CD Review: No Two Ways About It (Inspirations)



Since their last CD release, the Inspirations have gone through a time of vocal transition. They had to find new lead and tenor singers, and found two keepers. Lead singer Stephen Srein, who sang with baritone Jon Epley in a regional group several years ago, brings straight-ahead vocals in the classic Inspirations style. And if there had to be a tenor vacancy, they could not have done better than to bring Mark Clark back. It’s not Clark’s first time aboard the Inspirations bus; he filled in with and for Archie Watkins toward the end of his forty-five-year-run with the group.

The Jodi Hosterman era brought a distinctly different feel to the Inspirations’ sound. It won them new fans, but many fans missed the Mountain Gospel stylings that put the Inspirations on the Southern Gospel map. With No Two Ways About It, that classic Mountain Gospel sound is back.

It sure helps to have the right ten songs. Mark Clark is stellar on his cover of the Inspirations classic “On Heaven’s Bright Shore.” “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion” is one of the strongest convention songs that the group has recorded in the last decade or so. (It’s not the rather overdone song by the same name; it’s also a cover and also a convention song, but a different song.) There are also songs like “No Two Ways About It” and “You Can Still Find Forgiveness” that would have felt at home on the last few Inspirations releases, so fans who recently came aboard will still find much to like.

No Two Ways About It is the strongest Inspirations album since their 2006 release I Know. If you loved the Inspirations during their peak years, it’s time to give them another chance.

Traditional or Progressive: Traditional/Mountain Gospel.

Group Members: Mark Clark (tenor), Stephen Srein (lead), Jon Epley (baritone), Mike Holcomb (bass), Martin Cook (piano), Myron Cook (bass), Luke Vaught (utility musician).

Credits: Produced by Jeff Collins, Martin Cook, and Scott Barnett. Engineered, Mixed, and Mastered by Scott Barnett and Van Atkins. Musicians: Jeff Collins (piano), Tim Surrett (upright bass), David Johnson (acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, resonator guitar, harmonica, steel guitar). Review copy provided.

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): Saved, Sealed, and Going (Rodney Griffin); You Can Still Find Forgiveness (Jim Brady); I’ll Be A Friend To Jesus (Johnson Oatman Jr.); He Made A Change (Jim Brady); I’ll Never Get Over (Jeremy Simpson); Just A Little Talk With Jesus (Cleavant Derricks); Jesus Is Coming Soon (R.E. Winsett); No Two Ways (Kevin Jones); On Heaven’s Bright Shore (Roscoe Reed); I’ve Got That Old Time Religion (Terry Pillow).

Five-star songs: On Heaven’s Bright Shore; The Old-Time Religion.

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21 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. Thanks, Daniel, for this great review of the Inspirations’ CD! It sounds like a good project and I will probably purchase it, due in part to your review. The last CD I bought of the Inspirations (The Son Came Down) was when Dallas Rogers was with the group, and it was a dandy. I haven’t been privileged yet to see the current group in concert but have seen clips online and it does seem to be back to the more traditional Inspirations sound. I, for one, am happy to hear that!

    • The Dallas CD and this CD are the two best that the group has put out since Archie Watkins’ departure.

  2. The only issue I have with this album and my hesitation from buying it. Is it clocks in at under 25 minutes. As much as I want to buy it I just can’t seem to do it. Just because it’s not enough play time to really spend money on. That’s why I’ll probably just buy “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” and “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion”. I’ve been debating back and forth about buying it or not.

    • Correction at 25:36**

    • Trust you me…on this album Quality beats Quantity! IMO the best songs are “No Two Ways,” “Jesus is Coming Soon,” and “I’ll Be a Friend.” Go for it! You won’t be disappointed! 🙂

    • That’s really not all that uncommon when it comes to albums with relatively simple arrangements and a lot of fast and midtempo songs. I think I have a couple of Dove Brothers projects from their 50s-throwback-heyday that clock in at 25 or less.

      • Okay I decided to go for quality over quantity and I’m so glad I did. What an amazing album!!! Love it! All the tracks are great! I’m glad that I got it. Probably one of the best traditional albums of 2013

      • Great! Glad our recommendations didn’t let you down. 🙂

  3. Believe me it’s worth it! It is a great CD start to finish! I downloaded it from iTunes the day it came out and I was not dissapointed at all!

  4. I believe someone commented on this in recent days, but I agree that more and more we are seeing groups recording the older songs on mainline projects…often, several at a time. I love the old songs, too, and I hope it’s because every now and then an old one is just so great it needs a comeback. I hope it’s not because there aren’t enough great new songs (a) being written (b) being pitched to the right groups (c) that grab the artist the first time they hear them, etc. Definitely food for thought for those of us who write.

    • I have been pondering the same issue in recent months. It’s a question that I’m not sure how to answer.

    • Just a thought on this. Several groups have down very well doing old songs. Maybe groups are looking for “Golden Oldies” since there have been so many songs written in gospel music history.

    • One thing I’ve thought about with the redo’s is Southern Gospel doesn’t have the luxury of CD/downloads of their back catalogs. I can get almost any album from major rock groups, but you cant download “Jesus is Coming for Me”. I’ve digitized everything by the Inspirations, but the average fan can’t pop in the original cut of “On Heaven’s Bright Shore” whenever they want. I wouldn’t say it’s any indication of song-writing as much as putting out a blast from the past, or a song they’ve been doing live for years – “Jesus is Coming Soon” hadn’t been on a recording of theirs since 1981 or 1968.

      You song writers are doing a great job – keep it up. There’s a lot of people who can’t write anything, much less good songs, and people like me who can write/ finish lyrics but couldn’t write a melody if our lives depended on it.

      • When you’re talking about a group like the Inspirations, you do have a valid point there. A number of their own popular songs from years gone by are not available in any form or fashion.

  5. Is it just me or do the Inspirations now sound alot like they did in the 1970s? Mark Clark could be comparable to Archie Watkins ,and Steve Srein could be comparable to Troy Burns. I think their current line-up is better than before!

  6. I’d like to offer a correction to the above info on the recording. Rodney Bledsoe did not write “No Two Ways About It”. Rodney owns the publishing company that published the song! I wrote the song! Just thought I’d throw that out there.

    • Thanks, Kevin, and I’m sorry about that! I’ll fix it now.

      • LOL! There was a snafu with the mechanicals paperwork but it is being corrected. I couldn’t dare let my friend Rodney steal my thunder. LOL. To God be the glory!

      • Wow – glad to hear it’s being straightened out!

  7. Speaking of tenors who filled in for Archie, where did Daron Osborne go t0?