3:1 Review: Grace Says (The Kingsmen)
3:1 highlights three strong points of an album and one area that could have been improved.
+1. Vocal Blend: The Kingsmen haven’t had this solid a vocal lineup since the Jerry Martin / Parker Jonathan era. This lineup is stylistically diverse—too diverse, if you ask Southern Gospel Critique. Yet whether or not the album’s direction is ideal, this lineup has what it takes to handle any track sent its way with graceful ease.
+2. “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God”: This peaceful, mellow project closer features Ray Dean Reese. As discussed here, the song was inspired by the insight that Psalm 23 was written from the perspective of an older sheep. As such, it makes sense to feature the group’s senior statesman, Ray Dean Reese.
+3. “Oh, What a Hallelujah Day”: With electric guitars and keyboards prominent in several other tracks, the piano-and-vocals-only first chorus is a refreshing change of pace sure to delight fans of the Kingsmen’s glory days. When the drums and bass guitar kick in, it doesn’t detract from the classic feel. This is a brand new song co-written by Jerry Kelso and Amy Keffer Shellem, but this genuine-article convention song has one of the most delightful uses of vocal counterpoint in recent years.
:1. Arrangement on “Ordinary Man”: There is nothing wrong with the song itself; in fact, this Joel Lindsey and Joseph Habedank collaboration has some incredibly well-crafted lyrics. The second verse begins with a particularly exceptional couplet: “I would never trade this peace / to be a fool for lesser things / I’m rich beyond the wealth this world can hold…” On the other hand, the arrangement would fit right in on a Brian Free & Assurance album but feels oddly out of place here. Different sub-genres have their own niches, but if a group tries to be all things to all niches, it risks losing its own distinctiveness. On the broader scale, it is beneficial to the genre as a whole for groups to have their own instantly recognizable styles and sounds.
Back in the day, the Kingsmen had one of the most instantly recognizable sounds and styles in the genre. Today’s lineup offers more polish than let-‘er-rip, but their results on the remainder of the project do demonstrate that today’s Kingsmen are only a few arrangement choices away from re-joining that short and elite list of instantly recognizable groups.
Traditional or Progressive?
Schizophrenic—all over the place!
SouthernGospelBlog.com’s Radio Single Picks
He’s Everything I Need (current single); Oh What a Hallelujah Day; Loving Shepherd, Gracious God.
Average song rating: 3.7 stars. Overall album rating: 4 stars.