NQC 2008: Day 4

Day 4 started off with the Gaither Vocal Band / Ernie Haase & Signature Sound Together showcase. The two groups sang a couple of songs together before doing individual sets. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound did their individual set first; highlights included “Then Came the Morning,” “Reason Enough” (their new radio single), and an old-fashioned radio program around two classic microphones (accompanied by Wayne Haun on piano). Haase impressed the audience with high power endings without a single stack or track.

The Gaither Vocal Band’s set was more subdued but quite classy. They sang a couple of songs from their most recent project, memorably “Jesus and John Wayne.” Their sugar stick was “Give it Away”; they were joined by Signature Sound for the final chorus. The two groups sang the remainder of the two-hour showcase together.

As is typical for a showcase, Freedom Hall was divided in half, with the half farther from the doors curtained / roped off. The showcase half was so packed that I had to go to the second-from-back row in the balcony to find an open seat. About 30 minutes into the showcase, they had so many people there that they opened another section of the balcony.

After a late lunch with a new friend, a get-together with Singing News posters, and uploading the absolute minimum of Wednesday’s coverage (posts and photos, holding off on the videos), the mainstage concert was already under way. I stopped by a meet-and-greet with Crossroads Records artists for radio personnel to get photos and video clips for TalleyTree-o (where I’m guest blogging this week, as I mentioned in previous posts).

I slipped out in time to catch the Dixie Echoes and Mark Trammell Trio sets. The sound during the Dixie Echoes’ set seemed a little muffled, but that could have just as easily been where I found a seat as a sound tech error. It did seem to improve by the end of the set. The group sang “On the Other Side of Jordan,” “How Big is God” (featuring Pat Barker), “Just a Little While” (Stewart Varnado piano solo), “Walk With Me” (featuring tenor Wesley Smith), and “Not in a Million Years.” The Dixie Echoes used a live band with the lead guitarist and fiddler for Primitive Quartet and Michael Booth on drums. The audience was enthusiastic enough after “Not in a Million Years” that I half-expected Booth to kick off another encore, like he did with the Dixie Melody Boys / Dixie Echoes rendition of “When I Cross to the Other Side of Jordan” earlier in the week. But perhaps he had specifically been asked not to, and the set ended without an encore of the song.

The Mark Trammell Trio started off their set with “If God Said It, I Believe It,” a song penned by lead singer Dustin Sweatman and Dianne Wilkinson. Their second song, the first radio single from their new project Always Have a Song, was “Loving the Lamb.” While the studio cut is one of the album’s highlights, it is even better–significantly better, in fact–live. It got a fairly unanimous standing ovation. The group’s third song was “Safe On the Glory Side,” featuring tenor Eric Phillips. Phillips got into the song and was moving around the stage quite a bit. After the song finished, Michael Booth ran up on stage and reprimanded Mark Trammell for standing in place like a statue (not his exact wording) on a song that exciting. So Booth called for the track to be started again, the rest of the Booth Brothers ran up on stage, and they taught Mark Trammell some choreography steps.

Since I was rather curious how staged this was, I went over to the Mark Trammell Trio booth afterwards and asked Dustin Sweatman about it. He said that he had heard the Booth Brothers were planning a surprise of some sort but was as surprised as the audience as to what it specifically was.

After a while in the vendors’ hall, I returned to Freedom Hall to catch the Kingdom Heirs. As I was finding a seat, pianist / vocalist Patrick Henry Hughes was on stage. He sang “When We All Get to Heaven,” “Believe” (which he said was a Brooks & Dunn song), and a patriotic song.

The Kingdom Heirs sang a set mostly different from their first set of the week. This set included “Since Jesus Moved In,” “I Am the Way” (featuring bass singer Jeff Chapman), “Forever Changed” (featuring Arthur Rice), and “What We Needed.” “What We Needed was encored twice; Hodges delighted the audience by doing a high Kingsmen-style ending on the final encore. (It may have even been slightly higher than their encore earlier in the week.)

While I wanted to stay straight through to the end, I had some pressing business to attend to first (namely, eating dinner). I made it back in time to see most of the Greenes’ set. Paul Lancaster turned in a strong rendition of “Without the Cross.” Tony led the audience in a rendition of “At the Cross.” In introducing TaRanda Greene’s rendition of “Oh Holy Night, which was received so well during the Greenes’ set earlier in the week, Tony specifically mentioned this time that they were using the Greater Vision track and had asked Gerald Wolfe for permission to use their rendition when they were going to go to a Brooklyn Tabernacle Christmas conference and did not have enough Christmas music ready. The Greenes also sang an encore of “Glorious City of God” with the Talley Trio, who had come on stage for their set.

The Talley Trio sang a four-song set, “Realms of Glory Bright,” “I’ve Never Been Loved Like You” (an all-live rendition with Roger Fortner playing guitar), “That’s Enough” (with a pre-recorded guest vocal by Jake Hess), and “Hallelujah, Praise the Lamb.” Lauren Talley’s rendition of “Hallelujah, Praise the Lamb” received a standing ovation and was encored.

The Booth Brothers came on stage with a rendition of “The Eyes of Jesus,” featuring Jim Brady. Interestingly, after the song, Michael Booth specifically mentioned that Joel Hemphill had written it, and said they’d had a conversation shortly before the Booth Brothers went on stage. The group’s second song was one Jim Brady wrote for them, their current single, “Welcome To the Family.” Ronnie Booth sang his current solo single, “I Would,” before Michael Booth closed the set with a rendition of “Look For Me at Jesus’ Feet.” Roy Webb provided piano accompaniment for this set (and several others for multiple groups throughout the week).

The Booth Brothers and Greater vision sang “Still Feelin’ Fine” together before Greater Vision started their own set. They sang “I Wanna Know That You Know” (featuring Gerald Wolfe), “You Brought Me Through” (featuring Jacob Kitson), and “I Know He Heard My Prayer” with solos by Gerald Wolfe and Jacob Kitson. Kitson seemed more settled and confident on stage this time; the warm reception his solo on Tuesday received must have helped. In fact, the Wolfe / Kitson pairing on “I Know He Heard my Prayer” was so dynamic that by the end of the song, I was wishing they would re-do “Hymns of the Ages” with Kitson’s vocals.

The night closed with Greater Vision and several of the trios that sang towards the end of the evening joining together for a rendition of “My Name is Lazarus.” This is the second time this week they’ve done the song with another group (Tuesday it was with Karen Peck and New River), and the second time that Jacob Kitson gave his solo to one of the other singers on stage. This time, it was to Jim Brady, who started mixing up his verse with Griffin’s about halfway through. Kitson joined him for a line or so, but had gotten thrown off by the mixup, so Wolfe came in and finished the verse. But despite that slight mixup, the song left the audience on its feet and brought the evening to another strong close.

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