DVD Review: Nashville Homecoming (Gaither Homecoming Friends)

nashvilleRating: 4.5 stars (of 5)

* * *

About two and a half years ago, Bill Gaither hosted two video tapings on consecutive days. One day was a hymns taping; three DVDs/CDs resulted (Rock of Ages, How Great Thou Art, and the Grammy®-nominated Amazing Grace). The other day featured a more familiar Homecoming mixture of new songs and classics. These resulted in two DVDs released this week, Nashville Homecoming and Joy in My Heart.

Let’s take a look at Nashville Homecoming.

  • The Hallelujah Side. This is a nice up-tempo song to kick the project off. A trio of Charlotte Ritchie, Wesley Pritchard, and TaRanda Greene sing the first chorus and the second verse and chorus; Chris Freeman offers a soulful solo on the first verse.
  • I Wish I Could Have Been There. Unlike most recent Homecoming tapings, where the artist could deliver the song either to a live audience or a semi-circle of artists which they could face while singing, this Homecoming setup places the audience of artists behind the singers, leaving the artists to play only to the cameras. Especially for artists new to the Homecoming video tapings (such as Perrys lead singer Joseph Habedank, featured on this song), this would only serve to compound the already jarring experience of singing to a sterile audience of high-definition cameras. So, perhaps understandably, Habedank started the first verse a little tentatively. But this wore off by the end of the first chorus, and the audience of artists stood for the encore. A second encore was called as the Perrys were walking off center stage; the video cuts away from this to a video of Bill Gaither talking with Duane Allen.
  • Try a Little Kindness. This familiar song, featuring Tim Surrett, is a nice mid-tempo change of pace.
  • I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now. Songwriter Mosie Lister had recently produced a project called Mosie’s Men, a project featuring about 50 male voices. He directs all the male voices in the Homecoming choir on this classic. The choir’s sound is so pleasant and distinctive that one wonders if this song’s success might spur Gaither to do more songs featuring just the male voices in the choir. Gene McDonald and Glenn Dustin are featured on the verses. McDonald is stellar (as always); Dustin’s solo is one of his career best. He has been a great bass vocalist from day one, but this song is one of several recent solos showing his growth as a singer.
  • God is In the Shadows. This song is sung by a female trio of Kim, Brooklyn, and Courtney Collingsworth. Younger sister Courtney has the solo. Of all the vocal configurations the Collingsworth Family uses in any given concert, this female trio is possibly their best and certainly their most distinctive. The Collingsworth ladies are Southern Gospel’s female Booth Brothers. They match their enunciation and vocal placement more precisely than any other group in the genre (besides, perhaps, the Booth Brothers, the Isaacs, and Voices Won).
  • Over and Over. This song, sung by Jeff & Sheri Easter (featuring Jeff), is Charlotte Ritchie’s final Homecoming appearance as part of the group.
  • I Don’t Regret a Mile. This song features Johnny Minick playing piano and singing the lead; Guy Penrod and Sheri Easter added the trio harmony parts. As the first verse finishes, the video and audio both transition to Howard Goodmans’ narration from the Happy Goodmans’ 50 Faithful Years video. As the final chorus fades back in, the cameras cut between the 50 Faithful Years rendition and the live taping, and the Homecoming Choir’s voices were mixed in with Howard and Vestal’s vocals.
  • Child of the King. In another video montage, Mike Allen kicks the song off before the video cuts to an earlier version of the song by Brock Speer (from Moments to Remember). Tim Duncan sings the entire second verse. Halfway through the second chorus, the video fades back to Brock Speer, and the audio mixes the classic and current Homecoming choirs.
  • I’m So Glad. Practically every Homecoming video has its soul Gospel moment, and fans of those moments will appreciate this solo by Jessy Dixon and Alicia Williamson. Williamson’s verse is particularly enjoyable.
  • The Dearest Friend I Ever Had. The first verse of the song is a musical background to a video clip of Kelly Nelon Clark and Janet Paschal trading memories of their days with the Nelons. The second features the Homecoming Choir. (The complete song may be on the CD, which I do not have as of the time I write the review.)
  • Feet on the Ground. This song features Dallas Holm. Though his roots in contemporary music are evident, the song selection fits the rest of the project well.
  • Bill Gaither reminisces with Jimmy Blackwood about James Blackwood’s role in the first few videos.
  • O Happy Day. This song features Lillie Knauls, who was in the Edwin Hawkins Singers when this song became a big contemporary hit. The Talley Trio sings backup vocals. The look of shock on Knauls’ face when the encore kicked off was priceless, but she recovered instantly and turned in a strong encore.
  • Jonah, Job & Moses. This song, featuring the Oak Ridge Boys, is introduced by a clip of their lead singer, Duane Allen, reminiscing with Bill Gaither about the great voices in Southern Gospel music, past and present.
  • I Just Came to Talk With You Lord. This was Dottie Rambo’s final Homecoming performance; a brief tribute before the song honored her memory…but no tribute could be better than seeing her singing one of her classics. Fortunately for history, Gaither had a chance to capture her in high definition before her passing.
  • The Promise. The Martins, who have come back together for occasional tour dates, sang this song, from their final release (Above it All, 2003).
  • Ain’t Gonna Give Up on God. This song featured Gordon Mote singing and playing organ.
  • Meeting in the Air. After a few less traditional songs, Gaither nods to aficionados of classic quartets by including a Joshua Pope piano solo. Pope, now 16, was 14 at the time of the taping. He is as good a showman as he is a pianist, looking up and smiling at the (nonexistent) audience at appropriate points in the song.
  • Strike Up the Band. Legacy Five sings the opening track from what was a current release at the time of the taping, Live at Music City.
  • In the Upper Room. Larry Gatlin said that one of the greatest honors one songwriter can pay another is recording their song. He thanked the Gaither Vocal Band for giving them that honor when they cut “Heartbreak Ridge and New Hope Road,” and said they would return the honor by singing this early Gaither composition.
  • Bill Gaither reminisces with Lily Weatherford about the classic recording In the Garden.
  • The One I’m Dying For. This song is performed by the Isaacs, featuring Becky Isaacs Bowman.
  • It Won’t Rain Always. Bill Gaither introduced Janet Paschal by asking her to give an update on her cancer. (The update is slightly jarring to someone who follows Southern Gospel headlines closely, with the videos being recorded over two years ago.) Backup vocals were provided by Sheri Easter and Charlotte Ritchie.
  • Make it Real. Mark Lowry sings this classic Gaither Vocal Band song. (More thoughts later.)
  • I Need Thee Every Hour. Bill Gaither leads the Homecoming choir in this classic hymn, as a segue from the thoughts in the closing chorus of “Make it Real.”
  • Yaweh. The Hopper’s powerful rendition of this Paula Stefanovich classic-in-the-making helps bring the project to a strong close.
  • Send it On Down. This song features solos from Reggie Smith and TaRanda Greene. In an odd coincidence of history, the DVD’s actual release date (this past Tuesday) was the same day TaRanda was in surgery, donating a kidney to her husband Tony.

The video ends with a brief tribute to Dottie Rambo.

The Gaither team’s cinematography is excellent, as always. Overall, the Homecoming video crews have handled the transition to widescreen seamlessly, though there are a few minor glitches (such as a close-up shot of Kim Hopper toward the beginning of “Yaweh” where the bottom half of Dean Hopper’s head is a little too prominently in the frame for a little too long). But overall, the video quality shines; one can only hope that a Blu-Ray release may be in the works.

A bonus feature includes Bill Gaither discussing alligator hunting with Joel Hemphill (complete with photos of Hemphill with successfully hunted alligators). Before any controversy starts, in all fairness to Gaither, it must be said that this was taped well over a year before there was any public controversy over Hemphill’s doctrinal views.

In a slightly odd editing choice—I say “slightly odd” because I don’t see any particular connection between the two—the Hemphill interview segment segued into a bonus track from the Lewis Family, “A Step Away.” Most Gaither videos have included bonus segments as separate menu options.

Though a few deserving groups got their first Homecoming solos, or their first in quite some time, probably the most noteworthy part of the lineup is what isn’t there. There is no song featuring the Gaither Vocal Band on the entire project. Now it’s not like Gaither is trying to erase the memory of that lineup—after all, the companion DVD, Joy in My Heart, features the Hampton/Penrod/Hall lineup singing “Bread Upon the Water.” Yet this video will still probably go down as an anomaly in the series. I don’t know if I can definitively say whether this is the only Homecoming video without a Gaither Vocal Band song. (Do any readers know of others?)

Interestingly, the closest the video comes to a GVB song is “Make it Real,” a song featuring Mark Lowry, with backup vocals by Guy Penrod and Marshall Hampton Hall.

The taping that produced these two DVDs, and the Hymns DVDs, was the first Homecoming taping in four or five years featuring a fairly full, 150 to 200-voice choir. That makes these the first two DVDs of new songs taped in the classic format in a number of years—in fact, since legends like George Younce, Jake Hess, James Blackwood, and Vestal Goodman were still in the Homecoming Choir.

It’s not quite the same. It’s a little different—as it would have to be. But it’s quite good in its own way. There is really no other product out there (except maybe the NQC Live projects) that comes anywhere near to providing as broad a taste of the best Southern Gospel has to offer, in high-definition video and audio quality. Nobody knows how much longer we will have Bill Gaither preserving these moments for us. But it’s a privilege more or less unique to our genre—one it’s worth recognizing for the blessing it is while we still have it.


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36 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. Hey Daniel, who is Marshall Hampton? 🙂

  2. Though it has been a while (probably since before David Phelps joined the Vocal Band the first time), there are several DVDs without a Gaither Vocal Band song. I do wish that the DVD included a song or two by the group, but with all the excitement over the new lineup, this may have been a wise move. However, it was not too uncommon in the days of the full homecoming choir (150-200 artists) for only one song per two DVD/video by any one group. It is somewhat of a trade-off for having the full group.

  3. Great Review Daniel I am going to have to get this one…

  4. It isn’t very often that he doesn’t have the Gaither Vocal Band featured on both, but it does happen. Most recently, they were only featured on one of the three hymns projects (Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, and Rock of Ages). Out of those three, they were only featured one time, on the Amazing Grace DVD. And even then, it was not only them. They sung I Then Shall Live combined with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound.

    I enjoy the Gaither Homecoming videos in general, but I really appreciated these projects (Nashville Homecoming and Joy in My Heart) for two reasons. First, it was a bit of a throwback to what the Gaither Homecoming videos used to be when all of the “legends” were still here. Second, it featured many of the popular SG artists out there that are not regulars on Gaither’s tours or videos, including Legacy Five, Greater Vision, and the Perry’s. To me, it always seems like there is an unusual division in the SG world when it comes to the Gaither Homecoming artists and the mainstream popular SG artists.

    On an unrelated side note, Kelly Nelon Thompson is now Kelly Nelon Clark, if I am not mistaken.

  5. It is great that you take time to give us such a thorough review. Thanks for the details!

  6. Because of your review I just ordered the cd and dvd. Thanks.

    • Daniel, Bill Gaither thanks you. LOL 🙂

  7. Daniel, you can say this nicer than I can, so feel free to reword it. It could be that the reason the GVB was not featured on both is the lineup at the time this was recorded was Guy, Marsh and Wes. Gaither would like for us to forget this group.

    • I completely respect your opinion, Rita. However, I must say that I do not think that Mr. Gaither would in any way like for us to forget the previous Bill, Guy, Marshall, Wes GVB lineup. As he has said in a variety of interviews, he has a healthy respect and admiration for ALL of the current and former GVB members. He recognizes that each lineup brought something different and great to the table, but with each change in personnel, the GVB takes a different direction.

      As much negative speculation as there was with the most recent GVB lineup change, I personally believe it wasn’t a negative thing at all. Certain people wanted to go in a different direction, and Mr. Gaither then took the GVB in a new direction.

      I do not think we need to assume anything negative in the fact that the GVB was not featured on both of the newest Gaither DVD releases. This is not the first time it has happened and it likely will not be the last. He had a lot of people to feature this time around, bear in mind!

    • I do not think Gaither wants us to forget the new lineup. Expect to see one or both at future big homecoming tapings, kind of like Mark Lowry, Russ Taff, and David Phelps have frequently been seen post-Homecoming (and Gary McSpadden and Larnelle Harris at some).

      But if he puts something out and promotes it as a new DVD, and the current lineup does not appear, people will get confused.

  8. Thank you Daniel. I always appreciate your comments. Your last statement was part of what I was trying to say. You said it better.

  9. I have done an enormous amount of reading since Guy and Marsh left the VB. I do understand Rita’s statement. The attitude on the Gaither boards after the transition was pretty much unbelievable. When people simply asked where Guy/Marsh was they were actually screamed at. These were innocent questions by people who maybe had not been as current in the “happenings” as some. After reading numerous tongue lashings and negative comments I can see why the above comment was made. You were lead to believe by attitudes that they would rather ‘sweep the whole thing under the rug.’

    Now, having said that, I will say this. I DO NOT believe that was the wishes of BG or the Gaither administration! I believe that Bill, Guy and Marsh are all on good terms, but, the attitude on the boards FOSTERED comments like the one above. The whole situation was very poorly handled on the board, creating an atmosphere of suspicion, and breeding anti-Gaither attitudes by many.

  10. In all fairness, I should add, that the situation was corrected, and the atmosphere is now very positive and fun. People have worked very hard to correct the situation and make it a fun, positive and happy place to share the enthusiasm of being a Penrod/Hall fan!

  11. Hopefully I don’t sound negative -I do appreciate the G.V.B. and
    their performance, but without Guy Penrod and Marshall Hall, and as I have said before, the kettle of soup is laking something…I am
    so glad I am not in show business as I see and have seen in my 85
    yrs. much bickering…I love gospel music and Lord keep it alive…I
    don’t know how to say this but money is generally part of any
    breakup…Excuse me for saying my piece…Joe Sahadi

    • In all honesty, I would have to disagree with the statement that money is generally part of any break up. That is likely true in some cases, but I do not believe it is in the majority.

      Rarely does anyone stay with a group forever. As fans of this music that we love, we must show our respect for these artists in supporting them in their changes, whatever they may be. That is how we do our part.

      • And furthermore, like all changes, they take some getting used to. Think about this…many thought it was the end of the world when Mark Lowry and David Phelps left the GVB, now look at many people heart sick over Guy and Marshall leaving. Also, Jason Waldroup’s departure from Greater Vision was terribly devastating for many SG fans, but now people are warming up to Jacob Kitson.

        Changes take getting used to. Give them time. And be supportive enough to these great SG artists to be open to the new directions they choose to take and trust God to make something beautiful out of it.

  12. As far as I am concerned you are fine! We all miss Guy and Marsh.

  13. Meagan my dear, I have seen and been around all peoples in and
    out of show business.and I am not implying that this is mostly that
    money played a big part in this change in the G.V.B….In the past
    having seen this so many times that I only expressed my opinion…
    My true feelings are that Marshall Hall and Guy Penrod are true to
    “JESUS” and are following in his path…Joe Sahadi
    P.S. Mark Lowry left for some reason and Gaither put in some jabs
    and now he is back and both are friendly…Amen

    • Joseph, MY DEAR (I did not appreciate that, by the way), you did indeed only express your opinion. If you cannot handle your opinion being politely disagreed with, as I did above, please refrain from posting it in a public forum such as this. Thank you.

  14. Meagan I still like you and your opinion…but again I have seen this
    in my 85 yrs….I have known many show people appreciated their
    performances…Guy Penrod when he was with Jimmy Swagard and Marshall Hall when he first joined the G.V.B….I didn’t mean to be a know it all but first hand and I repeat finance plays a big
    roll…Can we be friends as JESUS wants us to be…I do respect
    your opinion…In Christain Love I am, Joe Sahadi

  15. Meagan I still like you and your opinion…but again I have seen this
    in my 85 yrs….I have known many show people appreciated their
    performances…Guy Penrod when he was with Jimmy Swagard and Marshall Hall when he first joined the G.V.B….Can we be like
    what Jesus wants us to be friends…Joe Sahadi

  16. I am so sorry that I ever made a comment and it NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

  17. Should have said it will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.

  18. Rita, please check your emails! I was in no way trying to be critical of you!

  19. I really find this whole discussion fascinating, but extremely pointless. I have loved several of the incarnations of the GVB. I met Wes, Marshall, and Guy a couple of times and they were a great group, but change has come and I think it’s time to accept it and move on. It has been nearly a year. The main thing I would like to get across about the new group is the amazing spirit that exists when they sing. Isn’t that the point? As I said, I loved the other groups, but I thought it had become kind of stale, especially live. There is absolutely NO evidence that there are any bad feelings between Mr. Gaither and Marshall and Guy. It’s someones idea of fun to create negative feelings about others just because they don’t like the outcome. It’s sad and a little pathetic. It is not our decision. As I have said other times, it’s called the GAITHER Vocal Band and therefore, Mr. Gaither can handle it any way he wants.

    • I completely agree. Well said.

  20. Guy was with Swaggart?

  21. I have never heard anything about Guy being w/Swaggart! Is that fact? I know Janet Pascal was long ago.

  22. Yes Guy was with Jimmy Swaggert as were more of the group
    singing with the Gaithers and I am pleased they are now
    away from Swaggert…gaithergirl ask your grandfather ( I imagine
    he should be my age ) as we would look forward to his Sunday
    program…My favorite music is S.G. that praises our LORD…Again
    please keep JESUS in your heart…Joe Sahadi

  23. Where is there a history of all of

    Where is there a history of BG’s friends? Example…..who has died or if they are not still with the group where are they?

    WJ

  24. I really enjoy listening to the above DVD and would appreciate the words to The Upper Room with Jesus, a very special and meaningful song. Thanks so much.

    • Thanks for stopping by!

      It’s against the law to post copyrighted lyrics here without permission; however, if someone can find a link to the lyrics, it’s fine to post that.

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