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.

SouthernGospelBlog.com Ratings

Average song rating: 3.7 stars. Overall album rating: 4 stars.


Produced by: Jeff Collins• Group members: Harold Reed (tenor), Bryan Hutson (lead), Randy Crawford (baritone/lead), Ray Dean Reese (bass), Cody McVey (piano), Brandon Reese (management/sound). • Review copy provided.  • Song list: Back to Grace; Oh, What a Hallelujah Day; That’s When I Knew It Was Him; He’s Everything I Need (That’s All I Need); Grace Says; Ordinary Man; I Can Hardly Wait; If Not For the Love of Christ; After the Sunrise; Loving Shepherd, Gracious God.

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29 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I like this, Daniel. Good setup, and good execution.

    • Thanks, Brian! Coming from someone who is quickly becoming an accomplished reviewer, I’ll take that as a high compliment. 🙂

  2. I for one am very tired of album reviews. Nothing wrong with you guys doing them. But like everything else, it is entirely based on your opinion-like everybody else. I don’t take reviews seriously at all. Seems (maybe not every case) but nit-pit a project a little here and there. If it weren’t for change, what a boring place it would be. Just take the kingsmen project (When God Ran), If they hadn’t stepped out and done that, we never would have known they could step out and do something a little different. But at the same time I like the 3 chords and a cloud of dust known by these guys. But I like the diversity. Let’s be real honest here, life goes on, Eldridge, Hamill, Burger are gone, so at least in part so is the influence, let them spread there wings, and lets see what they can create. Who knows they might be known for something else other than 3 chords and a cloud of dust in a few more years. Your input might hold some value to some, but please refrain from tweekin it to death. I guess that’s the part that really gets me. Just tell us after all if you liked it or not, not every detail. don’t mean to be harsh but like i said, I for one am very tired of album reviews.


    • David,

      Frankly, if I did what you said, and said: “I liked the new Kingdom Heirs CD” or “I disliked the new Podunk Trio CD,” you would probably be the only person on here who liked that post.

      So, if you are very tired of album reviews, a bit of friendly advice: Just ignore them. Use your time on this site discussing on other posts which do pique your interest. Life is too short to waste time commenting about things you don’t care for, anyhow.

      Oh, and just for the record, I gave “When God Ran” five stars, and would do it again. Just for the record. 😀

      • Sir,

        Thank you.

        I find it very amusing, Just a little friendly advice, don’t tweek it to death.


      • Given that bit of friendly advice, I likewise find it very amusing that you were, in fact, suggesting another tweak. Oh, and the tweak was one that I was fairly confident would engender requests for other tweaks. 🙂

      • Ok, Ok, Ok, enough tweeked. LOL

      • Mutually agreed! 😀

      • “David,

        Frankly, if I did what you said, and said: “I liked the new Kingdom Heirs CD” or “I disliked the new Podunk Trio CD,” you would probably be the only person on here who liked that post.”

        Not so, but something tells me the Podunk Trio and their fans would be among the dissenters. 😉

      • So would you number yourselves among those who would prefer album reviews here to say not a thing more than whether I “liked” the album? 🙂

      • No, not exclusively,but as part it might be interesting. Nonetheless, that really wasn’t saying you should or needed to change, just disagreeing that he would be the only one who liked that. But I never took it to mean that was all you were going to say. :p

      • That seemed to be the general point of his comment, though.

      • Well, I am not sure I read every comment. I had a few minutes and responded, but didn’t have enough time to read it all. 😀

  3. sir,

    that was fun. i enjoyed the bantering, Let’s do it again sometime!

  4. This new format of review is awesome. Unlike david, i like reviews and this review I have liked because of its simplicity and straight forwardness. Cant wait to hear the Wilkinson song, it is being praised by numerous reviewers.

    • Thanks! By the way, if you literally can’t wait, you can now get the single track for 99 from http://www.crossroadsmusic.com – the CD doesn’t hit stores till next week, I think, but it’s available there digitally now. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the review. I have listened to the tracks on the Crossroads site, and i already ordered the CD from the groups websits.

  6. WONDERFUL review format, Daniel! It is clear, concise, and straight to the point. A good development for SGB. 🙂

    • Or you could be concise yourself and say it is clear and concise. 😛

      • Minnesotans have a hard time with that

      • Oh, I do too, but saying it was concise and straight to the point seemed fairly superfluous and redundant. 😉

    • Thanks, TGF!

      I try to be clear, but I’m not always concise. Twitter is for people who can’t form a complete thought. 😛

  7. Great review Daniel! I do really enjoy the new style, I have thought of doing something similar for my reviews… Doing the in-depth ones are pretty time consuming especially when you work full time!

    • Well, I’m not dropping the in-depth ones entirely. This will just let me work more reviews in. 🙂

      You offer some great insights in your full-length reviews, so I also hope you don’t drop them entirely. But if something briefer would enable you to get more reviews up, go for it! 🙂

      • Thanks Daniel, I won’t drop them entirely (or maybe not at all, just toying with the thought…) 🙂 My “Grace Says” review will be up hopefully in the next week or two…

      • Looking forward to it!

  8. Like the new format for reviews. As for the new Kingsmen CD, I think it is one of their best in a LONG time. I’ve been a fan of theirs for about 20 years, and have certainly been concerned/less than pleased over the past several years. I think the current lineup is great (of course I’ve always liked Bryan Hutson and feel he makes a group sound good just by himself). Although the change is styles is very evident on the new recording, I wouldn’t say it is all that unlike the Kingsmen albums from the mid-late 90s (when I think the group put out some of their best music). Although the three chords and a cloud of dust has always been attributed to the Kingsmen, I think from ’92 on (Wish You Were Here), the group has certainly had a multi-faceted sound. The song selection on this recording, coupled with the voices singing, have produced what I think is their best recording since the whole Carolina Boys/Kingsmen change occurred.

    Thanks for the review. I enjoy hearing what others think of a recording.

    • Paul,

      Good to hear your thoughts – thanks for sharing!

      I would say that the current lineup is the group’s strongest, vocally, in years—but from a song selection standpoint, I’d probably still have to give an edge to “When God Ran.”