CD Review: Hymns of the Homeland (Songfellows)

The Songfellows Quartet came to prominence as one of the West Coast’s most popular Southern Gospel groups. Under the leadership of Bob Jones Sr., who sang with the group into his nineties, the group was based in California. Now under the leadership of his son, Bob Jones Jr., the group is in the process of re-assembling an all-star cast.

Hymns of the Homeland came out in the middle of that transition; tenor Garry Sheppard was already on board, but former bass singer Mike Schlee was still at the bass slot. Nick Bruno, best known for his piano playing and producing, was singing baritone; he has since moved to the piano bench, with the addition of first Tony Peace and now Ed Hill at the baritone slot. Harold Gilley has returned to Southern Gospel as this group’s bass singer.

The soundtracks are a slight distraction; they sound as though they were converted from analog (i.e., cassette or similar technology). The vocals sound like they were recorded with more recent technology, but they don’t sound like they were mastered. However, that particular move may be intentional, because it does make them sound more authentic than the sometimes overdone studio perfection.

Several years back, there had been some discussion that Garry Sheppard’s voice was apparently out of shape. Whether or not that was true, it’s in shape now; though he doesn’t approach the stratospheric territory that distinguished his Kingsmen tenure, his mid and lower range is featured prominently on the album, to excellent effect. In fact, his solos are some of the album’s highlights: “Room at the Cross,” “Wonderful Peace,” and “Palms of Victory.”

Speaking of Palms of Victory, it is listed out of place in the packaging; it is listed at song 4 when it is really song 9. Move it down, adjust songs 5-9 up one place in the list, and then the list will be in order.

I was told that Harold Gilley was on “one or two” songs on the project; I’m guessing these are “In the Garden” and “Peace in the Valley,” both strong performances with Gilley-quality bass parts.

A project with these same four voices and same songs, but with a higher budget for soundtracks and mixing / mastering, would definitely get a higher rating than 3 stars (which, as “average,” is still a decent rating). So in a roundabout way, this project achieves what was probably part of its purpose, to reintroduce the Songfellows Quartet to Southern Gospel, and to whet our appetite for good things to come.

Rating: 3 stars. ♦ Group members: Garry Sheppard (tenor), Bob Jones Jr. (lead), Nick Bruno (baritone), Mike Schlee (bass). ♦ Produced by: None Credited. ♦ Available from: Artist. (EDIT: 8/5/2011: Broken link removed) Review copy provided. ♦ Song list: I Love to Tell the Story; Room at the Cross; Palms of Victory; Precious Memories; Tis So Sweet; In the Garden; Wonderful Peace; Just Over in Gloryland; Old Rugged Cross; Peace in the Valley; Amazing Grace; Just As I Am; Standing On the Promises.

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19 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. According to the site, Butch Owens is singing bass now.

  2. Wow, i’m tempted to buy that CD because i love all the songs on that list.

  3. My question is…what ever happened to revival of the Prophets?

    • I have heard (first-hand from one member, second-hand from another) that even they aren’t exactly sure of the status.

      • Wow! You would think that is a bad sign.

      • Well, in truth, they have tended to be pretty relaxed about their pace ever since the start. They took two years or more to get their first CD out.

      • I hope they continue the process, but it is pretty slow going!

  4. Paul’s question is a good one, since a lot of the enthusiasm over the return of the Prophets centered around Ed Hill(who co-founded the original group)’s return to the quartet.

    But Daniel, my main point here is to mention, for the record, that the younger Bob Jones is NOT Bob Jones, Jr….he has a different middle name than his venerable father, therefore, he is his own Bob Jones.

    Most of the people I know who have known the Jones family for many years simply call the younger BJ “Bobby”…even though he is well past normal “Bobby” age.

    Just sayin’.:-)

    • Their website says Bob Jones Jr. Is that incorrect?

  5. Well, if that’s what it says, then technically, yes it is!

    I have known both the elder and younger Joneses for over 35 years, and know for a fact that they have different middle names. So by definition, we are not talking about Bob Jones Sr. or Jr., but a father and son with the same first and last names.

    Not that it’s unprecedented to make such an assumption and go with it for convenience’s sake, but I know Daniel is a stickler for accuracy, so I posted this information in an effort to be helpful.

  6. If that’s what the website says, then technically, yes, it’s incorrect.

    I’ve known both Joneses for many years, and I know what I posted to be true. I also know that Daniel is a stickler for accuracy, and posted what I did in hopes of being helpful.

    It’s not unprecedented to take that kind of “poetic license” with names, but in this case, that’s all it is. The Songfellows have always been a good quartet, and I’m sure this CD will keep that tradition intact.

  7. To further clarify, it is true that ever since the younger Jones joined the Songfellows in 1958, father and son have always been called Senior and Junior on all their albums, concert billboards, and their other promotional literature.

    Probably this was done to emphasize that the two Joneses were indeed father and son, of this I can’t say for certain. But they’ve always been known to the greater gospel music world as Bob Jones, Sr. amd Bob Jones, Jr., and I’ve even referred to the two as that in my own articles about them.

    I was just pointing out the facts to offer information, and nothing more.

    I apologize if I caused any inadvertent confusion.

    • No problem!

      Yes, I went based on their website & CD liner notes.

    • No problem. Thanks for the info.

  8. I have a problem with it……. just kidding. 😉

  9. For the record, my Dad was Robert Martin Jones and I am Robert Joseph Jones. My mother’s name was Joan, so I guess they thought Joseph for a middle name was appropriate but it created the “problem”. Early on he was Bob and I was Bobby. Then, as I got older that seemed strange so people began referring to us as Sr and Jr. Now that he as passed away it seems that people can simply refer to me as Bob Jones. Thanks for the interest. By the way someone from the office sent the hymns project out for review before it was finished and mastered. The tracks are from out Homeland EZkey library, which we hope others will lease and use for similar “budget” projects.

    • Thanks! That’s good to know. It didn’t sound mastered, and I’m glad to hear it was mastered before final release.

      The only drawback I have as just referring to you as Bob Jones (without further adornment) here is how many people were familiar with your father’s work.

  10. Rick Strickland now sings tenor for the Songfellows and Ed Hill is the baritone….just an fyi