3:1 CD Review: A Tribute to the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither (Booth Brothers)

A Tribute to the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither (Booth Brothers)Is it possible for truly great songs from truly great songwriters to be overdone?

If such a thing is possible, then our genre has probably never seen songs more overdone then those that have left the pens of Bill and Gloria Gaither. There’s no question that the songs themselves bear a timeless greatness. However, after hundreds of renditions, it is a nearly impossible task to offer a creative new arrangement that doesn’t traverse all-too-familiar ground.

That’s not all. The artist here has recorded projects so innovative that they have raised the bar for themselves as much as for the genre. It doesn’t matter if you are a newcomer or the genre’s most popular artist; it’s nearly impossible to top projects like The Blind Man Saw It All and Declaration.

Let it suffice to say that fans come to a Booth Brothers project with incredibly high expectations. Does A Tribute to the Songs of Bill and Gloria Gaither meet or surpass those expectations?

It all depends on how you look at it. This project does not have the exuberant progressive energy of The Blind Man Saw it All or the orchestrated majesty of Declaration. If you come to the project hoping for either direction—Gaither songs given a cutting-edge progressive treatment or a majestic orchestral treatment—you will walk away disappointed.

It seems they were aiming for an entirely different target. Yes, there are moments of brilliance, but it is brilliance of an completely different variety. The strongest moments on the album are both relatively subdued—”Through” and “Tell Me.” Both tracks are likely to go down in the annals of Southern Gospel lore as the definitive renditions, surpassing the previous benchmarks of the respective Gaither Vocal Band versions.”Through” is a lush masterpiece, a perfect capstone to the recording. The only moment on the album more exquisite than Melissa Brady’s guest solo on “Tell Me” is her duet with tenor Michael Booth on the “Like eagle’s wings” verse.

The two new songs are also worthy of mention; “I Played in the Band and Sang in the Choir” is a fun toe-tapper, while “Let the Healing Begin” is the strongest new Gaither composition since “A Picture of Grace.”

On first listen, the remaining eleven tracks may strike you as unremarkable. In point of fact, they do bear a surface resemblance to previous renditions. But dig a little deeper; it’s the subtle unison line here and the changed chord there that evince an understated (but very real) creativity.

This album isn’t the one you play during your morning workout. (That would be The Blind Man Saw it All.) It’s also not the one you play when you’re in the mood for a triumphant proclamation of the majesties of our God. (That would be Declaration.) If you’re looking for the next Declaration or Blind Man, you’re bound to walk away disappointed. This is the album you play in the quiet times—in the still of the night, in the valley, or at the close of a long day.

This, it seems, is the target for which the Booth Brothers were aiming. Many of the tracks are subdued, relaxing, and calming. The arrangements are so consistent that even the faster songs don’t seem out of place. Take one arrangement by itself, and it might not seem all that remarkable. But take each as a puzzle piece, and the bigger picture emerges. The arrangements share a sonic consistency that makes the project something to be experienced in its entirety.

Depending on what you’re looking for, this album is either an utter disappointment or a stroke of sheer genius. We think there is a place for albums for the quiet times in life, and we think this is the finest recorded in recent years. So we’ll take the latter interpretation and assign it five stars. 

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road, with several traditional arrangements, and a few that incorporated enough electric guitars and/or brass to have a moderately progressive feel.

Credits: Produced by Nick Bruno, Ronnie Booth, Michael Booth, and Jim Brady. Musicians: Jason Webb and Gordon Mote (Piano, Keyboards, and B3); Dave Cleveland (Guitars); Glen Duncan (Fiddle); Scott Sanders (Steel Guitar); Mark Hill and Gary Lunn (Bass); Steve Brewster and Dan Needham (Drums). Orchestrations arranged and conducted by Steve W. Mauldin (Russell Mauldin on Through). Strings by the Nashville String Machine. Engineers: Jimmy Tarbutton, Bob Clark, and Doug Sarrett. Assistant Engineer: Eddy Joyner. Mixed by Joe Carrol and Jim Brady. Mastered by Hank Williams.

Song List: Because He Lives; I Played in the Band; God Gave the Song; There’s Something About That Name; Feeling at Home in the Presence of Jesus; I’ve Been to Calvary; Tell Me (with guest vocalist Melissa Brady); Joy in the Camp (with guest vocalist Bill Gaither); I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary; I Will Serve Thee; I’m Free; He Touched Me; I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen; Let The Healing Begin; Through.

Album Rating: 5 stars.

Five-star songs: Tell Me; Through. (However, almost all of the rest are four-star songs!)


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25 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. I thought this was a 3:1? Not that I have a problem with it…

    There’s a simplicity to this album that I really enjoy. It allows the focus to be more on the songs themselves than on the Booth Brothers, and I believe that was their intention in producing this project.

  2. This is a really easy project to listen to…I’ve enjoyed it very much. Good review.

  3. “A Picture of Grace” isn’t a Gaither penned tune is it? I thought it was performed by the GVB for the winner of a songwriting contest? It was on the Best of CD collection.

    • I don’t know about a songwriting contest, but it is, at least in part, a Gaither composition. A guy named Michael Parker is also listed as a writer…maybe that’s the winner of this contest you’re referring to?

      • I believe that he wrote the lyrics and BG wrote the music.

      • Yeah, that was the contest winner and the winner was the lyricist. I believe though that it wasn’t just Bill that was a co-writer, but also David Phelps. Guy Penrod, and Marshall Hall too.

  4. It’s about time!!!!! Long overdue! I keep wondering who’s going to take over when Bill and Gloria have passed from this world. I asked Mark Lowry’s mgr once and he said no one. Sad. Who’s going to preserv this kind of music for future generations? OK, ya’all! Don’t forget to set your clocks back tomorrow, and don’t forget to vote. Early voting is available now. Check with your area’s election board! I vote absentee ballot because I’m handicapped. Hope you all are having a good one!

    • Just because no one takes their place when they pass, doesn’t mean this music will die. No one can replace a Bill & Gloria Gaither, but the music will go on.

  5. Wonderful review!
    I’ve noticed on the credits there that there are numerous musicians involved. Do they actually play the instruments or they use computers? I’m thinking it must really cost a lot to do a recording, especially if an orchestra is brought in!

    On Gaither songs, I do believe they will still be sung until Jesus comes. Because He lives is in our Seventh-Day Adventist Hymnal and is sung even in the remotest villages, thats how far Gaither songs have spread.

  6. Thanks to all for the nice review and comments. You all have hit the nail on the head by understanding what this album is and isn’t.

    Our main goal was to get out of the way. These are some of the most effective songs the Church has known. It really is a matter of trust. Trust the song, trust the arrangement, trust the voice.

    Michael Booth

    • Neat! I’m glad I guessed the album’s purpose correctly. I’ll freely confess that I didn’t quite get it on the first time through. But I thought, “This is the Booth Brothers. There had to be some purpose and intent here!” And after the first 10 or so times through the album, it started making more sense. 🙂

  7. 3:1 review? Am I missing something? This looks like a full review to me. 🙂

  8. I am not a personal horn tooter . . . . but . . . . Picture of Grace was written by Michael Davis, The Gaither Vocal Band and an up and coming young talent named . . . . Woody Wright. It was the Homecoming Magazine Songwriting Contest lyric winner. It was given to me to write the music, then the Vocal Band tweaked the melody for a custom fit. It was nominated for a Dove Award, and became one of the GVB’s best kept secrets. They seldom performed it live – so I fully expect someone to dust it off and have a big song with it someday. Are you listening Michael??????

    • I love that song and sorry I forgot you were part of the process. I wish the GVB would do it with the current linup. It is one of the best new songs they had for quite a few years in my opinion.

  9. OOPS! Michael Parker . . . that’s PARKER. Now that I gave Michael Davis improper credit, perhaps he will book a date for me. Yikes, I was asking Michael Booth if he was listening . . . now even I am confused!!!!

    • I’m listening!! GREAT song my friend!! On the list….

    • That song would be a tremendous fit for the Booth Brothers, IMO.

      • Only possible problem is that they just recorded “Masterpiece of Mercy,” which is pretty similar lyrically.

  10. I don’t really agree with your review…. I think it is an awesome CD. I was looking forward to it and was not disappointed, and it far exceeded my expectations, but they are my favorite group. Awesome CD

    • I’m confused. He gave it a 5 star rating, but you disagree because you thought it was an awesome CD?!

      • Ditto to Josh. 🙂

      • Maybe he didn’t gush enough. 😉 I don’t know about this case, and I hope Mark explains, but too many times in SG, if anyone says the least little critical thing they are seen as making personal- attacks on the artist. Although criticism should be done as nicely as possible (and Daniel more than does this), anything that someone does on stage or recording-wise is open to opinions.

      • Thanks!

        … :shrugs shoulders: In much the same way as albums are open to analysis, I suppose reviews are, too. In a sense, comments on a CD review are, as much as anything else, mini-reviews of how well (in the fans’ perspectives) I captured the essence of an album in verbal form!

      • First off, I wasn’t expecting him to gush. Sheesh! I didn’t agree with the statement and hints that people could be disappointed in the CD. I love it, think its the best thing they did….. and I’m not stupid, Josh. I saw he gave it a 5 star review. I just didn’t agree with his sentiments about possible disappointment