Gold City, Kingsmen, Dove Brothers…now Palmetto State?

This review of the new Palmetto State project caught my attention, primarily because of the reviewer’s comments that the Palmetto State Quartet is trying out a country sound. [EDIT, 2/21/13. Broken link removed.

As the reviewer noted, they are following in the path of several recent quartets, including Gold City, the Dove Brothers, and the Kingsmen, all of whom have been moving away from a classic Southern Gospel sound and toward a country sound on selected tracks in recent projects.

I think it is now safe to call this a trend. The “in thing” a couple of years ago was to adopt a classic quartet sound, a trend led by the Dove Brothers. The Doves have also, interestingly, been at the forefront of the new country-flavored trend, for the last year or two.

Where has this led these groups, and where is it leading Southern Gospel?

I note that groups moving in this direction seem to get many fewer nominations in the Singing News Fan Awards, suggesting perhaps that listeners don’t like the country fad as much as the classic quartet fad.

But I don’t have all the conclusions, I don’t have all the answers. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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20 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. Quartets have used a “country sound” on selected tracks through the years. That’s why it was easy for the Statler Brothers and Oak Ridge Boys to move to country from gospel.

    Adding a country flavor selected songs is not new. The Cathedrals have done it many times (Read the Book, Wade Right In, The Gospel Plow). Gold City has done it from the start (Angels Move Over, Death Ain’t No Big Deal, Show Me The Cross). Now take a look at Legacy Five (Travelin’ Shoes, Walk With Me).
    I like the variety!

  2. I must agree with Matt. I too like variety and the country sound has permeated Southern Gospel for a long time…Check out Florida Boys ” Sing Kinda Country ” from the 60’s…Also Carolina Quartet has a new CD coming out soon that will have a definite country flavor by the sounds of the clips posted…So i believe it is something more than a trend….and i like it .


  3. I don’t like it at all for a male quartet, but it can work.
    Take for example: The DMB Band (country version of the Dixie Melody Boys). So,McRay Dove started with this style.
    Much of the Kidom Heirs’ songs before Triumphant’s formation were country.
    Listen to the song “I Thirst”-that’s pretty country.
    Some songs on Monument Qt’s new CD are country. Unfortunately, that’s one reason I don’t like “Stand Strong”

    Hinsons did good country gospel , but that’s another story since their mixed.

  4. What you have to realize about the SN Fan Awards is that that is just those faction of readers represented. They by no means represent EVERY southern gospel fan.

    The Dove Brothers are having the best year of their career – with their first #1, albums sales through the roof (especially at the table), bigger crowds, and more. It may not be for every group – and Dove Brothers haven’t forsaken their sound, as the release of last year’s _Shout It Out_ proves, but they are heading down a new path in addition to the one they’ve already forged.

    There’s nothing remotely “progressive” about the Palmetto State CD, as well as albums from the DBQ or Kingsmen for that matter, just a decidedly more country flare to their tracks. The vocals and arrangements are still firmly placed in the traditional boundaries.

  5. Chris, I think you and I have hashed out before that we define “progressive” differently, so I won’t go there. But would you agree that the “country” sound is different from the “classic quartet” sound that Palmetto State, the Dove Brothers, and a few other groups were doing a few years back–and if not “progressive,” at any rate a little less “traditional”?

  6. Rob,
    Thanks for mentioning the Carolina Quartet.

    I think it’s a great move. Country instrumentation works well with traditional male quartet vocals, and the average SG fan will accept it. All groups won’t be able to pull it off successfully, though.

    PSQ’s CD is somewhat hit and miss, plus, they didn’t really embrace the style fully. When they did (“Reach For The Sky” and “It Only Takes One”), it worked great…but they should have completely committed to that style and took every song in that direction.

    I would not agree that this is “less traditional,” since this style of music has been around every since the late 1970s. By definition, that’s traditional.

    I would agree it’s become somewhat of a trend lately, but it won’t truly be a full shift to Christian Country UNLESS we see a shift to lyrics that deal more with every day life and what being a Christian is like from that perspective. The Carolina Quartet’s material could be called Christian Country to a certain degree. However, I would still place the groups you’ve mentioned in the “Southern Gospel with Country musical influences” category…whatever you want to call that. :o)

  7. I’m definitely NOT a country fan. I’ve heard some of GC’s music that is slightly country and I can tolerate a little bit of it. But I would not be at all interested in multiple country-flavored songs during a concert and would not listen to an entire CD with a country sound. (Haven’t even bought the Booth Brothers’ Trails of Paradise!)

    And, QN, I’m with you. I HATE it when Triumphant Quartet sings LONG BLACK TRAIN. It just isn’t for me! :o[

  8. No Daniel – I wouldn’t call it “less traditional” at all.

  9. Donna, you’ve got to be kidding! Please tell me that you are!
    I’ve never liked Triumphant, now I know I never will. I draw the line with that wretched song.

  10. Josh Turner’s “Long Black Train” is an awesome song. A near masterpiece of gospel symbolism. What a great thing for Josh to fill the country radio airwaves with “there’s vict’ry in the Lord I say! vict’ry in the Lord. Cling to the Father and His holy name…and don’t go riding that Long Black train…the devil’s driving that Long Black Train!”

    I have only heard Josh’s original version, none of the covers…so I can’t speak about any other version, but it seems like a perfect tune for a group with a good bass or baritone capable of telling the story in song…anyway, what’s the problem with this great song?


  11. Frankly, I find it depressing. The focus is on the devil’s side of the story. But that’s just me, and I’m glad other people can enjoy it.

  12. gospelHog, you have been EMENSLEY BLESSED!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Every yo-yo in Ohio has sung it far too many times to count. I was OK with it when Josh first cut it. But now things have changed.
    I always leave the room when I hear someone sing it (unless I’m cursed at that moment by running sound. MUTE BUTTON BECOMES VERY APPEALING THEN)

  13. The song is a strong warning to folks who have addictions…or “issues” as they call them. As a Pastor I see the value in giving out that warning now and then to people I care about. The song is a beautiful, artistic reminder that expresses it clearly but more gently than the average sermon. There are people in my church who listen to it now and then just to remind themselves how “no where” their lives were when they went “riding and that Long Black train”…Amen to gospelHog!
    Guys, it can be depressing but it’s real. I think it has a place in SG. It’s certainly not as big a downer as Lanny Wolfe’s classics, “One Day Too Late” or “Stirred But Not Changed” or “My house Is Full”…
    Even concerts in a secular venue need a ministry moment or two that challenge the audience a little bit…not too much…just a little!
    LBT does it and does it well even on secular radio and a country stage…QN…I am blessed though brother!
    Love your passion!

    PJ / The Prophets

  14. Paul, I couldn’t have said it better. You make some good points.

  15. Tribute Quartets whole album has a country flavor twist to it.
    If you have electric guitar a harmonica ,and a steel it will sound country.

  16. We (Carolina Quartet) stage “Long Black Train” at just about every performance and the people absolutely eat it up. We get more requests for our bass singer, Lamar, to sing that song than any other song we do at the moment.

    That being said, I can see how some might take it in a way it isn’t intended. If all you catch from the lyrics is something about a black train, the peppy music might seem to be saying, “All aboard.” The lyrics tell a different story, though, and they’re crystal clear. It’s always been about the lyric in Gospel music. No matter how the rhythm sways you, DON’T get on that long black train.

    That’s why I have no problem performing the song.

  17. If you guys have heard it as much as I have………….Anyway, I’m just burnt out on it.

  18. Hey I love TQ’s version of “Long Black Train.” They sang it at last year’s Bass Singing competition and it was easily the best song of the night barring “His Love” and maybe the DB’s “Lonesome Road.” They do it well. Don’t knock them until you’ve seen them sing it personally.

  19. Today I heard on the radio 2 songs off of Palmetto State’s latest album. “It Only Takes One”, and another song that it’s name escapes me at the moment.
    I see why you posted on this country gospel topic. It is very different to hear groups you had associated as being the best traditional quartets doing this style. I can enjoy some of it, but on a very limited basis. It’s one thing to hear the Hinsons or Eight Day sing country gospel, but I can’t understand why male qartets would do songs in such a style.
    So, no I don’t like it for a quartet.
    I feel that PSQ’s best recording to date is “When He Blessed My Soul”, a tie for next best is “There’s Something Going On” (Had some country influences, especially the title track. But the whole recording is pure Southern Gospel) and “Forefront”.

  20. Some things I just can’t understand…why do so many people like that Long Black Train?? It’s been overdone and abused so much. I say put the song in it’s grave and let it (and the audiences) R.I.P.