Treasures: Bill Gaither’s finest bass moment

In his bass vocal work with the Gaither Vocal Band, Bill Gaither has tended to keep his vocals far out of the spotlight. Truth be told, he’s a far better singer than various bass singer jokes make him out to be. Though he does not rattle the subwoofers, he tackles complex parts that other bass singers would hesitate to attempt.

Even so, he hires singers so exceptional that, standing next to them, he can sometimes come across as average. This may be completely intentional—he tends to convey an average-guy persona on stage—but it tends to lead us to forget just how good he is.

Case in point: On the Gaither Vocal Band’s recently released DVD Better Day, the Isaacs appeared as a featured guest and sang two songs. One was the familiar hymn “I Will Praise Him”; the other was a folk song popularized by the Browns over fifty years ago (original rendition here), “The Three Bells.”

On “The Three Bells,” Bill Gaither joined the Isaacs, singing a rhythm bass part. His voice was so smooth and the blend so precise and natural that it wasn’t until the tenth time or so through the song that I realized it even had a bass part! It appears that he is doubling Lily’s part, an octave lower; it’s either that, or he’s singing Lily’s part and Lily is doubling Becky’s alto.

The Isaacs are known for high trio harmonies—soprano, alto, and high tenor—and for a bass to join them and sound as good or better than he sounds with his usual group is no small feat.

Gaither’s finest bass moment?

Perhaps. But it’s certainly one of the best.

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  1. I think the thing that stood out to me the most on this vid is that I think I heard Bill say that the Isaacs had never heard the old hymn “I Will Praise Him.” Wow. I don’t even need the hymnal to sing that one, as we sang that so much growing up, I have it memorized.

    • Yes, that surprised me as well.

  2. Nice post, Daniel.

    When you watched that video, did you get the impression that he did his bass vocals in the studio? Watch his mic placement… sometimes it looks like his mic wasn’t near close enough to produce the blend that comes through. I understand that it’s not uncommon for groups to punch in stuff to fix things, but I actually think he goes back and re-sings his parts. The quality of the mic changes drastically, as if he is singing through a Neumann or some type of large diaphragm mic. I’m not knocking his singing… it’s still his voice. I just don’t think it was done live.

    Along those same lines, have you ever noticed that how awesome his mic is setup on all of their recordings? Truthfully, it’s probably the best mix (the bass part) of any group I’ve ever heard. The placement in the mix is perfect… but the way it is EQ’d is unreal. It always sounds that warm, smooth, and polished… or at least recently it does.

    • Actually, there are enough points where the mic gets louder as he moves it closer to his mouth that I think this one is for real.

  3. Bill does some great bass singing on the A Capella project recorded when Russ Taff was in the GVB.

  4. I’ve thought the same thing about his vocal prowess, Daniel. To me it speaks volumes about his character.
    The ‘Naturally’ album is the first Isaacs’ album I’ve purchased and it was partly because of those two songs that you mentioned. I bought it after seeing them sing it live and I just fell in love with them! 🙂
    Quick question: Is this post titled “Treasures” because it’s rare that we hear Bill’s delightful bass?

    • Not really. Well, sort of.

      I asked Wes Burke a while ago if I could borrow his Hidden Gems idea, but calling it “Gems” was too similar. So I just changed it to “Treasures,” and if you’ll look at the other titles in the series, they also begin with that.

      So it’s just the series title, to alert you to the series.

      • Gotcha, thanks!

  5. True, he sounds pretty good on his bass lines with the Issacs. His best bass vocal work is on the 2003 Acapella CD. David Phelps is as astonishing at arranging as he is a tenor singer (any kind of singer actually) and he really places Bill’s parts in memorable and complex ways. As far as bass singing goes, his finest collection of moments.

  6. Bill also sang at least one other song with them on their album Naturally, mentioned in this clip. The song is entitled “No Shortage” and again, Bill is singing a rhythm bass part.

    • I’m thinking I might have to track this down!

    • You’re right, David. He does do fun rhythm “boom-booms” on that song. 🙂
      I would definitely recommend that song too, Daniel…I actually had the CD in my car today and played it at least four times while I was driving around ’cause it’s so peppy and cheerful!

      • Neat. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for it. 🙂

  7. Bill is singing a bass part, which typically doubles one of the other notes in the chord (as long as there are no seventh). He’s not always doubling the same person, though. That would be an arranging no-no.

    • It seems like he’s with Lily’s part a fair amount of the time . . . but not sure on that.

  8. I love Ben’s voice.