Inspirations and Signature Sound: Male Quartets of the Year

Ever since the Inspirations and Signature Sound tied for Male Quartet of the Year in last Thursday’s Fan Awards, this unlikely tie has been the topic of heated discussion on various Southern Gospel message boards.

Most of this discussion has centered around how hard it would be to find two less similar groups. But looking beyond the surface dissimilarities reveals some interesting parallels.

Both groups are vocally led by a tenor and anchored by a bass; in each case, the tenor and the bass are (arguably) the most popular of the group members. While the bass part often has the best-known individual, relatively few groups are led vocally by a tenor.

But there is a key similarity, which makes the many of the same fans willing to vote for either for quartet of the year. Both devote about least half of their live concerts, and a quarter to a third of the slots on their recordings, to bringing back classic songs that were popular before that group’s founding. Many of these songs are convention songs with a walking bass part. After they establish a connection with live audiences with familiar songs, they sing the new songs that they have introduced.

Granted, there are differences between the groups as well–musical differences such as instrumentation or accents, and superficial differences such as hairstyle or tie length.

But since some bloggers (figuratively) tear their hear out in puzzlement over how the same voters could possibly vote for one group one year and another group another year, it’s worth stepping back for a moment to take in the fact that, after all, both groups do come from and utilize the same Southern Gospel tradition, in ways that have their similarities just as they have their differences.

In conclusion, I have no idea what the Inspirations think of Ernie Haase and Signature Sound but it’s fascinating to read what Ernie Haase thinks of Archie Watkins and the Inspirations.

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