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?