Inspirations / McKameys

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to see the Inspirations and the McKameys, both for the first time. They were appearing together on their Family & Friends tour. Due to the fact that forty or fifty songs were sung, I won’t put you through the exorbitant eyestrain of a full paragraph per song. I’ll just offer a song list with comments.

The concert started with both groups on stage together singing “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be.” The nine or ten vocalists (four McKameys and five or six Inspirations) produced a remarkably pleasant full blend that left me wanting more. All the way through the end of the concert, I was hoping they’d join for more songs, but the rest of the concert featured the groups in alternating sets.

After the first song, Reuben Bean of the McKameys introduced “the boys from Bryson City, the Inspirations!” They took the stage singing tenor Archie Watkins’ signature song, “Touring That City.”

  • Touring That City (featuring Archie Watkins). Archie didn’t disappoint on his signature tune.
  • We Need to Thank God (featuring lead singer Matt Dibler). It was greeted by enthusiastic applause. There were one or two standing ovations (see later in the post), but enthusiastic applause was pretty much as good as it got during this concert.
  • I’ll Not Turn My Back on Him Now (featuring Archie).
  • I Can Tell You Now the Time (featuring Matt, bass Mike Holcomb, and Archie)
  • He Made a Way
  • One Door to Heaven (featuring Jack Laws). Former Inspirations baritone / sometime specialty number vocalist Jack Laws was able to make the trip this weekend. I got to talk with him briefly beforehand, and found him to be quite friendly and down-to-earth.
  • He’s My Bread (featuring Jack Laws).
  • He Swept Me Off My Feet (featuring baritone Melton Campbell)
  • Two Shoes (featuring Archie). For some reason, the song seemed to lose just a bit of its emotional momentum near the end. It didn’t have quite the “punch” it sometimes does in the final verse, but it went well nonetheless.
  • I’m Not Ashamed (featuring Melton). This song got the only standing ovation except a general one at the end when the audience was getting ready to leave. The Inspirations responded by doing an acapella reprise of the chorus. It took several members of the audience until nearly the end of the encore to stand up, and there were no standing ovations for the rest of the evening.
  • I’m a Winner Either Way (featuring Matt).
  • Resurrection Ground (featuring Matt). Matt told the stories behind both “Winner either Way” and this song. He told the story behind this one after the first verse and chorus, while pianist Martin Cook and upright bass player Melton Cook (Martin’s son) played a musical interlude.
  • If You Only Knew (featuring Mike).
  • I Have Not Forgotten (featuring Matt). This song was well received and encored. Then Martin Cook had Matt preach a bit before Matt launched the group back into an acapella encore. The acapella encore was particularly impressive; they didn’t have any musical cues to start back on the right notes. Perfect pitch they might not have (as some bloggers remind us often enough), but they have a pretty good sense of relative pitch to pull off an acapella encore without musical cues after a few minutes of preaching. This song was easily one of the highlights of the concert for me.

The Inspirations’ set ended with this song, and the McKameys took the stage.

  • My Jesus I Love Thee (no solo). This song was a good choice to change the pace (from an all-live male quartet to a mixed group that uses soundtracks).
  • It’s All Good (featuring Peg McKamey)
  • Trophy of Grace (featuring Carol Woodward). This was followed by some improvised comedy from Peg while her husband Reuben Bean (the group’s “bass”) and their son-in-law Roger Fortner (bass guitarist / sound technician) replaced the battery in Reuben’s microphone.
  • Let Me Point You to the Lamb featured Reuben on his only solo of the night–a song on which, interestingly enough, his wife did not sing. He sang it as a trio with Carol Woodward and Connie Fortner.
  • Resurrection Morn (featuring Connie)
  • Over the Horizon (Peg). I’m not sure of the title on this one; it could just as easily be “The Rising of the Son”
  • It Takes Time (featuring Eli Fortner). Eli, son of Roger and Connie Fortner, is twelve. His voice has shown distinct improvement over the last year or two.
  • You’re Still God (featuring Peg)
  • How Sweet is the Victory (featuring Connie). Incidentally, Connie appeared to forget a few words at one point, and Peg filled them in without missing a beat.
  • I Will Trust You Lord (featuring Carol)
  • God on the Mountain (featuring Peg)
  • I’ve Won (featuring Connie)

After intermission, the Inspirations took the stage again.

  • I’ve Never Gotten Over Getting Saved (featuring Melton)
  • Rock of Ages, Hide Thou Me (featuring Mike). Mike Holcomb hit his lowest notes of the evening on this song. Another reliable observer present observed that the ceiling could actually be observed to shake during his lowest solo.
  • They’re Holding Up the Ladder featured Archie Watkins on the first verse and Mark Clark on the second. Mark is a tenor who sings on stage with the Inspirations to help Archie out.
  • The Wonder of Wonders (featuring Melton)
  • Glory to God in the Highest. This was easily the shock of the night. Other groups have done it in the past few years, but right now this is primarily a Signature Sound song. To hear the Inspirations’ take on this song was both singular and extraordinarily memorable.
  • Amazing Grace (featuring Archie). This acapella rendition of Amazing Grace turned out to be the Inspirations’ last song of the night.

The McKameys came back on stage to close the evening out.

  • Walk a Little Farther (featuring Peg)
  • Over and Over (featuring Carol)
  • Joy Comes in the Morning (featuring Connie). Peg said this was a brand-new song, and that it was Connie’s first time to sing it without a lyric sheet. She appeared to forget a few words in the second verse, but did quite well elsewhere. I think this song will do well for the group.
  • Roll That Burden on Me (featuring Peg)
  • He Calms Me (featuring Carol). I must admit to taking my eyes off the stage for a minute or two when a cute little toddler came zipping down my aisle. It turned out to be Martin Cook’s grandson, who had come along for the trip. He made it as far as my row before he was scooped up and taken to the back by his father Myron.
  • How Does it Feel (featuring Peg and Connie)

With that, the McKameys concluded their set. I was expecting both groups to do a finale for a song or two, but Reuben Bean concluded the night in prayer.

I have to admit that I primarily went to see the Inspirations. (In fact, I didn’t even realize that the McKameys would be there until my tickets came in the mail.) Now I realize that there is some truth to the statements that Archie Watkins’ voice shows signs of wear and that the Inspirations don’t always sing every single note perfectly on key. I know that to be true, but I’m still simple-minded enough to enjoy a night of great quartet singing.

Simple-minded? Yes, perhaps I am. But if I ever become so smart that I cannot enjoy an evening like that one, may I also be smart enough to shut this blog down.

For more about —and other Southern Gospel news and commentary—follow our RSS feed or sign up for our email updates!

13 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 had a hard time reading this blog.The piece had something down the middle and I could not remove it. I have gone to NQC for several years now and I might agree that a concert with the Inspirations and the McKameys alone would be okay BUT when they are on the stage with other groups their music seems sub standard. Their twangy voices and off key voices become very evident.
    I liked your other format much better and itwas easier.

  2. I also had a problem reading the blog. The text is cut off in the middle both on the main page and the comment page. So, therefore, I cannot read anything. I’m disappointed because this was one of my favorite websites.

  3. The Inspirations are not my favorite group, but whenever I have seen them, they always put on a great concert. Keep being ‘simple-minded’, I believe Heaven will be filled with mainly that type of people.

  4. Daniel…

    For what it’s worth, I like the new format of the blog.

    I’m not sure why you were “shocked” at the Inspirations doing “Glory To God In The Highest”…ithey were among the very first people to record the song(in 1992!), and their arrangement of it is as good a quartet arrangement of it as there has been. It’s been a staple of their repertiore for nearly 15 years now.

  5. I like the format…I liked the other one as well.
    This one is a little easier to see..
    I have never seen the Inspi’s live…but I have seen
    the McKameys. They are not my favorite “style” of SG,
    but 2 things jumped at me in their presence:

    #1. They really communicated their songs and reached the audience (not everyone was there for them) was a multi-talent event.
    #2. They seemed very “real”…ie genuine, sincere, etc.

    Those 2 things made their set very inspirational to me.
    …and they were better musically than I expected (based on what I had heard from their recordings/radio)….and finally…I very much agree with Joshua’s comment on your statement about being “simple minded”…Amen!…that’s because you seem “real” as well!…keep up the good work!

    Ed Hill’s Prophets Qt.

  6. Inquirer, there’s nothing I can say besides that your point is well taken. I can’t believe I didn’t know about their rendition!

  7. Inspirations/McKameys is always a great concert. They are some of the most down to earth people you will ever meet, and their ministry is always a blessing.
    And Daniel, you are so right about Jack Laws. After talking to him for 5 minutes I felt as though I’d known him all my life.
    The last time I saw the Inspirations, Jack sang “I Cannot Find the Way Alone” – they sing it a capella, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when they finished.
    The very first time I met Peg Bean, she hugged my neck like I was her own son.
    They don’t make ’em any more real than the Inspirations and the McKameys.

  8. Though Jack’s solos did move the audience, he didn’t do the one you mentioned. That would have been nice to hear. (Like I would need an excuse to go see them again if they’re in driving distance! 🙂 )

  9. If you ask him, he’ll be GLAD to do it.
    That’s how I got to hear it a second time.

  10. Hi My name is Kathy Beverly and I have ordered your CD’s. I wonder if it is possible to get the lyrics to any of your songs? I want to sing a few of your songs as a special at church but it is hard to listen to the words and write them down. I have, Just Thinking, Purpose,……Gone to Meetin, Sing Praises. I love your songs and listen to your CD’s all the time. How can I get the lyrics to your songs? If possible that is….thank you and God Bless you like you have me with your songs!

  11. i was wondering how could i get my hands on the lyrics to the archie watkins song the gospel according to john ,i have the music and would like to sing as a special at my church,if any -one could help me with this please ,thanks so much and may GOD bless

  12. Just wanted to say that I love the
    music and the talent that the McKamey
    family shares with us all.

    In reflection to the blog, personally,
    I don’t think groups or solo acts should
    try to blend their voices. So it was
    best that the two groups kept it to a minimum. Being original is not easy, and trying to harmonize with other groups is not pleasing to the ear even if perfect pitch is what one is looking for.

    What I like the most about the McKamey’s
    is that when they sing… it is clearly expressed that what they are singing about is something they honestly believe in. They boldly share the gifts that they have been given. My favorite song by them is the one about needing a wall of prayer surrounding me.

    What a blessing it must have been to
    see and hear both the Inspirations and
    the McKamey’s in concert.

    Derrick Parker