." This is one of my favorites from their album, Feels Like Sunday. Terah was then featured on "I Go to the Rock." This is a song I never tire of hearing Terah sing. Her smooth alto voice always shines on this song.

They went back and did an old Hinson song "I Could Still Go Free" next. Mike was featured on this one. Chopper said it best later in the concert that no one except Kenny Hinson sounds as much like Kenny Hinson than Mike Bowling. Mike proved again that he really is one of the top male vocalists in Southern Gospel.

The group picked up the pace with "I Thank You Lord." This one also featured Terah. The audience was on its feet clapping along midway through the song!

Mike did the introductions next. He commented on how the stage was a little "Crabby." And then made the comment that he married into a great family. The concert was being broadcast online, and Kelly and Terah said they definitely needed a copy of the webcast so they could have proof that he said that! Haha!

Then, Kelly gave the testimony of their bus accident. Every time I hear the testimony it's a little different in the way she tells it, but the power of God that day never changes. Kelly gave a stirring testament to how God provided for them that day and has continued to be with them since then. They showed several pictures and footage from the accident. From the reaction of several audience members they were seeing it for the first time and were amazed at their testimony how everyone survived. Kelly shared that one officer who worked the wreck said in an interview that he didn't understand how there was not a fatality in the accident.

Kelly then sang "A Miracle Today." This is definitely one of my favorite Bowling Family songs. And Kelly sings it beautifully and with such conviction and gratitude behind it. They then sang one of their most popular songs "Your Cries Have Awoken the Master," and again they had the crowd on its feet toward the end of the song.

After a quick break, they sang another song from Feels Like Sunday, "Unclouded Day." The song featured Kelly, and they had the audience join in with them toward the end of the song.

Mike had someone request "Tell Them That I Love Them," so they sang that next. Then several from the church requested "Call Me Gone." This is one of my favorites that Mike sings. He really outdoes himself on the old Hinson songs.

They called Chopper Ward (or as Mike called him, Chipper) to join them on the last song, which was "Through the Fire." I don't know that I've ever seen them stage this song at a Bowling Family concert. They had Chopper sing the verses, and they joined him on the chorus. It was a great end to the concert with the audience on its feet again.

I love how seeing the Bowling Family is different every time. Sure they stage many of the same songs, but each concert is unique. You never know how you will be blessed by one of their songs or how something they say will touch you and be exactly what you need to hear.

This group not only amazes me with their singing and vocal ability, but also personally about how genuine they are. You can tell how they really have this calling on their lives and see this as a ministry that God has given them. They make sure that He is the one who is praised.

It was such a great afternoon seeing them! My only complaint was that they could have sang a little longer. :) Don't miss the Bowling Family if they are in your area! It hadn't been too long since I had seen them recently, but I definitely don't want to miss out the next time they are close!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brian Free & Assurance Nothing But Love Preview

Last week, Brian Free & Assurance posted a preview of their upcoming album, Nothing But Love. As usual, Brian Free & Assurance seems to have picked top-notch songs. The album has 10 songs and releases July 17.

The videos shows each song title along with the writers. It struck me how many songs Kenna Turner West had a hand in writing, six total. Ricky Free, Brian's son, also was a writer on three songs. Lee Black was a writer on four songs.

Standout points for me:

"Nothing But Love" - The title song for the album It's very catchy and gets in your head. I found myself humming it after listening to the preview. It's one that Kenna Turner West was a cowriter on.

"If the Lord Says Do It" - Sounds very much like a Brian Free & Assurance song. It features Jeremy. It's a nice uptempo song.

"Calvary's Cry" - This is the song that I most want to hear the full version. It features Brian. I think it would be great staged as an invitation song.

"You Can Be a Bridge" - This song stands out as more progressive than others. Bill's voice really shines on the preview clip.

"I Want to Be That Man" - Just from the preview, I think this is going to be one of my favorites. I love the message of the song. It was penned by Lee Black and Ricky Free.

Brian Free is known for his strong song selection and I think this album is no exception.

I look forward to hearing the full CD! I think it's going to be another great one from Brian Free & Assurance.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Karen Peck and Brian Free

Last weekend was Karen Peck and New River's Homecoming in Dahlonega, Ga. Brian Free and Assurance was one of the groups they had last weekend. Brian Free is known for his singing "Looking for a City," but he and Karen teamed up on the song last weekend. I saw this video of it on Socialcam (Thanks Katie for posting and tagging Karen!).

Hope you enjoy! Have a great weekend!


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sometimes I Cry - When Lyrics Speak

I'll admit it, I'm a crier. I always have been. If I'm sad, upset or even really happy, there are tears. Monday afternoon was one of those crying days.

Monday afternoon my grandmother called me at work. From the tone of her voice when she said my name, I knew it wasn't going to be good news. My grandfather had some blood work done last month. When the results came back, the doctor thought the lab made an error because the results were very off. He had the testing again last week, and Monday the results came. It wasn't good. His white cell count was very high, and normally that means leukemia. After she said that word, that's all I could focus on. Not again. My grandfather has already been through cancer before multiple times and has come out a survivor. So why put him through this again?

There have been several songs that have been on my mind during this whirlwind of a week. One of the first ones was "Sometimes I Cry" by Jason Crabb.

"But sometimes I hurt and sometimes I cry ...
But I try to look strong
As the whole world looks on,
Sometimes alone I cry

I try to speak faith
Never give that old devil, no, not even an inch to get in
I do worship and praise
Let everybody know just where that I stand
And on the back of my old four-wheel drive Chevy
Is a fish and a cross for the world to see
'Cause I know my God is good, all of the time
Yes, there's no doubt for me."

I tried to be strong while I was on phone with my grandmother, but I couldn't. The tears came no matter how hard I willed them not to. And I was at work and certainly didn't want to turn into the blubbering baby that I did. My coworkers are a mixed bag, some believers and some not. I want to be strong and show that God will help my family through this, but I was hurting and just cried.

I know that God is in control. I'm trying to speak words of faith when I tell people or give them updates. I'm trying to let my actions reflect my faith, and praise Him all the way through. But when I got home Monday afternoon to the sanctity of my bedroom, all I could do was cry. Tears streamed down my face and I begged and pleaded with God for healing.

It's been a rough week with a lot of crying and tears. But the line that's really been sticking out for me in the song, is that "I know my God is good, all of the time. Yes, there's no doubt for me." Regardless, God is good. There's no doubting that. God's healed him and helped him many times before. God is good ALL OF THE TIME. Through any situation, God is good.

I debated on sharing all of this, but my family and I covet your prayers. He's had more testing this week that we won't know the results of until next week. We're praying for healing, for God to show His great power. And we're keeping in mind that God is good all of the time, there's no doubt.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sweet Spirit - Jeff & Sheri Easter Concert Recap

Morgan, Sheri and Jeff Easter
Friday night I went to see Jeff & Sheri Easter in El Dorado at the Municipal Auditorium. It was such a great night, and one of the best concerts I've been to! There was such a sweet Spirit from start to finish!

The evening started with a tribute to Harold Grimmett. He organized many gospel sings in South Arkansas, and was an on-air personality in Southern Gospel radio for decades. The entire night was a memorial for him.

Jeff and Sheri took the stage with "Roses Will Bloom Again" as a tribute to Harold. This is one of their most beloved songs, and one that I don't get to hear them sing very often.

They picked up the tempo with "Life Is Great and Gettin' Better." Jeff talked about how they had been there last July, and that night after the concert is when they were hit by a drunk driver. He joked that when he comes to Arkansas he doesn't need an interpreter for us to understand him. When the highway patrol officer came to their bus after the accident to get the report, Maura said that he sounded like Mater from Cars 2. Jeff went on to say that the next day he had the song "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good" on his mind. At last year's concert Jeff was asked to sing the song for the first time, so they sang it again this year. 

Morgan then sang "I Need You More Today." She has become an incredible vocalist, and keeps getting better each time I see them. When she sings she is very much like Sheri in that you can tell they feel and think about every word they sing. Jeff introduced her to the audience, and she then sang "God Knows What He's Doing." This was my favorite song from her solo CD, and I was really glad to get to hear her sing it live. It's such a great song with a great message that fits her perfectly!

Madison joins his parents on stage for "Workin' on a Road."
They brought Madison to the front next. He sang "I'm Workin' on a Road" with them while playing the mandolin. They then introduced Maura, their 6-year-old daughter. She told a few jokes, sang a little bit and then played the drums.

Their kids left the stage, and Sheri shared about her fight with breast cancer in July 2008. She talked about how thankful she was that God hears our prayers even when we can't form a sentence. She then sang "Hear My Heart." I could hear several people in the audience sniffling and see them wiping their eyes. This song touches so many people in different situation in life. It was a great moment, and Sheri sings it beautifully and so heartfelt every time.

Before intermission, they all came back to the stage for "I Get To." Jeff did a great job on this song as always, it's one of my favorites that features him. I always enjoy seeing the interactions between Jeff, Sheri and Morgan as a family on stage during this song. You can tell how genuine and sincere they are in what they sing. It's just another example of a song where you can tell that they understand and feel everything they are singing about.

After intermission, Jeff pulled up a boy from the audience who had requested "John Saw" to sing the song with them. Sheri then sang "Praise His Name." Another person had requested for them to sing a love song, so they sang "You're My Best Friend." 

At this point, it was joke time with the Easters, which was a hilarious portion of the concert. Jeff told a joke that a man in the audience had told him at intermission and then a few from his uncle Ed. Even Morgan joined in on the joke telling after Jeff told one that they didn't think was very good!

They sang another request, "Going Away Party."

Morgan looks on as Sheri sings.
Sheri then asked if they could sing one from their new project that will be released later this year. She explained that it was a song her mom sang and recorded with the Lewis Family. She sang a portion of the song, "Standing Here Wondering Which Way to Go." It was incredible, my favorite moment of the concert. If this song was any indication, I cannot wait to hear the new album. Sheri really showed off the soulful side of her voice, and her rich alto voice was really showcased by this song. She absolutely nailed it! I cannot wait to hear the full version on the album!

They asked for a few more requests and sang, "Just One Rose Will Do," "Thread of Hope," "Livin' in the Rain," and "Over and Over."

Before the end, they sang another song from their new album as a tribute to Harold Grimmett, "I Won't Have to Worry Anymore." They ended the night with "Thank You Lord For Your Blessings on Me." They had Harold's daughter join them on stage at the end. 

Sheri commented toward the end of the concert how much they enjoyed being there. There really was such a sweet Spirit in the place the entire night, from the beginning with the tribute to Mr. Grimmett to the last line of "Thank You Lord." The Easter family's own sweet, genuine spirits shone through from the stage in their singing and playing. It had not been that long since I had seen them last month, but I was very thankful that we made the drive down to South Arkansas for the concert! I definitely would have missed the blessing that this night was for me!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Jeff and Sheri Easter

Tonight I'm going to see Jeff and Sheri Easter in El Dorado, Ark. They were in Little Rock just last month, but I'm looking forward to seeing them again! They will be at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium tonight at 7 p.m. If you're in the area, you should go see them!

So today's post is a clip of them from a couple of years ago in Branson at Silver Dollar City. Eric Hinson was in the audience so they pulled him up to sing "Call Me Gone" with them! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

NQC Announces Partnership with TBN

Yesterday the National Quartet Convention Board of Directors announced a broadcast partnership with  TBN. TBN is the world’s largest religious network and America’s most watched faith channel.

The Trinity Broadcast Network will film at the 2012 National Quartet Convention, then create original programming that will be aired in the fall of 2012 and into 2013.

“We are excited about this partnership with TBN to produce original programming, featuring footage captured at this year’s NQC,” states Clarke Beasley, Executive Vice President of the NQC. “TBN has shown strong commitment to our music over the last several years, and we look forward to having our music featured on a weekly basis on the world’s largest Christian network.”

Currently Daystar airs the "Gospel Music Showcase" which features highlights from artists' main stage performances at the National Quartet Convention. Do you watch? I do. This season has featured interviews with artists as well as their performances. It is interesting that some episodes feature two artists while others just feature one. And to me it doesn't seem that the top groups necessarily get a show to themselves. Some top artists I haven't seen highlighted yet, and I believe they are now airing reruns, so I don't guess an episode will feature them. Overall, I do enjoy the program and look forward to seeing it, since I don't go to the National Quartet Convention.

Does it matter to you what network as long as you get to see your favorite artists perform? Interested to hear your opinions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What Groups Do You Miss?

What groups do you miss? We all have groups that we enjoyed that have come off the road or retired. I'm sure we could all list obvious ones who were at the top of the industry or our favorite lineups of current groups from decades ago. But I'm interested in knowing what groups did you enjoy that maybe weren't the most popular or chart toppers, but that you just enjoyed their music.

Here are some of mine:

TK & McRae - I mentioned this group in a post a couple of weeks ago. I really enjoyed this merger of the McRaes and First Love which lasted from early 2007 until that December. The group was made up of Annie McRae, Amanda Till and Troy and Katy Peach. When He Said Live was the group's only project of original songs. I think this was a great album, and still listen to it from time to time. They also put out a favorites project. With the incredible vocals of Katy Peach, strong harmonies and the writing of Annie McRae, it made for a great combination in my opinion. 

Crossway - The first time I saw this group was with the lineup of Matt McFarland, Paul Smith, Matt Rogers and Chris Weaver. Later on, the group became a trio and eventually a duo with just Matt McFarland and Paul Smith remaining. I have both of their latest projects, This I Know and A Beautiful Thing, both strong albums in my opinion. They came out with a single of "Unfailing Love" as a duo but never completed the album as a duo. It seems that Matt McFarland has put out a country CD lately. This group had a lot of promise when they first came out to be one of the next leading groups. Crossway had a strong, more progressive sound that I think really stood out from other groups in the industry.

Chosen Few - If you haven't figured it out, I have a strong love for Branson along with southern gospel. Growing up in Arkansas, Branson was always a popular destination for vacation or even a short weekend trip. Chosen Few was the in-house gospel quartet for Silver Dollar City from the 1990s until 2001. While Chosen Few may have never made big waves in the industry, they were the group that really started my love for southern gospel. The group consisted of Scott Fraker, Brian Arnold and brothers, Ashley and Casey Ellison. The group had several strong points: the 4.5 octave vocal range of bass singer Scott, great song writing skills of Brian and strong family blend of Ashley and Casey. Let Go and Let God was the group's last project and probably their best. In 2001, Chosen Few decided to leave Silver Dollar City to tour full-time. Ultimately, in 2005, the group decided to come off the road. Brian Arnold has a solo ministry and can still be seen performing with his daughters at Silver Dollar City from time to time. Scott Fraker is also still singing at the Pierce Arrow Theater in Branson. They did get together this past November for a 20-year anniversary celebration concert. Chosen Few had a great sound and blend together that is definitely missed!

What about you? What groups did you enjoy that are no longer touring that weren't necessarily the most popular, chart-toppers or industry leaders, but you just enjoyed their music? Would love to hear what you think!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - The Booth Brothers

Happy Friday to everyone! While there were many entertaining Socialcam videos this week, I decided to pull an older video of the Booth Brothers from YouTube. Michael of course provides plenty of laughs for the audience, but Jim and Ronnie definitely join in on the fun! The guys joke around and then sing "Sing His Praises." Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Changes for the Dixie Echoes

Two members of the Dixie Echoes announced yesterday via Facebook that they are leaving (Hat tip, Daniel).

Pianist Stewart Varnado resigned the group in early May. Then, yesterday, both Michael Helwig and Mike Jennings announced their departures from the group both via Facebook posts.

Michael Helwig, tenor for the group, started last August. He has not announced future plans yet.

Mike Jennings was the bass for the group and started at the end of the July 2011. He and his wife are expected another baby and wants to spend more time at home.

With all these recent group changes, I hope that the Dixie Echoes will find the right people to fill these positions and continue in their ministry. It will be interesting to see how they regroup. I certainly wish the best for all those involved and praying for all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Carrying Over Themes

When I first heard the Talleys' new CD Love Won, I was interested to find the song "Broken World." It's a theme that is familiar to the group. This song refers more to how broken the world we live in is. However, it gives us the promise that it's not for long.

"Broken World" seems to be a followup to one of my favorite Talleys' songs and probably one of their most popular, "The Broken Ones." I love the message and the heart of that song. It shares how a girl named Maggie has a heart for those who are broken just as Christ does. It encourages listeners to see others as Christ does.

These are not the only two songs of the Talleys' where the theme of brokenness is apparent. In Lauren Talley's song "The Extra Mile," "broken ones" is also mentioned:

"Love goes the extra mile
And gives itself away
It reaches to the broken ones
To help restore their faith..."

It's interesting to see how the Talleys use this theme not only in multiple songs but over several projects.

Are there other groups that carry over themes like this? Can you think of examples?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Socialcam Part 2

This week has not been short on fun clips thanks to Socialcam. I said it last week, and I'll say it again: If you are not watching videos on Socialcam, you are missing out.

So this week's Fun Clip Friday post is more from Socialcam. There are two clips I want to encourage you to see that were in my opinion the funniest of the week:

Kelly Clark shared her adventure in feeding animals at a petting zoo.

Mike Bowling takes viewers on a tour of the Bowling Family's bus. 
 - Also don't miss Troy Peach's response to his tour.

More southern gospel artists seem to be jumping on the bandwagon with Socialcam. You can't help but wonder if the trend will continue or if it's something that will just be a short phase. Only time will tell, but for now these videos definitely provide a good source of entertainment!

Hope you enjoy!