Mega Review: Dove Brothers (Life)

Composite Rating: 3.67

Label: Sonlite Records
Producers: David Johnson and Danny Crawford
Website: http://dovebrothersquartet.com/

Contributors:

Click “Read the Rest of This Entry” for the full review.

1. After The Storm

Adam: Smooth quartet harmonies in the chorus of this song make it a great opening track. It’s a solid track to begin the project.

Wes: I agree Adam, nice harmonies on the chorus, and a solid opener. This song is a bit similar to “I Still Got A Feeling” in that it isn’t the pure country sound, but a bit more traditional.

Aaron: Good choice for an opener track. Kind of sets the tone for the rest of the album.

2. Give It To The Lord

Brandon: This strikes me as the most traditional quartet song on the project. With David Hester’s bass voice out front, I think this could become a concert favorite for the group.

Wes: I agree with Brandon, this is the most traditional song on the disc. Hester turns in a great performance here, and to me, this is one of the highlights of the projects.

DBM: I love the chorus on this song. David Hester gets to scrape the bottom, which is always a lot of fun. The verses could have stood more creativity, though. “Give it, come on give it, give it to the Lord” is a phrase that is used as a response to each line in the verse. It seems like the writers/arrangers just counted the number of required syllables and made it fit. As a lyrical hook, it’s somewhat mundane.

Adam: What a fun track. Hester gets to display his range, which is always a treat. He is really becoming one of the premiere bass vocalists in the industry.

Aaron: I always enjoy bass features, and Hester turns in a great performance on this track. This will most likely become a “staple song” for the DBQ in their concerts.

3. I Want To Live My Life For You

Adam: Jerry Martin is out front on this number. This song has excellent harmonies but is a bit too mellow for my tastes…reminds me of elevator music.

Daniel: Yes, the song is rather mellow. But with much of the rest of the project being in an uptempo driving country style, the project needed a couple of mellow songs to round it out, and I view this as an enjoyable change of pace.

Wes: I’ll agree with Daniel here. I enjoyed this song. It’s not the best ballad Jerry Martin has ever been featured on, but it is a nice track, and a nice break from the driving country styling so prevalent on the disc.

Aaron: This Jerry Martin feature makes fans of his Kingsmen days reminisce a little. And, like the others have said, a change of pace from the rest of the album.

4. You Don’t Know God’s Love

Wes: Mid tempo hard country tune. McCray is featured on the verses. Decent song, but nothing really special about it. Harmonies are smooth, and McCray does this style well.

DBM: The lyrics of “You Don’t Know God’s Love” (originally titled “You Don’t Know My Love” and recorded by Ronnie Milsap) have been gospel-ized for Life. I’m typically critical of this practice because the results are often cheesy, but in this case, the quality of the song wasn’t lost in the transition. I’m going to disagree with Wes, because I think it’s one of the highlights of Life. There’s a jew’s harp vibration underneath that you don’t typically hear on a Southern Gospel recording and a few moments where the instruments are allowed to come front and center. The arrangement suits McCray Dove’s singing style to a tee. This is one of those rare cases where a group takes another artist’s song and re-invents it, making it their own.

Brandon: I’ll have to side with Wes, but I’ll go a step farther and say that this song is too country for my taste. To me, this is the weakest song on the project.

Aaron: The “country” sound in some SG doesn’t really bother me, and this is one of my favorite songs on the track. Very catchy tune, and not at all cheesy, which is often the case when an artist gospel-izes a song, as DBM said.

Adam: I really enjoyed the arrangement on this song. This is one of my favorite tracks from the project.

5. A Day In The Life Of America

DBM: “A Day In The Life Of America” has a unique rhythm and grabs your attention with an interesting word picture: “We wake up each morning and start every day, with coffee espresso and grande lattes.” Ronnie Milsap originally recorded this song. Monument Quartet has also covered it.

Daniel: Lyrically, the song is a rather unusual choice for a Southern Gospel project. The only reference to God is as a passing reference to being too busy to attend church, setting aside “an hour for God.” Monument Quartet recorded the song on the project on their country crossover project. This cover could be a novelty track; on the other hand, since the album title seems to come from the song, the group might use the song to open the doors to new audiences.

Wes: I was fully prepared to loathe this song. I’d never heard it before, but judging from the title, I was expecting a cheesy, quasi-patriotic piece of absolute drivel. Boy was I wrong. I agree with David, it’s a unique rhythm and a catchy word picture that really grabs the listener. The harmony on the chorus is very tight. This is a good song. Not a great song, but definitely a good song. The message in it is very timely, and much needed. We could all do well to just slow down our busy lives.

Aaron: In a slightly different key than Monument’s version, this version is better, IMO. You find yourself laughing and agreeing with the statements McRay makes in the verses!

Adam: This song really spoke to me. I can see my life in the imagery portrayed because of my busy life. It’s hard to find time for God, but we must make all efforts to do so. I think this song will speak to people and remind them to simply slow down. This song really made me reflect on some things and that is a rarity that a song will do that to me.

6. Face To Face With Grace

Daniel: David Hester is probably the single most versatile bass in Southern Gospel. Some bass singers rattle the subwoofers (J.D. Sumner, Tim Riley, Glenn Dustin), while others carry a nice solo (George Younce, Ed O’Neal, Rex Nelon). Some (Gene McDonald, Gerald Williams) can do both. But Southern Gospel has possibly never seen a more versatile bass than David Hester. On this song, he re-defines how well a low-note bass singer can sing a solo.

Hester sings the song in a baritone range (Ab2-Bb3, just below middle C), with a tone that led some early listeners to wonder which member had the feature. I was fairly certain from first listen that it was Hester, a view other listeners have confirmed. Many fans of traditional Southern Gospel (including many fans of the original Dove Brothers) will view this as the strongest track on the project.

DBM: This song surprised a few listeners when they heard it the first time. A typical question asked was, “Did the Dove Brothers bring in a guest vocalist?” The lead line on this song is actually sung by David Hester, but he’s using his baritone range for a change of pace.

Wes: I really liked this song. David Hester shows a surprising quality to his upper range, there are really nice harmonies on the chorus. I like the acoustic ballad feel. It almost reminds me of a pop song from the 90s called “More Than Words” by the group Extreme. I never thought I could compare the Doves to 90s pop/rock, but the song has a similar rhythmic feel to it. Another highlight for me.

Aaron: I remember the stir it made when the tracks from Life were available for preview, and this track had people guessing as to who was singing. I’ll admit, I thought at first that they might have gotten pianist Jerry Kelso to sing. But when I found out it was David, it reaffirmed my opinion that he is one of the best and most versatile basses on the road today. Great song, and would probably make for a good radio single.

7. I Still Got A Feeling

Wes: Up tempo tune that is more traditional in style, though still retaining a decided country flavor to the instrumental track. McCray is again featured on the verses. This song is another decent one, I like the ascending harmony on the last word of the chorus the last two times through, but the arrangement still seems a bit bland. It may have been improved by changing keys and giving Jerry Martin the lead on the last chorus.

Aaron: Ya know, I realized while listening to the project that McCray is featured alot. But I’m not complaining; this is another song I can’t get out of my head!

Brandon: I really think this song encompasses the sound that the Dove Brothers have been working on with their last few projects. It isn’t the best song on the project, but when I think of their updated sound, this song demonstrates it better than any other.

Adam: I liked this song. I agree with Wes. It would have been a great addition to have another turnaround in a higher key with Martin taking the lead. Where does the tenor get to shine on this project? It seems they forgot about him in the studio.

8. You Would Think He Would Learn

Wes: Slow country flavored ballad. The chorus has a nice little chord progression thrown in, and it is sung very well. McCray is again featured. The lyrics are a bit of a unique thought. Decent, solid song.

Brandon: Country and featuring McCray… I sense a pattern with this project. As Wes mentioned, I think the best thing going for this song is the “unique thought” the song presents. In my opinion, this song is a tad better than decent.

Aaron: I believe I read somewhere that McCray wrote this ballad. Very interesting message to an interesting song.

9. You Can’t Fix It

Brandon: This is Eric Dove’s only feature on the project, and as with most projects by the Dove Brothers, his feature is one of the highlights. This song was originally recorded by the Oak Ridge Boys on their Common Thread project. Although I’ve not heard the original version, it is hard to imagine it could be much better than Eric’s delivery. Musically, there’s nothing out of the ordinary to be found here, but the simple arrangement matches the simple truth of the song’s message,” you can’t fix it, but He can”.

Wes: This is a nice soft ballad, Eric performs this song admirably. McCray may get most of the attention, but Eric more than holds his own as the baritone vocalist for this group. Good song.

DBM: I’d give the edge to the Oaks on this particular cut. In the end, though, it’s the lyrics that sell this song more than the performance. It’s a well crafted song with a fairly simple, yet effective metaphor. Charles Bosarge and Phil Johnson wrote this song, by the way.

Aaron: I’ve never heard the Oaks version of the song, but I like this song anyhow. Eric Dove proves himself to be one of the best baritones out there.

10. Smooth Sailing

Wes: Mid tempo swing style tune. Some really nice jazz piano highlights the track, and the vocals are very smooth. This is a great song, I noticed by the end of the chorus my head was bobbing along with the swing beat. McCray sings the verses, and does a surprisingly good job. I always typified him as doing well on the country and traditional stuff, but he does well with the jazzy feel on this one as well. Good job McCray!

Adam: I really like the arrangement on this track. An upright bass is always a treat on southern gospel projects. As a bass player, I felt there were some spots that could have used some additional runs and fill-ins with a bass solo, but I’m a little biased towards the instrument. Musically, this is my favorite track from the project. You don’t get treated with many jazz numbers in this genre.

Aaron: Not a bad track, but nothing that really grabbed my attention. I was pleasantly surprised, however, with the encore of “You Don’t Know God’s Love”!

Summary

Wes: I find this to be a solid effort from the Dove Brothers, that features McCray heavily. There isn’t one outstanding song that just grabs you, but there are several good songs here. I’d give the album 3.5 stars. I’m not really a fan of the country sound, so that probably skews my view of the CD. Fans of the new direction of the Dove Brothers will definitely enjoy the CD, probably even more than I did. Country stylings aside, it’s still a pretty good effort from McCray and the guys.

Daniel:
This project continues the Dove Brothers’ move towards a driving country sound. Inclusion of several songs with country ties – Ronnie Milsap’s (and Monument Quartet’s) “A Day in the Life of America,” the Oak Ridge Boys’ “You Can’t Fix it,” and a re-write of Ronnie Milsap’s “You Don’t Know My Love” – has led some to wonder if the project might bring the quartet crossover success in the country genre.

DBM: Is Life perfect? No, but neither is real life. That being said, I added the majority of Life to Murray Radio, that little white box I carry around with me. With this recording, the Dove Brothers are pushing fresh sounds while maintaining a balance with more established song styles. As a result, Life isn’t entirely consistent from beginning to end, but there are some real gems along the way. My rating for this CD is 4 Stars.

By the way, I don’t think the Dove Brothers are pursuing crossover success in mainstream Country with this release. If they were, they’d surely have chosen original songs that would play in that vein rather than covers, and they’d have left the original lyrics of “You Don’t Know My Love” intact. What they are doing is translating these songs to their core base of fans who may not have heard any of these songs before.

Brandon:
There isn’t anything found on Life that really makes me stand up and say, “wow,” but I like the project. As Wes said, it is “a solid effort” with several songs with interesting lyrics and/or deliveries and strong messages. I do think McCray is featured too much, and hope future projects will include more features for Eric and Jerry. This isn’t the group’s strongest project, but I’d still give it a borderline 4 star rating.

Adam: Solid project from the Dove Brothers, but forgettable when compared to their previous release. Perhaps I expected too much from the group, but this effort falls short of the bar that was raised with Never The Same. It’s certainly enjoyable to listen to, but it won’t be recommended on my ‘must-buy’ list for 2008. I rate the CD with 3.5 stars.

Aaron: A good project to be sure, but I guess everyone expected them to top Never The Same, a very hard task! However, it is a decent project. I would like to see Jerry Martin and Eric Dove featured more, but that’s just one guy’s opinion. Not going to say this a “must-have” project, but it is definitely a solid addition to the DBQ’s discography.


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