CD Review: Dedicated (Childress Family)
Southern Gospel has national groups, regional groups, and groups like the Childress Family. Groups in this third category are content to do much of their traveling in their home state and bordering states, but have offered decades of consistently professional recordings and live concerts. When you pick up a new Childress Family recording, you know it will be good.
Perhaps the Childress Family is best known for launching Shannon Childress’s career. After starting his career with his parents and sisters, he left to join The Hoppers in 1985. He would stay with them for thirteen years, till 1998; his skills as a producer and arranger, not to mention his piano playing, played no small role in their rise to the Southern Gospel stratosphere.
Meanwhile, he continued to help his own family from the sidelines, playing major roles in arranging and producing their albums for years. So when he died in May 2011, it was more than a personal loss to his family. They questioned whether they could keep the group going without his behind-the-scenes production skills. But they decided to try; sisters Carla Childress and Teresa Childress-Lutz stepped forward to produce the Childress Family’s latest release, Dedicated.
As it turns out, during the decades they were watching Shannon at work, they must have been taking good notes. Dedicated is an unquestionable success. Vocally and instrumentally, it hearkens back to the early-90s production style that took the Hoppers to the top—with a little dash of Talleys influence in the mix, with several members of the studio team that records Talleys projects (pianist/orchestrator Jason Webb and electric guitarist Jeremy Medkiff). In a neat twist, given the years that Shannon added guest bass vocals to Hoppers projects, Hoppers bass singer Mike Hopper adds guest bass vocals here.
Most of the songs are pulled from the repertoire of leading Southern Gospel family groups. But unlike regional groups, which often record leading groups’ current or recent hits, the Childress Family dug a little deeper and found several gems that deserved another chance to shine. These include “Calvary and Amazing Grace” (originally Talley Trio), “Anchor to the Power of the Cross” (Hoppers – a Shannon Childress co-write), and “Glorious Tomorrow” (Liberty Quartet). They add a particularly welcome convention-style touch to the latter song.
There’s no question that losing Shannon was a major blow to the family. But Dedicated proves that they came through with class and style.
Group Members: Ken Childress, Marlene Childress, Teresa Childress Lutz, Jamey Lutz, Courtney Lutz, Carla Childress. (Guest bass vocals from Michael Hopper.)
Credits: Producers: Carla Childress, Teresa Childress-Lutz. Engineer: Ben Harris. Mixed and Mastered by: Ben Harris. Musicians: Jason Webb (piano, keyboards, B-3, orchestrations); Gary Lunn (bass guitar), Carla Childress (bass guitar), Brian Fullen (drums, percussion), Jeremy Medkiff (electric guitar), Bruce Watkins (acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle), Sonny Garrish (steel guitar).
Song List (songwriters in parentheses): Glorious Tomorrow (Phil Cross); He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away (Gene Reasoner); Everlasting Joy; Calvary and Amazing Grace (Geron Davis); Anchor to the Power of the Cross (Shannon Childress); I Just Came to Talk With You, Lord (Dottie Rambo); Hallelujah Anyhow (Joseph Pace II); How Deep the Father’s Love For Us (Stuart Townend); Heaven in the House (Ronny Hinson); I Bowed on My Knees (Nettie Dudley Washington, E.M. Dudley Cantwell), Bonus Track: Only God Would Think of That (Shannon Childress, Phyllis McCraw)