3 Essential Mark Trammell Trio/Quartet Albums

The Essential Albums column highlights the albums every Southern Gospel fan should add to their collections.

  1. 2008: Always Have a Song. In my October 2008 review, I explained why it “sets the standard by which other Mark Trammell Trio projects [will be] measured for years to come.” It still does. Rather than revisiting the same ground covered in the review, here’s a more personal recollection: To this day, I cannot think of this album without thinking of the group’s late bus driver, Walter Bohannon. Many Southern Gospel bus drivers are every bit as delightful to talk with as the artists, and Walter was certainly near the top of that list. This album came out at the 2008 National Quartet Convention. On my first day in Freedom Hall, I stopped by their booth and started talking with him. Excitement lit his face as he tried to find the words to capture just how good “Loving the Lamb” was. He said it was the best project the group had ever released. He was right. 
  2. 2004: Beside Still Waters. Like the mellow sounds of a mountain spring, Beside Still Waters is one of those albums you don’t fully appreciate on first listen. In fact, it was probably three or four years before I realized how strong this album really was. Yes, it was the current album from the headlining group at my first live Southern Gospel concert, but I think I spent several years trying to over-compensate for any bias that may have caused. Original lead singer Joseph Smith wrote and was featured on the bluegrass-influenced “The Love of Christ.” The title track is so strong that the Nelons revisited it five years later—and made it that album’s title track, too! Ballads like “I am Free” to “When I Stand in the Presence” and convention songs like “When They Ring the Bells of Heaven” and “According to the Scriptures” make this the strongest all-around project from the group’s original lineup. 
  3. 2011: Treasures. This tribute to the Cathedrals doesn’t claim or aspire to be more than it is. But it doesn’t need to be. The songs are performed so flawlessly that any attempts to “put their own unique spin” on them would have been touching up a da Vinci with a paint sprayer. (Reviewed here.)
  4. (bonus) 2008: Peace On Earth. I came close to saying this when I reviewed it in December 2009. I’ll say it now. This Christmas album, a Mark Trammell solo project, is the greatest Southern Gospel Christmas project ever recorded. 

Do you agree or disagree with this list? If you could only choose three albums to introduce a friend to this group, which would you pick?

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11 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Always Have a Song is one of my all-time favorites, too. Once Upon a Cross is my second favorite, but I understand why you’d go with Beside Still Waters for an “essential” list. Once Upon a Cross was similar in style to Always Have a Song, just a slight notch below in quality.

    I noticed an error in your post. Treasures is a tribute to “Pop” and “The Old Man,” whoever they are. Who are the Cathedrals? 🙂

  2. I agree with you on everything you said, but I would expand my list to 4, because I love the Testimony project. The more I listen to it, top to bottom, I just have more affection for that cd.

  3. Treasures is the best Cathedrrals’ (or Pop and the Old Man) tribute out there, and this is coming from a big EHSS fan.

  4. I’ve been partial to their “Supply” album. A very relaxing album to listen to. Granted, not their best effort ever, but I pull that one out more than most.

    • Do you consider it a table project?

  5. I want to second, third, fourth, fifth (?) the recommendation for Treasures. It’s the only George and Glen tribute album I’ve heard that actually sounds like one they’d have recorded. And I’m glad someone mentioned “The Love of Christ”, which is probably my favorite MTQ song.

    • There’s a reason that, in the original post, I said of the album: “The songs are performed so flawlessly that any attempts to ‘put their own unique spin’ on them would have been touching up a da Vinci with a paint sprayer.” 🙂

      • And you hit the nail on the head. I understand tribute recordings aren’t meant to be simply a cover project, but, if it’s purported to recognize the influence of someone else, it should sound something like that particular someone else.

        I just wish I could buy a soundtrack of this whole record! I wouldn’t have to “song hunt” for a church solo for quite a while.

      • You might ask them; they sometimes do issue complete tracks. If there’s enough demand, they just might.

  6. I’m gonna disagree with the top choice. Although it had a lot of good stuff on it, “Beside Still Waters” was the best and most complete album by the MTT. In fact, I put that album in my personal Top 10.

    “I Am Free” is one of the best written/produced/performed songs I’ve ever heard. If Mark ever did me a favor, he’d re-record that with the quartet. “I’d Do It All Over Again” is classic Trammell. He’s just amazing on that song with his personality ringing through each note. I may have to make a gardening episode of this album.

    • Make no mistake, I sure love that album! I certainly consider it the best from that lineup.