Friday, September 28, 2012

Jimmy Blackwood retires; Mike Helwig joins Blackwood Brothers

The Blackwood Brothers have announced the retirement of Jimmy Blackwood as the lead singer for the group. Mike Helwig will join the group. Mike has previously sung with the Wilburns, the Stamps Quartet, Promise and the Dixie Echoes. He and his wife, Leslie, and their children make their home in Carthage, Tenn.

The Blackwood Brothers made the announcement in Memphis at the Bartlett Performing Arts Center .

Jimmy joined the Blackwood Brothers in 1969 singing lead in place of his dad, James, who was experiencing health problems and needed to slow his pace at that time. Jimmy continued in that position until 1986 when he left to pursue solo ministry opportunities. He rejoined the group in 2004 and has successfully led the group for the past eight years.

Speaking at the conclusion of the concert, his brother, Billy, said,"This is a bittersweet moment. It's always good to be home in Memphis, but it's sad to announce that Jimmy is retiring."

Fun Clip Friday - Singing News Fan Awards

Sorry for the lack of blogging this week. Research for my thesis proposal has taken over my life this week. I'll try to be better next week!

The Singing News Fan Awards are next week on Oct. 3. The awards will be broadcast online this year at 2 p.m. (CST) on Singing News' website free of charge. Today's Fun Clip Friday is from the 2001 Fan Awards of fun between Tony and TaRanda Greene. Today also marks two years since Tony went to his Heavenly home. He's definitely still missed! Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Count Me In - The Hoppers - CD Review

The Hoppers' latest album Count Me In is slated to release on October 22. However, fans can purchase copies now from the group. The album, produced by Claude, Dean, Michael and Kim Hopper and Michael Sykes, is another strong project for one of the favorite families of gospel music.

There are several standout songs that I found myself hitting repeat on. The first one is "I'll Take You Home." I first heard the song when I saw the Hoppers in Branson, and I knew instantly this would be one of my new favorite Hopper songs. The second verse features Connie, while on the first verse the group sings together.

The title track "Count Me In", written by Ronny Hinson, features Dean. It's another one that I saw them sing live before hearing the album and another great uptempo song. It's their latest radio single.

"He Didn't Just Carry the Cross He Carried Me" is a song that Kim shines on. It's not an elaborate arrangement that really allows Kim's voice and the lyrics of the song to be the focus.

"I Wish We'd All Been Ready" is not one that I expected to see on a Hopper album. However, Connie does a beautiful job on this song, and it's definitely one that stands out. The Hoppers have even done a concept video to go with the song that was played at NQC.

There are three Gaither songs on the project: "I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About to Happen," "I'll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus" and "I Will Serve Thee." I really enjoyed the group's rendition of the first one. The other two are songs that the group has had recorded on other albums (Gaither's Homecoming Tent Revival and The Best of the Hoppers). While they are strong songs vocally for the group, it would have been nice for something new. The same goes for "If I Can Help Somebody."

Overall, the albums is yet another great release from the Hoppers. There are several stand out songs that I can see climbing the charts for them. I don't think it's my favorite Hopper release in recent years, but still a very strong project.

Song List:
1. "Mighty is the Word"
2. "That's What I Love About Him"
3. "I'll Take You Home"**
4. "He Didn't Just Carry the Cross He Carried Me"**
5. "I Just Feel Like Something Good's About to Happen"**
6. "If I Can Help Somebody"
7. "Count Me In"**
8. "I'll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus"**
9. "I Am Whatever You Need"
10. "I Will Serve Thee"
11. "I Wish We'd All Been Ready"

** Personal Favorites

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fun Clip Friday with the McKameys

The Singing News created a lot of videos and interviews with artists last week during the National Quartet Convention. One of those was the retelling of an incident while Rick Francis was on the road with the McKameys! Enjoy today's Fun Clip Friday!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I'll Trust the Potter's Hand - When Lyrics Speak

Birthdays always make me very reflective. As I celebrated another year of life this week, I thought about how I never would have pictured my life the way it is now. If it had been up to me, I would have a much different life. It's not that I'm in a bad place now, I have a good life with great family, friends, church, job and the list goes on. It's just that it's not what I would have planned for myself.

I'm a planner. I like to schedule things in advance and plan out what I'll be doing and when. But I've learned you can't plan life. Unexpected things happen, and life doesn't always make sense. But thankfully when we don't think life makes sense, God can see the full picture.

A song that's meant a lot to me recently is "I'll Trust the Potter's Hand" by the Whisnants. It's a great reminder of Who is in control and how He always knows best.

The chorus of this song simply states that:

"I'll trust the potter's hands, He knows what's best for me,
He has a perfect plan these human eyes can't see,
He's the potter I'm the clay,
He knows just how much I can take,
When I face the fire again I'll trust the potter's hands."

I've often questioned where God has me and why I've gone through certain trials in my life. But God has a perfect plan, and He can see my entire life and knows from beginning to end every detail. It all makes perfect sense to Him, how He's preparing me for the future, even though I can't see it now.

The second verse mentions God molding us into His design. Wouldn't
I much rather be molded into who He wants me to be and not try to go my own way? Who am I to question an omnipotent and omniscient God? It's so much better to trust Him to mold us into what and where He wants us to be.

Even when I don't understand where life brings me, I can trust that God's preparing me for His will and purpose. God knows exactly how much I can take. When I don't understand the trial or circumstances and feel that I can't take anymore, I can be assured that I'm in His hands. And I can trust the Potter's Hand.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

Monday, September 17, 2012

Eyes Wide Open by Jeff and Sheri Easter - CD Review

Eyes Wide Open is Jeff and Sheri Easter's new project that releases Sept. 18. I thought Expecting Good Things was one of the strongest projects that they released and a tough act to follow.

The projects are very different in that they are both very reflective of where the Easter family was during the recording. While Expecting Good Things was very encouraging for those going through the valley, Eyes Wide Open is celebratory of making it through the valley and life.

The album includes all of their family members. This album is the first one that Jeff and Sheri's son Madison has helped them produce. Sheri covers a song that her mother, Polly, sang with the Lewis Family, and Morgan sings one that Sheri sang about 20 years ago. Jeff's dad, James Easter, has guest vocals, and  Shannon and Madison both sing background vocals for Morgan on one of her features. Maura Easter is even featured on the last song.

There's rarely an album where I don't find myself skipping several songs on the project and just listening to a couple of favorites. But Eyes Wide Open is definitely an exception for me! The song selection is so strong that it's really hard for me to pick just a couple of favorite songs.

Here is a list of the songs:

"A Little Bit of Sunshine" - This uptempo song is a great to start the album. The song was written by Lee Black and Kenna West. It features Sheri, and talks about the celebration of life after going through a storm.

"I'll Take It" - This song features Jeff and was written by Joseph and Lindsay Habedank, and hopefully the first of many cuts for this husband/wife team. It speaks of surrendering your burdens to God, and letting him "take it." It's one of my favorites on the project, and really shows off Jeff's vocals.

"Sitting on Top of the World" - This song has a definite country flavor, and when I first heard this song it reminded me a little of the country song "She's in Love With the Boy." I'm not sure why, but both songs are cute love story songs. I could actually see this song being a hit in mainstream country. During the last chorus of the song that they repeat lines from the verses, it really adds an interesting vocal dynamic especially live!

"I Know How It Feels to Survive" - This song was penned by Sheri and Madison Easter. It's a great song that is from Sheri's personal battle with breast cancer. The song has a line about living with "eyes wide open," where the album's title comes from.

"It Must Have Been You" - This song speaks of the mercy and grace of God. It's a beautiful reminder that God orders our steps and helps us along the way, whatever we may be facing. It's very reflective as someone looking back on how God carried them through the valley. It was written by the great team of Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey.

"I Wonder if He Ever Cries" - This is Morgan's first feature on album with Shannon and Madison backing her up. I'm sure she does her mother proud on this song. It's a beautiful recut of the Jeff and Sheri Easter classic.

"Anything But Happy" - This is the second song that Sheri wrote on the project. It's a great song that reminds us to appreciate all the little things in life. It's a reminder of all the great blessings that God gives us not only in the big things but also in the daily things.

"Love Is" - This country tune is Morgan's second feature. It's a song that speaks of different examples of showing love from teachers to parents to people praying for the troops. It also covers the love of Christ in how He demonstrated that to us on the cross. The song fits Morgan's voice so well!

"I Won't Have to Worry Anymore" - This is the song the Jeff's dad was playing as his mom passed away, and James Easter is a guest vocalist on the song. While overall the album has a country feel, this song has one of the strongest country feels with the strong steel guitar intro.

"There Is a Purpose" - Jeff, Sheri and Morgan all share vocals on this song. It's a great reminder that in everything God has a purpose. God works it all out when you look back on your life. The song has a beautiful message that fits with the overall theme of the album.

"Standing Here Wondering" - This is one of the songs I was most looking forward to hearing on the project. I first heard Sheri sing the song in El Dorado this summer, and was blown away by her live performance of the song. Stylistically it's completely different from other songs on the project, but this is one of my favorites! Sheri shows off the bluesy, soulful side of her voice, and is a vocal highlight of the project for me!

"A Good Ole Gospel Song" - This song was written by Jimmy Yeary and Jeff Easter and apparently was based on a real-life experience of Jeff's. It's a fun song that is definitely a Jeff Easter song!

This project is a must buy for Jeff and Sheri Easter fans and southern gospel fans alike. I think it's one of their best. It's a great follow up to Expecting Good Things that shows how Jeff and Sheri are now on the other side of the valley celebrating life with "eyes wide open!"

Sunday, September 16, 2012

NQC 2012 Day 6 Highlights

I was a little getting to watch the webcast Saturday night, just like I'm a little late with this post. I joined the webcast toward the end, I think, of Legacy Five's set. However, I think I managed to catch the strongest moments of the night! Here are my thoughts and highlights from what I saw:

  • The stretch from Greater Vision to the Booth Brothers produced the strongest vocals and greatest moments of the night.
  • I loved seeing TaRanda back on the main stage. I've always been a huge fan of hers. Gerald Wolfe called her on stage to sing "I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked." It was an emotional performance, and the audience gave her a standing ovation.
  • Dean asked her to sick around for the Hoppers set, and then they didn't let her leave. I loved getting to see Kim and TaRanda sing together! They sang "Count Me In," "Grace Will Always Be Greater Than Sin" and then closed with "Shoutin' Time."
  • Greater Vision had one of the strongest sets of the night, which was capped off with Gerald singing "Till the Storm Passes By." 
  • The Booth Brothers were joined on their first song, "Tell Me," by Melissa Brady. It was another highlight of the night. They also song "He Saw It All" and "Still Feelin' Fine." They ended with a stirring performance by Michael Booth on "Look for Me at Jesus' Feet."
  • I was glad to see the Talleys stage "Make Way for the Master." It was one of my favorites from their latest project.
  • Voices of Lee is a super talented group, but I'm still not entirely convinced that they should have a set on the main stage at NQC. 
  • The Perrys ended convention with another strong sets. They've had some of the strongest of the week, staging a lot of their new songs. Joseph was featured on a song he wrote, "Whosoever Will." Great song! They ended with "I Wish I Could Have Been There." Always a fan favorite and fun song! It wouldn't have been convention without it! Mark Trammell came up on stage to join them on, and Gerald Wolfe played piano and Michael Booth on drums.
  •  The Perrys' singing "Celebrate Me Home" kicked off a string of #1 songs that was the finale of the night. Other songs included: "My Name Is Lazarus" (Greater Vision), "The Healer" (Talleys), "Yes I Am" (Hoppers), "Welcome to the Family" (Booth Brothers) and "Four Days Late" (Karen Peck and New River).
  • The night had a great ending with "Statement of Faith" with several artists on stage including Greater Vision, Booth Brothers, the Perrys, the Talleys, Karen Peck and New River, Michaela Brown, Adam Brown, Riley Clark, Scott Fowler, Mark Trammell and Pat Barker (I'm probably missing some). Perfect ending to NQC! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

NQC 2012 Day 5 Highlights

I had the webcast going all evening, but I was doing other things while watching too. So I can't say I caught everything tonight, but here are some thoughts and tidbits from the night:

  • It seemed to be a great night for a cappella numbers with Sisters, the Nelons, Scotty Inman and the Isaacs. Sisters have been singing the a cappella moments all week long, and they are just outstanding. Although the Isaacs and the Nelons both had strong a cappella numbers Friday night as well!
  • Jordan James impresses me more and more as the new bass singer for the Dixie Echoes.
  • The Nelons and the Taylors both had strong sets tonight with their only appearance on the main stage. Both made the case to see more of them next year!
  • Bill Gaither officially announced Matthew Holt as their new piano player.
  • I love Christmas music, but even for me Christmas in September I think is a little much. However, I really enjoyed the Christmas set tonight! I loved getting to hear TaRanda Greene sing "O Holy Night" with the Hoppers!
Standout groups of the night:

The Perrys - Another strong set tonight showcasing several more of their new songs. They finished with a song they recut "When He Spoke." It's such a great song, and it was a great decision to recut the song! Great finish to their set!!

Gaither Vocal Band - I thought it was really neat that they started singing "One Voice" with a dark stage. The highlight of the set was definitely "The Love of God!" Beautiful song and amazing harmonies from the vocal band.

Triumphant Quartet - Scotty Inman had the moment of the night with his testimony of his baby girl. He choked back the tears as the camera also showed Kasey in the audience crying. They both expressed their greatest appreciation for all the prayers for Embry. Then, Scotty sang "Only God Knows" a cappella. It was a beautiful, tender moment and the highlight of the night! They ended with "Old White Flag" which was quite a contrast from the sweet moment right before this, but it worked.

Mark Trammell Quartet - Again, this quartet had one of the strongest sets of the night. I thought they might recognized Dustin Sweatman since it was his last night with the group, but I think they did a big tribute at their homecoming this year. We got to hear more from Nick on "Standing on the Solid Rock." Mark also recognized Ray Flynn and then sang "Too Much to Gain to Lose." They closed with their "Golden City Medley." Eric nailed the high notes at the end. They got a much-deserved standing ovation!!

The Hoppers - They started with "Jerusalem." During "I've Come too Far to Look Back," Connie brought up TaRanda to come up and join them on an encore. I thought it was sweet for them to have TaRanda sing with them tonight. TaRanda and Kim are two powerhouse singers and still had probably one of the best moments of the week on Tuesday night with "There Is a Fountain." They also sang "Something's Happening" with TaRanda still on stage and it got a standing ovation from the audience that was definitely deserved!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

NQC Music Awards

Here is a list of the winners of the first NQC Music Awards:

Songwriter of the Year - Dianne Wilkinson
Musician of the Year - Kim Collingsworth
Alto of the Year - Sheri Easter
Soprano of the Year - Kim Hopper
Lead of the Year - Ronnie Booth
Les Beasley Impact Award - enLighten Radio
Bass of the Year - Eric Bennett
Baritone of the Year - Jim Brady
Tenor of the Year - David Phelps
Soloist of the Year - Jason Crabb
Favorite Album - Celebrate Me Home (Oak Tree) by The Perrys
SGMG Producer/ Arranger of the Year - Lari Goss
Concert Promoter of the Year - Bill Gaither
Radio Station of the Year - WBOZ Nashville
Mixed Group of the Year - Collingsworth Family
Favorite Song of the Year - "I Know a Man Who Can" by Greater Vision
Favorite Male Group of the Year - Booth Brothers

NQC 2012 Day 4 Highlights

Thursday has definitely been the best night so far in my opinion! There were so many standout sets to me, I'm not sure where to start!

Whisnants - Susan started it by singing "I'll Trust the Potter's Hand." The Lesters sang "He Didn't the Clay Away" right before they came on, so it set the song up beautifully. Next, the Whisnants sang a song from their most recent project, "I'm in the Gloryland Way." Next, Susan shared their testimony of the year and family members' illnesses that they had dealt with. She talked about going to the doctor when they thought her mother had cancer. The doctor came in the room and told them whatever they had seen weeks ago wasn't present anymore. She then sang "All Is Well," beautiful song and great message! They ended with "New Day Dawning." Gerald Wolfe had been playing piano with them, but during the last song Jeff Easter came up to play harmonica. Then, Mark Trammell, Eric Phillips and Pat Barker came to join them singing on stage during the encore.

Jason Crabb - Jason had a strong set, I think better than his one earlier this week. He sang the classic song "Who Am I" to start it off. He then went into "Still Holdin' On" and "The Lamb, the Lion and the King." He then went into his award-winning song "Sometimes I Cry." Jason then asked if he could bring some people on stage with him, and he brought up his sisters Kelly and Terah to sing "Through the Fire" with him! Great ending to his set!!

Jeff and Sheri Easter - They sang all songs from their new project and started out with the first three songs from the CD in order, "Little Bit of Sunshine," "I'll Take It" and "Sitting on Top of the World." I absolutely love their new project, and these three are some of strongest songs on it. After those three, Jeff and Sheri passed their microphones to Shannon and Madison. Morgan was featured on "I Wonder If He Ever Cries" with Shannon and Madison singing backup. It's a beautiful song that Morgan does a great job on. Also, it was so neat to see those three showcased! They closed their set by bringing up Jeff's dad, James Easter, to sing "I Won't Have to Worry Anymore" with them. They are such a precious family, and I love that they made their set a family affair tonight!

Greater Vision - They started their set with Rodney Griffin featured on "No Longer Chained." The webcast had some issues during this song, but thankfully it was resolved. They sang "When They Ring the Bells of Heaven" next. Gerald then said they were going to deviate from the songs they had picked out. Jack Campbell wrote "I Know a Man Who Can" and his widow was in the audience. So Chris sang the song and knocked it out of the park as usual. Then Gerald did something you don't see very often. He brought up an unknown trio of siblings he had heard sing in Atlanta. He let them sing the "Doxology" in the style of the Martins, and they did such an incredible job. Gerald then told the story of a man who had an impact on him at his church growing up to set up "Faces."

Booth Brothers - They sang "I'm Free," "Joy in the Camp," "Let the Healing Begin" and "Played in a Band." They brought up special guest Bill Gaither to sing the bass "boom booms" on "Joy in the Camp." They also did several encores of "Played in a Band" and Bill joined them for the last two.

Talleys - It was good to see Brian back with them tonight. They had a strong selection of songs, but what stood out to me most was Brian sharing his testimony. He talked about how he had been forced to leave home at 16 and really struggled with God. He said that one night he talked to Gerald Wolfe at a Greater Vision concert and that's part of what brought him back to God. He said that he still had the card that Gerald gave him that night.

Karen Peck and New River - They ended the night strong! The set started with a clip from Joyful Noise, and then Karen Peck and New River started singing "Mighty High," the song from the movie. Jeff was featured on "Look What the Lord Has Done," which unfortunately had some track issues. But the group kept going like the pros they are. Then, Susan was featured on "Saved." Karen pulled Ben Isaacs and Wes Hampton to sing a song both sang with her on her solo project, "God Lives There." I cannot wait to hear her solo CD!! Then they ended with "Four Days Late," always a favorite and a song that never gets old! Great way to end an overall very strong night of gospel music! Definitely my favorite night overall so far!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

NQC 2012 Day 3 Highlights

Wednesday night was All Quartet night at the National Quartet Convention. Again, I was able to watch live most of the night via the webcast. Here are my thoughts and highlights:

  • It's looking like 2012 could be the year for the newbies. After Matt Fouch had the best moment of the night on Monday, Chris Jenkins and Jordan James made some lasting impressions on Wednesday. Chris, new tenor for the Kingsmen, sang "O What a Savior" and hit probably the highest note of the night (not sure if Brian Free topped him or not). Jordan James is the new bass singer for the Dixie Echoes. He sang "How Big Is God" and stood out on several of their songs.
  • Speaking of Dixie Echoes, they had one of my favorite songs of the night with their four-part harmony on "If You Know the Lord." I saw this lineup in Branson before the announcement was made that they were "officially hired." I was more impressed with them last night and could tell they had gelled together more.
  • Ok, I'll admit I got really distracted during the Dixie Melody Boys set at first trying to tell who all was in their all-star band. The band consisted of Adam Crabb (harmonica), Madison Easter (guitar), Scoot Shelnut (bass), Stewart Varnado (piano) and Michael Booth (drums). It was cool to see all those guys on stage playing for the Dixie Melody Boys!
  • There would have been something missing from Quartet Night if Brian Free did not sing "Looking for a City." I was watching the webcast with a few friends and they couldn't believe Brian's capability on this song! They also sang a couple of songs from their new album, "Guard Your Heart" and "If the Lord Says Do It."

Strongest set of the night was Mark Trammell Quartet. They sang "Gentle Shepherd," "Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah," "I Want to Know" and "The King Is Coming." Everyone loves "I Want to Know." They did two encores of the song. You could tell from the webcast that the audience at NQC was enjoying every bit of it. The closed with "The King is Coming" and Mark definitely showed that he is still one of the greatest male vocalists in the industry. Great moment to end their set on!

Triumphant Quartet to me had the second strongest set of the night. The group started their set with "When the Trumpet Sounds" and then sang "He Loves Me." Jeff Stice played "Mansion Over the Hilltop," which was the first hymn he learned to play. I have to say that I agree with his mom and like the playing without the background music. They went directly into "Old White Flag" which the audience got really into as always. They didn't set the song up as they normally do, but Jeff still looked mad like always! :) They ended with "Almost Home."

My favorite moment of the night though was the last song "Have a Little Talk With Jesus." I love it when several groups sing together on stage in moments that seems less than planned (even if they are). Gerald Wolfe came out and couldn't believe that no group had sung the ultimate quartet song. So he got most of Mark Trammell Quartet and Legacy Five to come back to the stage to join Triumphant on this song. They weren't sure when they got to verse two what to do, which proved to be some comedic moments between Gerald Wolfe, Scott Fowler and Mark Trammell. David Sutton was the only tenor on stage so he sang the second verse. Paul Harkey of the LeFevre Quartet joined the bass singers on stage! Great way to end quartet night!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NQC 2012 Day 2 Highlights

Day 2 of the 2012 National Quartet Convention is complete. I was able to catch most of the webcast last night with the exception of the Primitive Quartet's set. I had to grab dinner at some point! :) Here are tonight's top five highlights for me:

"There Is a Fountain" - There's no doubt that Kim Hopper is one of the best vocals in the industry, but so is her sister-in-law TaRanda Greene. When you add those two dynamite vocals with the contrasting alto voice of Kim Collingsworth, you get a dynamite combination. I did not expect to see TaRanda there this week, so I might have let out a little girl-type yelp of joy when Kim called her on stage. In my opinion, TaRanda is the best power vocalist in southern gospel. It was a great return for TaRanda to the main stage and especially for her to sing with Kim. Not only was it a touching, emotional moment, but it was one of the best vocal performances of the night!

Mark Trammell Quartet - They sang three songs from their new project Lifetime: "I Sing the Mighty Power of God," "Tis So Sweet" and "A Wonderful Time Up There." Pat Barker, bass, was featured on the latter, and he just gets better each time I see him! They closed with "Statue of Liberty," which received one of the best audience responses of the night. Vocally, it was one of the strongest sets of the night. Dustin Sweatman played piano, while Nick Trammell sang lead. We haven't seen Nick featured much, but maybe that will change later in the week. Mark had the "Awww" moment of the night when he brought his granddaughter, Tessa, up on the stage. Mark also talked about Clarke Beasley's accident and asked for the people to pray for his recovery and had the audience wish him well since he was watching the webcast.

Bowling Family - They sang "I'll Be Alright" and "Sailing on Home" to start their set. Then Kelly talked a little bit about their wreck and all that God had done for them. This set up "Your Cries Have Awoken the Master." Mike led an encore of the chorus that Kelly and Terah then joined him on. You could tell how much they felt every word of what they were singing. They closed their set with another strong song, "I Still Glory in the Cross." They pulled out all the stops vocally on this song, and they did an incredible job!

Greater Vision - They sang a few favorites "Champion of Love," "He'd Still Been God" and "He Didn't When He Could Have Passed By." Chris Allman sang "I Know a Man Who Can," and Gerald told the story of how they started singing this song. Chris delivers on this song every time, and it's become of my absolute favorite songs to hear them sing. It was one of the top vocals of the night for me! Gerald talked a little bit about Compassion and how blessed and fortunate we are to be Americans before their last song. They closed their set with "Jesus Is Coming Again Medley." Their song selection for their set was strong from beginning to end, great choices!

Jeff and Sheri Easter - I barely made it in from work in time to catch all of Jeff and Sheri's set, since they were running ahead of schedule, I thought I had a few more minutes to spare than I did. I caught most of "Anything But Happy," which is from Eyes Wide Open. Morgan was featured on "Like My Mother Does" which fits her so well. Jeff sang another one from their latest project, "Good Ole Gospel Song." Sheri set up "Hear My Heart" with an excerpt from her book. This song never gets old, and Sheri gives a stirring, heart-felt performance each time. They closed with "I Get To." I love the message of this song! It really speaks to families and how we get to spend time with our loved ones, and the Easters are one of the most precious families in gospel music. There was a discussion in the chat about Jeff and Sheri being the cutest couple in southern gospel. :) Jeff and Sheri had a strong set and got the night off to a great start!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Brian Free and Assurance - Nothing But Love CD Review

Brian Free is known for picking top-notch songs. After listening to the preview of Nothing But Love that the group posted this summer, I was really looking forward to hearing the complete project. I wouldn't say that it's the strongest album that Brian Free and Assurance has ever put out, but it's near the top!

The title track "Nothing But Love" is a fun song. The song features Brian Free. I like this song a lot, but it's not a standout song on this project for me.

Some of my favorite songs from the project feature lead singer Bill Shivers, "It's Quite a Valley" and "I Will Be Praying." Lyrically I love "I Will Be Praying." It speaks of friends praying for each other and encouraging each other. It offers the hope that God will provide strength and that trials are temporary.

"Guard Your Heart" probably has some of the most convicting lyrics. We always think about big sins being the outward actions, but this song turns the tables and makes you think about guarding our heart from the enemy. The song features both Jeremy Lile and Bill Shivers.

"There is Power" is not a standout song really, but for some reason this is one I kept coming back to it and listening to again. I like the hymn bridge of "Power in the Blood." It's a fun, more uptempo song and the more I listen to it, the more I like it!

"Calvary's Cry" is a ballad about the cross that features Brian Free. I like this song, but the standout song on this project that features Brian is "I Want to Be That Man." It's definitely my favorite on the album. When I saw the group live in Branson, Brian told the story about first hearing the song. He said he was listening to the song late one night driving the bus, and it made him think about his dad, who died recently. He didn't realize until later that his son, Ricky Free, had written the song. The song talks about the desire of a son to be the kind of man his father was, a man who lived for Christ, serving Him and his family. Brian does such a great job on this song. This is their first single from the project, and I predict it going to the top of the charts!

"Revival" is a song that doesn't stylistically fit in with the rest of the project, but I liked the addition of this song. It features baritone Derrick Selph. It has an important message of calling the church to stop growing cold and losing its passion.

Song List:

  • "Nothing But Love" 
  • "It’s Quite A Valley"** 
  • "If The Lord Says Do It" 
  • "I Will Be Praying"** 
  • "Guard Your Heart"** 
  • "There Is Power"** 
  • "Calvary’s Cry" 
  • "You Can Be A Bridge" 
  • "I Want To Be That Man"** 
  • "Revival" 
**Denotes personal favorites

NQC Night 1 Highlights

I'll be honest, I was hit and miss last night watching the webcast. But here are my thoughts on the parts I did catch:

Legacy Five - When I saw Matt Fouch first take the stage with Legacy Five at Silver Dollar City, I knew this was a home run decision to hire him. Hands down, the highlight of the night came from Matt Fouch's singing with Legacy Five. I loved hearing him sing "I've Been Changed," but my favorite was the same as it was in Silver Dollar City, "We Shall See Jesus." They ended their set with that song, and judging by the audience's reaction I think it was the highlight for them as well. Matt had already been featured a lot in the Jubilee set which was right before this one, but as Scott Fowler said, "When you've got a good horse, ride him."

Jubilee - This is one concert I want to see this year, and the groups' performance last night made me want to attend one even more. From beginning to end, it was one of the strongest sets of the night. This was Matt's first appearance on main stage with Legacy Five. I loved hearing "Treasures in Heaven" with all three tenors. Matt was featured on both "Beautiful Home" and "Wedding Music."

The Perrys - They sang a number of new songs from their upcoming project, Through the Night. I loved hearing the new songs and judging from the audience on the live feed, they did as well! They sang "Through the Night" (title cut), "One of These Mornings" and "I Got a Hold of God This Morning," which kicked off their set. They ended their set with "If You Knew Him," always a fan favorite and also got a big response from the audience. This was one of my favorite sets of the night!

Jim and Melissa Brady - I was able to listen to this one more than watch which I hate. Thank goodness it will be up "On Demand" later! While the set with them may not have originally been planned, it produced one of the strongest vocal performances of the night.

Karen Peck and New River - I got home just in time to catch their set, and they know how to kick things off! They sang their #1 song, "Mighty Big God" to start off. Jeff was featured on "He Set Me Free." I heard him sing this one in Branson and it was one of my favorites then and in this set as well! They ended with "We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown," where Stan Whitmire came on stage to join them on piano. This song always gets the audience going!

Booth Brothers - They sang "There's Something About That Name," "The Blind Man Saw It All," "I Played in a Band" and "Let the Healing Begin." They could have easily ended with one of their uptempo numbers to get the audience on its feet, but they ended with "Let the Healing Begin." It was a fitting ending that showed how they wanted to highlight the message and keep the main thing, the main thing. Very classy way to end night 1!

Hopefully I'll be able to watch more tonight than I did last night!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Watts, Rowsey & Bean

Daywind has announced the debut release of Nicole Watts Jenkins, John Darin Rowsey and Gina Bean collectively known as Watts, Rowsey & Bean. These solo artists have combined their efforts to write and record a song specifically designed to honor southern gospel radio. The new song is called "Turn Your Radio On" and is a lively tune with incredible harmonies and high energy lyrics.

"The internet is a great tool, and iTunes and other technology have become a staple. But we were raised on southern gospel music on the radio. And there's nothing like rolling down the windows in your car and turning up the radio with a great gospel song on a warm summer day," Rowsey states.

Nicole Watts Jenkins was nominated for Favorite Soprano seven consecutive years by the Singing News Fan Awards. For almost seven years, Nicole contributed her vocal ability to the award-winning Perrys. During her tenure, Nicole was known for several of the Perrys #1 songs including:  "Not Even a Stone," "When He Spoke" and "Praise God, It's Settled, I'm Saved." Nicole has been a solo artist for 10 plus years and had numerous top 40 singles. She now serves alongside her husband, Mark, where they pastor Restoration Church in Auburn, Ala.

"I am thrilled about starting this new chapter with such anointed and incredible singers as John and Gina. God has definitely put us together for a purpose, and I am excited to see what He has in store," she said.

John Darin Rowsey is a Dove Award-winning singer/ songwriter who sang with Karen Peck and New River from December 1999 until January 2003. Since then, he directed one of the top music programs in the nation, has worked as a producer and writes for Daywind Music Publishing. His list of hits include "Singing With the Saints" (Gaither Vocal Band), "Joy's Gonna Come in the Morning" (Kingsmen), "I Wanna Know How It Feels" (Karen Peck and New River) and "Hey" (Karen Peck and New River). For the last several years, he has done select solo dates across the country.

Gina Bean is the featured soloist for Voice of Evangelism, an international ministry, and has traveled the globe with renowned Bible prophecy teacher Perry Stone. Gina and her husband Larry do select dates outside of their duties with VOE and are worship leaders. Her smooth, yet powerful, alto voice touches audiences in an unmistakable way as she brings a song to life. Gina has penned chart-topping songs in southern gospel music including "Just One Touch" by Karen Peck and New River. 

Their song "Turn Your Radio On" will be coming to iTunes and radio stations soon.

NQC Moves to Pigeon Forge in 2014

The 2012 National Quartet convention started tonight with a bonus concert from the Hoppers, Greater Vision and the Booth Brothers. I would love to go one year, but unfortunately this is not the year. I will be watching via webcast, hopefully live most of the week. However, the big news of today has not been concerning this year's NQC, but the 2014 NQC which will be in Pigeon Forge. Read the press release below:

The National Quartet Convention has announced the dates for the 2013 NQC. September 9 - 14 will be the dates for the 2013 NQC in Louisville, Kentucky. The event will be very special, as it will be the last year for the event to be held in Louisville. Many special and unique events are being planned for 2013, to celebrate the end of a wonderful era for the NQC in Louisville. Thousands of attendees from across the United States and Canada, as well as several countries around the world, will gather one last time in Louisville to relive great memories from two decades of gatherings at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. Plans are already underway to make the 2013 NQC one of the biggest and best weeks of the event's 55-year history. Many first-time attendees are also expected, as it will be their last chance to experience the NQC in this historic location.

In September of 2014, the National Quartet Convention will begin a new and exciting era as Gospel Music's Largest Annual Event moves to one of America's most popular, family-friendly vacation destinations... Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Reserved seating can be purchased for the 2013 NQC during this week's event, in the North Wing Lobby of the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center, and will then be available at throughout the year. Attendees are urged to reserve seating and lodging early for the final year in Louisville.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spoken 4 Quartet's Music Video

More groups are starting to have music videos produced. One of the latest groups to do this is Spoken 4  Quartet. They've done it with their song "Give God Your Storm." I really think this could be a break-through song for this group. I got the chance to hear them sing this live last week in Branson. It's one of the standout songs on the group's latest album, Faithful.

Check out the video below, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Final Day of Southern Gospel Picnic

Monday was the last day of the Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City. We got the chance to see four different groups: the Browns, Allen Family, the Browders and the Isaacs.

The Browns
The Browns was another group that I was able to see for the first time live. They sang several from their most recent project, Now, including: "Now and Forevermore," "Beautiful Day," "Good Enough" and "Everywhere I Go."

The group also did a couple of instrumental songs. I really enjoyed Adam, Andrew and Michaela playing "I Sing the Mighty Power/ Canon in D" on violins. It was absolutely beautiful!

I'm a little disappointed that I never got to see Jessica and Nick with the Browns in person, only online, because their  most recent project with their addition was so strong. However, the Browns is carrying on with Shelly, Michaela, Adam and Andrew just fine! We were able to see two of their shows at Silver Dollar City, and we enjoyed both of them a lot!

The Allen Family
I had seen the Allen Family sing before but not in a concert setting. We often visit Skyline Baptist Church when we are in Branson, and this is the church that the Allen Family attends when they are in Branson during the Christmas season. We had been there to see them sing at the church before just one or two songs.

They are a very talented family! Some of the highlights for me were:

  • "In Your Love" - Beautiful song, and the oldest daughter did sign language with the song.
  • "All in the Family" - This was the second song they sang, and the two youngest sons came out to join them on this one. 
  • "The Door" - Really enjoyed this uptempo song!
  • "Jesus, What a Wonderful Child" 
  • "Turn Your Radio On" - This one features a few of the sons.

The Browders
I had not seen the Browders before until the night before in Echo Hollow. They are a great group, and I was glad I was introduced to them at the festival. I was familiar with several of their songs, but really didn't know much about the group.

Definitely the highlight for me was hearing Tommy Browder give his testimony of dealing with polio and God's miraculous working in his life. He then sang "I'm So Blessed." 

Another stand out moment for me was Sonya Browder featured on "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus." This is my favorite hymn, and we heard several renditions of this song throughout the festival, but this one might have been my favorite!

I also really enjoyed hearing their new song, "He's Alive," which hasn't been released yet. Great song and message! They ended their last show of the day with "Praise You in This Valley." It was a sweet, very worshipful spirit that they ended on!

The Isaacs
The Isaacs have closed the festival for several years now. And they also know how to end the festival on a great note!

They sang several songs from their latest project, Why Can't We, including: "Four Men Walkin' Around," "That Is Why I Sing," "Get On Board," "Why Can't We," "Waiting in the Water" and "I'm Gonna Love You Through It." I love hearing Sonya sing the last song. It was a very sweet moment hearing her sing a song she wrote about her own mother's battle. Very few people made it through the song without getting teary-eyed. They got a standing ovation after the song.

Becky gave her testimony of God's healing and how she wrote "Waiting in the Water." I love hearing the artists share stories like this and stories behind the songs.

Right before intermission, they sang "I Will Praise Him" a cappella. I've heard them sing this a couple of times, and get chills every time. It was another standing ovation for the Isaacs.

They sang by request "I Have a Father Who Can." This has been one of my favorite Isaacs songs, but I've never heard them sing it live, so I was glad that they sang it!

They sang "He Ain't Never Done Me Nothing But Good," which is always a lot of fun. They tried to end the show on this one, but the crowd wanted one more. Normally, artists do another chorus of the song or pick another uptempo song. However, the Isaacs broke the mold. Sonya said they had a number of requests for them to sing "It Is Well." They sang the song a cappella, and they could not picked a better song to end the festival on. It was beautiful, and one of the highlights of the night.

It was an incredible 11 days, and I'm so thankful I was able to be there the entire time this year! We saw a total of 66 shows during the festival. Silver Dollar City always does such an incredible job of putting this festival on. And it's definitely amazing that a theme park allows southern gospel music to take over the park for a week and a half.

I'm already looking forward to another great time next year! They announced the dates for next year are Aug. 23 - Sept. 2, 2013. It's a great festival that you should try to attend if you can!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Crowded Sunday at Silver Dollar City

We had the best of intentions of going to the worship service at Silver Dollar City on Sunday morning, but apparently everyone else also decided to go to the City at the same time. We got stuck in traffic, so we missed the 11 a.m. service.

However, we did make it out to Silver Dollar City in time to see Barry Rowland and Deliverance at noon. I had never seen the group before and really didn't know much about them. Barry is the son of Kyla Rowland, who is a well-known songwriter in gospel music. One of my favorite songs that she wrote is "Did I Mention," which they sang. It was definitely the highlight of their set for me. Barry's wife, Tammy, did a great job singing it. I also really enjoyed their songs "The Rest of the Story" and "He Took My Case."

We went to see Tribute Quartet next. They sang several songs from their latest project, Our Anthem. I haven't had a chance to listen to the full project yet, but really enjoyed all the songs they sang from it. They sang:
  • "God's Gonna Send a Revival" 
  • "Thank the Lord"
  • "Homesick Angel" 
  • "Good News From Jerusalem." 
They closed the show with the last one and did several encores of the chorus. "Good News From Jerusalem" could definitely be a big hit for this group. Another one of my favorite new ones that they sang was "Homesick Angel."

This was my first time seeing the Crist Family. We were able to see two of their shows that afternoon. I really enjoyed seeing them live for the first time. They sang "Big Hallelujah," "I Believe He's Coming Back," "The Anchor Holds," "I Will Glory in the Cross" and "O Happy Day." I loved "I Will Glory in the Cross;" it was definitely the highlight of the set for me! They also sang a couple from their Christmas album. It seemed to become more of a theme to sing Christmas songs as the festival progressed. I love Christmas songs, but again it's a little out of place especially the secular Christmas songs.

They sang several of their older songs in their third show of the day. I loved hearing them sing the classics, "When I Get Carried Away" and "Canaanland Is Just in Sight." I also enjoyed one of their breakout songs, "It's Been a Journey." That's still one of my favorites that they sing!

The day ended in Echo Hollow with Jeff and Sheri Easter. Not only did they break the record attendance for the week, but they broke the all-time record for Echo Hollow with 5,286 people in attendance!

They started off with several songs from their new project Eyes Wide Open, which will be released on Sept. 18. They sang "Little Bit of Sunshine" to start the night off and then went into "I Won't Have to Worry Anymore."

Morgan was featured on the next two: "I Need You More Today" and "God Knows What He's Doing."

Jeff and Sheri have quietly added drummer Landan Smith to their group to replace Kyle Calloway. Landan is the 14-year-old brother of Logan Smith. He's got a great talent already at 14!

They sang "Sitting on Top of the World," which is also from their new project. I absolutely love this country-flavored song! It's a precious love story song. They brought Madison up next to sing "Workin' on a Road" with his parents.

Sheri talked about her battle with breast cancer, and how much she loved coming to Silver Dollar City because of what the people meant to her during her battle. When they performed at Echo Hollow in 2008, it was shortly after her first chemo treatment. Silver Dollar City presented her with roses that night and talked about how they were all praying for her. I remember the sweet presentation well. No one was sitting down, but everyone was standing and clapping to show support for Sheri and their family, and I'm pretty sure everyone was a little teary-eyed. Sheri recalled the moment too and said that she would never forget how the people loved on her that night. She read an excerpt from Hear My Heart and then sang the song. You could hear sniffling through the audience because this song touches so many people in different ways. The audience was on its feet clapping after the song.

Before intermission, they sang "I Get To" and "Good Ole Gospel Song," also from their new album.

They sang several of their more well-known songs during the second half and took some requests. The Browders were in attendance because they sang at Silver Dollar City on Monday afternoon. Jeff and Sheri invited them up to sing a couple of songs. I thought this was a very nice gesture to share the stage with them.

Another touching moment of the night was Morgan singing "He's Going Places." At intermission, a couple had come up to Jeff telling him about their son. Their son had brain cancer and passed away earlier in the year. He was a big Jeff and Sheri Easter fan and loved the song "Born to Climb." Jeff asked Morgan to sing "He's Going Places" for the parents. The song is from her solo album and tells the story of a young boy who passed away at a young age. Morgan, just like her mother, feels every word she sings, and it was evident as she sang that song.

A couple of songs later, Jeff said they had a request to sing "You're My Best Friend." He decided to find out who in the crowd had been married the longest. A couple near the top had been married for 66 years. Jeff asked the man what was the secret to being married for 66 years. The man yelled back to him, "Don't die!" Everyone in the audience and on stage lost it, laughing so hard. I don't think that's quite the answer he was looking for, but it's not one he's going to forget!

They wrapped up with "Keep on the Sunny Side," as what they thought would be their last song. But the audience wanted one more, so they sang "Life is Great and Gettin' Better." Great end to the night! Jeff and Sheri put on such a great concert and had the audience both laughing and crying! They went over on time to sing at the audience's request, and it was really appreciated!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day Nine Brought to You by the Letter T

Saturday was rainy and a pretty dreary day at Silver Dollar City, and the crowds showed it. Being the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, we expected pretty large attendance, but Isaac kept people from getting out to the park. However, we really enjoyed seeing both the Talleys and Triumphant Quartet!

The Talleys
I had the chance to see the Talleys in Little Rock in April, but Brian was sick that weekend. I was really looking forward to seeing the four sing together. However, when we got seated in the theater, I noticed only three microphone stands. So I missed seeing the entire group again, but the Talleys put on three great shows!

Lauren sang my favorite Talleys' song in the first two sets, "The Broken Ones." It's definitely one of my all-time favorite gospel songs. She was also featured on "A Promise" and "He's Alive." Love those songs as well!

Debra sang "Amazing Grace," and it was beautiful! She was also featured on "Talk to the Lord About It," which is from their latest project, Love Won. And it's one of my favorites from the album. They sang a few other songs from that album including: "Every Scar," "Broken World," and "Surely." Loved hearing these songs performed live!

They sang a number of crowd favorites as well: "Searchin'," "My Hope Is in the Lord," "Mountain Mover," and "His Life for Mine."

They ended their shows at Silver Dollar City with "Testify." I could see Roger motioning to someone at the side of the stage. It turned out to be Josh Singletary, Anthony Davis and Gary Casto with Tribute Quartet. They came out to join them on stage. The Talleys ended up going a little over on their time, but I don't think anybody minded! It was a fun way to end their afternoon there.

Triumphant Quartet
The rain did decrease the crowd some, but by show time people were definitely waiting to see Triumphant Quartet. I was very anxious to hear about baby Embry and see what they would do for a baritone singer. I was so glad to hear that Embry is doing great and at home, and Scotty was there for the concert. Embry was doing so well, so Kasey said she had plenty of help with her and for Scotty to go ahead and go on the road for the weekend.

Because Triumphant Quartet has a great sense of humor, they started the concert with "I Wish It Would Rain." Everyone stared laughing once they realized what song it was! They later said that was the wish for the next night! Even though it did start drizzling a little during intermission, the rain really held off for us!

During the first half, Scotty sang "Love Came Calling," which is one of my favorite Triumphant Quartet songs! I love it! Eric Bennett was featured on a song I had never heard them sing live, "Look for Me." Beautiful song, and great singing from Eric!

Of course, Clayton sang "Old White Flag." I always love watching for people who have never seen them as they sing this song. It's funny to watch them as everyone starts waving their white flags or tissues or whatever else they can find to wave. :)

Jeff Stice played two songs on piano, and it is no wonder he's been the fan favorite musician for several years running! I have to agree that he is the best in the industry when it comes to piano playing! They ended the first half with "He Is."

During the second half, Eric sang "Long Black Train." You can tell the crowd really loved hearing this song by their reaction.

Scotty talked about how Embry was doing in the second half. He said something that really stood out to me about how much better she was doing and how she seemed to be healed of the condition. He said, "I'm not amazed that God could do it, but that he would do it for me and my family." We all know that God can do anything, but it is such an amazing feeling when he does something amazing for you. Scotty then sang the song "The Great I Am Still Is." It was such a great moment and probably the highlight of the concert for me!

They sang a couple more and finished the night with "I'm Almost Home" after the audience requested they sing one more! This has happened most nights, that the audience wants the group to sing a little longer, and I was glad they sang a new song instead of doing another encore of a chorus of a previous song! This was one of my favorite nights in Echo Hollow! Triumphant is a great group! I can definitely see how they have been the fan favorite quartet several years in a row now!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Short Day Eight at Silver Dollar City

Isaac caused us to change our plans. We decided not to go to Silver Dollar City until the afternoon. Our family has followed Spoken 4 Quartet since they first formed, so we definitely did not want to miss them. We got to see all three of their shows and also the Collingsworth Family at night.

Spoken 4 Quartet 

This was my first time seeing Spoken 4 Quartet with new baritone singer, Steven Hickinbotham. I was anxious to see them, since Jeremy Wilkerson was the original baritone for the group. Steven not only lends his vocals to the group, but also plays the piano, which is a great addition. Spoken 4 made a great hire with him!

The quartet opened its first show with an a cappella arrangement of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness/ How Great Is Our God," which was great! :) They also sang "In the Garden" a cappella during their second show. I love hearing groups sing a cappella because it can really show you what a group is capable of vocally, and this group really shined on the a cappella songs!

They showcased bass singer Cecil Stringer's capabilities during each show. And each time he rattled the chairs and the speakers and everything in the theater! He's definitely one of the lowest in Southern Gospel and definitely that we have seen during the festival.

A song they sang that I had never heard before is "Give God Your Storm." This one features Jon Charles Taggart, lead, and has such a great message. I think this could be the song that really launches this group.

Jon Charles had Steven sing the song that he did when he auditioned with the group, "Who Am I." He played and sang it at the piano, and did an outstanding performance on it.

Another song that I love to hear them sing is "He's My Song," which tenor Brandon Britton sings.

Collingsworth Family
Silver Dollar City moved the concert to the largest indoor theater because of the weather. Kudos to Silver Dollar City for not canceling the concert and getting everything ready to go inside instead of in the amphitheater. But just because they weren't going to sing in the rain, didn't mean that we didn't have to wait in the rain... for an hour. Many people waited more than that, because we were probably at the halfway point of the line. Now, it wasn't raining extremely hard or anything, but the crowd that was there showed that they are some dedicated gospel music fans to wait in the rain!

That being said, I was really disappointed that instead of the usual hour and a half concert at night, it was only an hour. After standing in the rain waiting, I really was hoping that they would sing longer than we were waiting.

It has been since last year's gospel festival since I've seen the Collingsworth Family live. I was very impressed with Olivia this year. She seems to have really come into her own and turned out to be quite a singer. She sounds a lot like Courtney to me, which is a definite compliment. It seemed that the family is featuring her more as well.

The Collingsworth Family sang a number of songs from their Christmas project that they had just received. Phillip and Brooklyn sang "Silent Night," and it was gorgeous. However, the songs did seem a little out of place in August. But I guess not so out of place, since they just came out with a new Christmas album and wanted to showcase songs from it. Still it's August!

The highlights of the concert for me were "The Prayer" and "At Calvary." Brooklyn and Courtney played "The Prayers" on their violins. It was absolutely beautiful. I love the family's arrangement of "At Calvary," and it's what they ended the night on. Great song to end the concert on, but it ended too soon, if you ask me. I was really disappointed that they cut it short. We thought at first they were wrapping up for the intermission and not the end of the concert. The Booth Brothers earlier in the festival went over their time to show appreciation for the fans who waited in the rain, and you would think groups would tend to lean that way instead of cutting it shorter!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Day Seven of Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City

It's hard to believe that the festival is close to being over! With Isaac approaching, Thursday was probably the last nice weather day for a couple of days. We managed to see three groups today: the Taylors, Palmetto State Quartet and the Hoppers.

The Taylors

I think the Taylors are one of the most prominent up and coming groups in Southern Gospel. This was my first time seeing them since last year at Silver Dollar City. So this was my first time seeing them since Leslie left and Lindsey Graham joined them. Lindsey fits the group so well, and I think she could pass for a Taylor sibling. It's hard to beat that family blend and sound, but I don't think the group took a step back at all with Lindsey's addition.

The Taylors really shined on the a cappella River medley they did. Suzanne was featured on a song their mother wrote, "There is Power in the Blood." It is a beautiful song, and Suzanne was spot on!

Another a cappella song that they sang was "Old Camp Meeting Days" which showed off all members' vocals! One of the highlights for me was hearing them sing the classic "The Love of God."

Palmetto State Quartet
It has been several years since I've seen the Palmetto State Quartet live. In fact, I'm pretty certain the whole group has changed since the last time I saw them. Larry Strickland was not with the group.

Paul Lancaster has always been a stand out singer for me. I first saw him when he was with the Martins. The highlight of their set for me was the song, "A Moment of Grace," which featured him.

David Staton really impressed me as well. He reminds me a little bit of Gary LeVox with Rascal Flatts in his sound. Another stand out song for me was him singing, "Don't That Sound Like Heaven."

Another favorite in their set was "All Hail the Power." They put a new spin on this classic song.

They closed with "Living Like I'm Leaving." I couldn't help but chuckle a little as they turned the house lights on during the encore of the chorus so people could see as they left the theater. So they all started leaving during "Living Like I'm Leaving."

The Hoppers 
The Hoppers broke the record attendance for the year at Echo Hollow with 5,149 people. They sang several of their most well-known songs as well as some new ones from their most recent project. Here were the highlights for me:

  •  “Count Me In” and “I’ll Take You Home” – Both of these are songs from their latest project. From the sounds of these two songs, it’s going to be another dynamite album from the Hoppers. 
  • “I’ll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus” - Great classic song that they sing beautifully! 
  • “Something’s Happening” – This has become one of my favorites that they sing. I love Connie recitations during the song. The song has such a great buildup especially when they sing it live. 
  • “I’ve Come Too Far” – I love hearing Connie sing this song. She had Kim start the chorus again as only Kim Hopper can do. At the end, the audience was on its feet. 
  • “Jerusalem” – The audience stayed on its feet through this song, which they closed the first half with. 
  • “The Woman in my Little Girl’s Room” – I’ve always really liked this song, but never heard them sing it live. Kim and Dean went into the audience and found a couple of little girls and sang to them and their parents. It was such a sweet moment. 
  • “Shouting Time” – They outdid themselves on this song. They did several encores of the chorus at the audience’s request! It’s always a crowd-pleaser, and most of the crowd was on its feet from the first note to the last.