CD Review: Time Machine (The Browders)


Time Machine - BrowdersAfter three #1 hits from their final independent release, The Browders teamed up with Daywind to release their major-league debut, Time Machine

It’s a CD that prompted a very different impression on first listen and on subsequent spins. The first time through, the songs that stood out the most were progressive tracks like “Time Machine” and “New Song” and two white-boy-does-rap tracks, “Pick Me Up” and “Whatever You’re Going Through.” My immediate reaction was that this was the single most progressive Southern Gospel CD that had ever come across my desk for review.

But on second and third spins, the songs like “Listening For The Shout,” “The Reason,” “Waiting For You to Get Home,” “He Took My Place,” and “Lift Up His Name” showed their middle-of-the-road appeal. While the progressive tracks probably would not go anywhere on Southern Gospel radio, these probably include several chart-toppers.

The album cover is the coolest Southern Gospel album cover in quite a while—even if there’s a slight irony that its retro look accompanies the year’s most progressive CD.

The Browders’ songwriting has been strong enough to net them several #1 hits. So it makes sense that they would write or co-write all eleven songs. Matthew Browder had a hand in nine of the songs. David Browder co-wrote two with him. Tommy Browder co-wrote one with Matthew and wrote one by himself. Sonya Browder only wrote one song, a solo writing credit on “The Reason,” but it is the project’s strongest song.

Traditional or Progressive: Very progressive.

Group Members: Matthew Browder, Sonya Browder, David Browder, Tommy Browder.

Credits: Produced by Kevin Ward and The Browders. Mixed by Ben Fowler. Mastered by Hank Williams

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): Lift Up His Name (Matthew Browder); He Is Alive (Matthew Browder); Time Machine (Matthew Browder); Listening For The Shout (Matthew Browder, Tommy Browder); He Took The Nails (Matthew Browder, Mike Upright); Whatever You’re Going Through (David Browder); God Knows What’s Best (Tommy Browder); Pick Me Up (David Browder, Matthew Browder); The Reason (Sonya Browder); New Song (Matthew Browder); Waiting For You To Get Home (Matthew Browder, Phil Cross).

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29 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 was just listening to this on the way in to work. Lot of country style, ranging from a more traditional sound to the more modern country radio sound. My favorites were “He Took the Nails,” “He’s Alive,” and “Listening for the Shout”. I liked some of the creative lyrics on “Time Machine” (only song I’ve listened to this year with the word “apparatus”) and “Pick Me Up” (there was a line about someone playing some terrible music from their car), but musically, those aren’t my cup of tea.

  2. I’m confused but am looking forward to hearing this. Calling it very progressive with a couple of rap-like songs sounds opposite to what I heard of He Is Alive and Brian’s comments about it being more country. When I hear progressive, I assume more pop/rock. Maybe it’s just more pop/country.

    • There are some country-influenced songs, and some songs that involve something approximately akin to rapping. When I use progressive, in the context of this genre, I use it as part of a single scale: Traditional > Middle-of-the-road > Progressive. Different things can make an album more progressive / less traditional. Something that sounds like late ’90s 4HIM is one of them, but something that sounds like rap is another.

      • For what it’s worth, I didn’t think of “rapping” on any of the songs. When I think of rap, I think of words “sung” without musical pitches. I think I made it through listening to all the songs, which wouldn’t have been the case if I thought I heard rap. 🙂

    • I admittedly don’t listen to country radio anymore, I’ve heard enough to know that the lines are often pretty blurred these days between pop/rock/country…it was heading in that direction when I stopped listening to country a few years ago. A lot of what I hear from the more progressive SG groups, like the Browders or KPNR, sounds a lot like that modern “country” stuff to me, which in turn has a lot of pop/rock influence.

      • I know what you mean. Here and there, I’ll hear something of what passes for country these days, sit back, and think, “That’s not country.” Seriously, is the only difference between country and other styles today that there’s a twang, and maybe a little more fiddle and steel guitar? Sometimes it seems like that!

      • Daniel, I’ve said often of late that today, “country” music is basically just pop music with a cowboy hat on. Of course, some of it stays true to its roots (Brooks and Dunn, Alan Jackson, etc.) but then, the dudes in that group all came from a different era.

        I don’t really mind because I don’t listen to secular country that much, and my musical taste is very, very broad.

  3. While it’s not my favorite style of music, I am always impressed when a group is able to write and perform their own material, not just a song here or there. This is a talented family, all the way around, and several of the songs are “keppers” in my iPod rotation.

    • “keepers” 🙂

  4. Southern gospel goes STEAMPUNK??!!

    That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!!

  5. Thanks for the review of the Browders. They are and will always be one of my favorite groups. They are a very talented group of people. The thing that I most admire about them, is that no matter where you see them they are always the same. “Real” is the best way to describe them.

    And their collective talent of song writing is awesome.

    A non – singing group member is Burt Ludwig, Sonya’s brother. He plays guitar. He also is a very talelnted individual.

    • Wonderful review of the Browders. I too can say they are one of my favorite groups. They are a very genuine group of people. Carol Hensley said it perfectly……. Very “Real” is exactly what best describes them.

      From their writing, to their musical talent, they are truly a blessing.

      Their music speaks to the hearts of man……..and I for one, have been so blessed by it!

      Love the CD cover too!

  6. For those of us (like me) who are less knowledgeable, could you please explain exactly what it means when you say that a song/albun/group is “progressive”. I don’t have a musical background, so some of the things you talk about are over my head…but I do enjoy being a supporter of the industry!

    • Deep breath, and here goes! Southern Gospel is too diverse and complex of a genre to be reduced to a single spectrum. But I do what I can as an approximation, to give readers somewhat of an idea of what to expect from a given project.

      In its original and purest form, Southern Gospel is three or four voices and a piano player (or, occasionally, a guitar player instead). This original form of the genre is what I call the “traditional” end of the spectrum. If all there is are three or four voices and a piano player, I’ll probably call it “very traditional.” (Dixie Echoes, Chuck Wagon Gang). If there’s a light bass, percussion, and perhaps acoustic guitar in the mix, but the piano and vocals are still out front, I’ll call it “traditional” or “fairly traditional.”

      On the other end of the spectrum, for the last thirty-five years or so, Southern Gospel has had artists who are doing stylistically what artists in Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) were doing 10-20 years previously. The artists today who bear musical resemblance to 1990s or early 2000s CCM are many of the ones I’d call progressive. There’s often a lot more electric guitars and other synthetic music in the mix. The songs often have a little more of a contemporary feel. Sometimes the tracks have a pop feel, other times a modern country feel. Some of the Booth Brothers’ mid-2000s albums were progressive; they have since swung a little more toward middle-of-the-road, while still having a couple of progressive tracks on each album. Karen Peck & New River, Brian Free & Assurance, and The Browders are three artists who tend to lean progressive.

      In between these two would fall artists like the Perrys, Greater Vision, Triumphant Quartet, and the Collingsworth Family. These I would call “middle-of-the-road.”

      • In light of the discussion earlier this week on this same topic, and in view of this description (excellent, I might add), I think I fall more into the “middle-of-the-road” category, with an appreciation of the traditional, and an occasional taste of something slightly progressive. I think this is what I was driving at. Let’s keep it “middle-of-the-road” primarily, and not be hasty about rushing to either extreme.

        I’m a left-brain, analytical type, so pardon me while I go all “scientistic” on you! 🙂 I view the genre as falling into the 80-20 rule/Normal distribution/Bell Curve scenario. The normal distribution is approximately 80% within some defined upper and lower boundary, and you have 10% outside of the lower boundary and 10% outside of the upper boundary, hence the “80-20 rule”. The 80% would be middle-of-the-road, 10% would be traditional, and 10% would be progressive. But you can have a “statistical shift” and translate the whole group in one direction or another (either back towards the traditional or more towards the progressive).

        My contention is while making room for the occasional progressive sound and harking back to the traditional sounds, let’s not shift the whole curve towards one or the other.

      • What if a Southern Gospel group released an album of contemporary songs, would it be called a CCM album or a progressive Southern Gospel album? Is a song labelled as Southern because of the artist or because of the style? I ask that because I’ve noticed that most progressive Southern Gospel songs sound so much like CCM (which is not a bad thing at all), only difference is the bass singer is non existant in CCM. But even in SG, the bass singer is not as necessary as he was in the old days. The Gaither Vocal Band for example, did “You Are My All In All”, a well known contemporary song. Would you classify it as progressive Southern Gospel because it’s being sung by a Southern Gospel Group?

    • Just as in secular music, the second that you label it, the label doesn’t fit anymore. I came to SG late – 20 years ago, it was Michael W. Smith (the Worship recordings are still amongst my all time favorites) Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, et al. The style that was considered CCM back then is certainly not what is in vogue today, and for a number of years I was feeling very musically “adrift”. I had avoided the Gaithers like the plague because we sang “He Touched Me” and “Because He Lives” virtually every Sunday when I was growing up. Around 2008 I happened upon a Gaither Gospel Hour broadcast while flipping channels (the Gaither/EHSS “Together” project) and was moved to tears. That began my journey to SG.

      I’m personally done with labels. I can make some generalizations, but as soon as I do, I’ve likely cut off a source. I’m not much of a Chris Tomlin fan, but my hands are to Heaven every time I hear him sing “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)”. And there are other instances that resonate for me within what passes today for CCM, but they’re pretty infrequent in recent years. In the end, I trust God to lead me to music/Worship that draws me closer to Him, whatever the masses chose to label it, and for me, today, it’s primarily considered Southern Gospel. So be it, and God bless all of it – that which I like, and that which I don’t – but brings someone else closer to Him.

  7. I personally think the term “progressive southern gospel” is an oxymoron. We have to ask ourselves why did the adjective “southern” get attached to “gospel”? Was it because the south is (or was) considered to be a more conservative region, therefore southern gospel is a more conservative form of gospel, (as opposed to black gospel, for instance)? BTW, I love black gospel!

    If it is progressive, then I think it may no longer be “southern”, so we might as well call it contemporary.

    Like you said, it’s not a bad thing to have a somewhat progressive sound, my deal is let’s keep it in the middle of the road so the genre doesn’t merge into CCM or Christian country. Southern Gospel music is too rich and too good right by itself for it to be blended or morphed into anything else.

    We have a local station hear that calls itself southern gospel, but the DJ/Owner used to be a country DJ, so 75% of the music he plays is country-gospel! They don’t play a whole lot of the “middle-of-the-road stuff”. It’s the only station we have besides CCM, which is why I now have Sirius/XM so I can listen to enlighten.

    If I want to hear CCM, then I listen to a CCM station. If I want Country-Gospel, then I listen to a CG station. If I want to listen to Black Gospel, then I listen to a Black Gospel station. I listen to Southern Gospel stations because I want to hear Southern Gospel music!

    • Well, I don’t know if this project is progressive or not but to me their past singles have leaned toward country. They do have great song writing but I have not carred for the vocals.

      As to the question above about CCM to me we as southern gospel are too abliging. If you are a country artist and have been in a Gaither recording well now we are abliged to play you. If you used to be in a southern gospel group and now you sing solo CCM well now we are abliged to play you. If a song was popular in some other genre and you are a solist that used to be in a SG group well now we are abliged to play that. The down side is hard working trying to make a living dedicated to southern gospel people your air play potential just got dimenished.

  8. Wow. Based on this review I went to iTunes and checked this album out. It has some nice tracks. I have an observation and it shouldn’t be taken as negative comment at all. The Browders should leave SG. I think they could go from a middle of the road (in popularity) SG group to possibly bigger things in CCM. They have a lot of talent. In my humble opinion, the more progressive/CCM sounding stuff that would alienate them from a large portion of the SG genre, is their best music.

    • I’m trying to think of a delicate way to ask this: CCM is very image-driven. Many of the new stars who successfully break into the genre are skinny 19-22 year-olds. Would CCM receive a man in his 40s or 50s in a wheelchair?

      • This is my first exposure to the group. I had no idea he was in a wheelchair. That being said, I do t know that CCM is more or less likely to reject someone in a wheelchair that SG or any other genre.

      • Southern Gospel routinely accepts superstars who wouldn’t get a job modeling. I don’t see many in CCM – though CCM may be even a little more open and accepting than secular pop or country, for all I know.

      • For that matter, appearance aside, how many vocal groups debut in CCM with a singer who probably has to be over 50 (since his children look to be at least mid-twenties)?

        We think nothing of it in Southern Gospel. And that’s a good thing. But A&R people in other genres do think about such things.

      • Most of the songs I referenced didn’t seem to have a huge vocal influnance from the older gentlemen (older in relative to the children). So, if they hit it big in the CCM world, it would be an opportunity for dad to retire or go behind the scences. Not trying to be negative or put him down because of his handicap. Like I said, I didn’t know he had a problem at all before you mentioned it.

  9. Let me stry by saying, this is not meant to be derogatory or anything if the sort…..
    My question is this, is this CD a big departure from their earlier works? Is it several steps forward?
    I ask (without knowledge that it is) because it seems to be almost comin these days: a new group pops on the radar, has some radio success , builds te start if a following and then their sophomore or junior CD is a huge change in style or step forward progressively.

    No need to point out examples. There are many. And most of them fizzle out as well. Some would have due to attrition or other factors. But some definitely leave a new, fresh baby faced fan base feeling like they were abandoned.

    Just some thoughts . Again, I am not saying this is that much different than past projects or that this will be their result. Just curious of your thoughts.

    It sounds like they are talented songwriters and deserve the success they are having. God Bless them!!

  10. Typical Daniel review. Well played sir. 😛

  11. I see this recording as a definite mix of styles, some cuts being classic-country style, some reminiscent of The Hinsons, some definitely progressive country style, and some… borrowing from older and newer pop influences. I don’t think (and haven’t for several years) that The Browders can be pigeon-holed as “one particular style”. It appears that they are… simply using the styles of music which they enjoy, and using the different styles to minister with.

    I understand their use of diverse styles of music, as I, too, enjoy listening to (and playing) different styles (and even more so, as I grow older). Perhaps being diverse with their musical styles is not going to gain a large fan base, but… I must applaud them in “keeping it real” and using their energy to passionately keep “doing it the way they feel it”, and writing and performing songs… from their hearts.

    Not for everyone, I’m sure (as everyone has different musical tastes), but… one can certainly appreciate their efforts, and for those who enjoy a mix of musical styles, they certainly have music for many palates!