CD Review: “Get Away Jordan” (Signature Sound)

Get Away Jordan - Ernie Haase & Signature SoundWhatever else one thinks of Bill Gaither, virtually everyone agrees that he is a master promoter. Everyone knew that when he took Signature Sound under his wings, things would start happening, but the speed and magnitude of their success has surprised just about everyone.

This recording has been one of the most anticipated recordings in some time, and it lives up to expectations. It has something for everyone, from one or two progressive tracks to several big ballads to a half-dozen classic quartet-styled songs that will warm the heart of traditional quartet fans.

The CD starts with “Someday,” a classic song written by Joe Moscheo and recorded by Moscheo’s group The Prophets, among others. (Moscheo eventually joined the Imperials several years after he wrote the song.) Doug Anderson has the official solo on the song, though Tim Duncan’s bass lines are also prominently featured. This song is a good example of a good song that was widely recorded in its day, but
has since been almost forgotten. It has been occasionally been recorded by various groups through the decades, but hasn’t been prominently featured on a major group’s project for some time.

The next song keeps up the same pace. Though its arrangement, which features Ryan Seaton on the first verse and Tim Duncan on the second, would lead some to think it was another classic, this is actually a new quartet song written by Sonya Isaacs.

The tempo slows a bit for the third song, a cover of Bill Gaither’s song “Lovest Thou Me.” Ryan Seaton, who is growing into his role as a lead singer, and Ernie Haase have the solos on this song.

The fourth song, “John in the Jordan,” is a classic quartet song that is easily one of the highlights of the project. I’ll revisit some of my earlier thoughts on this song:

This was a good pick for a radio single, because it accurately captures Signature Sound: Quartet music that is different than anything you’ve heard before while still having an unmistakably traditional feel.

The song, incidentally, features Ernie Haase on the first verse, but Ernie, lead singer Ryan Seaton, and baritone Doug Anderson trade off lines on the second verse. Bass Tim Duncan is featured on the chorus. After two verses and a bridge, the song transposes from G to A, permitting Duncan to hit a low A.

The song is quite enjoyable and should do well for Signature Sound. The chorus leaves no question that it’s classic quartet music, but it’s both traditional and innovative at the same time. It takes a quartet of Signature Sound’s stature to pull that off.

That still sums up my thoughts fairly well on the song.

The fifth song, “He Made a Change,” fills the Cathedrals slot on the album–a familiar Cathedrals song getting the Signature Sound treatment. The original version (on Faithful) featured Cathedrals baritone Scott Fowler; this rendition features Signature Sound baritone Doug Anderson. The rendition has a brass arrangement similar to that on the original Cathedrals version, yet the arrangement is different enough that Signature Sound makes the song their own.

The sixth song, “Until We Fly Away,” features Doug Anderson. It has been getting high marks from those who have heard it performed live. It is a powerful ballad, but (in my experience) has to grow on you before you can really appreciate it. Though this Joel Lindsey / Pam Thum song has a 2003 copyright date, I’d never heard it until now. Thum may have recorded it on one of her solo projects.

“Beyond the Blues” is a Jeff Silvey/Joel Lindsey song that features Ryan Seaton. The song is given a blues arrangement.

Though the album has several big ballads, the standout is the Sue Smith/Jeff Ferguson song “It is Done.” Ernie Haase, Doug Anderson, and Ryan Seaton each sing a verse on the song. I applaud this arrangement decision, because while Ryan has been featured before on ballads, this song, more than any other previous Signature Sound song (except perhaps “Then Came the Morning”) features him shining at the emotional high point of the song and bring it home, a duty typically held down by Haase or Anderson in most Signature Sound arrangements.

The one odd feature of this arrangement is the tag, a few lines of the Gaither classic “It is Finished.” The song is, of course, a perfect fit thematically–but musically, it’s not quite as perfect a fit. The song “It is Done” is written in a 4/4 meter; the song “It is Finished” is written in a 3/4 meter. Signature Sound and their producers (Lari Goss and Michael English) make the best of the situation, and do a good job pulling off the arrangement given the circumstances.

The ninth song is the Statesmen classic “Our Debts Will Be Paid,” penned by Statesmen bass James “Big Chief” Wetherington. Tim Duncan is featured on the first part of the song; Ryan Seaton takes the lead for the rest of the song.

The tenth song is the title track, “Get Away Jordan.” This song has perhaps been the most-discussed track on the project, due to the fact that the Dove Brothers also perform the song regularly. This rendition isn’t as traditional as the original (but then, neither was the Dove Brothers’). While most traditional quartet fans would lean toward preferring the original Statesmen rendition or the Dove Brothers’ version, many Southern Gospel fans will also like this version. Much has been and will be said about this song, and I won’t add to it except to say this: This is the first version I have heard where I actually understand the lyrics.

This project is a sixteen-song project. In many ways, the first ten songs seem to form a musically consistent album on their own. They are mostly quartet classics and songs arranged like quartet classics, with several big ballads thrown in for good measure. The last six songs on the album, though, are a grab bag of surprises–a novelty song, two patriotic songs, two live songs, and a full-production version of Haase’s signature song.

The first song of the last six is the novelty song “Happy Birthday Anniversary Too.” When I said some time back that there was a song on this project that would raise eyebrows, this was the song I had in mind. While I probably won’t play this song quite as often as I play the others on the project, I understand it goes over well in a live setting.

Two patriotic songs follow: “I Pledge My Allegiance” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” The first is a big ballad that Signature Sound has performed for the National Day of Prayer ceremony with James Dobson (and, parenthetically, is one of the best songs on the project); the latter, our national anthem, is recorded in an arrangement that they have performed in an NBA Cavaliers game pre-show.

The fourteenth track is “Oh What a Savior.” This is the first time Haase has recorded the song with full production. Though some have made a point of saying he lowered the key for this rendition, it is worth observing that while his original 1990 rendition was in G, this rendition is only a half-step lower, in F-sharp. It is also worth pointing out that Haase has been performing the song in F-sharp for at least ten years, ever since the Cathedrals’ Alive! Deep in the Heart of Texas (1997) recording. So the song is no lower than he has been singing it for the last decade, though it sounds slightly different due to the maturing of Haase’s voice.

The final two songs are live tracks. “Plan of Salvation” was recorded live in Anderson, Indiana, and was included as a bonus track on Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s self-titled DVD. “Get Away Jordan” is from the audio track from Signature Sound’s live DVD, released in conjunction with this project.

Though much has been made of the fact that the project contains one classic (“Get Away Jordan”) being currently staged by another group, Haase’s selection of other songs mixes new songs with classic songs that are not being widely used at the present time. Though “Someday,” “Lovest Thou Me,” “Plan of Salvation,” and “Our Debts Will Be Paid” are all quartet classics, few full-time professional groups are performing any of these songs regularly today.

In closing, let me return to one point I touched on earlier. In many ways, I look on the first ten songs as the core of the album, with six songs added that could well be labeled bonus tracks. The two live tracks were not specifically recorded for this CD, while the four studio tracks were all recorded primarily for live performance.

If the complete album is viewed as one entity, the ending seems slightly schizophrenic with one novelty track, two patriotic tunes, and two live song. I prefer to approach this project as an album of ten songs with six bonus tracks. But however you approach it, this album offers an enjoyable mix of pretty much everything Southern Gospel quartet singing has to offer.

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20 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. Hey Daniel,

    You did a great job on your review!!

    The guys did a great job on this CD didn’t they?

    Great Job!! Keep it up!

  2. Interesting that you mention the hub-bub surrounding SSQ singing a song regularly performed by the Dove Brothers. In what many consider the “glory days” of gospel music, this was a very common practice. When a song got “big”, many of the major groups and most of the local talent added it to their programs.

    I can’t imagine a program from the early 70s that didn’t include at least three groups singing “I Know”, “Jesus is Coming Soon”, “Daddy Sang Bass”, and “Redemption Draweth Nigh”.

    Very interesting review, Daniel. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. I know it was common, which is why I’ve had a hard time understanding why some people think of it as a big deal. If the glory days of Southern Gospel come back, and a half dozen groups are thrilling audiences with the same song…well, I will be the last one to complain.

    Thank you for the compliments; coming from someone who knows more about Southern Gospel than just about anyone else alive today, that really means a lot to me.

  4. Nice review, Daniel. Ryan is definitely in his own with this project!

    In regard to “Until We Fly Away”, I think it really depends on the person – I loved it instantly and it’s one of my *favorite* tracks on the album, because it’s so heartfelt, powerful, and full of hope. (Whereas “It Is Done” had to grow on me, don’t ask me why… 🙂

  5. Good review of an excellent project. Your comments were spot on.

    Now, get the DVD and you’ll see why EHSSQ is the big thing right now.

  6. Ron – I have the DVD and will review it soon.

    Hannah, as a matter of fact, “Until We Fly Away” is already growing on me since I wrote the review.

  7. Hey Daniel.

    Great review!

  8. I finally got to listen to the CD and your review is quite accurate.

    As to “Get Away Jordan”: I think that SSQ’s version of this song is much more akin to the jazz/soul/gospel stylings of the group Take 6 than the version associated with the Dove Brothers.

    SSQ embodies more of a soulful approach to the song than does the Dove Brothers. By the way, you would have no trouble understanding the words to the song if you listened to Take 6.

    I wish I could remember where I read the review that mentions Ernie’s ministry moment during the reprise of “Get Away Jordan”. Other than the fact that Ernie mentions George Younce, it’s almost a word for word account of Hovie Lister’s sermonizing after singing the song at the 1957 National Quartet Convention. Everything old is new again!

  9. That is a fascinating historical detail. It would be hard to make the case that Ernie doesn’t pay attention to our appreciate his Southern Gospel heritage.

  10. Hi, Daniel. I’m the co-writer of “It Is Done” on this project. I am thrilled with Ernie and Signature Sound’s recording of this song. We didn’t write it with “It is Finished” in mind; however, I love the arrangement. I agree with you, they made it work. When Bill Gaither’s office called and asked me if they could add a piece of his song to “It is Done”, I was thrilled. Thank you for the kind review. I thought your critique of the album was very insightful. I love the cd and am thrilled to have one of my songs, written with Sue Smith, done so beautifully. God bless you, Daniel.

    Jeff Ferguson

  11. Great Review Daniel

    I love anything SSQ sing but Get aWay Jorden is Awesome

  12. An Outstanding Album. Have thoroughly enjoyed everything that has been delivered by EH&SS

  13. Well I thought about purchasing this album until I downloaded “John In The Jordan” and “Get Away Jordan.” I can’t stand either song. Guess that’s why I’m not an SSQ fan.

  14. So nobody will probably see this comment since I’m posting it three years later, LOL. But I just wanted to say that this was one of the first albums that got me hooked on SG. Whatever other people say about it, it played an important role in my discovery of the genre, and for that I’m very grateful to Ernie and the guys. My hat’s off to them for bringing this music to a new generation. Keep it up, boys!

    • It will appear in the “recent comments” in the right sidebar. 🙂

      • Too true! I just realized that myself. 🙂

    • Yup. I read it.

      It is so hard to chase down a comment in that little moving window! 😀

      • Would it help if I slowed it down?

      • Could you?

        I think making it bigger would help most. It can take too long to wait for them all too cycle through anyway. I use a live bookmark, but I realized just now that there are more than 10 in the sidebar.

        I really don’t mean to complain! You explained the reasoning, and I get it. Usually 10 is enough to keep up anyway.

      • I just cut the total number from 15 to 10, and expanded the widget to displaying four at a time.


  1. » DVD Review: “Get Away Jordan” (Signature Sound) - [...] Last Friday, I reviewed Signature Sound’s Get Away Jordan CD. Today, let’s look at the accompanying DVD. [...]