Sunday, August 31, 2014

Not Giving Up on Day 9 - Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

I’ve been going to the Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City since before it was its own festival. I’ve been known to sit out in the rain to see a group either waiting in line or during the concert. And last night was another one of those nights. But before the great downpour, I had a full day of gospel music.

I made sure to get to the park this morning to see 11th Hour. They were my first stop, and I actually saw two of their concerts. They sang several from their latest project including “No Death,” “Heal My Wounds,” “Waving on the Other Side,” “Jesus Is In the House” and “How Will You Plead.”

Jaquita was featured on “Heal My Wounds” and “God’s Still God.” It’s good to hear more from her. The last time I saw them in full concert, she had not been with the group for very long. It’s great to hear more from her. She adds a lot to the group.

I’m glad someone requested Amber sing “How Will You Plead!” One of my favorite new songs! They also asked that she sing “Adam’s Fall” in the last show. Love hearing Amber sing this one!

The Akins are a family group who I had not seen before. However, I can assure you that after their show I want to see them again! I could be wrong, but I don’t think they used any tracks, all live music!!

They started their set with “How Great Thou Art” a cappella. They sang a few more hymns and standards like “I’ll Fly Away” and “Blessed Assurance” and they sang an a cappella version of “He Looked Beyond My Faults” that was incredible!!

They also wrote a few of the songs they sang. My favorite was “I Want My Stage to be an Altar.” The father of the group said that it was his testimony song and his prayer for every concert they sing.  They ended the set with “Arise My Love.” It’s interesting that this is the second Southern Gospel group to sing this song. Still just as powerful!!

From there, I went to see Three Bridges. I saw this group for the first time at last year’s festival. They started with “House of Good News” and then sang the hymn “He Touched Me.”

They got the audience going with “I Feel a Little Song Coming On.” This is probably the song I was most familiar with of theirs. I also loved hearing them sing “Shadrach” live, but the highlight of their set was the song “Unknown Soldier” that they dedicated to all the veterans.

Gold City was the headliner of the night in Echo Hollow. But before, they took the stage, a new group called New Road sang. The group won a competition hosted by a radio station in Northwest Arkansas. They sang four songs, “Newborn Feeling,” “Oh What a Savior,” “I Would Crawl” and “Glory Road.” They were a great group!!

Gold City started with “Somebody Sing Me a Gospel Song.” It’s been several years since Gold City has been in Echo Hollow and you could tell the audience was glad to have them back there!!

It was good to hear a few songs from their latest release, a hymns project, like “I Must Tell Jesus” and “Redeemed.” They also sang the modern hymn “Power of the Cross” after intermission. This was probably a highlight of the night!!

They sang several favorites as well like “Peter James and John,” “I’m Rich,” “I Cast My Bread Upon the Water,” and “I’m Not Giving Up.”

Chris West was filling in at bass, and they featured him on “I’m Free.” He did a great job with them. I think they said he had filled in one weekend a while back but had not sung with the group much.

During the first half, the sky had been threatening rain. We all were bracing for in rain jackets, umbrellas and ponchos nearby. At intermission, it started to hit, only slightly raining at first. However, when the group started the second half the rain picked up more and more.

They were singing “When I Get Carried Away,” and Daniel got to the line “until it looks like rain,” and I think we all started laughing. The bottom fell out of the sky shortly after. At the end of the song, Duane Garren came out on stage, and they called the show with the system coming through and serious lightning in the area. So the brave ones of us who didn’t give up trekked back to the front of the park to get on a tram to get to our cars. I don’t think I had one dry thread on me by the time I reached my car! But it wasn’t the first time I sat in the rain for a concert, and it probably won’t be the last! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Mixing the Old and the New - Day 8 Recap of Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

Friday was a mixture of the old and the new at Silver Dollar City. The groups are park were very diverse from a traditional male quartet who had been around for 80 plus yeas to three red-headed young girls just getting their starts to family groups who are making a name for themselves.

My day started at Red Gold Hall with Red Roots. This was my first time seeing these girls sing live. I was extremely impressed with the level of talent these girls have. I’d heard them sing before, but I never realized what talent they have as musicians. I think I counted eight different instruments on stage, and they played them all!!

I was actually surprised that I was more familiar with some of their songs than I thought I would be. They started with “Christian Country Girl,” which I had heard a lot on radio. I also had heard “Seven Days,” but my favorite of what I heard them sing was “Grow.”

I was impressed not only by these girls’ musical abilities but also by what they said in between songs. You can tell these girls are passionate about sharing Christ through music and living for Him. It was also fun to see a lot of young girls in the audience who you can tell are big fans. These girls are definitely making impressions on young fans.

From there, I went to see the Sneed Family at the Riverfront Playhouse. I got the chance to interview them last year, but this was my first time seeing them live. They had a full live band with keys, drums and two guitars. They started the set with “Sail on Over to the Other Side.” Then Jeff, the patriarch of the family, was featured on “I’ve Got More to Go to Heaven For.”

They sang other familiar songs like “If You’ll Move Over, I’ll Help You Carry Your Load” and “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now.” However, the highlight of the set was Amanda singing “Hallelujah Square.” She, Caleb and Seth repeated the chorus a cappella. Amazing job!!! They ended the show with “He Is Leading the Way.”

My afternoon was spent with Karen Peck and New River catching a couple of the group’s shows. Kari, Karen’s daughter, joined them on stage singing for the last show. They repeated a few songs, but pretty much had completely different sets each time. They repeated “Revival” and of course “Four Days Late,” but I didn’t mind one bit. That song never gets old. I don’t care how many times I hear it, it still speaks to me and you can see how it still ministers to others. During the second show, Karen sang “Amazing Grace” a cappella and then went into “Four Days Late!” Absolutely beautiful!!

It was good to hear other songs from their most recent project like “Everybody’s Going Through Something,” “Finish Well” and “You Did It Anyway.” “Finish Well” is becoming one of their most powerful and most requested songs. Jeff gave a heartfelt testimony during the last show of how his pastor died suddenly just days before they went into the studio to record that song. They left straight from the funeral to the recording studio. He said it was the last thing on his mind, but as soon as Karen started singing that song the Spirit was in the room and he had the peace that passes all understanding.

Karen made sure to close each show with prayer, praying for those who were hurting and those who might not know Christ. I absolutely love the heart of this group!!

The night concert featured Aaron and Amanda Crabb, the Blackwood Brothers and the Bowling Family. This was my first time seeing Aaron and Amanda live. It is so sweet seeing this couple minister together as a duo. They sang several classics like “Going Home,” “He Looked Beyond My Fault” and “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand.” I also loved that they chose to sing a few from their latest project “If I’m Guilty” and “Take Him to the Place.” Amanda talked about the last one being her testimony song and how she had written it from John 11 when Jesus said to take Him to the place where Lazarus lay. Incredible song!!

The Blackwood Brothers took the stage next. They started with “Feelin’ Mighty Fine” and then went into “Jesus Is Coming Soon.” A highlight of their set was Butch Owens featured on “I’ve Got to Walk That Lonesome Road.” Michael Helwig also sang “It Is No Secret,” another great moment!

They had the entire audience on its feet standing and clapping along with “I Wanna Be More Like Jesus.” They repeated the chorus a few times. Normally groups would end with a song like that, but they chose to end on a hymn “Blessed Assurance.”

The Bowling Family closed the night. They started with “I’ll Be Alright As Soon as I Touch Calvary.” Then they sang two songs from Safe After the Storm, “Come Along Let’s Fly” and “I Know Enough.”

They brought back an older song that Hope sang when she was younger, “Jesus Pilots My Ship.” If you thought she was incredible on this song before, you should hear her sing it now!! She, Troy and Mike repeated the chorus a cappella! It was amazing!! They also brought up their younger daughters to sing “My Country Tis Of Thee” in honor of the veterans. Their harmonies at such a young age are incredible.

Kelly was featured on the Crabb Family song “Don’t You Wanna Go.” Aaron was in the sound booth and ran down to join them on stage! It’s always good to see a mini Crabb reunion!! Mike made the comment after the song that he thought he would be cooked after being under those hot lights, but Kelly said it was hard to cook a Crabb! Haha!

Kelly gave the testimony of the bus accident to set up “Your Cries Have Awoken the Master.” This is always such a powerful song and a highlight of the night! However, I think my favorite song from last night was “I Still Glory in the Cross!” After that song, they ended on the barnburner “I Never Shall Forget the Day” bringing up Duane Garren to sing the last part with them!

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - August 30

I've spent most of this week at Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic as most of you already know. This has been a busy week for me, but also in the way of Southern Gospel news. Here are news and tidbits from this week -

  • Jim Brady announced his resignation from the Booth Brothers. He will stay with the group through the end of the year. He and his wife Melissa along with a third vocalist yet to be determined will start the Jim Brady Trio next year.
  • Connie Hopper released a personal statement about being diagnosed with cancer after doctors found a small malignant mass during her annual mammogram. Doctors are very optimistic about her upcoming surgery on Sept. 2. Keep her and the Hoppers in your prayers.
  • Tony Jarman has announced that he is leaving the Down East Boys. He has been tenor for the group since January 2011. He is leaving to pursue other ministry opportunities.
  • Matt Felts is leaving the Dixie Melody Boys and is joining the Lesters replacing Justin Wells.

Anything that I've missed?

Friday, August 29, 2014

It's a Great Day - Silver Dollar City Southern Gospel Picnic Day 7

We have reached the point in the week where there is more of the festival behind us than ahead. It’s always a little sad to me when we get to this point. If you are within a few hours of the Ozarks and love gospel music, this is an event you don’t want to miss next year.

The Whisnants were first on my agenda yesterday morning. I caught two of their shows. They sang several standards like “King Jesus Is Coming,” “Be Not Afraid,” “I’ll Pray for You” and their “Ready Medley.” Austin and Ethan sang with Jeff on “Road to Emmaus.” I love hearing them do this one! Austin also sang “I’ll Make Heaven Home.” Their sons are really going to be ones to watch as they mature and have a bigger role in their ministry! I also got to hear Susan sing “Is Anything Too Hard for God?” which I had never heard her sing live.

The Whisnants
One of the highlights was hearing Aaron on “I’m Trusting the Blood.” This is becoming one of my favorite Whisnant songs! However, the definite highlight came at the end of their last show. Susan told about her mom’s cancer scare. She said her mom was really the one reassuring her, because Susan had admitted that her faith had been weak. At the doctor’s appointment, the doctor couldn’t explain what they had seen weeks before but it wasn’t there any more. Susan said her mom knew that God had done a work in her life, but she had the faith that “all was well” no matter what the outcome had been that day. She then sang “All Is Well.” Incredibly powerful moment!!!!

2nd Generation
 I also got to see 2nd Generation at the Riverfront Playhouse yesterday. I saw them in Arkansas at the end of last year when Randy Barnes had not been with them long, and he wasn’t feeling well that night. It was great hearing them yesterday with Randy in full force. This trio is sounding great together!! They started with “One More River to Cross,” and then went into the classic hymn “What a Day That Will Be.” Brenda was featured on the first verse, and Randy on the second. It was good to hear “Hanging on a Nail” again live! This is one of my favorites that they sing. They got the audience involved on “Feel the Joy.” It was great to see the audience all standing doing the motions with the group! One of the highlights was Elaine singing “Sheltered in the Arms of God.” They ended the set with “Redemption Draweth Nigh,” also featuring Elaine.

In Red Gold Hall, Soul’d Out Quartet had three show yesterday afternoon. I was able to catch two of them. I am more impressed with this quartet each time I see them. They sang a lot of familiar songs like “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before,” “Singing and Rejoicing on my Way,” “Jesus Is Coming Soon” and “I Believe,” which featured Ian, love hearing him sing this song! They also got the audience really clapping along with “Fare Thee Well!”

Soul'd Out Quartet
It was great hearing Bryan sing “I Want to Thank You.” Love the message of this sing, and it was great to hear it live. Dusty was featured on “You Were There,” which was a highlight of their final show of the afternoon! Incredible job! They ended each set with “Arise My Love,” which is such a powerful song for them!! I was glad I got to hear it twice!!

Legacy Five was the final show of the night. This was probably one of the biggest crowds they have had in Echo Hollow so far in the festival. They started the night with “Great Day” and then sang “Bloodwashed Band.”

They sang several more from their latest project including “That’s a Hallelujah,” “Great Medley,” “Who Is This Man,” “He Is To Me” and “Christ Is Still the King.” I loved the “Great Medley” that includes “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “How Big Is God” and “How Great Thou Art.”

Legacy Five
Scott Fowler talked about loving the old hymns of the church. Before the concerts at night, we have been having a hymn sing, so the guys got to hear the audience sing some tonight. There were several hymnals on top of the piano. Scott picked up the redback hymnal. He talked about the taping they had done at TBN and found “Grand and Glorious Feeling” that they had sung that night and they sang it.

Scott talked about how Trey had been trained in classical piano at a conservatory. He asked Trey to play a piece that weaves classical with a hymn, so Trey played classical with “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” Scott Howard asked what that was at the beginning when he finished and Trey said that it was a sonata. Scott said that made sense to him since “it’sonata hymn.”

Before the end of the first half, Scott Fowler read the resurrection story from Luke, and then they sang “Christ Is Still the King.” It was a great moment! Probably the highlight of the night for me!!

In the second half, they sang a few requests like “Strike Up the Band” and “Ask Me Why.” They were going to end on “Champion of Love,” which would have been great, but the audience wanted one more. So they closed the night with “What a Happy Day” with audience standing and clapping along!

It was another great day, now on to Day 8!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Enjoying a New Day - Silver Dollar City Recap Day 6

Since I had to miss Tuesday, I wanted to make up for it. It was a new day, and I wanted to see all I could. I got to the park early yesterday to see the first shows of the morning. In fact, I had the chance to see several groups twice!

My morning started with Spoken 4 Quartet. I walked into the front of the park just a few songs into their first show. They had a special guest performing with them Tuesday and Wednesday, their producer Jeff Stice! I was able to catch part of their first show and all of their second show. They did sing a few that I heard them sing Monday, but I didn’t mind! Jon Charles sang the song about the prodigal song, “Back to Me,” love this song from their latest project. Steven was featured on “Who Am I” and “Beulah Land,” love hearing him sing those classics. Cecil showed off his bass skills on “Life’s Evening Sun.” Jeff Stice made him repeat the chorus and go even lower!! Of course, when you have Jeff playing keys for you, you’re going to let him show what he can do. Jeff played a couple of songs solo. It was great to hear him play again, because he is definitely one of the best!! The highlight of both sets had to be the song “That’s My Boy.” They closed the second show with this song!

I also two shows of the Taylors. They started each show with “New Day Dawning,” but from there did completely different sets. I love that they sang several from their latest project like “I’m Committed to You, Lord,” “He Goes Before Me” and “Measure of Grace.” However, my favorite had to be “I Tremble.” I’ve always loved this song. They featured Suzanne on the song. They brought out Leslie’s husband Aaron Perkins and son Isaiah in each set I saw. Jonathan told that he was a miracle baby. Not only had doctors told Leslie that she would probably never be able to have children of her own, but he was born with one functioning kidney and doctors thought that it wouldn’t be functioning at the level it needed to be. However at the last checkups, it was functioning at 100%. Aaron is a bass singer, so he joined them for two songs, one in each set, “Roll Away” and “Up Above My Head.” Leslie held the baby as the five of them sing together. Little baby Isaiah seemed perfectly content on stage in his mom’s arms. They had two great sets!!

The Kingsmen were at Red Gold Hall yesterday afternoon. I had the chance to also see them twice. They sang a mix of favorites and new songs. It was good hearing “Meet Me at Table,” “Travelin’ Home” and “Glory Road.” They sang probably my favorite Kingsmen song, which is “That’s All I Need.” They sang a couple of newer songs including their single, “Oh Yes I Am,” which they closed both sets with. They also sang “Beautiful City,” a newer one and Randy joked they might have to sing watermelon a bit with this one. Ray Dean threw watermelon in there a few times at the end for some laughs. Chris, their tenor, sang “Look for Me at Jesus’ Feet” in both sets, which was a definite highlight. However, one of the sweetest moments occurred in the second set. They told that a brother and sister came to the table and requested a song for their dad who is serving in Afghanistan. They didn’t know the song that the siblings requested but still wanted to sing something for them and their dad, so they sang “Land of the Free.” The siblings and family were on the front row and the group acknowledged them. I’m not sure there were many dry eyes in the house!

The Martins were the headline group tonight! I love seeing them back in Echo Hollow. The night started with “New Day” featuring Judy. They sang several of their a cappella songs, which I love to hear them do! They sang some classics like “Holy Holy Holy” and “Softly and Tenderly” and a couple from their new project like “Shut De Door” and “Never Walk Alone.” The last one was a highlight of the night!! They even sang a little bit of “Count Your Blessings” a cappella, but it wasn’t exactly intentional. Apparently the sound guy couldn’t find the track, so Joyce just started singing a bit of the chorus and Jonathan and Judy just jumped in!

Being from Arkansas, their parents were there sitting proudly on the front row and Jonathan had several family members there as well. Jonathan recognized his mom and talked about what an incredible influence she was on their lives. She’s the one who taught them to sing. She and his daughter Amelia were celebrating birthdays this week, so he had the audience sing to both of them.

Each sibling gave a bit of testimony. Judy talked about her struggle with depression and how God had allowed this struggle to remain in her life, but it was a reminder to her that we all have a desperate need for Jesus. Then they sang "Wherever You Are." Jonathan talked about the struggles in life and no matter what we face there is nothing that hasn't passed through the Father's hands. This set up "The Promise." I love this song, and for me this was the highlight of the night!!

Joyce talked about how they started out at Silver Dollar City at the gazebo. Then, they gradually moved up and now had sung at Echo Hollow for several years. She talked about their challenges and struggles that they have overcome over the years as a family. Then, they sang "Unredeemed."

They ended the night with "Love's Gonna Drive This Train" with everyone on their feet! It was a great night!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Matt Felts to Join Lesters

Matt Felts recently announced his resignation from the Dixie Melody Boys. This week, the Lesters made the announcement that Matt Felts is joining their ministry. Here was the statement they issued -

Matt and his family reside just outside of Nashville, Tenn., but he is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. He was actually raised not too far from where we live in South City St. Louis. His wife's name is Jennifer, and they are blessed with a beautiful daughter whose name is Abbey and is 5 years old. Matt is a Graduate of Missouri University in Columbia, Missouri, with a degree in marketing, and he'll be the first to tell you his desire is to "serve the Lord" through singing gospel music and will use everything he has learned to get the message of Jesus Christ out to the world! He has traveled with several different gospel groups in his young life, including just finishing a nearly five year stay with the legendary Ed O'Neal & The Dixie Melody Boys. We are grateful to the Lord for sending Matt our way and we're looking forward to what God has in store for this ministry as we continue our journey for Him. Matt will join us beginning the week of September 8th, so be watching our Tour Schedule and come join The Lesters in concert; get to know Matt, and welcome him to the family.
Matt also issued a statement
Growing up in St.Louis, our home was filled with the sounds of great gospel groups like the Cathedrals and the Happy Goodmans but one group stood out to us above the rest , the Lesters. One of the first songs I ever sang in my local church was "He didn't throw the clay away." I never dreamed I would have the honor to sing that song with them on stage. I'm thrilled to be apart of such a rich legacy of ministry and great music. Brian, Jon and all of the Lester family have already made my family feel so welcome. Joining the Lesters is truly like coming home. I look forward to getting to know all of their friends and fans very soon.

Look forward to seeing more from Matt and the Lesters!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bringing the Heat and the Ice - Day Four - Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

So far there have been plenty of groups bringing the heat, but last night Triumphant Quartet brought the ice… in a whole new way. Duane Garren teased to something happening that had never been done at a gospel concert before last night at Echo Hollow, so the crowd really didn’t know what we were in for! The night ended a little icy, but there was plenty of heat during the day.

Mark Bishop
The day started with Mark Bishop at the Riverfront Playhouse. It was great to see him again back at Silver Dollar City. He sang a lot of familiar ones like "Remember Who He Is," "Perfectly Honest," "Listening for the Call" and "Can I Pray for You?" It was great hearing all live. I forget not only what a great vocalist he is but incredibly gifted songwriter. He talked about writing songs and how he has the greatest resource for songs in the Bible, but the difficult part was that all Christians have the same resource. Therefore, we all know how the stories going to turn out. He said no matter how he paints a song about Lazarus, we know in the end, Jesus is going to raise him from the dead. He sang "Bring Lazarus Back," which I don't remember hearing much before. It's offers good possible insight into what Jesus was thinking at this miracle. He also sang one of his newer songs, "Love's Gonna Get You Yet." I really enjoyed it, very different from anything he's ever written. In fact, he said that his daughter said it was the first cool song he had ever written. He ended with "My Name Is Jesus." I love this song, but it was interesting to see him sing it live and do all the different parts since I'm used to hearing it with several different singers. Still just as powerful though!!!

Spoken 4 Quartet
After his show, we made our way to the front of the park to see Spoken 4 Quartet at the gazebo. They started with "Try a Little Kindness." Then Steven was featured on "I Hold a Clear Title to a Mansion," but he really shined when he went to the keyboard and played and sang "Who Am I." Lead singer Jon Charles was featured "Back to Me," a song about the prodigal son. He gave a brief testimony saying he had once been that prodigal son and wondered away from God and then returned. They sang "Swing Down Chariot" a cappellla! Bass singer Cecil Stringer showed off his chops on "Life's Evening Sun." They also sang a few more from their latest project "I Know I'm Going Home" (a favorite and highlight of the set) and "That's Why He Died." I'm looking forward to seeing them again tomorrow, and they'll have a special guest with them!!


We caught two of the Freemans' afternoon shows. They did completely different sets, I think only repeating one song which was "Lead Me Home," great powerful song that Darrell sings. Chris Freeman has to have the most recognizable voice in gospel music. She sang a newer song that I had not heard before, "Last Time I Looked." Incredible song that she absolutely tears up!! Love it!! Someone requested Misty sing "Faith, Hope and Love." I'm so glad they did. That's one of the first songs I remember hearing from them. Great to hear her sing it live again. She and Caylon also sang "Water Grave." A few more highlights were "Three Rugged Crosses," "Ole' Tresspasser" and "What a Day That Will Be."

While we were in the last Freemans show apparently it decided to rain just for a bit. So when we came out the ground was wet and the steam was rising from the pavement. It did eventually cool the air a bit, but the outdoor amphitheater for the night's concert was pretty wet! The crew did a great job of getting the stage set back up in record time and helping dry as many seats as possible. But that also meant Mark Bishop did his sound check with half an audience. He opened the night before Triumphant took the stage. We got to hear some repeats but a few songs we hadn't gotten to hear yet like "I Can Rejoice," "Pray on the Little Days" and "I Got Here as Fast as I Could." He said during the day he was able to sing in the air conditioning, so he wasn't used to the heat. He offered a free DVD to someone who would come fan him during one of the songs, and he had two takers! Haha!

Triumphant Quartet took the stage last night to close the day. This is normally the only time I get to see them during the year, and I forget how incredible they are to see live. They started the night with "Because He Loved Me" and repeated the chorus a cappella. From the first song, you could tell this was going to be a great night.

Triumphant Quartet
They sang a couple from their most recent project. Clayton sang "I Will Rise," and David sang "This Blood." I love the concept of their latest album, and it's great to hear these songs Triumphant Quartet style. "This Blood" was definitely a highlight of the night!!!

Eric sang "Long Black Train" which seems to always be a crowd favorite. They sang other favorites too like "Somebody Died for Me," "Movin' Up To Gloryland," "Take It From Me Meschach," and "Love Came Calling." That last song is still my favorite that they do. Love hearing Scotty sing it live!! And of course, they sang "The Old White Flag." I don't know how Clayton puts as much into it every night as he does, but it's always so fun to watch him on this song. I was sitting with several who had never seen the group before and had no clue that all of Echo Hollow was about to pull out handkerchiefs and white napkins to wave in the air. It's always such a fun environment for this song!!

G.W. Southard was playing piano with them and he and David did an instrumental duet of "I'll Fly Away" on keys and harmonica.

Duane Garren teased to something big happening in the second half. Well, Eric said that they had been challenged to do the ice bucket challenge at Silver Dollar City. So they set up chairs for the entire group to take the challenge together, and they did like champs!! Danny Jones of the Singing News got a great video of it! Be sure to check it out on their Facebook page. They challenged the Booth Brothers to do the same Monday night, so we will see! The irony of it is that they sang "I Wish It Would Rain" right before that.

But even after the challenge, they sang one more song soaking wet, "When the Trumpet Sounds." It was such a fun night!!

I've spent most of today driving, which is why this post is a little late. But I drive back to Branson tomorrow and will be there the rest the time! Looking forward to six more days of gospel music!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Prayers Requested for Connie Hopper

Connie Hopper issued a personal statement that is posted on the Hoppers and Singing News Facebook pages.

August 24, 2014

Dear Friends,

I just wanted to drop a note of gratitude for your kindness and encouragement throughout the years. With respect to that unmatched support, I wish to respond to recent inquiries and concerns.

Simply put, during my annual mammogram, the doctor discovered a small malignant mass. Because of our family's past experience with this disease and knowing the emotional toll it can take, they asked that we postpone a few concerts as to be with me during the time of my tests. Nothin' like good family support.

Yes, plans of surgery are already in motion and all doctors are beyond optimistic! Oswald Chambers wrote, "Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work."

We greatly appreciate your understanding of any time off I may need to take, and sincerely covet your prayers.

Once more, I thank you.
Connie Hopper

We just saw them last night, and I'm definitely surprised this morning to learn this. The family had to be going through so many emotions, and they ministered and glorified God through it all. They never let it show what they were going through. Definitely keep Connie and the Hoppers in your prayers.

Plenty of Shoutin' on Day Three of Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

We are now through with day three of the Southern Gospel Picnic. We got out to the park to see four shows today. There was a bit of a Gold City reunion, a lot of American pride and it all ended with a little bit of shoutin’! :)

Wilburn and Wilburn

The first show was Wilburn and Wilburn. The first time I got to see this group was at last year’s festival. In an industry where duets are not the norm, this father/ son duo makes it work well! They started the set with “John Saw a Mighty Number.” Then, Jonathan was featured on “I Can’t Even Walk Without You Holding My Hand” and “There Rose a Lamb.” They sang the uptempo song, “Devil Be Gone,” and at the end Jordan put a few extra vocal aerobics in it. Jonathan said he was just showing out. A man from the audience yelled out, “I wonder who he gets that from!” Haha! Jordan then sang one of their newer songs that I love, “Help Me Help Someone.” They ended with “Funeral Plans.” Jonathan said Christians are the only ones who get to sing and shout about dying. This father/son duo is just fun to watch on stage in person. I hope to get to see them in full concert one day.

Reggie Saddler Family
Then, we made our way to the Opera House for Reggie Saddler. He did a lot more singing and serious moments than what I had seen in the past. He didn’t do his impersonations or pick his guitar, although I’m sure that happened at other shows during the day. They sang a few songs like “God Can Make a Winner,” “Oh I Want to See Him” and “Never Seen It Done Like That.” Then, Reggie talked about being a Vietnam veteran and what it was like to come home and not received a warm welcome. They sang “Welcome Home Soldier” and he dedicated it to the veterans in the audience. Then they sang “Stand Up For America,” which of course had the audience on its feet. They closed with “I’ve Got Me a Home” and “I’m Too Near.”

Jay Parrack and Vocal Event
For the second phase of the Gold City reunion day, we saw Jay Parrack and Vocal Event. I loved the lineup of Jay, Jonathan, Mark Trammell and Tim Riley for Gold City, but I never got to see them in person. So this was actually my first time seeing Jay live. They sang several familiar songs including “What a Beautiful Day,” “Passed Over Into Canaanland,” “There Rose a Lamb” and “I Call Him Lord.” From his introductions of the other group members, I’m gathering that this is not a full-time ministry for them. However, they sounded great together and definitely have the talent for full time. They sang “I Call Him Lord” and ended with a little bit of “I Know a Man Who Can” a cappella and then sang the chorus again of “I Call Him Lord” a cappella. Great arrangement and love their harmonies!! They ended with “I’m Not Giving Up.”

The Hoppers were the group last night in Echo Hollow. Before the concert started, Danny Jones came out to talk about the Singing News. He asked Claude to join him on stage and announced that Claude would be inducted in the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame for 2014. Congratulations to Claude!!

The Hoppers

The Hoppers took the stage with three generations represented with Karlye, Dean and Kim’s daughter joining them. They sang a lot of favorites, some news songs, a few hymns and of course Claude told a few stories! They started the night with “Steppin’ on the Clouds” and then went into “Yahweh.” They sang their current sing “I’ll Take You Home,” probably my favorite from their latest project.

Kim then was featured on “I’ll Worship Only at the Feet of Jesus.” Karlye took Connie’s part on this song, so it was good to have a chance to hear her by herself. She really has a unique, youthful vocal style that she brings to the group, but you can definitely hear Kim in her and I think a bit of her aunt TaRanda as well. They started the song again a cappella with Karlye, Kim, Dean and Mike and it sounded incredible!! They also sang the classics “What a Lovely Name” and “The Love of God,” which was a highlight for me!!

Dean sang “God Bless the USA,” and the audience stood. Before the concert started, we sang both “God Bless America” and the national anthem. Claude also told of how he served his country and was trained at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. It was definitely a patriotic theme to the night.

Claude and Connie sang their signature songs, “If I Can Help Somebody” and “I’ve Come Too Far.” Connie after the song talked about how she wouldn’t want to go back. She was 35 years cancer free. We can’t go back to the past only make the most of the future. She told Kim to start it off again and of course she did! Again it was Kim, Dean, Karlye and Mike who did the a cappella chorus. Kim kept holding the “the,” and Dean was trying to jump in. Kim just started teasing them with it, so Dean just said “I’m ready.” Haha!

Kim and Dean also sang one of my favorites, but one I don’t hear them sing that much live, “The Woman in my Little Girl’s Room.” Such a sweet song!!

They ended the night with “Shoutin’ Time,” and repeated the chorus several times with the audience standing and clapping along!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Jim Brady Leaves the Booth Brothers

So sometimes when you are at an all-day gospel singing event, you miss one of the biggest news items of the year. In one of the most surprising group changes of the year, Jim Brady has decided to step down from the Booth Brothers. He is going to pursue new ministry opportunities with his wife Melissa.

The Booth Brothers released this video press release today -

I will say that I had the chance to see Jim and Melissa together at Something Beautiful earlier this year. I loved seeing their hearts at this event. You could tell they truly loved the chance to minister together.

And on another note, I am very thankful that I will have the opportunity to see them again with Jim at least once more - next Monday night in Branson!

Walking On Into Day Two - Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

Day 2 of Silver Dollar City’s Southern Gospel Picnic is now in the books. I caught seven different shows with six different artists including a surprise artist. Two of the artists, I got to see for the first time live!

LeFevre Quartet

My morning started with the LeFevre Quartet. I hadn’t seen the group with the current lineup of Mike LeFevre, Jordan LeFevre, Brandon Barry and Thomas Nalley. They had a really strong set with the highlight being “Rainbow of Love,” where Brandon and Thomas got to show off their vocals. I also love that they sang “Come and See,” probably my favorite song of the group’s. Brandon also was featured on “Lead Me All the Way.” This was a great fun song to see live!


Next, I went to see the Dunaways who I actually saw twice today. They repeated several in the two shows I saw, but since this was my first time seeing the group live, I certainly didn’t mind. I love that they sang “Didn’t I Walk on the Water” in both shows! I cannot get enough of that song! They also sang from their recent release “Church in the Kitchen,” another fun one to see live. Before they sang it, they led the congregation in “Rock of Ages.” There were several songs that were new to me that I really enjoyed hearing, “Again and Again” and “Reassure Me.”

I also caught two show of the Mark Trammell Quartet. They sang a good mix of older songs and songs from their newest release. They sang a few new ones that I didn’t get to hear yesterday like “When the King Comes to Claim His Throne” and “I’ll Take It to the Grave.” It seemed that audiences cannot get enough of “Your Walk Talks.” I think this must have been requested in every show! I also got to hear Randy Byrd sing “Side by Side,” funny moment! They also ended each show with “The King Is Coming.” I never get tired of hearing this song!!

Gordon Mote

Gordon Mote was another person I got to see for the first time. He had an incredible set! He started with “Get Up In Jesus’ Name” and then sang “When I Lift Up My Head.” He then sang “Faith Like That,” absolutely love that song and definitely the highlight for me!! He started playing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” on the keyboard. He talked about what strong faith his parents had and how they raised him in a Christian home. He told a little bit of his testimony. I didn’t realize that both he and his brother had been born blind. His parents knew that God had a hand in their lives. He learned to play piano at age 3. His mother taught him the old hymns of the church, and he said those are the songs that ministered to him the most through the years. He also led the audience in “Through It All.” He also sang “Maplewood Methodist Church.” Great song! He was going to end on “Good Ole Gospel Ship,” but Duane Garren (who serves as emcee) requested that he sing one more. A man shouted out “Thank You Lord” and then another man shouted out “Mercy Walked In.” He said that he heard “Thank You Lord” first so started playing and asked that the audience join in. Then as a surprise he sang the chorus of “Mercy Walked In” to end the set.

In Echo Hollow, the Isaacs were scheduled to perform, but we got a special surprise! The Old Paths are on the Showboat Branson Belle today, but came out to sing a few for us! They sang “Ever Since That Wonderful Day,” “Oh What a Savior” and “I Passed Over Into Canaanland.” This group poured their hearts into those songs and the audience loved it!!! So glad I got to see them sing again!

Then the Isaacs took the stage, and they looked a little different than normal. Ben was not with them due to family obligations. Sonya said it was the first time he had missed in 15 years. Becky and Sonya’s husbands and Levi (Becky’s son) were with them helping out. It was different without Ben but definitely good to see and hear John Bowman and Jimmy Yeary on stage!

They started the night with “Walk On.” They sang several favorites of mine like “If That Don’t Make You Wanna Go,” “Get On Board” and “He Ain’t Never Done Me Nothing But Good.”

It was another scorcher outside, but that didn’t stop the Isaacs from putting everything they had into the hour and a half. Lily made the same comment Brian Free did the night before about it being a good time for the ice bucket challenge. Haha! It might be interesting to see how many times that comment is made over the week.

Lily read an excerpt from her book You Don’t Have to Cry Out Loud. She talked about her dad and regretted that she didn’t get to know her dad like she wanted to. She waited until it was too late. Then they sing “In the Living Years.”

John got to sing one of his songs “God’s Not Dead.” Levi and Jackobi (Becky’s daughter) also joined the whole family for “Walk Together Children.” This was one of Jackobi’s first appearances on stage. They did a great job! John sang the Bill Gaither bass part. Levi was featured on “It’s Good to Be Back Home Again.”

Jimmy sang the multi-award winning country song he wrote “I Drive Your Truck.” He told the story of how they wrote it. He and Sonya also sang “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” that they wrote.

They sang a few a cappella songs with Jimmy, Lily, Sonya and Becky like “The Lord’s Prayer.” They planned to end on “I’ll Fly Away,” but the audience requested them sing one more. They obliged and ended with an amazing a cappella version of “How Great Thou Art.” What a way to end the second day!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

And We're Off - Southern Gospel Picnic 2014 at Silver Dollar City Day One

And we are off... I love getting to be here for the Southern Gospel Picnic at Silver Dollar City, but it's also a lot to take in. There are so many different groups to see so at times it can feel like a race to get everything in.  So here's how my day went -

The Browders
I started the morning at Red Gold Heritage Hall with the Browders. They sang several of their hits I was familiar with "Lift Up His Name," "He's Alive" and "I Am So Blessed." After Tommy sang "I Am So Blessed," he gave his testimony of how he was stricken with polio at age 2. Doctors didn't give much hope. His right side was paralyzed, but God had other plans. He took an interest in music, started writing and eventually was able to play guitar regaining use of his right hand. Incredible testimony!! They did an instrumental version of "Little Brown Church" and then closed the set with "Land of No Goodbyes."

Mark Trammell Quartet

Then, I tried to go see Mark Trammell Quartet next, but the theater was full! So I decided to trek down the hill to see the Down East Boys. It had been a few years since I had seen them. They sang a lot of great familiar favorites like "Little Is Much" (which had to be the highlight of the program and featured Tony Jarman), "Oh I Want to See Him," "That Little Baby" and "Shoutin' on the Hills of Glory," which they closed with. Their set also contained the first Christmas song I heard of the festival. Baritone Daryl Paschal sang "Oh Holy Night." I also got to hear new bass singer Joe Brinkley with the group. He sang "I Wanna Be Just Like My Lord." The group also sang their latest release "Beyond the Blue."

I climbed back up to the Opera House to see the Mark Trammell Quartet. They sang several from Your Walk Talks including "Don't Stop Running," "God's Been Faithful," and the title cut which people standing clapping immediately when the song started. Mark recognized the veterans and then specifically recognized those who had served in Vietnam and thanked them for their service. They closed with "Statue of Liberty."

Hoskins Family
I made it back to the Red Gold Heritage Hall to see the last half of the Hoskins Family's first show and then stayed for their second as well. I discovered them earlier this year and found what I had been missing out on. After seeing them live yesterday, I am a big fan of this group! They sang "Whenever I Hear His Name" to close the first show! Loved it! They started their second show with "Ordinary Sunday," and the song's writer was in the audience. They also sang "What About His Grace," which was definitely the highlight!!! Then Angie went into "Amazing Grace" a cappella. She had the audience join in and then sang "Praise God." They sang some of their older songs, but were new to me like "Table for 13" and "It's Over."

I went back to see the Mark Trammell Quartet. It's been great to hear them sing so many new songs recently, but this set was full of the classics, "Echoes from the Burning Bush," "Wedding Music," "Master Builder"and "I Thirst," which Randy sang. A lady from the audience shouted out "Walk talks" as Mark was talking between songs, so he decided they do that one next. They closed with "The King Is Coming."

Brian Free and Assurance was the final act with the night show in Echo Hollow Amphitheater. Of course, we have enjoyed one of the mildest summers on record, but for this weekend temperatures soared, but Brian, Bill, Mike and Jeremy braved the heat, and so did we! Brian joked during the concert that it would be a good night for an ice bucket challenge.

Brian Free & Assurance
They sang several songs from their latest project including "Tell It Like It Was," "Unashamed," "A Little Bit of Me and You," "God of Possibilities" and of course "Say Amen." As powerful as the last song is listening to on CD, it's even better live. It's incredible to see the audience response this song gets. Definitely a highlight of the night!

Another highlight was the group singing "Peace in the Valley" a cappella. Brian talked about how they had the chance to be part of the Elvis tribute through BBC. He talked about Elvis' love for gospel music. So they sang the song in the style of Elvis!

Brian also sang "I Want to Be That Man" in the second half. He said that when he listens to songs for an album, he listens to them blindly so he doesn't know who the writer of a song is. When he first listened to the song, it brought him to tears and he immediately wanted to record the song. He didn't know until the next day that his son Ricky Free had written the song with Lee Black.

They closed the night with "Jesus Will Pick You Up" which had the whole crowd into it. It was a great night and a great start to the festival!!

Ready for day two now....

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - August 23

Here are some news and tidbit items from this week in Southern Gospel -
  • Matt Felts announced that he was leaving the Dixie Melody Boys yesterday.
  • Joseph Habedank shared his testimony with The Blaze.
  • Justin Wells of the Lesters had a pancreatitis attack but is doing better. As of yesterday, he was resting comfortably at a hospital in Salina, Kansas.
  • Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic started yesterday. I'll be here most of the time, so keep watching for recaps! 
It seems like it's been a slow news week or am I missing anything?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Matt Felts Leaves the Dixie Melody Boys

Matt Felts announced earlier today that he will be leaving the Dixie Melody Boys at the end of August. He has been with the group since 2010 as tenor. Here's his statement -
"I want to thank the friends and fans of the group for the way they have embraced me. It has been a huge honor to sing with Ed Oneal and the Dixie Melody Boys. Being a member of the Ed O'Neal University has been a blessing to not just me but my family. Ed has taught me so much and gave me such an incredible opportunity. Thanks to Aaron Dishman and Josh Garner for the last year as well as Rayburn Lane for keeping us safe on the roads. I just want to thank Ed for the incredible journey."

Fun Clip Friday - Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic

I mentioned earlier this week that I am leaving today for Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic. D.A. Calloway heads up booking all the groups for the festival. Here's a radio interview he did about the festival that I thought would make a great Fun Clip Friday for today!

If you're at the festival, hope to see you there! If not, look for recaps coming each day of groups that I see during the picnic.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Southern Gospel Picnic Preview 2014 - Silver Dollar City

Friday I leave for Branson for Silver Dollar City's Southern Gospel Picnic. This is my one big gospel event I get to attend each year. This year I have to miss one day, because I had a previous commitment in Arkansas next Tuesday night. But thankfully, I live close enough where I can go and come back and only have to miss a day!

There are several groups I am looking forward to seeing this year, some for the first time. Probably the part of the festival I am most excited about is the Chosen Few Reunion on Sunday, Aug. 31. Chosen Few was the house gospel group for Silver Dollar City for many years and one of my first exposures to gospel music. The group stopped touring but still does reunion events occasionally. I haven't seem them perform together in about 10 years, so this is definitely something I'm excited about.

There are a number of artists I will be able to see for the first time like the Hoskins Family, the Dunaways, the Akins, Red Roots, Aaron and Amanda Crabb and the Sneed Family. To get a list of all performers, check out

If you are in the area or considering attending a southern gospel event, I strongly encourage coming. It's 11 days full of gospel music with six theaters during the day and the large amphitheater at night! Duane Garren is the emcee during the day at the largest theater as well as at night. They also offer gospel cruises on the Showboat Branson Belle at noon. I'm sad to miss some of those groups on park, but it's another way to get more groups involved and offer more ways for people to enjoy this great music!

KWFC, a southern gospel radio station in Springfield, always supplies fans with fans during the first few days of the festival while supplies last. And from the looks of the weather forecast, we will need the fans this year! The fan also features a schedule on the back, so it comes in really handy. The posted a picture of the back of the fan on their Facebook earlier, so you can see a full time schedule here.

One thing that I'm also looking forward to is hymn sings. Several nights before the show starts at Echo Hollow, they are having hymn sings for 30 minutes. It's going to be a great 11 days, and I look forward to being there for 10 of them!

Anyone else going to be there? Would love to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Worshipping with Declaration - Concert Recap

I had the chance to see Declaration in concert for the first time on Aug. 16. Thanks to social media I felt like I knew the group already. I even had the chance to interview them last year. The group consists of Kasey Kemp, Jake Sammons and T.J. Evans who joined the group in January. It was great to hear them live.

The concert was at a small church in Conway, Ark. The pastor mentioned that he grew up in North Carolina where Southern Gospel was plentiful. He had lived in other places though where it was not as abundant. I believe this was the first time the church had a group and certainly hope it's not the last. I'm glad he's doing his part to bring it to Arkansas and very happy that he decided to start with Declaration!

Declaration - Jake Sammons, Kasey Kemp and
T.J. Evans
The night started with "Come to the Water," and then they picked up the pace with "One More Time." It's fun song that had the audience clapping along! Next they sang a song written by Jake called "I Know He Loves Me." This is an incredible song. T.J. took the verses of the song and proved what a great addition he is to the lineup! Then they sang the familiar "Feeling Mighty Fine."

Kasey introduced the group and said that the most important thing that Declaration wanted the audience to realize that night was that Jesus loves you. Then they sang, "All the Way" followed by "Feel Like Traveling On."

Kasey talked about how they carefully pick songs and always want to make sure their songs line up with scripture. He talked about how precious the old hymns are not just because they are old, but because of the theology behind them. They recently recorded a collection of hymns and sang a few from the collection including "In the Garden," "He Touched Me" and "Put on a Crown."

Kasey told the story of a revival they had done a while back in Illinois. He said that they had had some really good services. During the revival on the third night about three songs into the service, they noticed a lady come in the back. She was a biker type and sat in the back. About three or four songs later, the lady jumped out of her seat and ran to the altar in tears. She threw up her hands in surrender and said that she couldn't take it anymore. She was on her way to a bike rally and something told her to turn around and go in the church. When she ran to the altar, she made the decision to ask Jesus to be Lord of her life. Kasey said that in talking to her after the service, she actually used to be a member of the church and members of the church had been praying for her. Kasey said that God taught them all a lesson that night. It doesn't matter where you have been, what you have done or who you have been in the past, God is interested in where He wants to take you.

They then sang "Whosoever Will" which they said they consider this to be their testimony song. They closed the first half with "It Wasn't Me." I love this song! Jake does an incredible job on it!

The second half started with the familiar favorite "Heaven's Jubilee." Before the song, Kasey talked about growing up on the Red Back Hymnal and how they had gotten to be part of the tribute to the hymnal on TBN.

Declaration changed the style up a bit for the next one. They sang a soft shoe, rat pack type song "I'm Glad I Know." They had the audience snap along during it. "Standing on the Solid Rock" was next with the audience clapping and standing enjoying every note!

They slowed things down a bit next. They took seats on the stools, and Jake picked up the guitar. They did a hymn sing inviting the audience to join them on the songs.

Kasey then gave his testimony of his recent illness. He had been having severe headaches. He had planned a trip to see his family in Illinois. When he got home his blood pressure was extremely high. He went to the hospital and the doctors ran several tests. Through all the tests, they found no bleeding or aneurysms. But the years of traveling had caused pinched nerves in his neck and spasms. After spending the night in the hospital, they got his blood pressure down and were able to regulate his medication. He still was not feeling 100% but praised God for him being on the mend. It made him think about how good God has been to him, no matter what comes our way. Then he was featured on "In Good Hands." Loved hearing him sing this! Great job and powerful moment after hearing his testimony!!

T.J. then sang "He Is Here" just before the offered the invitation for the evening. They really brought the focus back to a worship service and not just a concert.

They closed the night with "Don't Try to Tell Me" which had everyone standing and clapping along!

It was an incredible night of worship. I'm so glad I got to see these guys for the first time live. I hope it's the first of many trips for them to Central Arkansas!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

In Case You Missed It - News and Tidbits - Aug. 16

Here's some news items from this week in gospel music.

  • The Dove Award nominations were announced Wednesday. If you missed all Southern Gospel nominations, check them out here. For a full list of nominees, see them here.
  • The Erwin Family is the latest artist to sign with StowTown Records. The family group consists of the four siblings - Keith (21), Kody (20) and Kris (18), and sister Katie (13). Check out this recent interview I did with them.
  • Tim Riley was released from rehab on Thursday sooner than expected due to the progress he has made. Doctors expect a full recovery, and the group continues to tour as he regains his strength. For those wishing to send Tim an email, you may do so at Cards may be sent via mail in care of Gold City, PO Box 2100, Gadsden, AL 35903. 
  • Speaking of Gold City, the quartet is one of the latest groups to release a concept video for their song "Power of the Cross." Check it out here.
Anything that I've missed this week?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Fun Clip Friday - Gaither Vocal Band at Dove Awards

The big news of the week in Christian music was the Dove Award nominations announced on Wednesday. In honor of that, here's a clip from last year's Dove Awards. The Gaither Vocal Band were one Southern Gospel artist who got to perform during the ceremony last year. Enjoy this for today's Fun Clip Friday!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Dove Award Nominees 2014

The Dove Award nominees were announced yesterday morning. The Dove Awards will be in Nashville at Lipscomb University on Tuesday, Oct. 7. Artists from all genres within Christian music helped announce nominees yesterday including Karen Peck Gooch, Wayne Haun and Gordon Mote.

Southern Gospel was well represented. I would have liked some representation in the overall Artist of the Year category, but still there are several notable nominations. I was glad to see the Cathedral Family Reunion project pick up a couple of nominations. Wayne Haun gathered 17 nominations including Producer of the Year. Musicscribe also has a great post about Brian Free and Assurance's nomination for "Say Amen." I'm predicting this could be a big year for them! StowTown Records has really come out strong with several of their artists nominated.

Here are some of the nominees you might be interested in -

For Song of the Year, Southern Gospel had four songs nominated

  • "I Can Trust Him" - The Perrys
  • "Revival" - Karen Peck and New River
  • "Say Amen" -  Brian Free and Assurance
  • "That's Why" - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
Southern Gospel Performance of the Year
  • "Love Is Stronger" - Jason Crabb
  • "Revival" - Karen Peck and New River
  • "Say Amen" - Brian Free and Assurance
  • "Search Me O God" - Cathedrals Family Reunion
  • "That's Why" - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
Producer of the Year
  • Ricky Free
  • Wayne Haun
Inspirational Song of the Year
  • "As Long as You Will Walk With Me" - Devin McGlamery
  • "Lift Up His Name" - The Browders
  • "Stronger" - TaRanda Greene
Southern Gospel Song of the Year
  • "I Can Trust Him" - The Perrys
  • "Love Is Stronger" - Jason Crabb
  • "Revival" - Karen Peck and New River
  • "Say Amen" - Brian Free and Assurance
  • "That's Why" - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
Bluegrass Song of the Year
  • "Daniel Prayed" - The Isaacs
  • "If These Old Walls Could Talk" - Wilburn & Wilburn
  • "Lord, In the Morning" - The Little Roy and Lizzy Show
  • "Won't It Be Wonderful There" - Dailey & Vincent
Country Song of the Year
  • "Love With Open Arms" - Doug Anderson
  • "That Whosoever Was Me" - Adam Crabb
  • "While I Still Can" - Devin McGlamery
Inspirational Album of the Year
  • Everlasting - Sandi Patty
  • Love Is a Verb - Devin McGlamery
Southern Gospel Album of the Year
  • For All He's Done - Greater Vision 
  • Oh What a Savior - Ernie Haase and Signature Sound
  • Revival - Karen Peck and New River
  • The Lord Is Good - The Collingsworth Family
  • Unashamed - Brian Free and Assurance
Bluegrass Album of the Year
  • I'd Do It All Over Again - Easter Brothers
  • The Living Years - The Isaacs
  • Through It All  - The Harper Family

Country Album of the Year
  • All Things New - Gordon Mote
  • Drive - Doug Anderson
  • Here Comes Sunday - Wilburn & Wilburn
  • Surrender - Adam Crabb
  • Triplicity - Red Roots
Special Event Album of the Year
  • Cathedral Family Reunion 
Christmas Album of the Year
  • Christmas - The Hagees
Musical of the Year
  • Bethlehem Morning - Russell Mauldin, Sue C. Smith
  • Good News From Jerusalem - Dianne Wilkinson
  • Highest Glory - Marty Funderburk
Choral Collection of the Year
  • Everlasting Praise 4 - Mike Speck and Stan Whitmire
  • Everyday Sunday - Lari Goss
Short Form Video of the Year
  • Love Is Stronger - Jason Crabb
Any surprises? What song/ album or artist were you hoping to see nominated? Any winner predictions?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Names You Might Not Know Yet - Punches Family

The Punches Family is a bluegrass gospel group who make their home in Ozark Mountains. The group consists of parents Bruce and Bobette and their kids Graham, Owen, Brooke and Emily. Get to know more about this family from patriarch Bruce Punches -

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

Bruce Punches - We’ve been involved in Bluegrass for many years and didn’t get exposed to much southern gospel until about 10 years ago. It was love at the first note. There’s something about great 4 part harmony and the drive of southern gospel music that really strikes a chord in us and we’ve been hooked ever since.

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

Bruce - Bobette and I have been involved with music all our lives. Bobette grew up in a musical family where her parents and siblings all played and sang for years before we met. In fact, we met at a bluegrass festival and it was a natural fit. The kids all started playing when they were about 7 and it wasn’t long before they were good enough to play a part in the band. It was at that point in 2009 that the Lord seemed to be calling us into the music mission field and the rest is history.

One of our first performances was with Martin Cook and the Inspirations. Martin invited us to ‘Singing In The Smokies’ and it was through that event we met many great folks like Danny and Dee Kramer, the producers of Great American Gospel television. It wasn’t long before we filmed for their show and have been on national television ever since. It’s through Great American Gospel that we have met so many great groups and people that we count as friends. God has really blessed us with these folks.

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

Bruce - I would want people to take away an impression of a real family with joys and struggles just like anyone else; nothing fake or put on. We just want God to shine through us and uplift our audience wherever we perform. We’re always striving to be a good witness and pray that God may use us to lead someone to Christ as well as encourage those who already know the Lord.

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

We have so many favorites. Seems like we perform a handful of new songs for a while and can’t get enough of them. Then, a new batch of songs will come along and we’ll be hot on those for a while. Personally, I love every song we do and always look forward to sharing them with others.

Our newest song is one which was written by Jennifer Walley, a songwriter/singer in Alabama. She and her two daughters have a very good trio and they write all their own music. They gave us a couple of songs and we made one the title cut on our latest cd. It’s called "Can I Wash Your Feet."  It’s a song about serving the Lord and it has a great melody with fantastic lyrics.

A song that made a huge impact on me and my family was one recorded by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver entitled "He Will Remember Me."  Again, the melody and lyrics really ministered to my heart.

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

Bruce - We’ve always been a fan of Doyle Lawson, but the Isaacs have been a big influence as well. They are so creative and their music is obviously anointed. We don’t believe we’re alone when we say that the Isaacs rock!

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

There are so many memories over the years that it’s hard to pin one down. However, we recall the time when we played a bluegrass festival in Pontiac, Illinois. The festival was held at a fairground where there had just been an Old Threshers Reunion a few weeks earlier. Old Threshers Reunions involve old tractors and steam equipment and the grounds had fist-sized lumps of coal scattered all over. Brooke was 9 at the time and had been listening to the song "I’m Just An Old Lump Of Coal, But I’m Gonna Be A Diamond Someday."  She wondered how God can turn a lump of coal into a diamond and we explained to her that God places it deep in the earth and puts it under great pressure. Brooke picked up a lump, put it in a plastic baggie and brought it on our bus and sat on it for several days in hopes that the coal would turn in to a diamond. We explained to her 2 Corinthians 5:17, and we all had a great laugh and a great memory out of that.

The concert that stands out the most would have to be in Bemidji, Minn. at the Berge Family festival. This was an all gospel event and It was all family bands. There were probably 3,000 people in attendance and about 2,000 of them were kids. Lots of Christian homeschool and conservative families just like ours, we had great fellowship and the holy spirit was very present that weekend.

Of course, Silver Dollar City is always a favorite and they host a Bluegrass festival in the spring and a southern gospel festival in late summer. They’re always family friendly and we’ve been playing there for years. We always see many folks we know and make new friends every year. We go out in the evenings with other families and have some great fellowship every time we play there.

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

Bruce - Our kids are leaving in a few days for a trip with the youth choir from our home church and they’re very excited. After that, we’re headed to Nebraska, Iowa and then down into Georgia again. At the same time, we’re working on a Christmas CD which will be out in November. Great American Gospel is also working on film footage that we shot not long ago in Charlotte NC and should be out soon on the airwaves. It’s our latest work and our newest songs. Our newest CD just came out a few weeks ago, and we’ve been getting lots of orders. It’s a blessing from God to be a part of a family.

Thanks Punches Family! Make sure to check them out on their website to order the group's new CD and find out when they will be near you!