CD/DVD Review: Live at Dollywood (Kingdom Heirs)

Kingdom Heirs - Live at DollywoodIt has been at least over three years, five CDs, and several #1 hits since the Kingdom Heirs last recorded a live concert video. One could say it was about time.

The video opens with a behind-the-scenes montage of preparation for the film, with sound check, makeup, banter between group members, and greetings from fans waiting to get in.

When the group takes the stage, it’s mostly singing with very little talking. French seems to be a fan of letting songs speak for themselves—or perhaps of picking songs that can.

The audio quality is excellent, CD-quality. (In fact, the DVD comes packaged with a companion CD, bundled in the same $25 package.) There are a few points where room reverb (or overdubs on top of original vocals as picked up by other singers’ microphones) can be noticed, but those are minor and do not jump out.

Attention to detail is evident in the staging. Just as one example, not only does the stage set include a bright red-and-gold background with the Kingdom Heirs’ logo, but that logo can also be seen elsewhere, such as on the piano right above the keys.

The cinematography (image quality) is top-notch, especially for standard definition. There are at least four cameras, with one and possibly two booms. There are only a few shots placing the featured singer(s) in an odd corner of the screen; in nearly all of the hundreds of shots selected, the advantages of the widescreen format are utilized to full effect. Twelve to fifteen lights help ensure that nearly all shots are well lit. (It’s not clear whether the circular rainbows are an accidental artifact of the lighting or intentional effects.)

The song selection should delight any fan except a fan looking for a recap of their last video’s set list. (If you’re one of those fans, just buy the last one, too.) Songs like “I Want You to Know,” “He Locked the Gates,” and “What We Needed” show off the Kingdom Heirs’ strengths in the convention style.

As well they should, the group makes the most of the talent it has at the lead position. From the bluesy “Jesus Made a Believer Out of Me” to the big ballad “When You Look at Me” to feature lines on convention songs, Arthur Rice proves that he can sing practically anything well.

Tenor Billy Hodges shines on “Fire Away” and “The Empty Tomb Says it All.” Steve French only sings one solo, “As Good as I Can Be.” Besides solo lines on various songs, particularly on convention-style numbers, Jeff Chapman is featured on “Help Me Lord.”

The singing abilities of two band members are also highlighted; pianist Andy Stringfield sings on “When You Look at Me” and “I’ll Meet You By the River,” and drummer Dennis Murphy closes the film with the parody / comedy track “The Video Song.”

The review can’t go without mention of the songwriting team behind the project. Other than “He Locked the Gates” (Rodney Griffin), “The Empty Tomb Says it All” (newcomer Daryl Petersheim), Murphy’s self-penned comedy number, and a couple classic songs, Dianne Wilkinson wrote (or, in one case, co-wrote) the rest of the songs. Most Kingdom Heirs fans are already familiar with a number of these songs, most notably “What We Needed”; of particular note is Arthur Rice’s riveting rendition of “When You Look at Me.” It’s a song he feels is Dianne’s best since “We Shall See Jesus,” and he delivers it with a passion that brings the audience to its feet at the close of the second verse, and up again for a prolonged standing ovation at the close.

The Kingdom Heirs are easily one of the best two or three quartets on the road right now, and this is a video/CD product worthy of a group at its pinnacle.

Rating: 5 stars. ♦ Average song rating: 4.6 stars. ♦ Group members: Billy Hodges, Arthur Rice, Steve French, Jeff Chapman, Andy Stringfield, Dennis Murphy, Kreis French. ♦ Produced by: Jacob Timmons. ♦ Available from: Artist. Review copy provided. ♦ Song list: On Gloryland Way; I Want You To Know; Fire Away; As Good as I Can Be; Jesus Made a Believer Out of Me; Rock’s Between a Hard Place and You; Help Me Lord; The Empty Tomb Says it All; He Locked the Gates; There is Power in the Blood (Instrumental); When You Look at Me; I’ll Meet You By the River; Beyond the Gates; What We Needed; The Video Song.

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12 Letters to the Editor

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  1. Think this was one of the best videos they have produced in quite some time. You mentioned the lighting, they have an excellent lighting crew at Dollywood. It doesn’t matter which theater they sing in (Showstreet or Pines) the lighting is always excellent. Was glad to be in Dollywood and have been able to pre-order the package when we were there. It was a great Christmas present (received it several days before Christmas).

    • Interesting in that this is Kingdom Heirs CD # 2 titled “Live at Dollywood” … the first one plays on enLighten New Year’s Eve at 7 PM ET, leading off our 9-hour “New Year’s Gospel Jubilee.”

  2. Daniel, I am with you! I gave this 5 stars as soon as I listen to it the first time. The sound quality was excellent and the camera shots were great. I love the way Arthur Rice gets into his songs. I talked to Mrs. Dianne about “When You Look At Me” after I first purchased their new CD when it first came out. It was a stand out song to me because it had such an awesome message! She told me that Arthur had told her that it was his favorite song that she had written. It is like “We Shall See Jesus” to me in that I can not see anyone else singing that song but Arthur! I predicted “He Locked the Gates” would be a #1 hit the first time I heard it. The highlight of the DVD for me was seeing Billy Hodges on “What We Needed” actually look like he was “trying” to hit a high note! LOL! He is such an amazing talent and when he goes into that big suspended chord at the end of the encore, I about jumped out of my seat! He is one of my favorite tenor singers and “What We Needed” is definitely one of my all-time Kingdom Heirs songs! Bravo Kingdom Heirs on a great job! I am ready for their next CD and can’t wait to see what songs Mrs. Dianne brings out for this one! Great review Daniel! Recommend this DVD/CD combo to anybody!!!

  3. Great review Daniel You are now forcing me to go out and get this DVD….Thanks for spending my money for me…..

    • See Dianne Wilkinson’s comment below. Your money couldn’t be better spent!

  4. Well, Daniel…I didn’t know about this DVD, and needless to say, you just gave me a belated Christmas present!! Steve Sweet Thang French has one for me in the mail, and I can’t wait…I know what a huge KH fan you are, but a 5 star review is not an everyday thing – so I know already, this project will be top-notch in production, vocals…everything necessary for a great recording. And as for spending Sandy’s money, I hope you get a lot more of these sold…tell the fans they’ll be helping a little widow woman with her sunset years’ retirement (ME). I know since our interview that your readers know when I’m joshing. You’re the best, Hon. Keep blogging till Jesus comes! Love to you…Dianne.

    • Hey Mrs. Dianne!! You will no doubt enjoy this DVD! You will be so very proud of Arthur Rice on “When You Look At Me!!” It is the best I have ever heard him do it! Hope all is well with you! We are anticipating the next year and what it will have in store for southern gospel music! God bless you!

    • Dianne – I don’t think you will love this.

      I know it!

  5. Thanks for the great review Daniel. This project was an absolute pleasure to work on. The Kingdom Heirs are a great group of guys with exceptional talent. I hope everyone enjoys the new LIVE at Dollywood DVD/CD combo and get ready because there is gonna be more where that came from!

    • Glad to hear it. Of course, the songs are great songs, and that helps. But the video and audio is simply top notch, worthy of the songs.

    • I keep telling them they need to do another video but Steve says not this year 🙁 Sell all of these so they will have to do one next year
      They could call it “after 25 years at DW”

  6. They are the best in southern gospel. We travel from NYC to see them several times a year. Not only are they talented, but they are wonderful people and are doing a wonderful thing by using their talents to spread the love of God.