NQC 2009: Day 1
A photo gallery is here.
The night kicked off with three or four quartets singing “Living in Canaan Now.” After an audience sing-along on several songs, Gerald Wolfe introduced Larnelle Harris, who, as I mentioned yesterday, received a standing ovation.
I had some web work that needed doing, but I returned to main stage about halfway through Brian Free and Assurance’s set. They sang, among other songs, “Prayin’ Man” and “Long as I Got King Jesus.” BF&A bass singer Jeremy Lile’s father is dying of cancer and is not expected to last more than another day or two, so the group gave him the week off to spend with his father. Jeff Chapman of the Kingdom Heirs filled in and did a spectacular job. You simply haven’t heard “Prayin’ Man” till you’ve heard Chapman’s Tim Riley-esque bass hammering the low notes. More on Tim Riley later.
The Dixie Echoes were next up, and started with two uptempo songs, “I’ll Be Ready” (featuring tenor Wesley Smith and a solid rhythm bass from Pat Barker) and “Miracles Will Happen On That Day.” Then they featured Pat Barker on the George Younce / Cathedrals classic “Plan Of Salvation” (off their brand new project I’d Rather Have Jesus). His solo sent chills down my spine–it was certainly one of the highlights of day 1. Baritone Scoot Shelnut sang “Now I Have Everything,” a song his grandfather Dale used to sing with the group. The Dixie Echoes closed the set with a rousing rendition of “I’ll Have a New Life,” and were joined by the Dixie Melody Boys on the encore.
The sound engineers seem to mess up at least one Dixie Echoes set each year, without fail, and this year is no exception; they did not turn the Dixie Echoes’ microphones on until halfway through the first verse of the opening track. F0rtunately, that was the only major sound issue of the day (at least while I was in Freedom Hall).
The Dixie Melody Boys opened their set with “Far Beyond the Starry Sky.” Baritone Steve Cooper delivered a very solid rendition of “Ten Thousand Years.” Past member Donald Moore recently returned (after Joe Kitson left for the Toney Brothers); he sang “It Will Be Worth it All When We Get Home.” Tenor Jonathan Price (who has been with the group for at least a year, since this is his second convention) sang “What a Wonderful Day.” He has nice control over when he changes vocal registers, and the song made good use of this smile. After an acapella rendition of “Give the World a Smile,” the group closed with “Gonna Ride That Glory Cloud.”
After an absence of years, it was a thrill to see the Blackwood Brothers once more step on the stage of the event they started. Granted, it was an earlier lineup that started the convention, with James Blackwood and J.D. Sumner, but James’s son Jimmy carries on the legacy–and the sound. They started their all-too-brief set with “How About Your Heart” and “Old Country Church.” They closed with “It is Well With My Soul”; the song, particularly one part where the piano drops off and they sing part of a verse acapella, was enthusiastically applauded.
Triumphant Quartet had a strong set, as always; interestingly, I don’t think they did anything off of their current project. I’m forgetting the opening song presently (EDIT: …and that opening song, “Amazed at the Change,” was from the new CD, as several kind readers reminded me last night!), but the rest of the set list was: “Forgave Me Saved Me Raised Me,” “When Morning Sweeps the Eastern Sky,” “Goodbye World Goodbye,” and “I Know I’m Going There Home.” The latter song got a strong response (as always), and they did one or two encores. But, oddly enough, I noticed they walked off stage with 1 minute 42 seconds remaining on their clock.
Gold City walked on stage and electrified the audience before they sang their first note. Even if temporarily, Tim Riley is back, and before they were far into their first song (“Cast My Bread”), I was hearing comments all around me to the effect of “He’s still got it!” Wisely, they featured Tim on the next song, “After Awhile.” New tenor Chris Cooper sang “In Time On Time Every Time”; his voice, though a little more straight-ahead (less flashy) then one or two earlier tenors’, seems comfortable in that range. They did close with one song from their current CD, “What Children Believe.”
The Dove Brothers played in particular to the part of the audience that knew and loved country music. Except for their final song (“Didn’t it Rain”), their other three tracks were from their current CD: “Little David,” “He’s Gonna Smile on Me,” and “A Little Good News.” At one point, one of the singers (I’m thinking it was Eric Dove, but I couldn’t quite see) said: “Ain’t that just like George Jones?”
The Kingsmen lineup has been together long enough now for their vocal blend to tighten. They started with two uptempo songs, “Travelin’ Home” and “When It’s All Said and Done.” Tenor Harold Reed was featured on a new Rodney Griffin song, “God Saw a Cross.” Expect to see that song as one of next year’s Songs of the Year. Pianist Cody McVey received a standing ovation for his rendition of “Old Time Religion / William Tell Overture.” They closed with “Stand Up,” and were joined by the Kingdom Heirs on the encore. Kingdom Heirs tenor–the best Kingsmen tenor that’s never sung with them–sang some lines of “Stand Up,” and it sounded just like the old days. Well, honestly, better.
The Kingdom Heirs kicked off their own set with “Gloryland Way,” and then featured Arthur Rice on “The Rock’s Between the Hard Place and You,” “Since I Met Him,” and their new barn-burner (also penned by Rodney Griffin,) “He Locked the Gates.” They were joined by the Kingsmen for the encore there and knocked it out of the park.
The Inspirations turned in a set so good that Musicscribe’s David Bruce Murray–no fan of the group in the past–said in his coverage that he can finally “absolutely enjoy the group from top to bottom now.” [EDIT, 6/6/12: Broken link removed.] They started with “Jesus is Mine,” following that with two songs from their new CD (The Son Came Down), “How Great It Is” and “The Son Came Down.” The group did several acapella encores of the latter song. They closed with Mike Holcomb singing “If You Only Knew.” Tenor Dallas Rogers has clearly started the process of (and made some progress toward) winning over Inspirations / Archie Watkins loyalists.
I caught snippets of Tribute Quartet and Legacy Five’s sets, and both were strong.
There’s no question–and I note my fellow bloggers are unanimous–that the set that generated the most buzz was Gold City’s. Whether intentional or not, I think they left the entire audiece wishing that they would do whatever it takes to bring Tim Riley back permanently. Yes, even if it means cutting back dates. He still has that undefinable quality that makes a legend.