Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sisters - An A Cappella CD Review

Sisters' An A Cappella Collection is an album that absolutely impresses me. Vocally, they are one of the best groups in the industry. There's nothing better than family blends and harmonies, and these women show that off so well.

I really like the song selection for this project. It includes some songs that you would ordinarily think of for an a cappella CD, but there's something for everyone. There are hymns, praise, spiritual, patriotic and even a little Christmas. It's pretty diverse stylistically, but all songs show the amazing blend that Sisters has.

Standout points:

"Come Thou Fount" - This is one of my favorite hymns, and one of my favorites of the project. I love their arrangement of this song. The tenderness in their voices that really comes out on the last verse. Simply beautiful!

"Thou Oh Lord" - Hands down, this is the highlight of the project. Incredible rendition of this song, and it's their first single from the project.

"Joyful, Joyful" - Shows off their more spiritual side with this song, and a great uptempo song that picks up the pace for an a capella album. This is a personal favorite of mine.

"It Is Well" - Another favorite hymn of mine, and it's covered by so many groups, but Sisters' version is definitely a standout. I love their tight harmonies toward the end of the song.

"Patriotic Medley" - Features the songs "America the Beautiful," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," "God Bless America," and then ends with the "Star Spangled Banner." Great version of our national anthem!

I strongly recommend this album. Sisters is definitely one of the most talented groups in the industry, and this project speaks to that. The family harmonies and tight blends that we all recognize with this group are showcased even more with An A Cappella Collection.

Song List:
"Come Thou Fount"**
"Jesus Saves"
"Thou Oh Lord"**
"Joyful, Joyful"**
"Power of the Cross" (with In Christ Alone)
"Come On Let's Go to That Land"**
"It Is Well"**
"Angus Dei" (Worthy Is the Lamb)
"Patriotic Medley"
"Carol of the Bells"

**Personal favorites

Thursday, July 26, 2012

God Still Answers Prayer - When Lyrics Speak

The last few weeks have been an amazing reminder of how God answers prayers. I shared the story of my grandfather's recent diagnosis with leukemia here and here. The doctor told us that the next few weeks would be critical. He said the day of the testing he fully expected that this would be the most aggressive type of leukemia, and we could be looking at months. But that's not what we faced.

God has proven so faithful. My grandfather has been feeling well, and responding his medications better than expected. It took a while and a few battles with insurance companies and even delivery men, but he was finally able to start the cancer treatment drug last week. The doctor was amazed this week at how well my grandfather was doing. His oncologist has even gone so far to already reduce his dosage. God is so good!!

So many prayers have been lifted on his behalf in in the last month. Even so many of you have sent messages that you are praying, and you don't know how much I appreciate that! A cancer diagnosis of any kind is never good; it's never what you want to hear. However, it could have been so much worse, and God has proven so faithful. 

I love the song by Karen Peck and New River that simply reminds us that God still answers prayer. 

"The Lord is not too busy that He can't reach down
And mend a broken heart
And my burden is not too heavy
That He can't hear a plea of faith
God still answers prayer

God still answers prayer
In His time He'll work a miracle
He will never fail
Satan has lost the battle
When to the Lord you humbly bow
God still answers prayer."

God is never too busy to hear us when we call on Him. He always hears our pleas. Even though we don't always get the answer we were looking for, He still answers. Leukemia is definitely not what we wanted to hear, but God has answered us in the management of it. We prayed in faith that God would take care of my grandfather, and He has done that. 

God has been faithful and proved that He is the Great Physician through all of this. His doctor cannot believe how well he's doing, but we know that we serve a great God who is more than capable of the miraculous and the unexplainable. The last few weeks have been a testament to that, and I'm so thankful that God still answers prayer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NQC Music Awards Nominees

The National Quartet Convention has announced the NQC Music Awards nominees. After two rounds of fan voting, the fan categories are down to five nominations each which were announced yesterday. I was very interested to see how these nominations would compare to the Singing News Fan Awards since they are both voted on by the fans. Here is the complete list with the differences noted:

Bass Singer of the Year  (2)
Eric Bennett - Triumphant Qt
Jeff Chapman - Kingdom Heirs 
Tim Duncan - Canton Junction 
Glenn Dustin - Legacy Five
Tim Riley - Gold City

Baritone Singer of the Year (1)
Jim Brady - Booth Brothers
Rodney Griffin - Greater Vision
Scott Inman - Triumphant Qt
Mark Lowry - Gaither Vocal Band 
Mark Trammell - Mark Trammell Qt

Lead Singer of the Year (2)
Ronnie Booth - Booth Brothers
Michael English - Gaither Vocal Band 
Joseph Habedank - Perrys
Arthur Rice - Kingdom Heirs 
Gerald Wolfe - Greater Vision 

Tenor Singer of the Year (1)
Chris Allman - Greater Vision 
Michael Booth - Booth Brothers 
Brian Free - Brian Free & Assurance 
Ernie Haase - Ernie Haase & Signature Sound 
David Phelps - Gaither Vocal Band 

Soprano Singer of the Year (0)
Lauren Talley Alvey - Talleys 
Brooklyn Collingsworth - Collingsworth Family 
Karen Peck Gooch - Karen Peck & New River
Kim Hopper - Hoppers
Sonya Isaacs Yeary - Isaacs

Alto Singer of the Year (1)
Sheri Easter - Jeff & Sheri Easter 
Connie Hopper - Hoppers 
Libbi Stuffle - Perrys 
Debra Talley - Talleys 
Susan Whisnant - Whisnants 

Soloist of the Year (1)
Mark Bishop
Jason Crabb
TaRanda Greene
Ivan Parker
Guy Penrod 

Musician of the Year (1)
Kim Collingsworth - Collingsworth Family 
Gordon Mote
Jeff Stice - Triumphant Qt 
Kevin Williams - Gaither Vocal Band 
Gerald Wolfe - Greater Vision 

Album of the Year (3)
Celebrate Me Home (Oak Tree) - Perrys 
Let It Be Known - Booth Brothers 
Part of the Family - Collingsworth Family 
Songs From the Heart - Triumphant Quartet 
The Only Way - Greater Vision 

Song of the Year (5)*
Almost Home - Triumphant Quartet 
Ask Me Why - Legacy Five 
Blue Skies Coming - Perrys 
I Believe - Brian Free & Assurance 
I Know a Man Who Can - Greater Vision 
I Want to Know - Mark Trammell Quartet 
Please Forgive Me - Gaither Vocal Band 
Saved By Grace - Triumphant Quartet 
She Still Remembers Jesus Name - Booth Brothers 
Tell Me Why - Kingdom Heirs 
Who Am I - Jason Crabb
*11 songs are nominated, and the Fan Awards only have a top 10

These two categories don't have a Singing News Fan Awards equal. The Fan Awards also have Mixed Group of the Year, but for the NQC Awards this includes trios as well. For the Fan Awards, Favorite Trio is a separate category.

Male Group of the Year
Booth Brothers
Gaither Vocal Band
Greater Vision
Kingdom Heirs
Triumphant Qt 

Mixed Group of the Year
Collingsworth Family 
Karen Peck & New River 

For most categories, there are only one or two differences. As a fan who can vote in both, I feel like my votes will be about the same. It will be interesting to see when awards are passed out if the winners will be the same. Several bloggers have shared who they are voting for, and I might do the same.

Most of the differences are in that there are more nominations for the Gaither Vocal Band and Greater Vision. Honestly the only category that really surprised me was Song of the Year. I expected to see both "On the Banks of the Promised Land" and "Peter, James and John" make the cut. I was glad to see "I Want to Know" as a nominee.

What do you think? Were you surprised by any nomination? If you vote in both, will your votes be the same?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mike Rogers Joins Dixie Melody Boys

Mike Rogers joins the Dixie Melody Boys as the group's new lead singer. Matt Felts stated that when they began going through demos, they knew they had found their next lead singer. "The moment we met Mike Rogers and heard him sing with us we knew God had brought us the right fit," Matt said.

The Dixie Melody Boys announced a few weeks ago that they would be accepting demos for a lead singer and that they would introduce the new member on the main stage at this year’s National Quartet Convention.    After that announcement, the group received an overwhelming 300 applications. 

Mike Rogers debuted with the group at Absolutely Gospel Fan Fest and Frank Arnold's Songfest in Jackson, Tenn. After this the group decided to move up the announcement. "When God moves, you go with it. Mike is a great talent and we are proud to have him." said Ed O'Neal.

Mike is from Sandersville, Ga. and was a member Kindred Spirit. Mike has a wife named Bekki and they have a beautiful 3-year-old daughter named Coraline. He will be moving to Kinston, NC this week.

"It still feels like a dream. I am so excited to be a part of this group. I'm looking forward to all that is in store." said Mike Rogers.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Mark Trammell Quartet

Spreading the Word Ministry had the Mark Trammell Quartet in concert on July 6. They caught up with the guys to interview them asking them a few questions ranging from how they deal with paparazzi to who gets angry on the bus. Be sure to check it out below!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Love of God for Me - When Lyrics Speak

I had a journalism teacher in college that would always say show it, don't tell it. He wanted us to demonstrate with our writings why something was the way it was. It wasn't enough to say that it was a bad day or the meeting got out of hand; our words and phrases had to prove that on their own.

It's often that way in life. Actions speak louder than words. Words can sometimes be empty, but when they are carried out by our actions it gives them a greater meaning.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." - John 15:13

The Bible speaks over and over about the love of God, but the way that we know the love of God is through the death of Christ. His love was shown so that we know he has the greatest love imaginable for us.

I love the song "The Love of God for Me" by the Nelons. The song is such a great reminder about how amazing the love that God has for us is.

"The love of God is greater
Than any place man has been
The love of God is closer
Than the dearest friend
The love of God was demonstrated
On the cross of Calvary
No greater love's been given
Than the love of God for me"

We can never experience a greater love than the love that Christ has for us. It's greater than any form of love we will experience here on earth. It reaches beyond any place that we can go or any mistake that we can make that drives us away from God. His love is greater than it all.

The verses remind us that not only is God's love for us shown in the death of His Son, but also throughout his creation. The lyrics that stand out most to me are found in the second verse:

"Of Your love I'm undeserving
And I don't have the words to say
Forever I am grateful
Of the love that came my way"

I'm so undeserving, but I am forever grateful. I'm so grateful of the way that God not only has told me He loves me in His Word, but of the way that He shows me His love.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Preview of Eyes Wide Open from Jeff and Sheri Easter

Jeff and Sheri Easter released a preview of their new album Eyes Wide Open that will be released on Sept. 18. Recently I've heard a couple of the songs at their concerts I've been to, and I'm really anticipating this 12-song project.

One of the songs, "I Know How It Feels to Survive" was co-written by Sheri and Madison Easter about Sheri's victory over breast cancer. Jeff's dad, James Easter, joins them on "I Won't Have to Worry Anymore." Sheri pays tribute to her mother, Polly, by re-recording "Standing Here Wondering, a song her mother sang with the Lewis Family. This project also features a song that Morgan remakes of her mother's, "I Wonder If He Ever Cries." Even Maura makes an appearance. I love all the family ties that this project has.

I got the privilege of hearing Sheri sing "Standing Here Wondering" in concert in El Dorado. It was the highlight of the night for me. Sheri shows off the incredible soulful side of her voice, and I feel like it will be a highlight on the album as well.

From the clips, it sounds like Morgan has an increased vocal role on this project. She has grown so much as a vocalist in last few years, and I think people are really going to notice what a great singer she has become with this project.

Most of the songs have a country sound with a few exceptions. Tracks that stand out to me so far are: "Standing Here Wondering," "I Know How It Feels How to Survive," "Love Is" "There Is a Purpose" and "I'll Take It." Making this list, it was really hard for me to narrow it down. I can't wait to hear the entire album! I have a feeling this is going to be one of their strongest projects to date.

Also, Sheri has started blogging about the different songs on Jeff and Sheri's website, be sure to check it out!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fun Clip Friday with Legacy Five and Glenn Dustin

Thursday, Legacy Five announced the departure of bass singer Glenn Dustin. He was an original member of the group. Here's his statement below:

Dear Legacy Five Family, 

If you know me at all, you know I am a man of few words, so I'll be brief. It is with much regret that I am announcing my resignation. Effective immediately, I will no longer be traveling and singing with Legacy Five. I have had the time of my life, traveling the highways with L5, getting to meet so many wonderful people. However, nothing lasts forever. I have been honored to see so many things that I would have never had the opportunity to, apart from L5. I have so many wonderful memories, and I will miss so many people. Please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers, and continue to pray for and encourage L5. I will miss those men, and I doubt there will be a day that passes where I don't think of them. I have so many wonderful memories. 

In His Grip, 
Glenn "Cuz" Dustin

He will definitely be missed! And I wish him and the group the best. I was looking forward to seeing the group again in August, so I will be anxious to see who will be with them then. So today enjoy this clip from several years ago Glenn going a little lower with some encouragement from Frank!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Somebody Like Me - When Lyrics Speak

Many times we wait for someone else to make the move. We think that someone else will take the job no one else wants. We see a person hurting and think that somebody else will be there to comfort them. When we see a family in need, we think that somebody else can take on providing for them. We wait thinking that it's not for us to do this, somebody else will come along and take care of what needs to be done.

Why do we always assume somebody else can do the task that we see right in front of us? Jesus said in Matthew that what you have done to the least of these, you've done unto me. It's all about helping those  around us, reaching the ones that no one else does. When we help the people who don't have the means or ability to give anything back in return, that's when we really show the love of Christ. 

The song "Somebody Like Me" is a story song that is convicting on not waiting another person to take the steps we should be taking ourselves. A drunk man stumbles in the church just as the congregation sings "Amazing Grace." Nobody wants to have anything to do with him. They let him walk out of the church without anyone talking to him.

"You'd think somebody would put their arm around him
You'd think somebody would hit a knee
Pull him in, say a prayer
That's what I'm talking ‘bout right there 
You'd think somebody would practice what they're preachin'
Well, I wonder who that somebody could be
Prob'ly somebody like me

"You'd think somebody would do something different
You'd think somebody would go against the grain
Be the one to run him down
Bring him back and turn him around
You'd think somebody would wanna make a difference 
Well, well I wonder who that somebody could be
Prob'ly somebody like me."

We live a world full of hurting people. Why do we let people pass by so many times expecting somebody else to be the person who reaches out to them? Next time, let it be somebody like me.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Changes for the Browns and Mark Trammell Quartet

Changes are ahead for the Browns and the Mark Trammell Quartet. Nick and Jessica Trammell are leaving the Browns. With the new addition to the Trammell family, Jessica will be coming off the road to take care of baby Tessa at home. Nick will be joining his father's group, The Mark Trammell Quartet.

Dustin Sweatman, who is the lead singer for the Mark Trammell Quartet, has accepted the Renaissance Program Director of Choirs position at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tenn. He will remain with the quartet playing piano and singing through mid-September. He will start at Bethel after National Quartet Convention. Dustin has been the lead singer of the group since 2006.

Nick Trammell will be stepping in as lead singer. Nick has said that he is "excited to fulfill a dream of standing beside his father in Christian work." Mark is also pleased to have his son join him in his ministry.

Pat Barker, Eric Phillips and Mark and Nick Trammell plan to debut a new recording at this year's National Quartet Convention.

Wish the best for all those involved in both the Browns and the Mark Trammell Quartet! I think it's great that Jessica has decided to come off the road to stay at home with their daughter. She and Dustin will both be missed on the southern gospel music scene. But I look forward to see what's to come for both the Browns and the Mark Trammell Quartet!

Full House for the Hoppers - Concert Recap

The Hoppers sang to a full house on Thursday
Dean, Kim, Connie, Claude and Mike Hopper
night in Hot Springs, Ark. at the Oaklawn Church of God. I've been to the church several times for gospel concerts, and I've never seen it as full as it was last week. We got to the church a little before the concert and cars were parking on the street. We finally found a place to park in the grass behind the church. Luckily we found a few seats near the front of the church that weren't taken. However, as people kept coming in the church had to keep pulling out folding chairs. Arkansas really turns out for the Hoppers.

And Arkansans weren't the only ones. During the concert, the Hoppers asked were people were from to see who had come from the most distance. People were there from Virginia and Pennsylvania! I was surprised to say the least.

Here is the set list for the night:

  • "Stepping in the Clouds"
  • "I Will Serve Thee"
  • "Yahweh"
  • "God Bless the USA"
  • "Winging My Way Back Home" - Josh Simpson on piano
  • "I've Been to Heaven"
  • "I'll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus"
  • "Something's Happening"
  • "Feel Like Something Good is About to Happen"
  • "Peace in the Midst of the Storm"
  • "Holy Hills of Heaven"
  • "Jerusalem"
  • "I'm Just Waiting for My Ride"
  • "If I Could Help Somebody"
  • "I've Come Too Far"
  • "Shouting Time" 

The stage of the church was full, so there was no room for the Hoppers to set their drum set up. So, Mike Hopper stayed out front singing with his family for the full concert. It was very interesting to see him out front the entire time. I'll confess I haven't been to enough Hoppers concerts to note whether or not he sings the entire time behind the drums, but it was nice to see him have a more visible role out front.

The crowd really did amaze me on Thursday night not only how many were present and from how far but also you could tell it was a room full of Hoppers fans.

After "Yahweh" most of the crowd was on its feet. We sat down only to stand back up for Dean's rendition of "God Bless the USA." He did an incredible job on the song. 

I love hearing "Something's Happening," it's one of my favorite Hoppers songs. I love Connie's recitations in the song and the strong family blend. This was another song that got most of the crowd on its feet at the end.

Kim sang "Peace in the Midst of the Storm" and showed what amazing vocal talent she has as always. She also shared some of her testimony about coping with her brother Tony's death. It was definitely the most touching part of the concert.

The first half featured Kim and Dean a lot, so I figured that Claude and Connie would be featured in the second half on their most well-known numbers, "If I Could Help Somebody" and "I've Come Too Far." These are two standards I never get tired of hearing. And I love when Connie has Kim start the chorus of "I've Come Too Far" again. They then sang another chorus of the song a capella, and it was amazing. It was the best I've ever heard them sing it! Definitely one of the highlights of the concert for me!

It was a night full of great music and of course several laughs courtesy of Claude. I was glad to see them have such a good turnout in Arkansas, so hopefully we will get to see them more frequently in this area!

**Thanks to my friend Jessica for helping me take pictures Thursday night! There were a lot of heads in my view!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Hoppers and Greenes

Last night I had the chance to go see the Hoppers in concert in Hot Springs. The people of Arkansas definitely love the Hoppers because the church was packed! Be sure to check back on Monday for a full recap.

So today's Fun Clip Friday is a clip of the Hoppers singing with the Greenes from 2001. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Feeling Patriotic

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our country this week, this post is just to share a couple of patriotic songs with you.

In my opinion, no one sings the Star Spangled Banner better than Karen Peck Gooch. She is so amazing on this song that is such a hard one to sing that causes many singers to fumble.

Probably my favorite patriotic song is Statue of Liberty. I love the songs that not only remind us of the freedom that we have in in America but also the freedom we have in Christ. Enjoy this rendition by Ivan Parker with some help from Kim and Dean Hopper.

What about you? What patriotic songs do you love to hear?