Neotraditional Southern Gospel

Brian Crout has an interesting column up this morning, proposing the term “neotraditional Southern Gospel.” He points out that there is traditional Southern Gospel (Dixie Echoes, Blackwood Brothers) and progressive Southern Gospel, but that many of today’s most popular groups (Perrys, Triumphant Quartet, Kingdom Heirs, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Quartet) fall somewhere in between. 

He notes that in the 1980s, several country stars started fusing traditional sounds with a fresh presentation, and it came to be called neotraditional country. About that same time, the Cathedrals and Gold City were bringing a fresh presentation to Southern Gospel, and he proposes appropriating the term neotraditional.

It’s a fascinating read, and a thought well worth pondering.

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21 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. Wow you get up early!!

    • Actually, I slept in an hour later than usual today! 🙂

    • I think he may have been talking about me, putting such a long post out there so early. I admit that I did write it last night and published it this morning. I did get up early, but not THAT early. 🙂

      • Ah! How come he’s never commented about the posts I write the night before and schedule for 1:01 A.M.? That would be EARLY! 🙂

  2. It’s obvious that “country music” is no longer “country.” I am very disappointed that Southern Gospel music is headed in a similar direction. Luckily, we still have quartets like the Dixie Echoes and the Blackwood Brothers to keep the traditional look and sound alive. I have been accused of being stuck in the 1960’s and maybe I am. It’s very difficult to watch a truly unique American art form erode into an almost unrecognizable classification of music.

    Sometimes, groups do some of the old style songs as an “added feature” to their concerts. The Lefevre Quartet even has two old microphones they use for just two songs. The Lefevre’s talent really shines with these classics. Wish they would do more…

    Give me the four clean cut men and a piano player in matching suits, and a Silver Eagle bus.

    • I hope there are always groups like the Dixie Echoes and the Blackwood Brothers, yet at the same time I can also enjoy groups like the Mark Trammell Quartet and the Kingdom Heirs who are unmistakably rooted in that tradition, even if they branch out here and there, just as much.

  3. I would consider myself a very conservative traditionalist because of my love of convention music. I’m currently reading a book on leadership and business by Lee Cockerell, former VP for Walt Disney World Resorts. He said something that resonated with me: (paraphrasing) A learner will be ready for the future and the learned are going to be stuck in the past. He talked about always needing to be on the lookout for change to adapt to today’s _______ (fill in the blank for whatever it is we’re talking about). I think there are applications with music… I would be perfectly content to listen to a concert of all convention music, but has that day come and gone? Is a song or two at a concert all that convention music deserves now? Do I need to get past my love for convention music and branch out to be more commercially successful, or is it a niche I should pursue? Lots of good discussion. I like the “neotraditional” phrase, but even it could be not very descriptive. Are we talking the publisher-sponsored quartets of the 20s, 30s and 40s or the “bigger than life” groups of the 60s? Etc.

    • There’s no way you should get over your love of convention songs! 🙂

      Maybe it’s a niche, but it’s a niche that I hope never goes away! Some people would call all of Southern Gospel itself a niche!

      • That’s exactly what I wonder… When working on a dissertation or paper, you’re supposed to continue narrowing down your topic. What I wonder is, when are you too narrow? I would agree that SG is a niche in Christian music, and Christian/Gospel music is a small niche in the world of music. Is convention music too much of a niche to be your main focus? I hope not! Perhaps geographic location is a determining factor?

      • I don’t think it is too much of a niche to be a focus.

  4. It’s topics like this that sometimes leave me scratching my head. Why does everything have to be categorized and sub-categorized? “Traditional,” “Progressive,” “Neotraditional,” “Convention Style,” ad nauseum. Yes, I know some people are extremely organized, and assigning “sub-genres” to a musical style is one way they can configure things like playlists (or even purchases), but as far as I’m concerned, I call it “gospel music,” end of story. When you look at my iPhone, I have a “country” genre that includes everything from 1960’s to today, and I have a “gospel” genre that includes everything from Happy Goodmans to Kutless.

    • Check out Brian’s original post. He answers this question. 🙂

    • So, what you’re saying is, I’m a nutcase? (See the actual original post at SG Critique) 🙂

    • Here’s another thing: Most people would not like both the Happy Goodmans and Kutless. Labels help them know!

      • I guess I’m not “most people.”

    • I think there is a need for some labels. I mean as far as I am concerned there is good music and bad music for sure. But how many people would go into a restaurant and place their order as food or good food? It is hard telling what you would get. You might want a steak, pizza, hamburger, chicken or whatever. That is sort of what labels are. Some are allergic or don’t like peanut butter (I like it) others don’t like salad (yours truly). Labels help narrow down so a person who only likes a certain thing or is in the mood for a certain thing can more easily find what they want. There is some music I would consider the best of the best and there is other that I would classify as pig slop (not necessarily in content or skill, but in how appetizing it sounds to me). 🙂 I guess maybe I am getting hungry. 😉

  5. Kyle, Interesting point on the genre discussion. A question to ponder: Is the need for a defined focus different for the consumer than it is the professional? Your comments as to how you have things categorized on your iPod are definitely from a consumer perspective. I don’t think someone in the industry (whether a weekend warrior, a full-time group manager or the head of large record label or publishing company) can be that “general” with what they do. From a performance/professional perspective, those leaders need to know what their focus is so they don’t get too far away from their purpose. If, for instance, the Chuck Wagon Gang started singing a lot of Brooklyn Tab material, it wouldn’t make since. They’re both “gospel,” but the CWG needs to know what their purpose/niche is and stick to it. So I think focus is important, and more or less so, depending on your involvement as a consumer or professional.

    • Didn’t proof: Should be “it wouldn’t make sense” 🙂

  6. Hi everyone, I am new to posting around here, but this topic picued my interest. I am of the younger generation of southern gospel fans. I am almost 30 and have been listening to the music since I was about 15. I have to say while I love the classic sound of groups like the Dixie echoes, The music has to progress or it will not have a following in the not too distant future. To me as long as the heart behind it is sincere and the message points to Jesus, how we label it shouldn’t matter.

    • The flip side could also easily be argued: If it progresses so far that it’s indistinguishable from CCM, some would argue that it also then wouldn’t have a following.

      • Very good point