CCM songs that could become SG songs

I will admit, I have never been one to say that every worthwhile song can be found within one genre. A number of songs originally recorded by Contemporary Christian Music artists have done quite well in our genre.

These fall into two categories. The first category—perhaps the more common—is where a Southern Gospel artist delivers a rendition vocally and stylistically similar to the original. Examples would be Ivan Parker’s “I Can Only Imagine” (originally MercyMe), Gold City’s “Mercy Came Running” (originally Phillips, Craig, and Dean), and the Talley Trio’s “Orphans of God” (originally Avalon).

The second category, and the one that I find far more fascinating, is when an artist takes a CCM song and completely re-invents it for a Southern Gospel audience. Good examples of this are the Ball Brothers’ “Mercy Said No” (originally done by Greg Long) and the Dove Brothers’ “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb” (Ray Boltz).

Any number of CCM songs could be done like the original in a (somewhat progressive) Southern Gospel arrangement. What songs might work well totally reinvented for a Southern Gospel audience?

Here’s a few that come to mind (with YouTube links in parentheses):

  • “Broken and Spilled Out” (Steve Green). A male quartet like the Kingdom Heirs would absolutely knock this song out of the park.
  • “Love Crucified Arose” (Michael Card). This could easily be a power ballad, perhaps tenor-led. I could see it fitting the style of a group like Legacy Five.
  • “How Deep the Father’s Love” (Fernando Ortega). The McKameys have already done an Appalachian Gospel arrangement of the song. But the song would also be a great male trio song, perhaps in a fully orchestrated rendition with modulations between verses. Such a version would have sounded right at home on Greater Vision’s Hymns of the Ages project, and if they ever do another, it would be a good song to include. (I doubt I’m the only one hoping for a Hymns 2.)
  • “The Great Divide” (Point of Grace). This song would probably best be done by a group that uses tight, complex harmonies like the Ball Brothers or the Crist Family.
  • “For the Sake of the Call” (Steven Curtis Chapman). I could see this being a male quartet song. A group like Triumphant or the Kingdom Heirs, or a upcoming group like Cross 4 Crowns, could really go somewhere with this one.
  • “How Beautiful” (Twila Paris). This one could be done several ways; I could see anyone from Karen Peck & New River to the McKameys turning in a solid performance of the song.
  • “The Final Word” (Michael Card). A male quartet recording a Christmas album and seeking something other than the standards everyone else has already done could pick this one up.
  • “Come to the Table” (Michael Card). I know, this list has a disproportionate number of Michael Card songs. His lyrics are scripturally based as opposed to situationally based, making them a natural lyrical fit for the SG genre where the melody permits a SG arrangement. On this song, a male trio arrangement is obvious—maybe even a little too obvious—here, since Card’s original recording had male trio background vocals.
  • “Why” (Michael Card). One last Card song. I picture the Isaacs singing this one.

What do you think of these? And make your lists below.

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37 Letters to the Editor

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  1. “Lord, You’re Beautiful” by Keith Green could easily be made into a SG song.

    One song that people often forget about is “Rise Again,” which was originally a CCM hit for Dallas Holm. It has been reimagined numerous times in the SG world.

    “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down” by Newsong could also be done with a southern gospel feel, or probably even a bluegrass song.

    “Everything to Me” by Avalon could be an awesome tenor feature for a SG group. I kinda wish Steve Ladd would’ve stayed with Gold City long enough to record it.

  2. “He Did What I Couldn’t Do” – Newsong
    “Sometimes He Calms the Storm” – Scott Krippayne You’ll be hearing a Southern Gospel version of these songs soon!

  3. I think the CCM song “Voice Of Truth” sung by Casting Crowns, would be a big hit for a group like the Booth Brothers. I think Jim Brady would knock that one out of the park!!!

  4. The Mike Lefevre QT did a great job with “These Are The Days of Elijah.” It did very well for them.

  5. I think those ideas would be great. Some more great songs (and more recent ones) worthy of inclusion are: Who Am I? by Casting Crowns, Empty Me by Jeremy Camp, and Via Dolorosa by Sandi Patty. I could picture somebody like Crabb Revival singing Who Am I?, Austin’s Bridge singing Empty Me, and TaRanda Greene singing Via Dolorosa. I would like to see more mixture of styles between SG and CCM in the light that the messages stay the same and remain consistent. I’d personally like to hear Third Day sing “God on the Mountain.” That was just for laughs! haha

  6. I think southern gospel should stick with the type of music that has made it unique to begin with.

  7. Andrew- Chris Sligh has a version of “Empty Me” I really like that one and didn’t Taranda already sing Via Dolorosa or maybe even Lauren Talley, ah…..I”m not sure.

  8. Steven Curtis Chapman’s “The Great Adventure” would be a great Southern Gospel song.

  9. Thank you, David! I’ve thought that for years… May just have to make that happen…

  10. This is a great discussion. I agree with the Newsong suggestion, “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” and the SCC “For the Sake of the Call.”

    Wish I could come up with some suggestions of my own, but I’m drawing a blank!

  11. Joseph (#6) – I definitely agree, Southern Gospel should stick to the style of music that has made it unique to begin with. It’s just that, every now and then, there is a CCM song (or song from another genre) that fits solidly within the Southern Gospel genre.

    Some of the songs mentioned in the comments could be done well by progressive SG groups; the ones I focused on were songs that would fit SG so well that someone who didn’t know CCM would think the song was original to SG, it fits the style so well.

  12. That is sometimes my reaction. I recognized Ray Boltz’ name on the one DBQ did, but it sounded SG to me!

  13. Madison: YES you should make that happen!! 😀 It’s a great song.

  14. #12 (Amy) – there’s a perfect example. The Dove Brothers, at the time a classic-style SG Quartet, did the song, and who would have known it wasn’t completely original to them, or at least the genre? That’s a song that’s as SG as it is anything else. 🙂

    (“I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb.”)

  15. Madison,
    On his live album, SCC did some short snippets of “The Great Adventure” in different styles. One was Country, one was bluegrass, one was jazz, etc. I can send you a clip if you haven’t heard it.

    I have always thought a Southern Gospel artist could finish what he started with the Country version. Might want to change the intro to something more unique, though. The one SCC used is purposefully stereotypical.

  16. Hey, Daniel – great discussion!
    I agree about Michael Card – I’ve always loved “God Will Provide a Lamb.” Ivan could hit that one out of the park!
    Taking your suggestion to heart, I’m listening to a collection of songs by 4Him – I can definitely hear EHSS doing some of these. “Living Water, Bread of Life,” “The Measure of a Man,” “Where There is Faith,” among others.
    “You Move Me” (Susan Ashton) – Lauren Talley, perhaps?
    As far as sticking within a genre goes – a great song is a great song (Rise Again, I Can Only Imagine…) & that greatness is only enhanced through different interpretations by various artists. (Why else would everyone do hymns at some point?)
    I’m going to be pondering this all day…

  17. Bring it on! Send me a FB message about it and I’ll give you my email.

  18. I’m gonna throw in another, Ride of Life – 4him.

  19. Sticking with 4 Him, I think “Where There Is Faith” or “Basics Of Life” would be great in SG.

    Brian Free told me that they got the song “Man Of Sorrows” from 4Him. 4Him was set to record the song on the CD they were working on when they split, so Brian picked it up.

  20. Wes, I agree about 4Him songs. I still miss that group.

    What about Newsong and some Phillips, Craig and Dean songs? I love the more comtemporary quartets and trios.

  21. The song “Nothing Takes You By Surprise” on BFA’s latest Worth It CD was written by Tony Wood and Mark Harris. I’m assuming that’s the same Mark Harris that wrote so many of those wonderful 4Him songs.

    J.D. #20 – I agree completely. I’d love to hear one of the SG groups do a version of the old Phillips, Craig and Dean song “He’ll Do Whatever It Takes”. I was driving to work the first time I heard that song, and I literally had to pull over to the side of the road.

  22. #8: Steven Curtis Chapman used to be a prolific Southern Gospel Writer(I Can See The Hand). A good portion of his songs could go either way.

  23. “These Thousand Hills” by Jacob’s Trouble (made more famous by Third Day).

  24. I could totally see and hear Karen Peck and New River doing How Beautiful!!! I hope they will do it one day!!

  25. Hey Daniel, looks like you got started with this discussion over here! Looking at these suggestions, I think there are some good ideas here. I’ll add a couple more and elaborate on some that others have put forward…

    First, somebody mentioned the PCD song “He’ll Do Whatever It Takes.” For a long time, I’ve thought Doug Anderson could knock that song out of the park. But, I’m not sure EHSS as a whole could adapt it because there’s no room for a bass part. So I would say the Booth Brothers should give it a shot.

    A Strange Way To Save the World by 4Him: This I think EHSS could do. Very tender, beautifully written Christmas song.

    Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant: While we’re on a Christmas kick…I’d love to see the Collingsworth ladies tackle this one on a Christmas project!

    A Man You Would Write About by 4Him: I think Brian Free & Assurance could do a really nice job with this. It kind of fell through the cracks in 4Him’s repertoire while other, less good songs became better known. Somebody should bring it back.

    Freedom’s Never Free by Phillips, Craig & Dean: Jumping back to a patriotic mood… Somebody just needs to do this one. I’m thinking maybe Legacy Five. 😉 Seriously, this could be a great monster ballad for SG.

    • I assume you know that BF&A have done “Strange Way to Save the World”?

      And doesn’t SG have enough patriotic ballads as it is? 😉

      • I didn’t know that. I should find that version.

        Well, let’s put it this way. #1: No, I don’t think you can ever have too many patriotic ballads, and #2: Some of the ones SG already has are so confoundedly, cringe-worthily cheesy that bringing in a really good one might help push the cheesy ones out of business, if you know what I mean.

      • To #1: OK.

        As I’ve said elsewhere on this blog, it’s a huge pet peeve when I go to a church that sits on their hands for a majestic anthem about the cross but explodes with excitement at a cheesy patriotic song with no Gospel message at all.

        #2: Not sure the good ones would put the cheesy ones out of business, but that sure would be nice if it worked out!

      • I just like the ones Mark Trammell has sung: “Scars and Stripes”, “He Took the Hill”, “From a Star to Stripes”. 🙂

      • Let’s go back to where we started: “Freedom’s Never Free.” Have you ever even heard that song? Look at the second verse. Look at how the whole song ties together multiple meanings of “freedom.” Beautifully done. You wouldn’t be embarrassed to stand for it, believe me.

      • Brian – the good thing about those is that they use the patriotism to set up an overt Gospel message. If a song does that, then I’m totally cool with it.

        If there’s no reference to God at all, or just a passing reference to God blessing our country, that’s where I have more of an issue with it – especially in a church setting.

      • Check out “In God We Still Trust” by Diamond Rio some time. 😀

  26. I know and have sung “In God We Still Trust” before.

    • Is classic!

      (filler, filler, filler)

    • Some SG artist did it. Their rendition was OK, I guess, but didn’t measure up to what the original must have been if it gets you this excited.

      • I’m not talking so much about the rendition. I’m talking about the song. It’s just a great song. Our age is so politically correct. The name of Jesus is politically correct. This song calls for a return to where our nation started.

      • Sorry, meant to say that the name of Jesus is politicaly INcorrect and hence intolerable under politically correct standards.