Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Justin Wells Resigns from Lesters

According to the Lesters' Facebook page, tenor singer Justin Wells has resigned. Justin joined the group in January 2013 making the group a male trio. Justin is moving to Chattanooga, Tenn. to serve as a worship pastor.

The Lesters will begin auditions for a new tenor immediately!

Here's the full release from Facebook -

The Lesters announce tenor Justin Wells has resigned his position and will be leaving the group at the end of August. Brian Lester states, “Justin and his wife Angie will be moving to Chattanooga, Tenn. where he will be on staff at Grace Church of the Nazarene as worship leader.”

Justin was very instrumental in helping to make the change for The Lesters to a male trio in 2013. Brian Lester says, " This past year and a half has brought many new and wonderful experiences as a new chapter unfolded in our music ministry. We will forever be grateful to our Lord, Jesus Christ, for sending Justin our way for this period of time, and we have every confidence that God will send the right man to help us continue to carry the message."

Auditions for a new tenor singer will begin IMMEDIATELY! If interested, please email a brief resume, recent photo, and two songs to: No phone calls, please! There will be scheduled auditions after receiving and reviewing the information required.

Pat Barker Launches Online Community - You Tell Me

Pat Barker teased to "Something Big is Coming" earlier this week. This morning he has announced his next step in ministry in launching a brand new online community - You Tell Me.

Read the full release -

Gadsden, AL | July 30, 2014 – Pat Barker announces the launch of his new online community – You Tell Me. Through the “You Tell Me” campaign introduced on his site, individuals will have the opportunity to share how BIG God has been in their life and read how He has shown up in others. There will be artist video testimonials and prayer requests where you can respond in real time to requests made from all over the world.

Most of you were introduced to Pat Barker eight years ago when he joined the legendary Dixie Echoes. Fans from all over discovered his love for gospel music to be contagious. Fans not only loved his ability take a solo and sing it like no other bass singer, but his spirit and personality off the stage.

With Pat’s move to the Mark Trammell Quartet, thousands more were introduced to his talent in some of the largest venues across the country including his unforgettable appearance with the Cathedral Family Reunion. When Pat left the road many wondered if they would ever have the opportunity to see him again involved with the music he loves so much. Do we ever have good news for you? If you thought Pat would start his own group or launch a solo career, you weren’t thinking BIG enough. Today you can join a community of believers from all over the world through Pat’s brand new site http://HOWBIGISGOD2U.COM!

As a member of the community you will also have access to where Pat will be ministering and his latest products. July 30 is the day where You Tell Me and the rest of the world how BIG God is! You can also join Pat live Sunday, August 3 from 3 - 4 p.m. Central time to ask anything you like. Ask about the new site or find out what's going on with Pat in the near future. DON'T MISS IT!!

More information on Pat Barker and the You Tell Me campaign can be found online at: or on Facebook:

The Craguns - Names You Might Not Know Yet

Last month, I asked for suggestions on groups to revive the series Names You Might Not Know Yet. I've got a few more interviews coming over the next few weeks. But today starts off with the Craguns.

The Craguns consist of husband and wife, Jordan and Elena Cragun, Ray Cragun (Jordan's father) and Nick Adams (cousin). The group officially formed earlier this year although everyone is experience in music. This family group is related to another family group in gospel music. Read more below to find out which one!

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

Jordan Cragun - Yes. Everyone in the group grew up with a strong southern gospel influence. Everyone in the group started listening and singing southern gospel music at a very young age. Interesting fact... Everyone in the group was a pastor's kid at some point in their lives. We all grew up in church and singing often.

Question - How did you get started singing and traveling as a family?

Jordan - Obviously this is something we have dreamed of doing all of our lives. My stint with the west coast based, Liberty Quartet is probably what got my foot in the "gospel music door." I traveled with Liberty Quartet from 2008 to 2013. Toward the end of my tenure with Liberty, my dad resigned the church he had pastored for over 20 years. It was then that we started seriously discussing and praying about the possibilities of doing something like this. One of the best quotes I've ever heard is: "95% of the time God's will is common sense." God opened door after door to put this opportunity in our laps and after a while it was just common sense.

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

Jordan - That we love God with all of our hearts AND (if I may add a second thing) that we love them.

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

Jordan - This is a tough one! I would say the general consensus for favorite song we sing is probably a song called "I Want To Be A Servant." It pretty much sums up our passion and purpose as a ministry. As far as a song from another group... I just dont think I can put my finger on one. There are MANY!

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

Jordan - Musically: Of course we grew up listening to groups like Cathedrals, Gold City and many others. If I had to pick one that influenced us the most, I would have to say the Gaither Vocal Band (I think everyone in our group considers David Phelps to be the most gifted, powerful and dynamic vocalist we have ever heard). That would even encompass many ex members: Larnell Harris, Michael English, Guy Penrod, Steve Green, Russ Taff, Mark Lowry and others.

Personally: I would have to say The Collingsworth Family. For those who dont know... My mother and Kim are sisters. We actually live about 10 minutes from each other here in the Cincinnati, OH area. My uncle Phil is the guy I look to for musical and business advice on a regular basis. I'm so thankful for him and his willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to give his nephew some of his hard earned wisdom.

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

Jordan - Not one specific concert... Our favorite concert memory so far would have to be the presence of the Holy Spirit in all of our concerts. We are absolutely nothing without the power and presence of the Spirit. I'm so thankful the Lord has chosen to bless our services with a clear sense of His Spirit.

Question - What new things are coming up for the Cragun Family?

Jordan - We just released our debut album God Will Deliver. We are very excited about that at the moment. We are looking forward to lots of exciting venues being added to our tour schedule on a weekly basis. We look forward to seeing you at a concert soon.

If you want to follow us and keep up with our travels you can signup for our email newsletter at You can also follow us on Facebook as well.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Welcome Home - Joseph Habedank - CD Review

When Joseph Habedank stepped down as lead singer for the Perrys in May 2013, fans wondered what the future held for Joseph as a vocalist and songwriter in gospel music. After taking almost a year off, Joseph has reentered the gospel music scene as a soloist and has been "welcomed home."

His first solo release appropriately titled Welcome Home proves that the time off has been nothing but good for him. I'm going to predict this CD will be in the top 5 albums this year. The project contains 10 songs, all of which Joseph was a writer on. The styles are different from what you are used to hearing from him, but he has discovered more of who is he, who he wants to be as a vocalist and songwriter, and the project is strictly Joseph. You will be reminded why Joseph is one of the premier songwriters in gospel music. The project was produced by Ricky Free who is becoming one of the most sought after producers and after hearing this you can understand why.

The project starts with "Welcome Home." I think it's so fitting and a perfect title for his project. He has fully been welcomed home into this industry as a soloist. The song is a reminder of the sweet fellowship and relationships we share as the family of God.

"Begging for Change" has an edgy sound to it. I love it! It's very different play on words. The beggar is begging for change, but not the kind you can spend, an actual change in his life. "Big Enough" starts with a praise and worship feel. The song is a great reminder of the power of God and all that we can accomplish through His power. Joseph hits some tender high notes toward the end that are beautiful.

"Never No Never" is his first single from the project and one of the most typical "Southern Gospel" tracks. This is one of my favorites. It's directly from scripture, Psalm 37:25.

Joseph did have a little help with the song "Empty" from Russ Taff. This one is more out of the box than most of the other tracks. It really shows how versatile Joseph's voice is. He demonstrates that he can do many different styles within gospel.

"The Beauty of the Blood" has continued to grow on me. It wasn't one that stood out to me immediately, but the more I listen to it, the more I love. it. It's a beautiful song that's a great reminder of God's mercy. He sees us at our worst, but the beauty of the blood is that He's wiped all our sins away. Vocally, I think it's one of Joseph's strongest performances.

"Wonders With Water" starts out with an intro that will grab your attention. It does remind me a little style-wise of something Brian Free and Assurance might do, but that makes sense with Ricky Free's influence. The song talks about all of the water miracles from the Bible, and then says to "wait and see the wonders He can do with your tears." Great line!

"Now I Know Him" is another standout, a great ballad. I remember hearing Joseph sing this in his solo concert in January, and I was blown away. "Little Bit of Thunder" has a country sound. I think this one will definitely appeal to a younger audience and help recruit some new gospel fans!

"When the Lights Go Down" is what Joseph described as the most personal song he's ever written. The song asks who are you really when the stage is bare and the lights go down. When it's only you and God, who are you? Are you who you pretend to be in front of other people? It's a convicting song that will not only resonate with singers but for all Christians. Are we putting on a front? What kind of person are we really? Joseph wrote the song and sang it a handful of times on stage with the Perrys (one of those was captured on YouTube). However, the timing didn't work for him to record the song until this project. But I have to say, I stand by what I said that this really is the perfect platform for this song and an incredible end to an incredible project!

This project is so different style wise. It's one of the most versatile albums I've ever heard. Joseph definitely set the bar high for himself with this solo debut. It's easily one of the best albums by a solo artist and will be in the top albums of 2014!

Song List -
1. "Welcome Home"
2. "Begging for Change"
3. "Big Enough"
4. "Never No Never"
5. "Empty"
6. "The Beauty of the Blood"
7. "Wonders With Water"
8. "Now I Know Him"
9. "A Little Bit of Thunder"
10. "When the Lights Go Down"

Monday, July 28, 2014

Something Big is Coming! - Pat Barker

Pat Barker left Mark Trammell Quartet in early May. He's kept busy since coming off the road including a solo concert with friends. But it looks like there is a big announcement coming soon! I'm not sure what this means yet, but it makes me excited! We will all find out on July 30.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tim Riley Suffers Stroke

Update from Gold City's Facebook page 8/7 -

Dad is working hard in rehab and making a lot of progress. Every day he does something he couldn’t do the day before, and his therapists love working with him because he wants to do whatever it takes to get better. That said, he is doing great! He has a long way to go but he is committed. He is thankful for the encouraging calls, cards and letters. It helps to keep him fired up. I have set up an email address where you can send him that encouragement he needs. Let’s blow the door down with emails! If Dad has been a blessing to you in his 52 years singing this music, send him a note and tell him about it. Maybe a song he sang ministered to you during a trying time, send him a note and tell him about it. Maybe you just want to let him know that you are praying for him. He loves to hear that! Write him at

Our family would also like to thank you for praying for us through this trial. Especially my mom, Barbara, who is standing by his side being his biggest cheerleader. I must say that I am beyond proud of the way she has handled this from the beginning. She’s a hero in my book!

Until next time…

Daniel Riley

Update from Gold City's Facebook page on Wednesday morning -

Tim Riley continues to rest and recover following a mild stroke this past weekend. Daniel Riley of Gold City says, "Dad is in good spirits and working hard in rehab to regain strength and increased mobility on his right side. Mentally, he is 100 percent and is thankful for all the prayers and well wishes. Doctors are optimistic for a full recovery."

For those who wish to send get-well cards or notes of encouragement to Tim, send them in care of Gold City, P O Box 2100, Gadsden, AL 35903.

Tim Riley of Gold City had a mild stroke. He began experiencing abnormal symptoms while on tour Saturday. Doctors confirmed that it was a mild stroke. He is fully alert and able to communicate. There is no paralysis. He will have a neurologist consultation later on.

Daniel Riley provided an update on Monday morning that he is still in the hospital undergoing tests. He is in good spirits but ready to be home. Doctors cannot predict a recovery time, but they are confident that he will make a full recovery.

Update from Daniel Riley on Monday afternoon - Quick update - Dad is still doing good. He is being released from the hospital today and will be admitted to an in-patient rehab facility. Thank you for your continued prayers. I will keep you updated on his recovery.

Please keep him in your prayers and Gold City as well.

Here's the full release from Gold City on Sunday -

Tim Riley, legendary Hall of Fame bass vocalist of Gold City, is resting comfortably after suffering a mild stroke.

Saturday afternoon, July 26, Tim began experiencing some abnormal symptoms while on tour and was taken to the hospital. After numerous tests Saturday evening and Sunday morning, including an MRI, a mild stroke was confirmed. There is no paralysis, and Tim is fully alert and able to communicate. At this time, neurologist consultation is pending, and additional testing will be done to better determine proper treatment.

The Riley family and Gold City appreciate all the prayers that have gone up on behalf of Tim, and they appreciate your continued prayers for a speedy recovery. Thank you also for your patience as the family confirmed the most accurate information about Tim's condition before sharing official word. Gold City will report updates as they become available.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Prayers for Libbi Perry Stuffle - Heart Attack

Libbi was able to go home from the hospital on Tuesday. She has strict orders to rest and relieve stress. Continue to pray for her, her family and the group!

Update on Sunday night - This is from Libbi's post on Facebook:
Well, God is good again!!! Dr. Bennett did heart cath and found my main artery on the front side of my heart was 99% blocked with some damage to the heart from the heart attack. He was able to put a stent in to fix it. Also, they found that I'm severely anemic. I am in ICU and just received two units of blood. They are hoping this will take care of the anemia . If not, they will be doing further testing. I have another 3 hours on my back before I can get out of bed. I feel great! I will probably be here another 3 to 4 days and then go home. I have been given strict orders no lifting, pulling, or anything other than rest for two to three weeks. Yes, I will listen because I want the damaged places of my heart to heal!!! 
Tracy has handled this very well like a trooper! Please continue to pray for us!! I deeply appreciate every prayer that has been lifted for me and my family. The groups schedule will continue as planned. 
I love you all and will see you in a couple of weeks!

Update on Sunday afternoon - Libbi had a heart cath and doctors put one stent in. There is damage to the front part of the heart. No open heart surgery is required. However, she is very anemic and may need a transfusion. Keep her and the family in your prayers! 

Earlier tonight on Facebook, the Perrys requested prayers for Libbi Perry Stuffle after she experience some pain with her heart. They updated later on that she did have a heart attack tonight.

Libbi seems to be in excellent spirits and her faith steadfast. On Monday doctors will know more on what happened and her condition after a heart cath. Please keep Libbi, Jared and Tracy and the Perrys in your prayers.

Watch their Facebook page for the latest updates.

Here's a few updates from their Facebook page including a video from Libbi -

This is Brittany Libbis niece. She wanted me to tell y'all that she is fine and doing good! From test indicators it looks like she had a heart attack earlier today but she is In good spirits, laughing and trusting in God. Proverbs 3:5. She wanted me to ask y'all to pray for Tracy Stuffle that he will not get stressed or worried about her! That is her main concern! She will be back ASAP, this is just a minor bump in the road!

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - July 26

Here are news and tidbit items from this week in gospel music -

  • The Cathedrals Family Reunion will release a CD and DVD from the November 2013 reunion weekend. It will be available on Sept. 2, but available for pre-sale on Aug. 4. It will also be part of a TV special in September. Learn more here. 
  • Chonda Pierce's husband David passed away this week. He had complications following a heart attack. A fund has been set up to help with funeral expenses, medical bills and lost income during this season. You can give online here. For more from Chonda and new updates on her, go to her Facebook page. Please continue to pray for the family!
  • The Chuck Wagon Gang has joined New Haven Records. New Haven is home to Gold City, Gordon Mote and several others. Read more on
  • Mike LeFevre had surgery this week for his gallbladder. The surgery went well, and he is well on the road to recovery. 
  • Rhonda Frye has been named editor-in-chief of The site reports on all genres within Christian music.
New releases this week - 
Anything I've missed?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fun Clip Friday - Interview with Ayden Yeary

This video is a couple of months old now, but it's too cute not to share for today's Fun Clip Friday. Kevin Williams interviews Ayden Yeary, Jimmy and Sonya (Isaacs) Yeary's son, at a Gaither event. He talks to Ayden about music and even has him tell a joke. Also, congratulations to Sonya and Jimmy who announced last week that they are expecting again!

Enjoy today's Fun Clip Friday!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Conversation with Joseph Habedank

Earlier this week, I had the chance to catch up with Joseph Habedank. I was excited when he agreed to do the interview and appreciated him taking the time with his busy schedule. We talked about his life as a soloist, the new project (which is incredible and released Tuesday), songwriting and how he's changed in the past year.

I wanted to leave the interview very conversational so you can really hear from Joseph. I appreciated him being so candid and honest. So here's the complete interview -

Joseph Habedank during his solo concert
in Vilonia, Ark. in January
Lauren - How does it feel to be back on the road as soloist after being in a group so long?

Joseph - At first it was really intimidating, because I never really envisioned myself as a soloist. I had thought about it, but I always thought I would be with a group. I came off the road for about seven months before I sang again. In that time, I had a lot of time to think and pray about what God wanted me to do. A part of me wanted to start a group, but I didn’t have peace about that.

I thought about doing something with Lindsay (Joseph's wife). She’s a great singer and great songwriter; she’s amazing. But we just didn’t have peace about that either. The only other option was to be a soloist, and I just felt like the Lord was leading me to be a singer/songwriter. And, at first I fought it. There are a lot of doubts and fears that go into that process. At first it’s scary being on that stage alone.

But it’s funny, because last night I was outside of Dallas, and I had someone tell me “you seem more at peace on stage that you ever have before… you seem really happy.” And that’s kind of how I feel. It’s ironic that you ask me that question, because yesterday was one of those days where I just felt like this is working. I can do this now. The Lord has really eased my nerves. It’s been challenging, but it’s been such a great experience, learning to fully rely on God and trust Him in every aspect of your ministry including what you do on that platform. It’s so sacred anyway, but when you throw in the fear factor, and you saw me probably my third week out.

Lauren - I didn’t realize it was that early on.

Joseph – Yeah, I think it was Jan. 19 in Arkansas. It was either my third or fourth weekend as a soloist. It’s been amazing though. I’m happier and I’m more at peace in my life than I’ve ever been. It’s remarkable.

Lauren – That’s awesome. Talk a little bit about the pre-release concert that you did, what that experience was like and some of the friends you had there.

Joseph – It was amazing. That was another thing where I was really scared. It was one of those concerts that lasted about an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. There was no break; it was just me having to carry the whole program, singing every song obviously. Usually on the road, I’ll do about 40-45 minutes at the most and then take a break, but I had to double that. It was a little scary at first. The people who were there were so supportive tho. Lindsay said to me that everybody who comes to this is rooting for you and believing in you and wants you to win. That was encouraging. It was easily one of the greatest nights of my life. Seeing the outpouring of support and the presence of God was pretty remarkable.

Russ Taff was amazing. He actually had the flu. He had just flown in from North Carolina the day before and had gotten sick. He came and drove an hour and half, sang and sat in the back so he wouldn’t get anyone sick. He left as soon as he sang, because he was so sick. But that’s just the kind of guy he is. Since last June, Russ Taff has been a major role model in my life. He was there for me when I needed someone to be there. He has been an amazing friend and mentor, a mentor more than anything.

It was just a great night all around. My parents, step-parents and in-laws were all there, about 20 family members all the way from Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. One of the Oak Ridge Boys was there, Duane Allen. A ton of songwriters Steve and Annie Chapman, an incredible husband and wife duo, and so many other people from around Nashville came out. It was so encouraging.

Lauren – You wrote all songs on the project, right? Do you have one that is a favorite or that you are most proud of?

Joseph – Right. When I was going through the process of choosing songs, the guy that I wrote the majority of the record with and who I consider to be my songwriting mentor is Tony Wood. He has been amazing in my life. I asked him one day if he had to choose between the “End of Grace” and the “Beauty of the Blood,” what would you pick? He said that would be like choosing between his two daughters. And it’s kinda like that.

There are two songs that stand out to me tho. One is called the “Beauty of the Blood,” which I just referred to. Something about that song really speaks to me. I think when people hear it they will know what I mean, and then “When the Lights Go Down.” I know some people have heard it on YouTube. I love that song because it’s such a heart song for me. It is the most personal song I’ve ever written. Those two stand out. And the one that Russ sings on, “Empty,” mainly because it’s Russ. I wrote “Empty” with Benji Cowart. I wrote “When the Lights Go Down” with Matthew Holt, and “Beauty of the Blood” with Tony Wood and Michael Farren, former lead singer for Pocket Full of Rocks.

This is the most blood I have in any collection of songs. These are the 10 best songs I have ever been a part of. The Lord has really given me a lot of inspiration and so many opportunities to write with people I never would have gotten to write with because of the different paths I’ve taken over the last year or two.

Lauren – Yeah, I love the new project. It’s awesome. 

Joseph – Awww, glad you like it. So what’s your favorite?

Lauren – Oh…. .now you put me on the spot, turning the tables. I do like “When the Lights Go Down,” because I remember seeing it on YouTube a while ago. I also really like the single, “Never, No Never.”

Joseph –  Good, I’m glad you like the single!

Lauren – I’ve been hearing it a lot on the radio too. It sounds like it’s been getting a lot of plays.

Joseph – Good, I’m glad. I haven’t heard it yet.

Lauren – Awww, hopefully soon! My next question was actually about “When the Lights Go Down.” I know you did write it several years ago, but now with your solo project it really seems like the perfect platform for the song as opposed to recording it when you were in the group.

Joseph – Yeah, in fact we had talked about recording it when I was with the Perrys, but we had just done a song called “Almost Morning” two or three records before. The song did well, but they didn’t think we needed to put another solo song, and that makes sense. It was a little disappointing to me, just because the song is so personal. But it’s amazing because the Lord knows exactly what He’s doing. He’s like you don’t know this now, but you are going to be a solo artist in about two years because it was for the album Through the Night that we were considering it for. And He said you don’t know it yet, but it will be perfect for this.

And not only is it perfect for me as a solo artist, but it’s perfect for what I’ve walked through in the past couple of years which has been a crossroads of my life. What kind of man will I be? Am I going to be a good person, a person of integrity and character? Am I going to live off stage what I sing on stage? And I’m at the point in my life where I know I’m not perfect, but I’m living the Christian life the best I can. I strive every day to be the best man I can be, the best husband, the best song writer, the best singer. I just want to be the best I can, not only going with outward appearance, but also with my heart. For a long time, I was trying to fix up the outside, because I just wanted everyone to be impressed. I wanted them to think “Oh he’s a good singer” or “He’s a good looking guy.” A lot of vanity goes into that. You finally come to a point where you think that all that’s going to pass away. One day I’m going to age. My voice is probably going to fade. What these people are going to remember is how kind I was to them, how I treated them and how I invested into their lives. And that’s what I’m passionate about now. I’ve just been praying that God would open my heart up, and I would have a bigger heart for people. Someone told me the other day that I was so candid and honest now, and I think it’s that I just want the people to know that I’m a normal person. I mess up, and I cannot be perfect but I can be real.

So yeah, it’s a perfect song for me right now. And I’ve started doing it before “If You Knew Him.” It’s the perfect segue song. It works so well together. My wife actually made that call last week at Stamps Baxter, and it was really powerful. I don’t know why, but those two songs really work well together in concert setting. And I hope it ministers to people.

Lauren – It’s an awesome song. So talk about Ricky Free and choosing him as your producer. Was this your first time to work with him?

Joseph – I had never worked with Ricky before in a producer setting. Ricky and I grew up together. When I first started going to Quartet Convention in 1998, I was 12 years old and Ricky was probably 14 or 15. It’s when he had just started playing drums for his dad. He might have been a little older than that. We were early in our teen years. I’ve known him for a long time. Ricky and I were never close, but I always had a big respect for Ricky as a musician and as an artist. He’s very smart, and he has a great music mind. We started talking about producers, and we talked about bringing in a bunch of different ones like contemporary producer, Brown Bannister, or  even Wayne Haun. But I had worked with Wayne for so long, and I was like let’s just do something different. And I even talked to Wayne about it. And he’s been cool, totally supportive; in fact he came out to the prerelease concert. It was so cool of him to do that.

So I called Lindsay one day, and said, “What about Ricky Free?” I love what he’s doing with Brian. It’s not very southern, but Ricky and I have this incredible passion to make the music sound different, something fresh and something new. We realize Southern Gospel is declining as a genre. We want something that will draw different types of fans, not necessarily just a younger audience. We want to bring in new people.

Ricky just absolutely knocked it out of the park. Everything that I wanted him to do, he did better. Every expectation I had he surpassed it. And in the process, we have become even closer friends. He called me the night of the pre-release concert. It was one of the nicest phone calls I have ever gotten. He left me a message because I was still at the table. He said that not only did he love working together but he have loved becoming closer friends and that what it’s all about. We have such a mutual admiration and respect for each other. And we are already talking about a second record, what we are going to do and how we can make it better.

Lauren – So you talked a little bit about this, but stylistically it’s different from what people are used to hearing from you. Do you feel like it’s more you and what you want to do?

Joseph – Oh, absolutely. There are two tracks in particular. One is “Empty” and the other is “Little Bit of Thunder.” They are much more progressive than anything I’ve been a part of, and it scared me. And the reason that it scared me is not because I would make people mad, but I grew up in a very strict Independent Baptist home. I didn’t want to offend people, especially like my mom and stepdad are very conservative Independent Baptist. I was a little scared to let them hear it, and when they did, they loved it and were very supportive. I told Lindsay that if my family has hopped on board with this, then we will be ok. My family was so supportive, and said that it is more progressive than what you did with the Perrys but we like it, because it’s you, and it’s your heart.

It’s not that I want to go out, be a rebel and buck the system. It’s not that at all. Sometimes to make things better you have to change them. Some changes needed to be made for me personally as an artist. And at my age, I can probably get away with a little more than say Ivan Parker could. But at the same time I’m not as established as Ivan, so there’s always that risk. I told my mom this - The Lord knows my heart. I don’t want to offend anybody, I just want to make great music and uplift the name of Jesus, and that’s my heart. I feel like the Lord knows that.  So yes, it’s more me. That’s my long answer of “yes, it’s definitely more me.”

Lauren – Anything else coming up that you want to share with readers?

Joseph – I think the biggest thing would be to share the album. Share with your friends, your lost friends, young friends, old friends and whoever, because I feel like there’s so much hope, redemption and peace in the album. I want people to hear the message. I know I’m never going to become a multi-millionaire because of my music. It’s not about the sales for me; it’s about making an impact in somebody’s life. I have such a passion now to help people. Before I was just very young and very self-involved, now I see life as such a bigger picture, and I just want to help people and point them to Jesus.

I also want to encourage people to call and request the single, “Never No Never.” I’m so excited about the message of the song and what it means to me. I love the fact that it came straight from the Word of God –“I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or His seed begging bread.” Tony Wood brought that idea to the table, and we just totally fell in love with the idea. Call and request the single, please.

Please tell people about the album. It’s on iTunes or it’s at Family Christian and Lifeway.  I feel like there is something for everyone on this album. I really do. It has a good variety. It doesn’t matter what age you are, I feel like it can reach people. 

Thanks again to Joseph for taking time to talk to me! Thank you for being so candid and honest in your conversation. If you haven't had the chance to get the album, get it today!! It really will knock your socks off at hearing Joseph as a soloist and all the incredible songs! Look for my review of it next week! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Seeing With Fresh Eyes - Bowling Family Concert Recap

I mentioned Monday that the past few weeks has been great for concerts in Arkansas. Saturday I went to go see the Whisnants, which check out my guest blog post on Yankee Gospel Girl's blog for that recap!

Sunday I had the chance to see the Bowling Family in Little Rock at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. I'm starting to get to know more about the churches in Central Arkansas that have concerts regularly in the area, and this was one I had not heard of before. When I got there, I found out that this was the first group the church had brought in and not only that but most of the people there knew nothing of the Bowling Family before Sunday.

The pastor talked about the group briefly at the start of the service. He mentioned watching them on YouTube the week before and how he wasn't going to preach because from watching clips he knew the gospel would be presented. 

The Bowling Family - Troy Peach, Hope, Kelly and Mike Bowling
and John Jeffrey
The church took its regular Sunday offering as John Jeffrey played "Shout to the Lord." The music pastor came up and introduced the Bowling Family. Mike could feel spirit as the song had played before and asked John to keep playing the song as he led the congregation in singing it. I loved how they completely deviated from what was planned to follow what he felt led to do and lead in worship.

Then, they started singing and let the audience see what they had been missing out on! Mike sang "I'll Be Alright As Soon As I Touch Calvary." Then, they sang two songs from their latest project Safe After the Storm, "Come Along Let's Fly" and "I Know Enough." Loved hearing Kelly sing the second one!! They then sang "How Blessed." It was good to hear them stage this song! I'm not sure if they do it regularly or not anymore, but I've always been a fan of that one!

They asked the congregation how many were seeing them for the first time. Only a handful of us did not have our hands raised. They introduced Troy and Hope, and then Hope was featured on "Everything's Gonna Turn Out Right." She is growing so much as a vocalist and becoming more comfortable in her role!

Hope, Katelanne and Gracie Bowling
Troy then introduced Mike and Kelly. When he mentioned that Kelly was the prettiest part of the Crabb Family, some light bulbs went off and some recognized that name at least. They then sang "Don't You Wanna Go."

Mike and Kelly brought their two youngest girls up, Katelanne and Gracie. The three girls sang together, "Accentuate the Positive" and "Healer." Their girls have great harmony together already!

Kelly then gave their testimony. I normally see the Bowling Family three to four times a year, depending on when they are nearby. By now I've heard their testimony several times, and it's miraculous and amazing every time, but there was something about sitting among people who were hearing it for the first time. Sometimes we can let things lose that sense of amazement because we've heard it before. It's like a familiar song or a scripture passage can leap out at us when we listen to or read it with fresh eyes. That's the way I felt Sunday. 

They showed clips of the bus accident as Kelly shared what happened on July 1, 2010. She said that the sheriff later said in an interview that he expected several fatalities. She also went into details on how hard the recovery process was for them. It was seven months of no singing, no traveling, physical therapy, headaches for Mike, and their lives were just put on hold.

She said that through all of it she learned that "God is good whether the sun is shining or whether the rain is falling." All those songs that she had been singing since she was a teenager came back full circle. She learned how much you could rely on them and their messages. She said it was good to know that even on the days when the doctors weren't sure what to say that they could stand on the promises of God. She could trust that God heard their cries. They then sang "Your Cries Have Awoken the Master." It was such a powerful moment! 

Mike said that they had a request for "By the Time," so they sang it next. Then they sang "I Still Glory in the Cross" before the invitation. They sang "I Surrender All" as an invitation which featured Troy and then "What a Day That Will Be" to close.

The pastor came back up and asked them to sing one more, so it actually ended with "Victory in Jesus." It was an incredible service. It was great to see the Bowling Family with so many new people, and I'm sure new fans now. It really helped me see the family with fresh eyes. I know that even though it might have been the first gospel concert the church had, I'm confident because of the service that they had it won't be the last!

Side note - Thanks to Troy Peach and people from the church for helping me after my car wouldn't start after the concert. Troy helped find jumper cables from church members to boost me off! Thanks again!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Just a Friendly Reminder

It's been a good time for concerts in Arkansas recently. My weekends have been full of concerts, not that I'm complaining. It's been good to see different groups and artists who I don't get a chance to see very often.

Standing by the product table, you can't help but hear others' conversations with group members. I see the same on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets. As the song says, everybody is going through something. We flood artists with stories of hurting, sickness and prayer requests. It's important that we pray for each other. The Bible is full of verses on prayer, praying for each other and how prayer can change situation. It always makes us feel better when more people are praying for our circumstances. And I'm sure the artists are glad to pray for you.

But are we praying for the artists in the same way? When they take the stage, we often have no idea what they are going through. We don't know if the bus had trouble the night before, a family member was diagnosed with cancer or if they are fighting illness themselves. It might be day 14 of a 15-day tour, and they are missing family or their kid at home is sick and there's nothing they can do about it five states away. They take the stage day after day, minister and do what they have been called to do, but they are people just like we are. They have the same struggles that we have. They all have a special calling on their lives, but God doesn't spare them from hurt or pain any more than He does us.

I know that I'm guilty of not praying for them like I should. It seems that we are all quick to jump in during major crises, bus accidents and serious illnesses, but do we approach Heaven on their behalf regularly? We should pray not only for their safety, but their health, God's provision in their ministry and that God will use them for His glory and to further His kingdom.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't give your favorite singers your prayer requests anymore. I was just reminded this weekend of how we have no idea what they could be going through and how much they need us to pray for them. Just a friendly reminder to you as well, because I know I was convicted about it.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - July 19

Here are news and tidbit items from this week in Southern Gospel -

  • Mark Trammell Quartet announced Randy Byrd as the group's new bass singer. Randy has been filling in for several weeks with the group. Read more here.
  • Chris Freeman will be releasing a solo project as a tribute to the Hinsons. Read the full article on
  • Matt Fouch's latest video blog talks about their Canada trip, some upcoming guests for On the Couch with Fouch and a special news segment.
  • Brian Fusion and I had the opportunity to guest blog for Yankee Gospel Girl this week, be sure to check out her blog for our guest posts.
Anything I've missed?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fun Clip Friday - Brian Free and Assurance

I'm guest blogging today at Southern Gospel Yankee's blog! Be sure to check it out! It's a concert recap of Brian Free and Assurance.

So to go along with that, today's Fun Clip Friday features them. They were invited to Memphis, Tenn. to be part of a 60th anniversary tribute of Elvis recording and releasing "That's Alright." BBC was the organizer of event that aired live in 60 countries on BBC Radio, as well as Sirius-XM Satellite Radio. The group video blogged about the day, so here's today's clip!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

When Lyrics Speak - The Little Things

I can sometimes be too much of a big picture person. I'm so focused on the major things in my life that I want God to fix or show me the next step that I can miss the small things. I miss those little moments in life that serve as reminders that God has not forgotten me.

When I moved to my current city several years ago, I knew almost no one, at least no one my age. I had no friends. I prayed that God would help me during that period of loneliness and trying to get settled in in a new place.

Fast forward to just a few weeks ago - I spent the afternoon at the pool laughing and talking to three close friends. There was nothing special about that Monday afternoon. We all randomly decided after work to go to the pool and hang out there, nothing special but not something we had ever done before either. We laughed together, talked about laugh and maybe even played with a toy that some poor kid had left there. Again, nothing really all that special, but it was a little moment that I was reminded of God hearing my prayers when I first moved to the city and knew none of those girls.

I love the song "The Little Things." It is a song by Chosen Few, a quartet that was the in-house gospel group for Silver Dollar City for many years then they toured for a while. Take a listen -

So many times we are waiting on those huge Red Sea parting moments. We miss the simple moments in life, a text from a loved one just checking in, a green light when you are running late, sun after the rain or just an afternoon at the pool with friends. Every day I receive His grace, and forget to stop and thank Him for all those little things.

The little things are what make up life. They are what get you through the day some times when circumstances seem bleak. They serve as a reminder from God that He is with us. He's in every detail of life. May we never stop and forget to appreciate the little things in life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Music and Madness - Mark Lowry and the Martins - Concert Recap

The music and madness came to Arkansas Friday night in the form of Mark Lowry and the Martins. The Music and Madness tour made a stop in Searcy, Ark. at Trinity Baptist Church. When I got to the church, it was already pretty full, and the parking lot was overflowing. I wasn't too surprised though especially considering the Martins were returning to their home state!

Stan Whitmire opened the night on the piano. The Martins then took the stage with "Count Your Blessings." When they came out, there was an issue with the track where it was playing two songs at once. Joyce joked that it was just part of the madness, so they had to restart the song. Then they sang one of their new songs from their a cappella project, "Shut De Do." It's amazing that they are staging these songs! Incredible to see and hear them sing it live!

Then, Mark came out singing "Jesus Laughing." He talked about enjoying getting to be the Bill (Gaither) of the program. He asked what different churches were represented. He picked on several denominations of people, including this lone Catholic lady in the front. He said to tell Mary he said hi, since he was Baptist he couldn't talk to her but thank her for that song. Haha!

Mark Lowry, Joyce Martin Sanders, Judy Martin Hess
and Jonathan Martin
Mark told a few more stories about getting older and then his mama. He talked about the precious memories he had of dancing with his mother before she passed away. Then he sang "Our Love Is Here to Stay" with help from Joyce. He also sang the classic "Fly Me to the Moon."

Mark said that he met the Martins in 1992 at the National Quartet Convention when their mother came up and shoved a cassette tape in his face. The Martins' parents were there on the front row and he pointed to their mom. He took it to the bus and listened to it with Michael English. They called the group and said that they would like to introduce the siblings to Bill Gaither. The video series had just started, and they would be taping a video in Indiana soon. They asked the Martins to come up to the taping, and they would introduce them to Bill and have them sing.

Once they got there, they waited in the lobby. Mark grabbed Gloria and asked her to hear them sing. She agreed, and they went in the ladies' restroom for her to hear them!! The Martins proceeded to sing "He Leadeth Me." Gloria told Bill what she had heard, and the next day before they broke for lunch during taping Bill called the Martins to come sing. They sang not only for Bill but for all the other artists who were in there for the taping like the Goodmans, George Younce, JD Sumner and other legends in gospel music. They then showed the video of them singing "He Leadeth Me." The Martins then finished the song live.

They told more stories of traveling with the Gaithers. To be honest, that was some of my favorite moments of the concert, hearing the back stage things that you don't always know about. They talked about the Goodmans and then sang "What a Lovely Name." It started as out with the men's trio with Stan, Mark and Jonathan with Joyce and Judy joining in later. As Joyce sang Vestal's part, Mark handed her a white "hankie" to wave.

Stan then played another song, "I've Got That Old Time Religion." The Martins sang two more songs which were "The Promise" and "You'll Never Walk Alone." They did an a cappella ending of "The Promise," which is definitely one of my favorite and this song was one of the highlights of the night for me!!

Mark told more stories of his grandparents and his mother. He showed a video of he and his mom together not long before she died. He talked about her home going and how peaceful it was. He then sang "Going Home."

Before they took an intermission, they talked about how they had partnered with Feed the Children for the tour. They wanted to do something within the hours of the concert that would help people past the four walls of the church and have eternal significance.

After intermission, Mark sang "Glow Worm" with some back up help from the Martins. Then the Martins got everyone on their feet clapping with "Love's Gonna Drive This Train." Great song to get audience going! Then Mark sang one of the first songs he wrote "Too Big to Miss." I don't ever remember hearing this one before. It was a fun song, and the Martins started tossing beach balls in the air for the audience to hit around!

Mark then had the audience members shout out the names of four hymns. Stan put them all together and played as the audience sang along. The hymns chosen were "Victory in Jesus," "Amazing Grace," "It Is Well" and "Blessed Assurance." Then he ended with "How Great Thou Art" as a bonus.

The Martins then sang "The Doxology" a cappella. Love hearing them sing a cappella live! Nothing better! Mark then sang "How We Love."

Mark recounted a conversation with Gloria Gaither about God being more in the interruptions of life than in our own plans. He said this is where we learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Everyone has interruptions. We do not get to choose what God allows to come in, but we should hold our heads high, enjoy life and thank Him for everything.

The night closed with Mark singing "Mary Did You Know?" No one seemed to mind that it is traditionally a Christmas song and it's mid-July! Mark did an incredible job and what a way to end the night!

If you have read previous posts, you know what a huge Martins fan I am. They are the first professional group I saw. Seeing them was a great reminder of why I fell in love with this music. I loved getting to see them with Mark and hearing all the stories and Mark's comedy. Incredible night of music and madness! If the tour comes to your area, don't miss it!!

Randy Byrd Is New Bass for Mark Trammell Quartet

After filling in since late May, Randy Byrd is the official new bass singer for the Mark Trammell Quartet. Randy has been with the Blackwood Brothers, Mike LeFevre Quartet, Anchormen and the Songfellows previously. Pat Barker left the Mark Trammell Quartet in early May.

Here's the full announcement from the Mark Trammell Quartet -

After three months and 36 candidates for the position, Mark Trammell has announced today that Randy Byrd will be the new bass vocalist for the Mark Trammell Quartet. Mark shares, “We are thrilled with the overwhelming inquiry about this position. And after much prayer and consideration, the group collectively feels that Randy is the man for this season of our ministry.”

Many of you will remember Randy from his recent years with the prestigious Blackwood Brothers Quartet. He also logged some miles with our friends the Mike Lefevre Quartet and the Songfellows. Randy relates the following upon receiving confirmation from Mark. 
“At 12 years of age, I heard The Cathedrals sing There is a Fountain and I was hooked!! I told my mother that night after hearing George Younce, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a bass singer.’ God has blessed me and allowed me to sing with some of the best in the business. Three years ago my dream started to fall apart. Between my flesh and Satan's attacks it seemed my life was over. I am thankful today that in spite of my faults and failures, God never took His hand off of me. Everything that Satan robbed from me, God has restored! I am beyond excited to join The Mark Trammell Quartet! I am living proof that God IS faithful!! Pat Barker is a dear friend. I am not and cannot be Pat Barker. But I can work at being the best version of me that God can use and I gladly accept that challenge.”

Please join us in welcoming this wonderful man to the Mark Trammell Quartet!!!

Look forward to seeing him with the group next month!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Pros and Cons of YouTube

Recent technology has really transformed the music industry. I'm sure a lot of artists are still trying to figure out how best to use social media and new technologies for their advantage. One of the new giants that has come along is YouTube. had a recent editorial on stealing and posting material on YouTube. I have to say it was a little convicting for me. I've been guilty of posting clips of concerts on YouTube and putting ads on them (that's no longer the case). I completely agree with the point of videos of DVDs and events that have been paid for to stream online is wrong.

But with YouTube also comes new possibilities. (I'm not trying to say that the editorial was anti-YouTube. That was not his point, don't misunderstand me.) I was talking to a lady a few weeks ago at a Southern Gospel event. She got to know and learn a lot about artists from YouTube videos. She became a fan watching videos online. With YouTube, artists now have the chance to reach new audiences world wide. Many artists have their own channels that they post to whether that's them singing or behind the scenes glimpses. You don't have to wait until your favorite artist is in your area. You can watch clips of them any time. Now, does it deter people from actually going to the concert? For me, it doesn't. There is a a completely different dynamic and feel to a live concert than watching one via a computer screen. Most people don't stop going to church just because some churches are having live broadcasts.

A lot of times I do take videos during concerts, but the majority of videos never make it to YouTube. It might be because the quality is not good, too shaky, the person next to me is singing along (that happens more than you would think) or if I've heard the artist doesn't want videos posted I won't. But for one reason or another, a lot of them just stay on my computer for my viewing later on. I never mean to take away from the artists by posting the videos I do. I've even had some artists use my YouTube videos for promotion.

There are also moments live in concert that can happen spontaneously that fans would love to see. For example, the recent video of Greater Vision and Mark Trammell Quartet singing the Cathedrals' song "Prodigal Son" allowed fans a glimpse of a great moment that otherwise they would have only read and heard about. Also, for newer fans like myself it's a great way for me to get acquainted and become more familiar with the greats I will never see in person.

YouTube is great for artists to gain exposure. We actually had a relatively new Christian group (not Southern Gospel) at our church recently actually encourage the audience to video and post. I think there is a bit of an added pressure on artists with almost everyone having a video recording capabilities in their pockets now. They never know what will end up online for thousands to see.

YouTube is a giant in social media with pros and cons for the music industry and artists. What do you think? More pros than cons? Or is it doing more harm than good? Would be interested to get an artist's perspective on this.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - July 12

Here are news and tidbits from this week in gospel music -

  • Jack Smith, former steel guitarist for the Happy Goodman Family, passed away last week. He was also the former owner of Nashville's "Tape and Disc Factory." He was a popular recording musician and traveled with country singer Bill Anderson for a time. 
  • Dan Keeton (formerly of Gold City and the Dixie Melody Boys) has announced the formation of the American Harmony Foundation. When he left Gold City, he expressed his desire to start an organization to help people who have experienced abuse like he did as a child. Learn more about the foundation
  • Randy Byrd's (who has most recently has been traveling with Mark Trammell Quartet) grandchildren were in a head-on collision this week. The grandchildren were not seriously hurt but banged up. The babysitter who was with them suffered injuries to her leg and had a succesful surgery. The other driver was in ICU as of Friday, but was expected to make a full recovery. 
  • The Singing News and Solid Gospel Network have announced their next songwriting competition. Get details at
  • Greater Vision posted a sneak peek at the hymn sing DVD on Facebook. Check it out!
Anything that I've missed?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fun Clip Friday - He Touched Me

It's Fun Clip Friday! An impromptu quartet was put together at a recent concert in Florida to sing "He Touched Me." The quartet consisted of Mark Lowry, Marc Ivey, Brandon Berry and Jason Clark. One of these guys I will be seeing tonight. Stay tuned next week to find out which one! But for now, enjoy this clip!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Martins - A cappella - CD Review

Few groups can pull off top-notch a cappella. The Martins are one of those groups. Their latest
project is all a cappella, and it shows off what incredible music this group is capable of. Siblings Joyce, Jonathan and Judy are better than ever on this release simply entitled A cappella.

The project has a great song selection, not one that I would have expected. You have the typical, more familiar hymns which I would expect to fill most of the album. It's not the case though. They did a great job of picking songs that you may not be as familiar with, a variety of styles and songs that you would not think about doing a cappella.

The crowning moment of the project has to be "Fairest Lord Jesus." The arrangement that the Martins pull off on this song is incredible! It is a must listen!! It will give you chills as the song builds, and the siblings show how much they are capable of with just their voices.

"The Prayer" is the second must listen. I love that they included this song, it's already one of my favorites. I don't think I had ever heard an a cappella version. I love the tender harmonies at the end. Absolutely beautiful!

"When I Go Away" is a great old spiritual song. The Martins add some finger-snapping to give it an extra pep. "Shut De Do/Three Little Birds" is another fun song. I had never heard this before, and I would say it's an unexpected song choice but a brilliant one. It's got a fun style to it. "If We Ever Needed the Lord Before, We Sure Do Need Him Now" is another fun one. This one will have you tapping your foot along.

"Let All Mortal Flesh" has a haunting sound to it, but it makes a good segue into the medley of hymns. I love the smoothness of this arrangement mixing "Come Thou Fount," "Fill My Cup, Lord" and "Spirit of the Living God." The medley is definitely another highlight for me.

The project closes with "You'll Never Walk Alone." Being raised on musicals, this was a fun inclusion for me being mostly familiar with the song from Carousel. The Martins take this song to church though making it their own.

The Martins haven't released an a cappella project in more than a decade, and this one was well worth the wait!

Song List -
1. "He's Everything to Me"
2. "When I Go Away"
3. "Fairest Lord Jesus"
4. "Praise to the Lord"
5. "Shut De Do/ Three Little Birds"
6. "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence"
7. "Come Thou Found of Every Blessing/ Fill My Cup, Lord/ Spirit of the Living God"
8. "The Prayer"
9. "If We Ever Needed the Lord Before We Sure Do Need Him Now"
10. "You'll Never Walk Alone"

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hymn Sing

Last night was the Gospel Music Hymn Sing in Morristown, Tenn. The event has been sold out for a while now. Several of the artists posted pictures on social media last night. From all the comments and photos, it was an incredible event. And it definitely made me wish that Morristown, Tenn. wasn't so far from Central Arkansas. However, they did film it, and it will be available on DVD later on.

I was raised in a church where all we sang were hymns. I honestly didn't know much else until my teens years when I got limited exposure to praise and worship through youth events. I'm not anti praise and worship by any means, but the hymns are dear to me. I have precious memories growing up as a child singing them with my family in church. We had fifth Sunday singing at my church back home. It would be an afternoon full of people calling numbers from the Heavenly Highways hymnal. I could not get enough of those afternoons. But as I grow older, I realize more and more the hymns are timeless not for the time and places they bring me back to but for their lyrics.

So in honor of the hymn sing last night, here's a list of my favorite hymns (in no particular order). Would love to know what yours would be!

  1. "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus"
  2. "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus"
  3. "Great Is Thy Faithfulness"
  4. "My Savior's Love (I Stand Amazed)"
  5. "Blessed Assurance"
  6. "It Is Well With My Soul"
  7. "I'd Rather Have Jesus"
  8. "Come Thou Fount"
  9. "He Hideth My Soul"
  10. "There Is a Fountain"

Saturday, July 5, 2014

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - July 5

Here are some news and tidbit items from this week in gospel music -

  • Triumphant Quartet is the latest artist to join StowTown Records. StowTown has proven once again that it is a top label in the industry. Triumphant's premier release with StowTown will be in March 2015. Read more here.
  • The Old Paths announced on their Facebook page that the group won two BMI Awards for Songs of the Year in all Christian music for 2014. The songs that won were "The I of the Storm" and "Battle Stand." Congratulations!
Anything I've missed from this week?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fun Clip Friday - Pat Barker and Friends

Last Sunday night, Pat Barker had his first solo concert since leaving the Mark Trammell Quartet. He had help from a few friends including Corey Pearson, Joel Wood, Dustin Sweatman and Eric Phillips. You can view the full concert online. I highly recommend it!

Diana Brantley uploaded a few clips from the concert. One of the highlights is the song "Glory Road" with three tenors and two different bass singers! So celebrate freedom today with this clip! Enjoy!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Something Beautiful 2014 - Part 2

This weekend I had the chance to attend the Something Beautiful women's conference. If you missed part 1 from Tuesday, check it out here.

Friday night's session was probably my favorite overall. The night started with more singing from Jim and Melissa Brady. I really can't say enough about how cute these two are together and how much I loved hearing them sing together!! A highlight was them singing "No Wonder They Call Him Our Savior."

The first speaker was Leighann McCoy. She is actually the wife of Melissa's pastor. She spoke on Jesus feeding the 5,000. She said there is a difference in just feeling compassion and having compassion. Jesus HAD compassion on the people and chose to do something about it. She said that we often fail to bring our resources to Jesus because we think they would not be good enough, but God is enough.

Side note: When I got home, I regretted that I didn't purchase one of her books. I started looking at them online and found one that sounded extremely familiar to me. I'm very guilty of buying books on sale and putting them on my shelf to read sometime later when I have time. Well, the reason it sounded familiar is because it was one of those "later" books that had been sitting on my shelf.  "Later" became this week. :)

Allison Durham Speer came up next. She sang a couple of songs. She even pulled Kenna West up to sing with her on one that Kenna helped write. I knew Allison could sing, but I had NO IDEA how funny she was! She was hilarious! She was full of great stories about her grandmother, aunt and mother.

Next the Talleys took the stage. They sang several songs from their latest project Test of Time including another one from Kenna West "What You Leave Behind." (Kenna along with fellow writer Sue Smith were there in attendance but neither had a part in the conference.) Lauren spoke and told the story of her black dress. She had struggling with illness for months that caused her to grow in her faith spending time in the Word. The dress was a reminder that God had not forgotten her during a rough time in her life. She tells the full story in her book, Songs in the Night

The next day started with Keena Cowsert. She has adopted nine teenagers and has been a foster mom to many more. Her talk was focused on worship. Worship should be about what we do every moment of every day. She talked about going through a tough time with one of the teens that led her to read through the Psalms. She talked about what all worship can mean and include.

Alison provided a little comic relief and singing for the morning. Keena said earlier that she was really glad she didn't have to follow Allison. However, Becky Keep did follow Allison. She is the sister to Kim Collingsworth. She and her family have an incredible story.

When Becky's son Jesse was only a few weeks old, doctors discovered he had a rare eye cancer. The condition eventually led to a removal of one eye at age 2. And at age 4, doctors had to remove the second eye to save his life. It was four years of surgeries, doctor's appointments and questions. Becky talked about the struggle of telling her son and explaining everything to a toddler. She explained the grief they experienced as parents over his sight. She brought the room to tears as she recounted all that they had been through. However, she reminded us that God can fix us when He doesn't fix our circumstances. He can take our bitter circumstances and turn them into the sweetest blessings. Jesse was also there. He's 16 now and played and sang for us. It was such an amazing moment!!

The conference ended with Jim calling his mom up to sing a song. He talked about how special moms are and what an influence his mom had on his life. It was pretty special considering I got to spend the weekend with my mom. Then Jim, Melissa, Tim Parton and Allison ended the weekend with "I'll Fly Away!"

We had such a great time this weekend. Melissa Brady did a fabulous job of putting it all together. This was the second conference they have done, and they were starting to look at next year already. I definitely want to make plans to go back!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

When Lyrics Speak - I'll Take It

Sometimes I just crave a long car ride by myself with music going, my own mini concert in my car if you will. It helps me clear my head, pray, worship, whatever I might be needing.

Ever have those times where you just feel defeated? Circumstances are weighing you down, and you're not sure what to do. It might not be anything serious, but life has just gotten the best of you, and you are just struggling. Please tell me I'm not alone in these feelings.

I was on one of these solo car trips driving back after a visit with my parents not long ago. I had my music on shuffle that day and "I'll Take It" came on. I love this song written by Joseph and Lindsay Habedank. The song promises that whatever you might be facing, big or small, God will take it.

The first verse of the song promises that God can make a way, take your burden, even before you reach the valley. When you are scared of what's up ahead, God is there. He's not going to leave you alone. He will show up and take it, the trial you are going through, the storm you are facing or the valley that's just ahead. (I never realized we had so many analogies for tough times.) But no matter what is ahead, God will take it.

The song reassurances us as God's children that He does not leave us alone. Our job is not to solve the problem or to take on whatever we have ahead by ourselves. We can question all we want why things have been put in our lives, but it's not for us to figure it all out. Our job is to surrender to Him and let Him take it. Thank goodness He doesn't want us to tackle things alone or face life's problems without help. God is there to help and to take your burdens. He is waiting with arms open wide. What an incredible promise! I'm so thankful that in those moments when life gets the best of me, He will take it.

"Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." - Psalm 55:22

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Something Beautiful 2014 - Part 1

This weekend I had the privilege to attend the Something Beautiful women's conference in Nashville. The event was hosted by and the brainchild of Melissa Brady. She saw the need to have an event for women and decided to put one together herself.

I had decided before I got to the event on Thursday night that blogging it would not be a main goal of the weekend. I wanted to enjoy all the sessions and really concentrate on what God was speaking to me through the songs and sessions and not focus on what I would say about it on my blog later. That being said, the conference was too good not to make some post about on here if only to help more people know about it and want to go next year! So I didn't take copious notes of all sessions and only have iPhone pictures, but I definitely want to share with you what an amazing weekend it was.

Thursday night started with Melissa singing. This was my first time seeing Melissa in person and getting to meet her! Not only is she an amazing vocalist, but she has a heart for this type of ministry. Loved hearing her sing in person and hearing her and Jim together!

Solveig Leithaug also sang Friday night and briefly on Saturday morning. I had heard her a few times on Gaither videos, but wasn't extremely familiar with her music. She has style all her own within gospel music, a little reminiscent of folksy. She is a great songwriter as well. A couple of times she decided to just sing without the track and just play her guitar, and for me those were my favorite moments. She had her daughter sing with her and then Melissa joined her on one song at the end of Friday night. Also, she gets major kudos for singing a few songs on Saturday morning when she had a plane to catch that morning!

Anne Beiler, founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels, spoke on Friday night and Saturday morning. She told her story of her daughter dying in a farming accident when she was only 19 months old. That led to a serious of events and bad choices that led to a hard road of blame and shame. She said that the two things that got her through her life were the grace of God and a good man. Her husband stayed by her side even after a period of unfaithfulness. She also emphasized that everyone has a story to tell. Don't think that your story is boring and can't help someone. God will use it for His glory, that's why He is having you walk through it. Her story is incredible. Check out her book Twist of Faith for her full story.

Friday night also featured Marla and Keith Henry. Marla is Jim Brady's sister (his parents and another sister were also there). Marla is a great singer as well and her husband is an incredible artist. He drew as she sang for their portion of the program.

Saturday morning had a slight schedule change. The group Sisters was supposed to be there but unfortunately had change their schedule last minute. Instead, we got a surprise - Tim Parton was there. He played a sang a few songs that morning.

In addition to Solveig and Anne, Michael Booth and his wife Vicki were also there. Jim called Michael to the stage for them to sing a few Booth Brothers songs together minus Ronnie. They even had Melissa join them on a song!

Vicki Booth then shared her story and gave her testimony. It was so powerful. This was the first time she had ever shared her story publicly. She had a hard childhood that led her to struggle with issues into her adulthood. She was very open and honest about the feelings of depression that she went through as an adult. Michael was by her side the entire time chiming in, sometimes with comic relief and sometimes helping bring a point home. His reaction was pretty funny when she skipped over the part of how they met for time's sake! I appreciated Vicki's openness and really thought she did an incredible and heartfelt job of sharing her story. The thing that really helped her was getting involved in Bible Study Fellowship. The big takeaway was the importance of staying in God's Word and spending quality time every day reading.

So for someone who was not going to really focus on blogging the event, this is only part one. Part two with Friday night and Saturday morning's sessions will be up later this week!