CD Review: Hymns (Daybreak Quartet)

hymnscoverRating: 4 stars (0f 5)

Average song rating: 3.6 stars (of 5)

Members: Joel Wood (tenor), Dennis Fanning (lead), Jason Prisk (baritone), Nathan Prisk (bass), Greg Howlett (piano on some dates)

Song list: Jesus Saves; Safe am I / He Hideth My Soul; Where Could I Go; When the Roll is Called Up Yonder; Constantly Abiding; The Lord’s My Shepherd; Mansion Over the Hilltop; In the Sweet By and By; This World Is Not My Home; Near the Cross; The Old Rugged Cross (piano solo).

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Daybreak Quartet was formed by four Christian college freshmen in 1991. They performed on campus for four years before moving to Stockbridge, Georgia and singing in that region. They began touring full-time in 1999.

Baritone Jason Prisk is the group’s only remaining original member. His younger brother, Nathan Prisk, has held down the bass part for the group for the past ten years. Lead singer Dennis Manning has been with the group since 2003. And, as regular readers of this blog know, the group’s tenor vocalist for the last four years—Joel Wood—recently departed to join the Mark Trammell Trio.

If I’m not mistaken, this CD was released on the same day that Joel Wood’s departure for the Mark Trammell Trio was announced. They have done a better job making the most of the situation than any other group in a similar position in recent memory. Knowing that the Mark Trammell Trio has thousands of fans who want to hear what the new tenor singer sounds like, they have offered this project for free download here. You get the full album if you email three friends about it; you still get half the project if you don’t want to email anyone.

So since you can get the project for free, there’s no reason not to make this an interactive review. Download your copy and post your thoughts in the comments.

Though the group has used more orchestration on other projects, this CD uses piano-only accompaniment. Some of the piano tracks were recorded by Legacy Five pianist Tim Parton; other tracks were recorded by Greg Howlett, who plays piano with the group on some dates. Their styles are similar enough that even a close listen without the liner notes handy wouldn’t reveal who played each track. (Parton played 1-4, 8, and 9.)

Piano-only accompaniment is best appreciated live, and chances are these really shine in live venues. (Not that they are poor as is. But imagining this as a live project compared to the more sterile studio setting is thought-provoking.)

The vocal arrangements are creative enough to warrant rounding the overall rating up rather than down from the average song rating (3.6 of 5). The three arrangements that most stood out to me are “Constantly Abiding,” “Safe am I” (a vocal arrangement by Tim Parton), and “Jesus Saves.”

A number of fans and commentators have compared Joel Wood to Liberty Quartet’s Keith Waggoner. Interestingly, like Liberty’s bass Royce Mitchell, Nathan Prisk is classically trained and (unlike Royce, at least to my knowledge) has performed with a touring opera company. And—oddly enough—just like Liberty Quartet, I was introduced to the group through a hymns project that started with the hymn “Jesus Saves.”

Though this recording doesn’t showcase everything the group can do (their Live Across America project, which I’ve also heard, is strong in other ways), it does give a good taste of their talent—talent inherent enough that it doesn’t have to be buoyed up by massive orchestration to be appreciated and enjoyed.

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9 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 think this is a brilliant move by Daybreak! I’ll go and download the CD as soon as I finish writing this comment. And I will plan to go see them as well since they’re in “my territory!”

  2. I am impressed by this project… I really enjoy “Jesus Saves” The accompaniment is superb IMO Tim Parton may very well be the best Accompanist on the road today… “Near The Cross” is another that stands out to me. I think that Joel will fit in very well with the MTT, I am looking forward to hearing them in person with Joel…

  3. I heard some of the “Recital at Saint Andrews” project from 2000 (I even have a few songs on a soundtracks CD). They did part a capella and part piano on that.

  4. thier every day projects and concerts use full band tracks

  5. I have listened to this several times now and I think it is a great hymns cd. Fresh.

  6. I got the 5-song download and really enjoyed each of the songs. That’s quite some bass singer. I’d really like to hear them in person. I’m assuming they’ve got someone either filling in or trying out for the tenor position by now.

  7. I like the “Safe Am I” arrangement. (I got all the songs.) I listened to them on my computer speakers, but I should give the rest of them a second listen on a good stereo. It certainly is a good solid set of vocals. (Which is all I say about some of the songs on GV’s Hymns project too. 😉 )

  8. Is it just me or does this cover look almost exactly like Gold City’s Revival? I’m just saying…….

  9. I’m one of the original members of Daybreak (we called ourselves “The Ballard Boys” back when we were in college, named after the dorm we all lived in), toured with them again between 2002-05, and have been back again filling in periodically since Joel left. Just wanted to correct the typo on Dennis Fanning’s last name, and add that Hymns is an enjoyable, traditional project that the group should have done years ago. And I say that as a lifetime SG fan, and not just because I’ve worked with the group in the past.

    Nathan also deserves more recognition for his great, clear and rich bass vocals. There’s absolutely nothing forced or fake about them.

    And in reply to Tim Thomas’ comment — it depends on what church the group is singing at. Most concerts are a mix of fully-produced tracks, and some a cappella, and 1-3 songs with Nathan playing piano while the others sing as a trio. But at some churches the group may do a more traditional concert with mostly piano-only tracks along with some a cappella and