Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Moment of 2013

It's the last day of the year, and it's time to crown the top moment of 2013. On March 19, many of the artists and fans gathered together in Nashville in honor of Tracy Stuffle and the Perrys. After Tracy's stroke and medical issues early in the year, a benefit concert was held at Christ Church in Nashville to help their family not only financially but also through encouragement.

The entire night was available to watch via webcast, and the entire night was amazing, but one moment stood out above the rest. During the concert, Pastor Phil Hoskins asked the artists to gather around all the artists gathered around Libbi praying with their hands outstretched and the entire audience from their seats prayed with arms out as well. And as they finished, you could hear a voice from in the midst start singing. The voice was singing "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus," and then I realized it was Libbi. I have no idea if it was planned or not, regardless it doesn't take away from what an incredible moment it was.

In one of her and her family's darkest hours as believers gathered around her, Libbi poured her heart out in song with the words "Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word, Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know 'Thus saith the Lord." The words were heartfelt and filled with raw emotion. It was a moment that will always stand out in my mind. It's a great picture of faith and how in the midst of uncertainty the greatest praise can be offered but saying how sweet it is to trust in Jesus.

It was by far the top moment of 2013, and one that I will forever remember.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top Albums of 2013

I'm taking a short break from the top moments of the year countdown for a look at the top albums of the year. The #1 Top Moment will be crowned tomorrow!

Before I look at the top overall albums, let's look at what I consider to be the top albums from different categories. For this countdown, I'm only looking at albums I've reviewed this year that are mainstream releases from artists not specialty projects.

Top Soloist Albums -
1. Jason Crabb - Love Is Stronger
2. Devin McGlamery - Love is a Verb

Top Mixed Group Albums -
1. Bowling Family - Safe After the Storm
2. Karen Peck & New River - Revival

Top Trio Albums -
1. Beyond the Ashes - Living in the Moment
2. Greater Vision - For All He's Done

Top Quartet Albums -
1. Triumphant Quartet - The Greatest Story
2. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound - Glorious Day

When I review projects, I listen to it over and over and over. One of the defining aspects of a really great album is when I still want to keep listening to it. So here's what I consider to be the top 5 overall -

5. Revival by Karen Peck & New River - This album is full of great songs, several of them written by Karen Peck Gooch. The title song is one of my favorites that was released this year. Highlights include "Revival," "Everybody's Going Through Something," "You Did It Anyway," "Dancing Like Lazarus" and "I've Been Broken."

4. For All He's Done by Greater Vision - Only one song on this project was not written by a member of Greater Vision. There's not a weak song of the 10 songs on the project. It's solid and strong, exactly what fans have come to expect from this beloved trio. Highlights include "Looking for the Grace," "This Is Mercy," "I Can Trust You," "Seeking for Me" and "For All He's Done."

3. Safe After the Storm by The Bowling Family - This is the group's first project with Hope Bowling and Troy Peach as vocalists. The project speaks to the core of where this group is and how they have made it through the storm. Highlights include "Somebody's Believing," "I Know Enough," "I'm Glad I'm Saved," "That's What I Miss the Most" and "Just What I Need."

2. Living in the Moment by Beyond the Ashes - This is the first album review I did for this year, and this is one project I kept coming back to. It set the bar high with great ballads and uptempo numbers and even taking a nonsecular song and putting a Southern Gospel spin on it. Highlights include "Living in the Moment," "Over for Good," "When Love Whispers Your Name," "Peace in the Midst of the Storm" and "Oh the Thought that Jesus Loves Me."

1. Love Is Stronger by Jason Crabb - This project truly has something for everyone with many different genres being represented with the song selection. It shows the versatility of Jason as an artist and how he can widen the appeal of Southern Gospel with his reach. "That's What the Blood Is For" is one of the strongest songs released this year and is one of the more Southern Gospel songs on the project. While stylistically it might be different from strictly Southern Gospel, the messages of the songs are all gospel and all come together to show that "love is stronger." Highlights include "That's What the Blood Is For,""Love Is Stronger," "Let Mercy Hold You,""Satisfied" and "God's Up to Something."

Friday, December 27, 2013

#2 Top Moment of 2013 - Gaither Homecoming Concert

So this one might be a little bit more of a personal meaning to me as well. This year for the first time I got to go to a Gaither Homecoming concert. Yep, it was one of the highlights of the year for me.

The artists who were there that night were Gene McDonald, Charlotte Ritchie, the Nelons, the Isaacs and the Vocal Band. It was an incredible night of music!! It was great to see this lineup of the Vocal Band in person especially now with recent changes. The entire Vocal Band set was so amazing seeing that level of talent live.

The second half was a lot of fun and more all-sing style. I loved every minute of it. You can read more about the night here.

So I'm combining today's Fun Clip Friday with the top moment post to give you a glimpse into my favorite moment from the concert. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Top Moment #3 of 2013 - Libbi Perry Stuffle Standing Ovation

This is the last moment of the year from National Quartet Convention, and it's one that I'm sure not many people will forget. On the final night of NQC after the Perrys set, one of the longest standing ovations I've ever seen occurred in honor of Tracy and Libbi Stuffle.

Dean Hopper came up to the stage after the Perrys' set on Saturday night to say how much he appreciated Libbi's efforts to be there that week. The audience started clapping as Dean started talking, and before he could get out more than a few sentences, the applause took over. As evidenced from the webcast, it was several minutes of a standing ovation for the Stuffle family. At one point, Dean asked, "Are you through?" and more clapping started. She was able to FaceTime with Tracy and show him how much love the people were showing them. When the audience saw that Tracy was being FaceTimed it just kept going. The love, prayers and support for the Stuffle family evidenced in that moment definitely makes it a top moment of the year!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas! I pray that everyone is having a great day with family and friends celebrating the birth of our Savior.

I'll leave you with just a simple clip today of a medley of beloved Christmas carols from Karen Peck and New River.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

#4 Top Moment of 2013 - Greater Vision

The #4 Top Moment of 2013 was another one from Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic. This time it came courtesy of Greater Vision. The group sang on Sunday night in Echo Hollow. While the entire night was full of great singing by Greater Vision it was a moment where the entire audience joined in that was a highlight.

During the second half of the concert, Gerald Wolfe stated that they had several requests from people to hear hymns and to hear him play the piano. They decided to combine the requests and have Gerald play hymns on the piano. He took requests from different sections of the audience for hymns to play. He combined the hymns "He Touched Me," "Amazing Grace," "The Old Rugged Cross," "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" and "How Great Thou Art." As he started playing, the audience joined in and sang along. A choir of more than 3,000 voices in the Ozark Mountains got a glimpse of what Heaven will be like that night. It was an incredible time of worship with just voices, a piano and timeless hymns glorifying our God.

It was a moment that will definitely be talked about for years to come. Gerald stated that when they got on the bus that night that was what they would be talking about. They closed the night with "God Wants to Hear You Sing," and that night he heard a choir of thousands in a hollow in the Ozarks.

Countdown continues after Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

#5 Top Moment of 2013 - TaRanda Greene Testimony

The countdown of top moments continues with #5 of the year. This one occurred back in February when the Hoppers came to Central Arkansas. It wasn't the usual lineup of the Hoppers though. I was disappointed to see Kim not with them, but filling in for Kim was TaRanda Greene. While TaRanda's singing was incredible, it was her heart and her openness during her testimony that made the countdown.

It was the first time I had seen TaRanda in person since Tony's death. It was good to see her back on stage and singing. TaRanda shared her testimony that night of Tony's passing and her struggle with depression afterward. She was very honest about the place she had been and how God had helped her overcome it. She was having to take medications to wake up and go to sleep. She shared very candidly about her struggle with grief and understanding God's plan. As someone who followed their story, it was incredible to hear her share from the heart about her story since his death. It was not only a story of  how she had overcome the depression, but also of encouragement to others who might be going through the same thing.

I appreciated so much her willingness to share and talk about all she had gone through. It was great to see her back on stage again and to hear her open up about all she had been through.

Countdown continues tomorrow with Moment #4!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Hoppers Christmas

Happy Friday to everyone! Here's the last Fun Clip Friday post dedicated to Christmas. I'm not sure how old this clip is of the Hoppers from a Christmas concert. They get some audience members to help them out with "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Celebrating Christmas with Brian Free & Assurance - Concert Recap

Brian Free and Assurance came to Vilonia, Ark. last week for one of their last concerts of the year. I love
seeing groups around this time of year and hearing them sing Christmas song. The first half was full of Brian Free and Assurance favorites, but the second half was mostly Christmas music which I loved!

They started the night with "What a Beautiful Day" and then sang "If the Lord Says Do It." After that, they sang "Revival" another song from their latest project. It was good to hear Mike Rogers on this song. Still being relatively new to them, he's really sounding great with the group. This was only my second time to see them with Mike as baritone. 

Next, Jeremy was featured on "Have a Little Talk With Jesus." Jeremy was featured on several songs during the evening, more than you usually hear from him it seemed like, which was a good thing. 

They sang "I Will Be Praying" next, which is one of my favorites from Nothing But Love. Bill did an incredible job on this song. Brian talked about how so many times we don't tap into the resource God has given us by praying. He mentioned that when people come to them at concerts and ask them to pray for specific things how many times they will pray with them right then. I thought that was really unique and spoke to the character of the guys.

Next, they sang "I Want to Be That Man," another personal favorite. Brian talked about his dad and how he watched him and it was through his actions not only his words that he set a great example to follow. He asked the men in the audience what kind of legacy they would leave and said that the song was really a challenge to husbands and fathers.

Bill then sang "Anything Is Possible." Brian then sang the classic "O What a Savior," and he absolutely nailed it! They closed the first part of the concert with "Jesus Will Pick You Up."

The second half was mostly Christmas with "Strange Way to Save the World," "White Christmas," "Christmas Shoes" and "Do You Hear What I Hear." With all the snow and ice in Arkansas the week before, Brian teased about a protest before they starting singing "White Christmas." There wasn't a protest but I think I can speak for a lot of Arkansans when I say we're not looking forward to winter weather again anytime soon, or at least not as bad to trap us inside for days! Brian was incredible on "Christmas Shoes!!"

To close the service, Brian gave a little bit of his testimony how he was raised in a Christian home, but he got caught up in living the life that salvation was left out. He realized that he was as lost as someone who had never heard about Jesus. He said that his prayer was if he ever forgot the magnitude of salvation that he would be reminded. Then they sang "Remind Me of the Cross." I don't think I had ever heard them sing this live. Incredible song that features Jeremy!!

Then, they closed with the ever popular "Long as I Got King Jesus." It was a great night not only of worship, but also helped us even more in the Christmas spirit! "White Christmas" and all! 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

#6 Top Moment of 2013 - Michael English sings "Going Home"

Sometimes the best moments of the year are unplanned. This is the case with top moment #6. It's another one from the National Quartet Convention, and it's the performance of "Going Home" by Michael English.

On Saturday night of NQC, Michael English took the stage to sing "Going Home" backed up by Kim and Dean Hopper. Roger Talley accompanied them on the piano. This performance came only a few weeks after Michael lost his dad. His dad is the one who taught him the song and taught him to sing in general. It was an emotional song and a great tribute to Michael's dad. He sang the first part then stopped and shared about his dad, and then finished the last verse of the song. Michael nailed the song vocally!

Someone caught most of it on video. Watch below -

Monday, December 16, 2013

2013 Top Songs of the Year

With the end of the year quickly approaching, the year-end recaps and "top" lists are abundant. Today, I'm looking at the top songs of 2013. My top songs list is done a little differently. Like last year, I'm looking at the top five of the songs that went to #1 on the charts during 2013. I'm selecting what I think are the best from those 12 songs. So here they are -

5. "Calvary's Cry" (Brian Free & Assurance)/ "Good News From Jerusalem" (Tribute Quartet) - Yes, it's a tie. Sometimes I can be bad at making decisions, don't judge me. :) Southern Gospel music is nothing without the message of the cross and the resurrection. Both of these songs speak to the core of who we are as Christians. "Calvary's Cry" has such a powerful message of the cross and its invitation for salvation. "Good News From Jerusalem" has been a break-through song for Tribute Quartet. It's a fun upbeat song but lyrically it's also dynamite.

4. "I Got a Hold of God This Morning (Perrys) - The message of the song is simple, but executed so well by the Perrys. There's something to be said about a song that is simply about getting up in the morning and spending time with God. This song was named Song of the Year at the Singing News Fan Awards. When we focus on Him and approach Him through prayer, whatever we may be facing He will take care of and help us through it.

3. "Praise You in This Valley" (Browders) - The Browders are a group to keep your eye on in the coming year. This was one of two #1s they had this year. In the valleys of life, it's easy to question and doubt. The song reaffirms the fact that God has a plan and knows what's best even in the tough times of life. We can praise Him even in the middle of a valley.

2. "I Want to Be That Man" (Brian Free & Assurance) - This song might be my favorite Brian Free & Assurance song. It's such a great challenge to men specifically but also to all of us Christians to think about the legacy we leave behind. We want to be remembered as being ones who loved the Lord with all our hearts. Brian Free is known for his great ballad songs, and I have a feeling this will be one to stand the test of time.

1. "All Is Well" (Whisnants) - I talked about this song last week as one of the top moments of the year. Melissa Brady is the writer of the song. The thing I love about this song is how applicable it is. No matter what we are going through, we can learn to say "all is well" because God has it under control. In the little rough patches to the traumatic storms, God is still God, and He never fails. The song's message is timeless, and very well done by the Whisnants. To me, it's the #1 song of 2013.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Brian Free and Assurance

Last night I had the chance to see Brian Free and Assurance in Vilonia, Ark. It was a great night which you can read more about next week!

The group was supposed to be in Arkansas last weekend along with a couple of other places in the area that was hit hard last week by winter weather. In Central Arkansas, we were snowed in for several days. So when they started singing White Christmas last night, Brian was a little afraid there might be some protesting. Here's the clip below for today's Fun Clip Friday post -

Thursday, December 12, 2013

#7 Top Moment of 2013 - Melissa Brady and "All Is Well"

The #7 top moment of 2013 is another moment from NQC. At the Song of  Lifetime showcase, songwriters share the stories behind their songs. During this year's showcase, Melissa Brady shared about her song, "All Is Well" recorded by the Whisnants.

Melissa told about her grandfather being diagnosed with lung cancer and passing away when she was 16. Her mom at only age 40 had a massive stroke leaving her disabled. She lost her other grandparents and started to understand the love of God and what it means to say "all is well" when the storms come. After the Whisnants agreed to record the song, both of her parents were diagnosed with cancer. She went to be with her family, and while she was with her family Susan Whisnant sent her a prerelease of the CD. Melissa shared that her song came back full circle to her during that time. The words she wrote to encourage others provided encouragement to her. Then, the Whisnants came to sing the song and Melissa joined them at the end.

It was a beautiful heartfelt moment from Melissa and the Whisnants. It showed the impact a song can have even on its writer. They also sang and told a little bit about it on mainstage one night, but I loved this moment from the showcase.

Diana Brantley posted a clip from the afternoon -

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Testimony from Ian Owens

In mid-September, Megan Owens, wife of Ian Owens of Soul'd Out Quartet, was rushed to the hospital with a suspected brain aneurysm. The official diagnosis was hemorrhagic stroke. Thankfully Megan had a miraculous recovery only by the hand of God and was able to go home early October. Ian shared for the first time recently about Megan's miracle. Watch below!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top Moment #8 of 2013 - The Martins at Echo Hollow

Ok, the top #8 moment is a little sentimental for me. As a teenager I saw a group at Silver Dollar City's Echo Hollow that would start me on this journey of Southern Gospel music. This group inspired me to learn more about this industry, the music and the artists. The group that started it all for me was the Martins.

I saw the Martins for the first time more than 10 years ago at Silver Dollar City, and I had not seen them since then until this year back at Silver Dollar City and back in Echo Hollow. And they were just as fantastic as I remembered them being.

I don't have one really moment to highlight per se. There were many different songs that still stand out to me including a cappella songs like the doxology and a medley of hymns. However, one that I fondly remembered from that first night that they ended this night in 2013 on was "So High." It was a great end to a fantastic night that reminded me why I fell in love with this group and Southern Gospel music.

Here's one clip from that night's concert -

Monday, December 9, 2013

Top Moment #9 of 2013 - Mark Trammell Quartet's Tribute to the Couriers

The countdown to the top moment of 2013 continues with #9 this morning. This moment comes courtesy of the webcast from the National Quartet Convention. Mark Trammell Quartet's tribute to the Couriers goes down as not only one of the top moments of NQC but also of the year.

Mark Trammell started the group's set with "I Sing the Mighty Power of God." Mark mentioned that he saw the Couriers for the first time in the mid1970s at NQC. They impacted his life as well as countless other artists. The song was such an influence on Mark Trammell that it was included on the group's Lifetime project. Mark Trammell devoted most of his group's set to paying tribute to the group that impacted his life.

The Couriers, Duane Nicholson, Neil Enloe and Dave Kyllonen, were there, and Mark pulled them on stage. They were presented with plaques from NQC to thank them for all they had done for the industry with their upcoming retirement.

The Couriers then sang "Statue of Liberty" with Mark Trammell Quartet joining them at the end. It was such a great touching moment to remember the legacy of the Couriers.

Look for the countdown to continue the rest of the month!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Taylors

Happy Friday to you all! Arkansas is prepared for serious winter weather. I've always wanted to experience a white Christmas, but not sure about all this ice before Christmas.

For the Fridays in December, I'll be featuring "Christmasy" Fun Clip Friday clips. Here's this song by the Taylors on the "popular" Christmas fruitcake. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Top Moment of 2013 - #10 The Pfeifers

Last year I did a countdown of the top moments of the year that I saw either in person in concert or online via webcast. Today starts the countdown of my top moments of 2013. These are standout concerts, songs or testimonies that happened throughout the year. They will continue throughout the month. So here's #10 -

Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic always provides an incredible 11 days of great music, so it isn't often that a song from the first day of the festival still has you talking on the last day. However, that was the case this year. On the first day, the Pfeifers blew us away with their rendition of "It Is Well With My Soul."

John set up the song by telling about the writer of the song. He was going through one of the hardest times of his life when he wrote the song. They played the first part of the song with just the trumpet and sax. Then, they sang the last verse. We all sat there mesmerized as it gave us chills. The entire audience was on its feet, and most of them went to the next show hoping to hear it again.

I don't know that the video fully captures the moment and how incredible it was, but you should watch and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Transformation Tuesday - Arthur Rice

Arthur Rice started with the Kingsmen as lead singer in 1984. It was a position he would hold until 1989. Here's a clip of him with the Kingsmen from 1986.

Since then, he has become one of the standout lead singers in the industry. He's been nominated numerous times for not only Favorite Lead Singer but also Favorite Male Singer. It was easy to see even in 1986 how Arthur Rice would take his place at the top of the industry. But take a look at a clip from earlier this year to see his transformation -

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Music Released in 2013

Each year there are a number of Christmas albums released by Southern Gospel artists, and this year is no exception. I haven't had a chance to pick up or really listen to all of these yet, but they are all on my radar!

Madison and Shannon - Under the Mistletoe

Kingdom Heirs - The Heart of Christmas

Donna King - Song of Noel

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound - Christmas Live!

Jubilee - Christmas DVD and Acappella CD

The one I have gotten to list to a lot is Madison and Shannon's. They have a great pop countrish sound, but still with the Southern Gospel roots, so it definitely needed to be included in this list! It's an EP with five Christmas songs including some original music. It's available for digital download, and you won't regret it!

I've listened a little bit to Signature Sound's. I think a DVD will also be released with it. The music is incredible, but I love the live bits in it as well. 

I can't wait listen to and watch the others! Which Christmas projects are you excited about adding to your collection this year? Anyone missing from the list?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Jubilee Christmas

Happy Day After Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a great holiday yesterday. I was blessed to spend the day with family. Sometimes there's nothing better than quality time at your parents' house.

Today really marks the start of the full Christmas season. So today's Fun Clip Friday is a promo clip of Jubilee Christmas. For a limited time, you can order the Jubilee Christmas DVD and get a Jubilee Acapella CD for free! Visit any of the groups' websites for more information and ordering. I know I'm looking forward to both!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! May your day be spent with family and friends giving thanks for the blessings of life.

I pray that today especially we focus on the fact that "we are so blessed."

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Spoken 4 - Spoken 4 Quartet CD Review

I've been a Spoken 4 Quartet since day one of the group's formation. They formed in 2006 out of Branson, Mo. Being an avid Branson-goer, I was familiar with original members already from previous groups.

The group released their latest album entitled Spoken 4 earlier this year. I have to say, I think it's their best one yet. The project features 11 songs and nine of them brand new. The album was produced by Jeff Stice of Triumphant Quartet.

The album starts with "I Know I'm Going Home," which is also the first single. And I've been hearing it played a lot. It's a great uptempo song that features Cecil Stringer, bass singer. It's definitely one of my favorites and one of the highlights of the project. Something about it reminds me of the style of "I'm Still Feeling Fine." Another song where Cecil really shines and shows what an incredible bass singer he is is "Hold Me."

"It's Quite a Valley" is the same song that was previously recorded by Brian Free and Assurance. The instrumentation on this song is a little bit more stripped down than the Brian Free version, but it doesn't stray too far from that version. I like Spoken 4's take on it just as well as BFA's. It features Jon Charles Taggart, lead singer, but my favorite song of his on the project is "Back to Me." It's a beautiful song that tells the story of the prodigal son.

"That's Why He Died" is a great song with such a strong message. He was the only One who could be the perfect sacrifice for us. He knew how we would fail and still chose to die for us. Baritone Steven Hickinbotham sings this one. The song fits his voice so well! Another favorite for sure!

Tenor Brandon Britton really shines on "I Find No Fault in Him." The track of the song is simple to really showcase his voice and what he can do. It soars and builds at the end to make for a great song and arrangement!

"When the King Comes to Claim His Throne" is a personal favorite as well. It's a great song that really showcases the group's quartet-style singing. "We're in the Same Boat" is another great uptempo song.

Album Rating - 4 stars - There's no question to me that this a group to watch. This album is only further proof of what this quartet is capable of. The album is full of 11 great songs with a strong mix of uptempo and slower songs. If you're a fan of quartets, get this project. You won't be sorry!

Song List -
1. "I Know I'm Going Home"
2. "It's Quite a Valley"
3. "That's Why He Died"
4. "Back to Me"
5. "When the King Comes to Claim His Throne"
6. "I Find No Fault"
7. "We're in the Same Boat"
8. "Legend of the Fall"
9. "In the Valley I Can Hear His Voice"
10. "You'll Find Me There"
11. "Hold Me"

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Transformation Tuesday - Kim Greene Hopper

Kim Greene Hopper started singing with her family the Greenes in 1979. She was the soprano for the Greenes for 10 years before joining the Hoppers in 1989 after she married Dean Hopper. Even in her beginnings with the Greenes, you could tell she was going to be a powerhouse female singer in gospel music one day. Here's a clip from 1986 of Kim singing with her brothers Tony and Tim.

Kim has become one of the most awarded female singers in gospel music. Since 1997 she has been named the Favorite Soprano in the Singing News Fan Awards. She also also been awarded the Favorite Female singer more than 10 times. But she's still the same amazing singer she was in 1986, here's a clip from this year's NQC of her singing with the Hoppers.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Christmas CDs

I'm sure if you have been reading, you know I'm a huge Christmas fan. I love it all - the trees, the lights, the music, the Salvation Army bell ringers. You name something Christmas, I love it! I've been listening to Christmas music since the beginning of November. I have several Christmas albums that I love. Many familiar favorites that I listen to again and again. But more recently, I've been pulling out Southern Gospel artists' Christmas projects.

I would say the majority of groups in Southern Gospel have put out a Christmas album. So when you hear a gospel artist is putting together a Christmas project, what do you expect to hear? Do you want all traditional Christmas carols? Do you think it should be all religious songs? Are you looking for another version of "Winter Wonderland" or "Let It Snow" despite them not being Christian songs? Does it bother you for the secular Christmas songs to be on their projects?

So here's your Monday morning poll -

Friday, November 22, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - The Freemans

The Freemans are the latest group to join in the fun of doing a concept video. They released Voice in the Desert several months ago. Just this week the video for "Lead Me Home" has been pushed on social media. So here it is for today's Fun Clip Friday! Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Every Cry Is Heard - When Lyrics Speak

Confession time: my prayers have been consumed with myself lately. I've been worrying with what seem like big things to me, but deep down I know in the light of eternity, they aren't so big. When things didn't go completely the way I hoped, it was hard, but as my dad reminded me, "They can't eat you."

However, I'm so thankful though that "Every Cry Is Heard" by the Father. Jim Brady wrote this song with his dad in mind. What has been going on in my life seems so insignificant, but God hears it. When faced with disappointments and crossroads in life, He hears it all. Whether I need guidance about the future or am looking for answers of why things happened the way they did, he hears it all.

He is the One we can depend on to always give us peace and comfort. I love the second verse of this song that speaks of the peace that we can only receive from Him. No matter what you may be going through, He hears us and He will be there by our side.

While my "rough" patch can be so insignificant, He still hears. And more importantly, when I have tough times of uncertainty or great loss, He will be the same God then as well. He hears every cry, and His love is exactly the strength I need in all circumstances.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Transformation Tuesday - Hope Bowling

For many family groups, the children have the chance to make an appearance on stage at an early age. And for some of those kids, it's apparent from a young age that they have a bright future ahead of them. Today's Transformation Tuesday post features one of those kids - Hope Bowling. Hope just this year has taken her place in the Bowling Family singing alongside her parents, Mike and Kelly, and Troy Peach.

Here's a clip of her singing "Jesus Pilots My Ship" from more than four years ago. She had an incredible power voice even then.

Here's a clip of Hope from earlier this year. I have a feeling that she has only begun her transformation. I look forward to seeing a lot more from her in the years to come!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Erwins - Back to the Basics - CD Review

The Erwin Family is a young family group that consists of siblings Keith (21), Kody (19), Kristopher (17) and Katie (13). Earlier this year, they released a new project entitled Back to the Basics. This is the group's first release as a mixed family group with the addition of sister Katie.

Groups like this one make you certain that the future of gospel music is in capable hands. This group is full of up and coming talent. I had never listened to this group much. And just listening to the project you would never realize they are as young as they are.

The album is a collection of all familiar songs that have been done "Erwin" style. Some will be more familiar than others.

Lone sister Katie does an incredible job on "Send Me." It's a great uptempo song that shows what kind of vocal performance a 13-year-old girl can do.

Kody is the bass for the group and already has an incredible bass voice. I can't wait to hear what he sounds like in a couple of years. He was featured on the classic "Plan of Salvation" for his best feature on the album.

"He Didn't Have the Heart," which Keith and Kris sing, is one of my favorites from the project. These two are also featured on "In Good Hands," which is another strong song.

Another favorite is "When Justice Called, Mercy Answered." This is probably the highlight of the album.

I love the blend that these siblings have. This is especially evident on "That Very Moment," "Heaven's Jubilee" and "Every Question Will Be Answered." I like that they chose to close the album with "Heaven's Jubilee." It's a classic, older song, and it's great to see a fresh spin on the song. The group really shines in the convention type singing.

Album rating - 3.75 stars - After listening to this project, you will be confident that not only does the future of Southern Gospel have a great future, but also the traditional sound will not be lost. I would love to hear more from them with their own songs. The Erwins have an incredible sound already, I can't wait to hear more from this group in years to come.

Song List -
1. "Basics of Life"
2. "Every Question Will Be Answered"
3. "Plan of Salvation"
4. "Send Me"
5. "He Didn't Have the Heart"
6. "That Very Moment"
7. "For What Earthly Reason"
8. "In Good Hands"
9. "When Justice Called, Mercy Answered"
10. "Heaven's Jubilee"

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Jeff and James Easter

Jeff and James Easter recently went into the studio to record a special album Like Father, Like Son. The  duo had a number of special guest on the album including Wilburn and Wilburn, Gerald Crabb and Jason Crabb. They shot a video of the title cut from the project in the church that James Easter helped start in 1963. Take a look at that video for today's Fun Clip Friday!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A 2nd Look at 2nd Generation - Concert Recap

In Branson in August, I had the chance to see 2nd Generation as a duet. Sisters Brenda Denney and
Elaine Robinson from Oak Grove, Ark. made up the group. Sunday night I got the opportunity to see 2nd Generation again, but this time as a trio. The sisters have added fellow Arkansan Randy Barnes to the group since August.

Sunday night, the trio was in Cabot, Ark. and Randy's home church. It was the first time they had been to the church since he joined the group, which made it a special night for them.

Randy was experiencing some issues with his voice on Sunday night that they addressed from the platform. Despite that, the three of them are already sounding great together, and also seem to meshing well on stage together. They joked several times about having a Baptist guy traveling with two Pentecostal sisters.

Here's a list of what they sang -
  • "One More River"
  • "Trouble Me No More"
  • "Feel the Joy" - This is such a fun song that they get the audience involved in! They had everyone on their feet doing motions during the chorus of the song. They told the pastor not to watch, because people were about to move in church as they never had before. The pastor was on the front row, so they told him to just keep looking forward, Well, when it got to that part of the song, he turned around and stood on the front pew to watch! LOL
  • "One Day Closer" - This song has a great classic country sound that suits Elaine's voice so well!
  • "Hanging on a Nail" - I love hearing this song. It was my favorite when I heard them in Branson. Brenda absolutely shines on this song.
  • "Singing and Rejoicing"
  • "Come Too Far to Look Back" - Elaine sings this well-known Connie Hopper song, and does an incredible version herself!
  • "Waving on the Other Side" - This song featured Randy, and I'm sure the title is not correct. It was a great song, and I'm hopeful it's going to be a signature song for Randy with this group.
  • "Victory Is in Sight"
  • "Look Up for Your Redemption Draweth Nigh"
Brenda also took some time to tell about her Price Is Right experience. It really is an incredible story about how God blessed her!!

Brenda and Elaine both told about Randy and his heart for ministry. They really had not pursued finding a third singer for the group, but tried Randy out. I'm sure for Randy and the members of the church it was truly special to have him home. Even as an outsider, it was a memorable night of great music!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Transformation Tuesday - David Sutton

David Sutton is a founding member of Triumphant Quartet. He is not only an integral part of the fan favorite quartet, but he's also consistently named in the top tenors of the industry.

David began his career with the Anchormen in 1989. Here's a clip of the group with him from 1991.

Now here's a look at David today with Triumphant Quartet. He hasn't changed much in looks, but he's sounding better than ever!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Veterans Day!

Happy Veterans Day to all! I'm thankful for all those who have served and are currently serving our country and the sacrifices they make. This Veterans Day is a little more sentimental for me than most with my practically brother-in-law serving overseas now. I see first hand the sacrifices that are being made both by them and their family.

I'm thankful for the freedoms I'm able to enjoy both here in the U.S. and through Christ. So here's just a simple clip for today!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Cathedral Reunion

This weekend is the Cathedrals Family Reunion in Fort Worth, Texas. I definitely wish I could be there! I'm sure it's going to be a great weekend!

The Singing News did a number of videos with members of various groups when the reunion was announced. For today's Fun Clip Friday, here are just a few of them. The entire list of videos is on their website.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Stephens - Names You Might Not Know

The Stephens were another group that garnered attention at the National Quartet Convention in the
afternoon showcases. They had the chance to sing twice on the main stage at NQC. The group consists of Melody and Thom Stephens and Bethany, Melody's sister. Get to know a little bit more about this group -

Question - Did you grow up with a strong southern gospel influence? When did you first become interested in southern gospel?

The Stephens - Thom grew up with what he knew as "church music." He, like his dad and one of his sisters, sang in church growing up. It really wasn't until he was a senior in high school (1982) that he really became aquainted with Southern Gospel music. Melody and Bethany, being sisters, grew up singing together in their family group, The Givens.

Q - How did you get started singing and traveling?

The Stephens - We each sang with family growing up. We also sang in local groups for a period of time. Melody has been one of the most sought after sopranos in gospel music. She gave in to God's call in 1999 to become one of the most recognizable voices in gospel music as a soprano with the Nelons. Her position with the famed Nelons allowed her to sing on the very popular Bill Gaither Homecoming videos. She also has Dove Award nominations. Melody, her husband Thom and her sister Bethany started singing together as the Stephens almost six years ago.

Q - What's the one thing that you want people who walk away from your concerts to know about the Stephens?

The Stephens - We want them to know that we are real. We go through storms just like everyone else but we don't go alone. Because Christ is the center of our lives, we are never alone. We want them to be encouraged and if they don't have a personal relationship with Christ, we will gladly show them what the Bible says about being saved. Our goal for every singing is to encourage the believer and save the lost.

Q - Do you have a favorite song that you sing? And what song from another group has ministered to you?

The Stephens - One of our favorite songs that we sing right now is "My God Will Always Be Enough." This is a powerful song that ministers to us as well as those attending the services where we sing. It is on our LIVE CD that was just released. Many songs from other groups minister to us. Trying to pinpoint just one is very difficult. Many times the songs that really touch us just when we need it usually will be an old hymn of the church that some group has re-done. One that comes to mind is Jason Crabb's rendition of "I'd Rather Have Jesus."

Q - What artists have been your biggest influence (musically and/or personally)?

The Stephens - There are so many, a few would be the Nelons, the Isaacs, the Bowlings, the Martins, currently 11th Hour and the Collingsworth Family. This list could literally go on and on. I'm not sure of how much space you have. LOL

Q - What has been your favorite memory so far in your ministry? Do you have a certain concert that stands out?

The Stephens - Just recently we sang on the Regional Artist Showcase at the National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Ken. We won the daily event on that Tuesday and got to sing on the main stage that night. Winning on Tuesday allowed us to also sing on the Saturday showcase which was composed of all the 20 weekly winners. We won Saturday as well and got to sing on the main stage again Saturday night. The prize was a recording contract with a major record company. This truly was just a God thing and nothing that we can take credit for. We give Him all the honor and glory! However, the most memorable services that we have are those where someone comes to know Jesus as their personal Savior. This is what we pray for before we ever enter a venue to sing.

Q - What new things are coming up for the Stephens?

The Stephens - We just released our latest CD, The Stephens LIVE. It is turning out to be a huge success thanks to our affiliation with Morris Music Group and GAT3 Midsouth studios. We record on their Delta Sky Records label. Morris Music has released a song from our LIVE CD to radio. It's a new version of an old hymn, "Unclouded Day." It currently is #68 on The Singing News Top 80 chart. A brand new CD of all original songs is currently under way to be released some time in 2014. To learn more about us, visit our website at www.thestephensmusic.com. Please pray for our ministry! God Bless!

Thank you Stephens for taking time to answer all my questions!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Transformation Tuesday - Lauren Talley

I'm not sure this is a feature I'll be doing every week, but this is fun to go back and find older clips of artists. Today we're looking at one of the younger, but also more accomplished artists in the industry - Lauren Talley.

Lauren started making appearances on stage with her family at a young age. Let's take a look at one of those appearances from 1987.

She's held the soprano position with the Talleys since 1996. She won the Singing News Fan Awards Favorite Young Artist for several years. Lauren has not only been a stable with the group, but she also has released solo projects and more recently written a book. So let's look at Lauren Talley from a couple of months ago when they were in Arkansas -

Monday, November 4, 2013

When to start Christmas music?

Halloween is over, and the stores are already filled with Christmas decorations, candy and music. I think I've said this before, but I love Christmas. I love everything about it. On November 1, all systems are go for Christmas music. And my Christmas tree will be up early next week.

But when you go to Southern Gospel concerts, do you expect to hear Christmas music already? I'll just be honest if you are TaRanda Greene or Gerald Wolfe and want to sing "Oh Holy Night" in July during a concert, I'm perfectly ok with that. On the other hand, I've been a concerts in August when the group was about to release a Christmas project and most of the concert was Christmas. I'm ok with one or two if it's out of season, but not a full concert.

So what are your thoughts? Are you an after Thanksgiving person or can you listen to Christmas music year round?

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Nick Trammell On the Couch with Fouch

Matt Fouch is known not only for his great bass singing, but also his great interviews. He started a YouTube series called "On the Couch with Fouch" when he was with Soul'd Out Quartet. He interviews various gospel music personalities. Check out his latest interview with Nick Trammell for today's Fun Clip Friday.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Update on Tracy Stuffle

Libbi posted this incredible update last night on Tracy's condition. We have truly seen God's hand at work in their lives over the past nine months. And yesterday, there was another giant leap in Tracy's road to fully recovering.

OK, finally a few minutes to sit down and do an update before heading to bed! It was a long day and tiring for Tracy, but we are rejoicing in the Lord that the pulmonary doctor took Tracy's trach OUT today!!!! We were expecting him to tell us it had to stay in a while longer, but he didn't!!!! Tracy is so excited!! His voice will be weak for a couple of days until the hole heals up, but I think he's already sounding stronger!! Gooooooo GOD Goooooo!!!!! We praise You Sweet Jesus!!!!! Another miracle!!!!!!!

The other doctor's appointments went good. They have Tracy schedule to do another swallowing test Tuesday, Nov 5 at 1 pm. We are trusting God with an excellent report on this procedure also!!! So please believe with us for another miracle!!! Tracy did get a flu shot. His doctor highly recommended it. I will probably go to Walgreens and get one for myself in the next day or so.

You know, Tracy has been a little more open about his feelings and to prove it, today he told me, I CAN'T DRIVE!!! He HATES and I mean HATES with all capitol letters my driving!!!! We were in a hurry because our first two appointments ran over and we were late to the pulmonary doctor's appointment so I was having to drive a little faster than most times. And, then you have all these drivers who are out for a Sunday afternoon drive and nobody is in the world but them. He yelled at me and said, IF YOU DON'T STOP DRIVING BAD I AM NOT GONNA STRAIGHTEN UP, I AM GONNA LEAN OVER AS FAR AS I CAN IN MY CHAIR!! I am all the time telling him to straighten his head and his body, because sometimes when he's tired he slumps over some. If any one knows of a good driver, let me know!!! LOL

Well, I really need to go to bed. But, before I go I want to thank Tim Dillman and Olan Witt of Coach Quarters for taking care of the bus and keeping it rolling on the road! Olan and his staff are working on the back lounge of our bus to fix Tracy a bed that elevates the head and knees so he can start going with us! He will not be able to do a full 4 day weekend, but we are gonna ease into a couple of days. We don't won't to over do with him, but he told me he doesn't like being left at home while I'm gone on the road. Please pray God will bless both of these guys richly and more than they can contain for sticking by their friend and helping bear the burden of keeping a bus on the road!! We love you guys more than you can know!!!

Oh, one more thing!! :0) Tracy's solo CD is now available on our website www.perrysministries.com. It's called, The Best of Tracy! I love the album!!! I realized after listening to it that Tracy is very under-rated in his singing!! The CD is loaded with great songs from past recordings that Tracy sang. My favorite of all the songs is the old song, How Much More!!! Wow, he rocks this song!!!!! Go order your copy now!!! Christmas is around the corner and they would make great gifts for any Gospel music lover! There's also a "SPECIAL" going on too with his CD and our latest: The Perry's Greatest Hits.

Dear Lord, What an incredible day You gave us!!!! Another MIRACLE!!!! How can we ever thank You enough for the all You have done? It's amazing to stand back and watch You work!! Sometimes Your hand is hard to see, and then there's other times it's in plain view!! We praise You for ALL things You have done over the past 9 months!!! As Tracy said tonight when he was praying, You are an awesome God!!! Lord, just keep on doing Your thing!! We will try to stay out of Your way and trust YOUR plan and YOUR will!!! Hands go up in praise, honor and glory to You and all You've done and gonna do!!!! I love You!!!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Transformation Tuesday - Brian Free

Transformation Tuesday has become a social media trend (along with Throwback Thursday and all the other days of the week themes), but I thought it might be fun to look at some transformations Southern Gospel style.

For better or for worse, it seems that everything today is captured on video. Young kids today don't stand a chance of forgetting those awkward years thanks to cameras in smart phones. And thanks to the Internet, videos that were taken decades ago can resurface online. So I decided it might be fun to take a look at some of these transformations. Some might be still young artists who have practically grown up before our eyes on stage, while some will be seasoned artists.

For today, let's look at Brian Free. He started with Gold City in 1982. He sang with them until 1993 when he started Brian Free and Assurance.

I think this first clip is around 1983 featuring a 20ish-year-old Brian Free.

Now here's a look 30 years later at Brian Free. Quite a transformation into one of southern gospel's most loved tenors!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mark Lowry and Michael English Leave the Gaither Vocal Band

Updated - Both Mark Lowry and Michael English are leaving the Gaither Vocal Band after trying to balance solo careers and Vocal Band duties they both feel it is in their best interests.

Mark Lowry confirmed this morning in a video on Facebook that he is in fact leaving the Gaither Vocal Band. He said that he wanted to slow down and do more solo dates.

Lowry was with the Vocal Band from 1988 - 2001 and then returned in 2009. He will be with the group the rest of the year. He will also do events like the cruise and Family Fest in the future. Lowry also said that the Martins will be touring with him in the spring.

Michael English has already concluded his last regular Gaither Vocal Band concert as lead singer, but he also will be at Gaither Fest and other future events. He was with the group from 1985 to 1994 and then rejoined when Lowry did in 2009.

Gaither's press release included a statement from Bill Gaither.
“I am grateful that we have had five bonus years with these incredibly talented artists. Thank you, thank you to Michael and Mark. For those of you who have followed the Vocal Band for the past 25 years, you know that I have worked with some of the most talented male vocalists in our field, and I promise you we are not going to let that standard down in this transition. I am sad to see Michael and Mark leaving, yet I am so excited about the new possibilities we are considering. So stay tuned for an exciting voyage in 2014! We will update you when we have made final decisions.”
On a personal note, I had the chance to see the Vocal Band for the first time this spring. This lineup was absolutely incredible together, especially live. Mark and Michael will definitely be missed!

Here's the full release from Gaither.

Song Lyrics Gone Wrong

Ok, please tell me I'm not the only one. You're driving along in the car listening to a song you've heard dozens of times before and singing along only to realize that you've been singing the wrong words all along. And sometimes, your words really don't even make sense. I think I can safely say, it happens to many of us. I mean, it also happened to Phoebe from Friends.

So I thought it would be funny to share just a few of these song lyric gone wrong moments that have happened for me -

"Bread Upon the Water"
Real lyric - "Growing comes from planting seed..."
What I heard - "Growing comes from cleansing... " Because of course you should cleanse the seed before planting, right?

"Sailing on Home"
Real lyric - "Tho the seas may roll..."
What I heard - "Tho the seas may roam..." Seas just roam away, right?

"Joy in my Heart"
Real lyric - "God took those worldly desires..."
What I heard - "God took those whirly desires..." Those whirly, spinning desires are the worst, right?

"I'm Living in Canaan Now"
Real lyric - "Living up with Jesus in Canaan right now..."
What I heard - "Living up with Jesus in Canaan bright land..." Canaan has to be bright because Jesus is there, right?

"We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown"
Real lyric - "When my feet strike Zion..."
What I heard - "When my feet start sighing..." Because everyone's feet are tired when they get to Zion, right?

So please tell me I'm not the only one! Feel free to share your song lyrics gone wrong moments in the comments!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fun Clip Friday - Preview of Under the Mistletoe Madison and Shannon Easter

I love Christmas. Let me say it again, I LOVE Christmas! It's my favorite season; yes, it deserves its own season. I would listen to Christmas music year round if I let myself. I try to wait until Nov. 1 though. One Christmas project that will be on my list to get this year will be Madison and Shannon's Under the Mistletoe. 

For todays' Fun Clip Friday, check out this preview of their EP that will be available on Nov. 5!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Everybody's Going Through Something - When Lyrics Speak

I work for a hospital, and as silly as this sounds some days it's easy to forget that. Other days it hits me square in the face. I work in an area that generally doesn't have much patient interaction. However, people in the buildings around me every day are hurting, fighting for their lives or even losing that battle. Yesterday was one of those days where it really hit me after hearing a young girl's story. Then, I was grocery shopping after work and had a woman who was stranded ask me if I could help her out with any money.

It's so easy to forget that everyone around us regardless of where we work or live is going through something. We can become so complacent or caught in our own little worlds that we forget to look at those around us. The song that kept coming to mind yesterday was "Everybody's Going Through Something" by Karen Peck and New River.

This song was written by Karen Peck Gooch, Kenna West and Don Poythress and is on New River's latest release Revival. The song starts out talking about a woman barely making ends meet, then a man who has been broken. The chorus of the song says that everyone is going through something and everyone faces storms, but I would sure rather go through something with Him.

How many times do I hear stories like what I heard yesterday and not think about whether or not they have God to help them through it? I'm so thankful that when the "storms come and waters rise" in my own life, that I have Him to lean on. The song talks about not having to walk along and when life seems uncertain, God will see us through.

It's so easy to get caught up with ourselves and concentrate on the trials or even what we consider trials in our own lives and forget that we have a hurting world of people around us. And those people might not know the God that we know. How much better would we treat people or interact with people if we thought of them in this way? And to remember that in all of their hurting, they might have the same hope we have in Christ? My prayer is that I think of people more in this light and not be as quick to judge. I know if "everybody's going through something, I'd rather go through something with Him."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Safe After the Storm - Bowling Family CD Review

On July 1, 2010, the Bowling Family changed forever. The bus accident they survived that afternoon would forever mark the group's ministry. That afternoon they not only gained first-hand experience of the power of prayer and God's healing, but they also gained a new perspective for their ministry. Every time they get on stage, they now have a chance to tell that they are "safe ... after the storm."

The album Safe After the Storm released on Oct. 1, and it's a testament to what they have gone through and how they are now celebrating how much they have overcome. The album is their first mainstream release since the accident. And I have to say, it was worth the wait!

It's also the first project with the current lineup of Mike and Kelly Bowling, Hope Bowling and Troy Peach. I love hearing these four together! And after hearing these 11 new songs, I'm sure you will to.

The album starts off with one of its most powerful songs "Somebody's Believing." The song penned by Kenna Turner West, Lee Black and John Darin Rowsey not only speaks to how there were people believing and praying after their bus accident but also with Mike's recent health scare with his voice. Mike takes the lead on this song, and knocks it out of the park.

"Drinking From the Well" has a different more progressive sound to it, but I really like it! It has a definite country feel. The song features Kelly, but I have to say my favorite song of Kelly's is "I Know Enough." I have a feeling it's one that is going to become a mainstay for Kelly to stage. I can also hear this one going to radio.

Hope gets the feature on "Everything's Gonna Turn Out Right." The song was written by Becky Isaacs Bowman and Sonya Isaacs Yeary. She does an incredible job on this song that suits her really well. She definitely shows that she belongs on stage with the group.

Troy takes the lead on "When All I Can Cry Is Holy."  It's one of the slower songs on the project. I love the message of this song, and Troy reminds you of how glad you are to hear him singing full time again.

Another slower song is "That's What I Miss the Most." The song really hits Mike's sweet spot with vocals, but Hope also shows off some incredible harmony skills on the chorus.

"Just What I Need" is another favorite of mine. Both Kelly and Hope take a verse of the song. It has a strong country feel with a great message that He really is all we need. "I'm Glad I'm Saved" is a great uptempo song. Kelly takes the lead on this one that is a great song live!

The group brings back "God Sent Angels" that Mike sang with the Perrys to close the album. He also co-wrote this song. I'll confess this song had escaped me, so I really wasn't that familiar with the first version, but this one is definitely worth a listen!

Album Rating - 4.75 stars - This is a don't miss album this year. It's definitely one of the top releases this year. The song choices for the project are amazing. There's not one song that I found myself skipping. The album truly is a celebration of being safe after the storm, and with this record I have a feeling there will be many more celebrations to come.

Song List -
1. "Somebody's Believing"
2. "Drinking From the Well"
3. "That's What I Miss the Most"
4. "Everything's Gonna Turn Out Right"
5. "Victory's Coming"
6. "I Know Enough"
7. "Come Along Let's Fly"
8. "Just What I Need"
9. "I'm Glad I'm Saved"
10. "When All I Can Cry Is Holy"
11. "God Sent Angels"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Southern Gospel Radio

Arkansas is lacking when it comes to Southern Gospel radio. There is an AM station that I can pick up sometimes, mostly in the morning driving to work I can count on it. Other times, not so much. And there's some Christian country mixed in where it's not really strictly Southern Gospel. However, I do enjoy listening to JoyFM through the station's app on my iPhone. Pretty much every morning, I'm listening to JoyFM while getting ready. And when I go to Branson or in the Ozarks, I enjoy that I can pick up KWFC.

With technology now, you don't necessarily have to listen to radio at all anymore, especially with the sometimes lack of local stations and the technology that gives you many more options. Some apps or websites now allow you to have some say in what songs or artists you listen to. So I'm curious to know, do you listen to Southern Gospel radio? If so, how?

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fun Clip Friday with Old Paths Quartet

Happy Friday to all! Hope everyone has had a good week!

For today's Fun Clip Friday, we're looking at Old Paths Quartet. This clip was taken at Silver Dollar City last year during the park's Southern Gospel Picnic. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Spoken 4 Quartet and the Representatives Quartet - Concert Recap

Friday night I had the chance to see the Representatives Quartet and Spoken 4 in Searcy, Ark. I saw the Representatives for the first time earlier this year when they opened for the Kingsmen in Beebe. They are an Arkansas-based group, and Arkansas is glad to have them.

The group consists of Brian Wilson, his sons Ryler and Chantry, Sam Riley, Ronnie Faith, Donnie Faith and Gregg Thurman. One thing that really stands out about this group is the live music aspect. Most of the time singing to tracks doesn't bother me. I don't even think about it, until I see a group who does it all live. The group has a number of instruments on stage.

The group has incredible young talent as well with Ryler and Chantry. Ryler's voice has a maturity far beyond his teenage years, and he is a great piano player. Chantry is already handling playing the drums and being the featured singer on a few songs at a young age.

They sang a number of familiar songs including "Beautiful Home" (personal favorite of mine by the Kingsmen) and "Hallelujah, I'm Ready." They also did "Power in the Blood" instrumentally that was great!

The one song they sang with a track  was "Here Comes the Lamb." Beautiful song and a highlight of their set, tracks and all! They closed the night with "We Will Sing a Happy Song."

Spoken 4 took the platform next. They started the night with "You'll Find Me There" from their latest project. Then Steven Hickinbotham was featured on "Hold a Clear Title to a Mansion."

One of the things I love about this group is hearing them share their hearts on stage. Each of them took time to share a story or testimony from his heart. Jon Charles Taggart talked about how he could identify with the story of the prodigal son because of how he had strayed from God as a teenager. He sang the song "Back to Me" that is based on that story. Beautiful song, and Jon Charles does a great job on it!

They sang several of my favorites including "Try a Little Kindness," "I Know My God Can Do It," "I  Know I'm Going Home" and "Hold Me." They also sang the classic "Beulah Land" with Steven accompanying them at the piano. They did the last chorus with just their voices, and it was beautiful! Steven also gave his testimony and sang "Who Am I" with just the piano.

They also sang "Rainbow of Love" that allowed Cecil Stringer to show off how low he could go, and believe me it's low! Brandon Britton also got to show his range with a high note at the end. Brandon was also featured on "I Find No Fault in Him," which is a favorite from their most recent project! He spoke before the song about how we need to stop tearing each other down as Christians and work to love one another more.

Jon Charles talked about how we have given up so much ground as Christians, we almost have nothing left to stand on. As Christians, we need to take a better stand for the truth and stand our ground. And then they ended the night with "We Believe." This is one of my all-time favorite songs they sing!

It was a great night of gospel music! If either group is close to your area, don't miss them!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2013 Dove Award Winners

The 2013 Dove Awards were last night in Nashville. This is the first time they have been back in Nashville in several years, and the first time they have been in the fall. Typically it has been held in April. Last year, Jason Crabb took home several of the "big" awards of the night. So let's see who the night's winners were this year -

Southern Gospel Performance of the Year - "That's What the Blood Is For" by Jason Crabb
Producer of the Year - Ed Cash (producer on Jason Crabb's album)
Inspirational Song of the Year - "Satisfied" by Jason Crabb
Southern Gospel Song of the Year - "What the Blood Is For" by Jason Crabb
Bluegrass Song of the Year - "He Washed My Soul" by The Little Roy & Lizzy Show
Country Song of the Year - "From My Rags to His Riches" by Devin McGlamery
Inspirational Album of the Year - Love Is Stronger by Jason Crabb
Southern Gospel Album of the Year - Canton Junction by Canton Junction and Pure and Simple by the Gaither Vocal Band
Bluegrass Album of the Year - The Gospel Side of Dailey & Vincent by Dailey & Vincent
Country Album of Year - Eyes Wide Open by Jeff & Sheri Easter

Jason Crabb still came away a big winner with four Dove Awards. Great to see Devin McGlamery pick up an award on his first solo project! I was also pleased to see Jeff and Sheri walk away with Country Album. For a full list of the winners, go to the Dove Awards website.

The awards show is a little bit unusual, because even though it was held last night it will not be broadcast until Monday, Oct. 21 on UpTv (formerly the Gospel Music Channel). Check local listings for a time. I think a number of Southern Gospel artists had performances, some in a tribute to Bill Gaither according to social media.

What did you think of awards? Any big surprises for you?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Names You Might Not Know - Emmaus Road Quartet

Another showcase group that won its way to the main stage of National Quartet Convention was Emmaus Road Quartet. They are based in Dalton, Ga, and was established in 2003. The group consists of Greg Witt (tenor), Scott Marshall (lead), Adam Bradford (baritone) and Brandon Barry (bass). Get to know more about Emmaus Road.

Question - When did you become interested in singing Southern Gospel music? What are some of your earliest memories of Southern Gospel?

Greg Witt - I was raised up in Southern Gospel music thanks to my wonderful parents. My dad was a pastor and played the guitar, and my mom was the singer of the family. All of the children played an instrument, sang or both. My older brother really adapted to the music side and began teaching me and my nephew to play. I adapted more to the singing side and took after my mother. My favorite memories of gospel music was when I got to go to the Memorial Auditorium to see Big Jim Hammil and the Kingsmen Quartet. I was amazed at how he was just the general of the stage and how he utilized every member of the quartet and band throughout the evening. I was always amazed, that no matter what other group was on the card, when they took the stage, you remembered the Kingsmen Quartet.

Q - How did you get started as the Emmaus Road Quartet? How long have you been singing?

Greg - I played for several different groups until I was 19 years old, that’s when I started my first group with my older sister and my best friend. But before that, I played bass guitar for a male quartet from Chattanooga, Temn. called the Happy Harmony Quartet and absolutely fell in love with quartet singing. I was really fascinated with the tenor singer, and secretly wanted to sing but they never knew I actually sang. After my first group disbanded, I took a year off and started up Emmaus Road Quartet. It’s been 10 years now and slowing down is not in our future. And hey, I finally got to start singing tenor! LOL!

Q - How did you come up with the name the Emmaus Road Quartet?

Greg - During the year I was off, I was really searching what God had in store for me. I met another guy a couple of counties away, and ironically, he had been in the same boat. He was in the process of starting a quartet, all he had was a lead and baritone singer. Well, all I had was a tenor and a bass singer. Me and him met, prayed a lot and really sought God's will for us. He actually suggested the name, and I loved it. I mean after all, he and I were both on a road, both kind of disappointed and both wondering why God wasn't putting this together for us. Well, after he and I met, we met with the Lord, and it’s like it all fell in place.

Q - Do you have a favorite song that you sing? And what song from another group has ministered to you?

Greg - One of my favorite songs to sing is "I Got My Healing Today."  I wrote this song during a funeral of a friend of mine who fought a battle with brain cancer for two years. This song came to me in about three minutes, and I’ve never wrote a song that has touched so many people across the country. It was nothing that I done, it was all God. But I believe his promise that one of these days, we will all get our eternal healing.

Q - What artists have been your biggest influence (musically and/or personally)?

Greg - Jim Hammil, George Younce and a good friend of mine Rick Price. I loved watching Jim and George and the way they could just keep the attention of the audience. Rick was the first person who really opened up and taught me all he knew about the business side of music ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still learning, but he really taught me a lot about expanding our ministry to a full-time ministry from just a local weekend group.

Q - What has been your favorite memory so far in your ministry? Do you have a particular concert that stands out?

Greg - It’s got to be without a doubt a service from this past August. We were at Pathway Baptist in Ooltewah, Tenn. with Pastor Mark Smith. God just showed up during that concert, and nine people got saved. There were even people getting saved out in the parking lot, it was amazing.

And on a different note, our first appearance this past September on the main stage during quartet night at the National Quartet Convention during the final year in Louisville was a memorable event as well. I think about every Southern Gospel group dreams of singing on that stage, and for us it became a reality that night.

Q - What new things are coming up for the Emmaus Road Quartet?

Greg - We’re working on a new project right now which is mostly older quartet style songs. It’s gonna be filled up with all kinds of good harmonies. We’re also doing a lot of studio work with other groups with Emmaus Road Records. And we want to do our first Western tour this next year as well. That’s all exciting, but in the future, we will be having our own brand of men's conferences. It’s still a ways off, but it’s in the works. I guess that’s what I’m the most excited about.

For more on Emmaus Road, check out their website at http://www.emmausroadquartet.com. Thanks Emmaus Road for taking time to answer all my questions!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Beginning and Ending With the Cross - Bowling Family Concert Recap

Bowling Family - Troy Peach, Hope, Kelly and Mike Bowling
I had the chance to see the Bowling Family last Thursday night in Benton, Ark. The thing I love about seeing this family in person is that they don't come to have a concert, they come to have church. Yes, I had just seen them the week before when Kelly spoke at a women's conference, but they didn't have a full night, so I didn't want to pass up the chance to worship with this sweet group again!

So during concerts I make notes on my phone. For the second time since I've been blogging, the note just disappeared from my phone. NOWHERE to be found! So my apologies for the lack of details, I'm going strictly from memory here!

What I do remember was the focus of the cross. They started the night with "I'll Be Alright as Soon as I Touch Calvary" and ended with "I Still Glory in the Cross."

Most of what they sang came from their latest project Safe After the Storm (Look for a CD review coming soon!).  Kelly was featured on "I Know Enough," which is one of my favorites from that album. They also sang the bluegrass-flavored "Victory's Coming." Mike took the lead on "That's What I Miss the Most." "Come Along Let's Fly" featured Troy Peach, and Hope sang "Everything's Going to Turn Out Right." They are staging a lot from the new album, which is a testament to how strong of a project it is! It's great to hear them doing all these new songs. And I can't say enough about how big of a fan I am of this lineup. They made such a smart move to bring both Troy and Hope up to round out the group when Terah left. The four of them are sounding great together!!

Mike sang a couple of Hinson songs like "That I Could Still Go Free" and "He Can." Hope played her guitar on those. It's great to see them adding another live instrument in the mix!

The younger Bowling girls also got to show off their vocal skills on "Accentuate the Positive." I am so impressed with how well they sound together!

A Bowling Family concert would not be complete without "Your Cries Have Awoken the Master." Kelly talked about the wreck, and shared with the audience how God delivered them and how they were now more than ever determined to lift up the name of Jesus.

They closed the night with "I Still Glory in the Cross." Kelly talked about how we would be nothing with the cross. She sang the second part of the first verse that Terah had sung previously. Then they went into the hymn, "The Old Rugged Cross." John Jeffrey sang the verse, then had the congregation join in. I knew that John sang, but can't remember hearing him by himself much. He has a great voice, and it was good to hear him featured!

It was a great night of worship with the Bowling Family that was all about lifting up the name of Jesus, centered about what He did for us on the cross.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fun Clip Friday with Mark Trammell and Ricky

Mark Trammell Quartet posted this video on the group's YouTube channel a couple of weeks ago. The video was taken on the 2013 In Touch Cruise to Alaska. Happy Fun Clip Friday to you all! Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Browns - Love Loud CD Review

The Browns have all grown up, but they still possess a youthful sound that brings something different to Southern Gospel. They released their latest project Love Loud  in late August.

This is their first mainstream release with Shelly, Michaela, Adam and Andrew Brown. The Browns really do have a fresh sound that's not your typical Southern Gospel, but I think they have a great chance of attracting new, younger fans to gospel music.

Michaela really shows off her female vocalist skills on the opening song and title track "Love Loud." However, I think my favorite song that she is featured on is "Everything Changes." It's one that I found myself playing in my head long after I stopping listening to the project.

Another one of my favorites is "Rock and Redeemer." Adam is featured on this song, and it's their first single from the project. I really enjoyed hearing them sing this song live in Branson! It's fun uptempo song that also has a great message.

"Street of Gold" is like nothing I have ever heard on a Southern Gospel project, but I like it. It definitely has a pop/ rock feel to it. The song features Andrew. He's not a kid anymore and his voice definitely shows that!

One of the two slower ballad songs is "The One Who Still Works Miracles" which allows the matriarch of the Browns, Shelly, to really shine.

Another standout to me on this project is "River in the Rain." I knew I had heard the song before and thought it might be a CCM song or one that was done by a secular group. But then I figured out (with Google's help) that it is one I had heard before from Beyond the Ashes. Love the Browns version of song. Adam does a great job on it.

And of course, the Browns include an instrumental song "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name." Great arrangement that showcases the siblings' violin playing!

Album Rating - 4 stars - This project really shows where the Browns are. Musically their voices have really matured, but they still have the youthful appeal to recruit young gospel music fans. The project represents a lot of different styles and a more progressive sound. But don't let some of the styles on the project deter tried and true traditional gospel fans!

Song List -
1. "Love Loud"
2. "Rock and Redeemer"
3. "The One Who Still Works Miracles"
4. "The Captain's Got It Under Control"
5. "Street of Gold"
6. "Everything Changes"
7. "A Place in the Choir"
8. "The Water Is Calling"
9. "Fishers of Men"
10. "River in the Rain"
11. "This I Know"
12. "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name/ Crown Him With Many Crowns"

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

This Is Your Moment - When Lyrics Speak

This weekend I had the chance to attend a women's conference in Russellville, Ark. The speaker for the evening session was none other than Kelly Bowling. It was great to hear Kelly in that setting. I had heard her give her testimony several times, but not at a conference and not in the details she shared. I really appreciated her willingness to open up and share with all the women there.

Of course, a large part of her testimony was about the accident. She shared how God had been faithful through every moment during the accident, their recovery and even now in their ministry. It was during the roughest time of their lives, that God showed His power.

Another lady shared at the conference of her reoccurring battle with cancer. Each time God had seen her through and she continued to have faith and believe that God would continually show His power in her life.

As Christians, many times we are quick to recognize the omnipotence of God. We believe that God is able to do above and beyond all that we can think or imagine, but it's often during the hardest times in our lives that God really shows that power.

A song that the Bowling Family sings is "This Is Your Moment." The song talks about being bogged down with burdens and heartaches and believing that God will show up in that moment and show His power and mercy as only God can do. I couldn't help but think to how in both testimonies how God was most glorified through the hardest of situations. It's in our weakness that His power is perfected. It's during those most trying of circumstances that God is most glorified for how He is able to move in a situation if we just trust Him.

While we can see God in everyday life, those really aren't the moments that people testify and talk about over and over. When someone hears a story of a miraculous healing or a life being spared through a situation only God could orchestrate, that turns heads. It gets people's attention. The moments that can cause the most pain are also ones that can bring God the greatest glory. It can be His moment to step out and show what only God can do, to show His power and to draw people to Him.

The song is a great reminder that no matter what you are going through. Don't look at it as another valley or storm for you to get through, but as an opportunity for God to show His power. Look at it as a chance for you to come out on the other side only stronger, testifying how this was God's moment to shine.