CD Review: Almost Morning (Perrys)
Rating: 4.5 stars (of 5)
Average Song Rating: 4.4 stars (of 5)
Members: Libbi Perry Stuffle (alto), Joseph Habedank (lead), Troy Peach (baritone), Tracy Stuffle (bass), Bryan Elliott (pianist).
Song List: This Old Sinner Testifies; If You Knew Him; An Old Fashioned Altar; Almost Morning; I Love to Tell; The One Who is Unworthy; Dying is a Day; Prior to a Prayer; You Cannot Improve On the Truth; Did I Mention.
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The Perrys released their last studio project, Look No Further, roughly two years ago. It was one of their career best projects, and produced a string of radio hits and concert favorites for the group. Frequently, in Southern Gospel, when a group hits on a formula that works that well, they stick with what they know works, choosing a similar mixture of fast songs and ballads and a similar arrangement style for their following recordings.
The Perrys show that they aren’t content to rest on their laurels—with Almost Morning, they branch out to experiment with new styles. They bring in Cajun influences for “Old Fashioned Altar,” swing for “You Cannot Improve on the Truth,”* and progressive for a new Joseph Habedank / Matthew Holt composition, “Dying is a Day.” (*Hat tip to Wes Burke on that one, since I’m unfamiliar with swing.)
The Perrys don’t stray too far from their roots, though; most of the other songs on the project are arranged in styles that would have fit quite well on their earlier projects. “One Who is Unworthy,” a new Rodney Griffin song, features Libbi Stuffle; its arrangement brings to mind “Mary For a While.” Libbi Stuffle’s power alto rendition of “Did I Mention” brings a song like “Holy Shore” to mind, even though “Did I Mention” is somewhat less orchestrated. And with “I Love to Tell,” the Perrys maintain their tradition of including a classic convention style song on each project.
Probably the biggest news with this project is Joseph Habedank’s growth both as a songwriter and vocalist. When he initially moved from the baritone to the lead role, a number of Perrys fans questioned whether Tracy and Libbi had put him in shoes bigger than he could fill. With every year and every project since, he’s improved as a vocalist. This is particularly well illustrated on two of his feature songs on the project, “Almost Morning” (a song he co-wrote with former Perrys pianist Matthew Holt), and “If You Knew Him” (a song he co-wrote with Rodney Griffin). On “Almost Morning,” his soft, tender vocals fit the gentle ballad, while on “If You Knew Him,” he carries a power lead on the project’s standout big ballad.
Almost Morning covers enough new ground for the Perrys to win them some new fans, but it retains enough familiar styles to keep their previous fans along for the ride.