Encore Series #8: A Wonderful Shepherd

This post is part of the Encore Series, posts highlighting Southern Gospel songs of the past that should be brought back.

Poet Voices’ 2001 recording This Changes Everything represented a high-water mark for the group. As it turns out, they were two years away from retiring from the road. The record was the strongest they recorded in the years immediately preceding their retirement. With songs like “It’ll Be Joy,” “Grand and Glorious Savior,” and the #1 radio hit “The Key”—#1 ten years ago next month—it would be easy to overlook “A Wonderful Shepherd.” But don’t!

The lyrics draw clear inspiration from Psalm 23, pivoting to a chorus that focuses on the Good Shepherd’s modern-day guidance of His sheep. The melody is mellow and quietly pleasant. Quartets, which, by definition, attract freaks of nature, often find it a challenge to shift into this soft of a gear and this tight of a blend. To their credit, Poet Voices did a brilliant job achieving the tight blends for this pleasingly subdued track.

Their rendition does not appear to be anywhere on YouTube, but sound clips are available here, here, and here

This sort of song is on home turf with the tight harmonies of family groups, and one in particular would be a great fit for the song. Sisters—the sibling trio of Kim Ruppe Lord, Heather Ruppe Day, and Valerie Ruppe Medkiff—has some of the tightest harmonies in our genre. A Sisters remake of this song would be sparkling perfection.

If you were to pick a group to bring this song back, who would it be, and why?


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15 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. The Everly Brothers, Elvis, or the Rambos all would have sung it great.

    • I’ve never heard the first two artists you name (though, naturally, I’ve been around this genre long enough to have heard OF the second one), but I would certainly agree that the Rambos would have done a spectacular job on this song.

  2. The group I would bring back for this song are the Cathedras. I would have to specify though that it would be one of two, either the original – ( Younce, Payne, Koker, Clark) or (Younce, Payne, Trammell, Funderburk) I can hear them as they sing as a group on the first verse…then Payne in the first group and Trammel in the second taking lead on the second verse…back to the group on the chorus..going half octave up and the tenor taking lead the second time through chorus. I think (personal opinion) that they could do this both with accmpianment or a cappella and either way knock it out f the park.

    • Wow – that lineup would be beyond incredible on this song.

      I had in mind current groups (encore series being the column, and all), but this emphasis on past artists is quite intriguing. I’m loving the opportunity to play these arrangements in my mind. 🙂

      (I don’t know how it works for y’all, but when I hear something like “original Cathedrals lineup doing ‘A Wonderful Shepherd,’ I can hear the track playing in my head! 🙂 )

  3. I really like this song, in fact it is my favorite on the CD and that is saying something because there are many good songs there.

    As far as who today might encore it? I would say your suggestion is good, but I think the Booth Brothers with their tight harmony would sound great.

    • I’ve had the Booth Brothers as finalists for pretty much every remake in the series – to the point that my guess would be that I’d named them on three of the preceding seven. Turns out it was only one, but that was a factor in why I didn’t name them here. (I certainly considered it, though!)

      Speaking of male trios, Paid in Full could do really well with this one, too. If they put it on one of their peerless hymns projects, people would think it was a hymn.

      • Yes, I can understand that. The Booth Brothers are almost impossible to beat (of current groups) on songs of this type.

      • Yes, and when I’m writing a column of this nature, there is definitely a part of my thought process that goes, “Daniel, DON’T go with a pick that’s just too obvious!”

  4. I had the privilege of hearing this in concert right after Phil wrote it. In fact, I don’t think both verses had been written.

    Legacy 5 is my pick. They did a similar song with “Vessel Of Mercy” and it was really good. I know they have changed tenors, but Gus’ voice would work just as well as Josh’s on this type of song.

    • So are you saying that he had only written one verse, or that he’d written neither verse yet? 🙂

      Interesting comparison with “Vessel of Mercy.” L5 did a great job with that song, and though they hadn’t crossed my mind with this one, I’d be intrigued to hear a L5 version.

      • This was ten years ago, so I’m not 100% sure. I think they did one verse and a chorus. They also did the chorus of another song he wasn’t through with, “A Kiss On Every Wave”. I really enjoyed Phil giving some insight into what he was working on and it made me enjoy the finished product even more.

      • That’s really cool! I wish we saw more of that sort of spontaneity on stage.

  5. Masters 4, the quartet from Southwest Baptist in OKC did this song on their CD, “All the Glory”.

  6. A nice idea would be the Collingsworth Family with Olivia leading the tune. This could be along the musical strains of “That’s the Place..” Either way (Collingsworth or Sisters), the tune needs to be revisited.

    Thanks for reminding me of the song. I forgot how great the tune & the entire album is.

    • I was wondering if anyone would mention the Collingsworths! When I was writing this column, the three leading contenders, in my mind, were the Booth Brothers, Collingsworths, and Sisters. Paid in Full would have been a fourth, had I thought of them.

      The Booth Brothers’ and Collingsworths’ names come to mind so often in this series that I thought I’d mention the one that didn’t.