CD Review: Hymns (Daybreak Quartet)
Rating: 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.