CD Review: Destination Heaven (Melody Boys Quartet)
Average Song Rating: 3.6 (of 5)
Producer: Nick Bruno.
Song List: All Aboard We’re Glory Bound; Little By Little; Oh Broken Heart; The Stone Was Rolled Away; The Lamb He Died to Save; Come To the Water; Sinners Plea; Lonesome Road; Glory Bound; Give Me Jesus; I’ve Made it Home; Heaven, the Place of My Dreams.
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The Southern Gospel genre encompasses many styles—to name a few, country, bluegrass, Appalachian, and ’80s Inspirational. One part of the genre far more successful than many elsewhere in the genre is the classic Southern Gospel circuit, groups that sing Southern Gospel the way it was sung 40 or 50 years ago. Some of the best groups on the classic Southern Gospel circuit are the Blackwood Brothers, Chuck Wagon Gang, Dixie Echoes, Dixie Echoes, and the Melody Boys Quartet.
Yes, the Dixie Melody Boys and the Melody Boys are two separate groups. Ed O’Neal runs the Dixie Melody Boys and has for decades; SGMA Hall of Famer Gerald Williams heads this group. He joined the group in 1949 and sang with them for several years before singing with other groups in the 1960s and 70s. He reorganized the Melody Boys in the 1980s. By around 2000, the group had built quite a following. In recent years, it has suffered from fairly quick turnover. Probably the most recognizable name to go through the group in the past few years was Ryan Seaton, who sang with the group for a little under a year before getting the call to join Signature Sound.
The current lineup is Gerald Williams (bass), Tim Williams (tenor), Steven Hickinbotham (lead), and Caleb Matheny (baritone/pianist). Hickinbotham and Tim Williams both joined this year; Tim Williams is no apparent relation. He joined the group after singing with and being a co-owner of the west coast-based Golden State Quartet for several years. Caleb Matheny, though the youngest member, is also the second most senior in the current lineup; he has been with the group since 2006.
Several of the tracks are classic or classic-sounding songs recorded in the four-guys-and-a-piano style that the group has been best known for. Gerald Williams turns in an enjoyable rendition of “Lonesome Road,” resisting the temptation to show off his lowest notes. Tim Williams is featured on “Oh Broken Heart,” the Melody Boys classic “Sinner’s Plea,” and the Neil Enloe-penned “Give Me Jesus.” Steven Hickinbotham takes the lead on the convention song “I’ve Made It Home.” The new Dianne Wilkinson song “Heaven, the Place of My Dreams” is a perfect fit for the Melody Boys’ sound, and for Gerald Williams’ voice on the solo.
Several other tracks are recorded with more orchestration. Perhaps the standout among these is “The Lamb He Died to Save.” The song was penned by Joseph Smith and was recorded by both the Booth Brothers (sound clip here) and the Mark Trammell Trio during Smith’s years with those groups. Baritone Caleb Matheny turns in an excellent rendition of the song. Juxtaposing ballads with songs like “Heaven, the Place of My Dreams” is something found often on recordings by other groups but was more outside the box for this group. However, they pulled off the ballad sound well enough that it would not be surprising to see more of this in the future.
The project is enjoyable, and this lineup shows great promise if it can stay together long enough to realize its potential.