CD Review: Always Have a Song (Mark Trammell Trio)

Rating: 5 (of 5)

Average Song Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Producer: Wayne Haun.

Song List: I Know That I know; Loving the Lamb; Called In, Called Up, Called Out; What Good Would a Crown Be; Safe On the Glory Side; If God Said It, I Believe It; At The Whisper of His Name; I Always Have a Song to Sing; If Only Just a Few; Coming Out and Moving In.

Available from: Artist (at least at concerts).

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During the years Mark Trammell sang with Gold City, the group had a certain distinctive mix of songs on each project—several big ballads, several convention numbers, and at least one brass-driven number and one Black Gospel-influenced number. The Mark Trammell Trio doesn’t have a Jonathan Wilburn in the group, so the project doesn’t have any Black Gospel songs. But with that exception, this project could pass for a Trammell-era Gold City project sans a bass singer.

The project has three convention songs, “I Always Have a Song to Sing,” “Called In, Called Up, Called Out,” and “Coming Out and Moving In.” The latter two, both penned by Kyla Rowland (though “Called In” was co-written with Dianne Wilkinson), are tenor-led songs in the tradition of Gold City’s “Isn’t He Wonderful” or “More Like Jesus.”

“If God Said It, I Believe It,” co-written by lead singer Dustin Sweatman and Dianne Wilkinson, is given a brass-driven treatment.

The project has three big ballads, “Loving the Lamb,” “What Good Would a Crown Be,” and “If Only Just a Few.” “What Good Would a Crown Be” is Dustin Sweatman’s first big ballad on a Mark Trammell Trio project; the other two feature Mark Trammell. Both of Trammell’s features got strong responses at NQC 2008; while Kyla Rowland’s “Loving the Lamb” is likely to be sent to radio first, the Rodney Griffin-penned “If Only Just a Few” would probably also do well. (It’s the sort of song that makes you wonder why Greater Vision didn’t do it themselves. But it’s lyrically a Biblical-era “Just One More Soul,” and perhaps Griffin just thought it fit Mark Trammell’s voice better.)

“Safe on the Glory Side” is a mid-tempo Dianne Wilkinson song that has been getting a strong response in live concerts. It brings to mind Jay Parrack’s solos even more than Eric Phillips’ earlier solos (“In Time, On Time, Every Time” is the closest comparison I can think of, but that doesn’t quite capture the song’s feel.)

This project could just as easily have been recorded by a quartet. Some groups, like the Booth Brothers, are so much a trio that one could not imagine them with a bass singer. But the Mark Trammell is the best quartet-without-a-bass-singer in Southern Gospel today.

Except for that missing bass part, this project sounds like it could have come straight from Gold City during its Mark Trammell era. But all Gold City comparisions aside, it’s a strong project in its own right and sets the standard by which other Mark Trammell Trio projects are measured for years to come.

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16 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. “Mark Trammell is the best quartet-without-a-bass-singer in Southern Gospel today.”

    I agree! That’s probably why they are my favorite trio. Not only that, I really like this new album. “If God Said It, I Believe It,” is probably my favorite off the album. It’s got that catchy feel to it, that it makes you wanna just join along. This album is one of their best so far, in my opinion, Although, my favorite is still “Journey Thus Far”.

  2. I love this CD every song I like I can’t skip one. I think they will just keep getting better and better as time goes by maybe some day I can even get to sing with them .hehehehe

  3. “Loving the Lamb” was released to SG radio the week after NQC.

    It’s an incredibly boring song and way too long, IMHO.

  4. Funny how different tastes can be. I personally love the song. I’ll also note that it got multiple standing ovations at NQC, mainstage and radio DJ’s showcase.

  5. I got to see MTT in Hickory,N.C. two weeks ago, this is my second time seeing them. I think they have a great sound, I especially like Eric Phillips tenor voice, smooth and not too much squealing. I like all the songs especially At The Whisper Of His Name and I Always Have A Song To Sing.

  6. Well, I’m listening to it with “radio” ears – and not live performance ears. There are lots of songs that do really well live but flop at radio – “She Cries” by the Hoppers and “My Country” by Jeff & Sheri Easter are two prime examples.

  7. Two or three songs on this CD sound indistinguishable from Greater Vision, particularly the first song.

    “Loving The Lamb” is a good song in that it’s well written and it showcases Mark Trammell in his characteristic style (unlike some of the Greater Vision clones).

    Maybe “Loving The Lamb” will do well at radio, but I think “Called In, Called Up, Called Out” would be a better choice. It also features Mark singing a characteristic second verse showcasing his baritone to near-tenor range.

  8. For whatever it’s worth, in a weird conflation of radio and live performance, a friend (and no, not someone in the group!) told me that MTT sang “Loving the Lamb” for a DJs showcase and got a rousing standing ovation.

  9. I haven’t had the privilege of hearing the recording at issue, but I have a deep appreciation for the Christian integrity and character of Mark Trammell. His commitment to excellence in all facets of his music ministry is echoed throughout his group. SG is blessed to have such expert representation of its finest in the MTT.

  10. I love that song and I don’t think it is to long. Everyone in my church loves it when I play that sing before church. It has such a good message.

  11. Daniel – that very well may be. But for me – it’s way too boring and long.

  12. I bought this one off of iTunes yesterday (based mainly on your review). I really do like it, although I’m too much of a die-hard GV fan for that to be jeopardized at all by this!

    I’ve listened to it several times trying to guess who wrote the songs – mainly trying to guess which might be a Rodney Griffin song. I see I was totally off! I guessed the first song to be by a writer like Dianne Wilkinson (or another classic straight-ahead quartet song writer). I was most inclined to think “If God Said It” was written by Rodney, except that I couldn’t imagine Gerald letting go of it … and my next guess for Rodney was “At the Whisper of His Name.”

    “If Only Just a Few” actually hasn’t gripped me very much yet, and it was the one I was pretty sure Rodney didn’t write. But the songs he pitches to other groups usually are pretty different from GV’s.

    “Always Have a Song” reminded me more of a Mark Bishop song than anything, melody-wise, although I didn’t actually think he wrote it.

    Well, I do a fairly decent job at guessing Rodney’s songs on a GV album, anyway.

    My favorites are definitely “If God Said It,” “I Know That I Know,” and “At the Whisper of His Name.” Although the whole song isn’t my style, the tenor singing at the end of “Safe On the Glory Side” is a lot of fun!!

  13. Amy, I’m honored that you trust my review enough to purchase it, and I’m glad you at least liked some of the songs.

    Perhaps “If Only Just a Few” is a song that you just have to hear Mark set up live and in person to fully appreciate. In person, it’s amazing, gripping. Some songs are like that.

  14. Don’t get me wrong – I liked most of the songs. Just not as many stand-out favorites as in my personal top groups. Practically no group can achieve that for me except GV, L5, and the Cathedrals. And even they don’t score that high on every CD!

    You had asked once before (somewhere) if reviews do influence buying decisions, so I thought you might like to know that they sometimes do. A good review will call attention to an album I might not be aware of, and then if I can catch some 30-sec clips of it, I’ll definitely consider it.

  15. Yes, I do know where you’re coming from there!

    In SG, I think we tend to like the slow “message” songs on our favorite groups’ projects (songs which are neither big ballads nor fast songs), and we generally like the hit songs off all the major group’s projects.

    Thanks again!

  16. Just now read this. I think this CD is one of the best ones that has been released within the last year or so. It is fantastic. Mark, Dustin, and Eric nailed it with this one. Hate to see Eric leave. He’s a good tenor.


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