3:1 CD Review: Changes (The Harper Family)

3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

The Harper Family is a family all-Gospel bluegrass group based out of Missouri. They turned heads at last year’s National Quartet Convention, winning a spot to open the Tuesday evening mainstage program. They did so well there that they were, I think, the only artist I had never seen before to earn a mention in my daily highlights summaries. Several months ago, they signed with Crossroads, and their first Crossroads release (Pisgah Ridge label) came out Tuesday.

1: Songwriting: On their previous independent recordings, several family members contributed songs. Here, son Dalton Harper contributes and is featured on the title track, and mother Katrina Harper writes “Well Done.” There’s enough writing talent here that it wouldn’t be surprising to see strong in-house songwriting become another point of comparison between the Harper Family and the Isaacs (especially early in their career). 

2: Instrumental virtuosity: In Southern Gospel, musically speaking, songs are king (with vocals right behind). In Bluegrass, picking is (again, with vocals right behind). This album shows that the Harpers have what it takes to succeed in both genres. The parents and older two siblings are accomplished musicians; twelve-year-old Hannah is newer to the fiddle, but off to a strong start.

3: “I’ll Live Again”: Most Southern Gospel fans will know this as a quartet song, from the 1976 Inspirations or 1999 Kingsmen renditions. It works surprisingly well as a bluegrass song. Giving credit where credit is due. the Harpers aren’t the first to do it as a bluegrass song—the Isaacs did it on their 2003 Songs of the Faith album—but their rendition is notably solid. While the Isaacs’ version was SATB (soprano/alto/tenor/bass), the Harpers’ version sticks with the classic Southern Gospel harmony structure of tenor (in this case, alto) / lead / baritone / bass.

:1: More new songs: Several of the project’s standout tracks were remakes of Southern Gospel and Bluegrass classics. That’s especially understandable for a group’s first national release. If, over the next few years, they can move toward a point where their strongest tracks are fresh and original—from their pens or other songwriters’—it can only help.

Traditional or Progressive: Gospel Bluegrass.

Credits: Produced by Tim Surrett. Engineered by Van Atkins and Scott Barnett. Band members: Hannah Harper, Fiddle; Dillon Harper, Mandolin; Dalton Harper, Guitar; Katrina Harper, Upright Bass; Gaylon Harper, Banjo.

Song List: Salt and Light; Changes; Born to Sing; Count Your Blessings; Troublesome Waters; King’s Ransom; Well Done; Treasures Unseen; The Greater God’s Love Will Shine; I’ll Live Again.


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5 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Good reminder for me to get this album. Saw it and was intrigued a few weeks back.

    • I wrote this at the last minute, after an interview/personnel announcement I had lined up had to be bumped to next week. One thing I didn’t emphasize enough was daughter Hannah’s vocals; her vocals have so much power and personality that I’ve heard a number of people compare her to a young Sonya Isaacs or Rhonda Vincent. (I had to look up who Rhonda Vincent was!)

      • Ain’t you ever seen the old Bluegrass Homecoming Gaither did, where he sang bass on “If You Don’t Love Your Neighbor”? That’s her band on that song. She’s a big name in bluegrass and actually just came out with an all-gospel project.

      • Even though I have a decent percentage of the Homecoming CDs, I probably only have ~10-15 of the videos. Don’t think I have that one. However, I may have the CD; I think I had heard her name and was vaguely aware that she was a bluegrass musician. I didn’t have any familiarity with her music beyond that.

        I did look up information about her all-Gospel album the other day, after getting a press release. There was a really nice-sounding acapella song on there.

        By the way, Hannah Harper has caught Rhonda Vincent’s attention; she did a guest vocal / duet on something Rhonda recorded a couple of years ago (I think Hannah was 9). Not being familiar with Rhonda’s work, other than what was outlined above, I couldn’t tell you if it was on one of her mainline recordings or if it was a special project of some sort.

  2. I HAVE ONLY COME TO KNOW YOU WITH IN THE LAST COUPLE OF DAYS . I HEARD YOU ALL SING ON VIDEO IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL SONG CALLED KINGS RANSOM. IT TOUCHED ME IN MY HEART. BLESS EACH ONE OF YOU FOR BEING WITNESS’S OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. OUR CHURCH HAS NURSING HOME SERVICES EVERY WED.OF THE MONTH. DIFFERENT ONE EVERY WEEK THE LORD BLESSES THEM AND US. I CANNOT FIND THE LYRICS TO KINGS RANSOM ON INTERNET I WOULD LIKE TO SING AND SHARE IT WITH OTHERS.COULD YOU PLEASE SEND THEM TO MY EMAIL ADDRESS LISTED ABOVE.THANK YOU .