Question of the Week: Wes Hampton

After roughly 25 years with Sparrow, former Gaither Vocal Band tenor Steve Green released his first independent solo project a few weeks ago. Love Will Find a Way has less of a contemporary edge than several of his recent projects, with as much or more in common with current Southern Gospel styles than with today’s increasingly edgy CCM.

Of further interest to Southern Gospel fans is the fact that no less than three Gaither Vocal Band members put in guest appearances—Wes Hampton and David Phelps on a three-tenor rendition of “If God is Love” and Michael English on the duet number “Your Grace Still Amazes Me.”

I recently had the chance to catch up with Wes Hampton for a brief Question of the Week on singing with one of his long-time vocal heroes, Steve Green:

I was amazed to have had the privilege to sing on Steve’s latest project. Steve was so kind and easy to work with from the very start. He made me feel like it was his privilege to get to sing with me. I never imagined I would one day get to sing with him. Then to get to sing on a recording with him is crazy! He certainly is the real deal. His new project is really great. Go get it!

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30 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. Thanks for posting, Daniel! I knew they were going to be on Steve Green’s new record, but didn’t know which songs.
    I went to his (SG) Web site to listen to the short clips, and I correctly guessed Michael English’s contribution, but it was harder to pin down the other two vocals. 🙂

  2. Steve Green hasn’t had a contemporary edge in probably 25 years…

    • However you’d define contemporary edge—and I know your definition and mine might not quite line up 😉 —I think we can both agree that this is significantly less contemporary than, say, Somewhere Between.

      Have you heard that one? It was a remarkable departure from his other projects.

  3. I have always really liked Steve Green’s style personally… IMO it has more of an inspirational edge than a contemporary… Which I believe is two separate genres… That is just my opinion. I will check this album out.

  4. Yeah, Steve, Larnelle, Sandi Patti, Gary McSpadden and the Gaither Trio were all more inspirational than contemporary IMHO.
    To me, not only instrumentally has Steve not really ever been contemporary (that I have heard), but even voice-wise he hasn’t had the contemporary edge. He is more cut from the classical music cloth, than rock (even though he sang with Whiteheart I think.) Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of Inspirational music, but just disagree on definition. Another thing about contemporary music is that it keeps evolving. What was contemporary 10 years ago would not so much be considered it now. I remember reading in CCM a similar statement (that they had made a decision early on to stay current with music instead of staying with the past.) In other words, their audience would likely change over the years as people grew older and didn’t like the current stuff. So, those who liked the Imperials in the eighties and got CCM, might not have still been getting it last decade.

    • Yes, I’d totally agree that the artists you named tended toward Inspirational, and that was the era of CCM I enjoyed. Then when CCM moved on and left me behind . . . I discovered Southern Gospel. 🙂

    • Oh: And Steve hasn’t ever been really contemporary, but some of his more recent material (particularly the album I mentioned) was more contemporary than his earlier corpus of work.

  5. BTW, the album (or individual tracks) can be downloaded at Amazon (but I never saw the CD.)

  6. Was there a problem with my other post about inspirational music?

    • Oh, probably the spam filter ate it. I’ll go pry it from its jaws here in a bit.

      • Thanks. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, but people have different ideas on “positive commentary.” 🙂

      • True, and there are comments I would delete, but for this post it would have to be along the lines of “[singer 1] is evil since he doesn’t sing [song] every concert” or “[singer 2] can’t carry a tune.”

        Stuff like that would go quickly! On the other hand, most of the time Chris Unthank comments here, he’s disagreeing with me . . . but I believe I have never deleted one of his comments. 🙂

  7. Somewhere Between is the only Steve Green record I actually own – and it’s still a very far cry from anything contemporary – even then. It’s more in line with acts like Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, and some of the softer moments of David Phelps. I’m not sure anyone would define Groban or Bocelli as having a contemporary edge.

    I’m not trying to be argumentative – just trying to show you that your views are way skewed, so when you say something has a contemporary edge on this blog – most people are not thinking like you are thinking. They think Casting Crowns, MercyMe, or Natalie Grant when you say “contemporary edge” – not people like Steve Green.

    • Keep in mind that I’m writing for a Southern Gospel audience, and defining terms within a Southern Gospel frame of reference. So I’m comparing things within a spectrum that includes the Chuck Wagon Gang and Blackwood Brothers on one end and, say, Brian Free & Assurance, New River, and Hissong on the other.

      Or, for that matter, compare it to the remainder of Steve Green’s body of work—Something Between is the most contemporary of his projects. I don’t think either of us would dispute that, right?

    • Actually, some of his readers don’t have any idea who Casting Crowns, Mercy Me, or Natalie Grant. 😉 I think we used to have a tape of Steve Green children’s music.

      • I would venture to guess that 50%-75% of my audience has never heard of those three – and that 90% plus does not have any recording by those three.

        So . . . I just don’t bring them into my frame of reference for comparisons. 🙂

      • I’ve seen them in the CBD catalog, if that counts for hearing about them.

        Correction on 1st post – “don’t have any idea who they are.”

      • I know who all three are and have music by the two groups. (Not that Natalie isn’t talented.)

      • It doesn’t really matter who your readers are. Steve Green, no matter how you shake it, doesn’t have a Contemporary edge.

        If one of your readers reads that – then watches the GVB Reunion and sees Green – they’ll think THAT is what a contemporary edge sounds like. They’ll be mighty disappointed when a kid from their church shoves a David Crowder Band CD in their hands asking for more of that “contemporary music”.

      • As I recall, Steve Green sang only one of his solo songs, “Find us Faithful.” I agree that someone listening to that should not consider it particularly contemporary.

        There’s quite a bit of difference between that song, though, and the tracks on Woven in Time and Somewhere Between.

    • I for one have no idea what Casting Crowns, MercyMe, or Natalie Grant sound like, so I definitely wasn’t thinking about that.

      Then again, I think that the recent GVB, post-Riley Gold City, and quite a few of the others artists that are typically mentioned in SG have a contemporary edge. So maybe I’m “skewed” too.

      • No offense Brian – but yes, your views of what contemporary music are are off as well.

      • Well…our opinions can’t all be as correct as yours, I guess.

      • 😆

        But nonetheless, Brian, you and I see things through much the same lens, a lens with Southern Gospel at the center on the spectrum! And that’s OK!

      • There’s no reason to respond like that. My point is – I listen to a LOT of music. SG is probably less than 10% of what I listen to. So, I do think I have a greater grasp of what defines different styles of music as opposed to someone who listens to Southern Gospel 90-100% of the time…

      • Yet I think it’s entirely fair to say that something has “a contemporary edge” by SG standards even if it’s gentle by other genre’s definitions.

      • I don’t think the definition of “contemporary” is as rigid as you’re suggesting. I’m betting the word means something quite different to me than it does to you. To me, “contemporary” means just what it means…modern or new in style; the opposite of traditional. BF&A, KP&NR, GVB, and EH&SS all lean contemporary to me. I prefer the traditional stylings of the Kingdom Heirs, Greater Vision, Mark Trammell Quartet, and the Dixie Echoes.

      • Where’s the thumbs-up icon? 🙂

      • The fact is that “contemporary” is such a loose word that you really need to establish a smaller context for it to *mean* much of anything. Daniel has already specified that he’s writing for an SG audience. We know what he means when he refers to something as having a “contemporary edge.” Artists like Casting Crowns, David Crowder Band, etc., aren’t really relevant in this discussion since they’re working in a completely different genre. But I recently heard of an elderly person who said EHSS wasn’t her cup of tea because they were too “contemporary.” So there’s an example of the term being used in an SG context, and it makes sense to me. (Though in this case I think it’s a little funny since EHSS has always had a very traditional sound despite their “progressive” stage presence.)

        As for Steve Green, I think he was more inspo in his early years and has been leaning more contemp of late. (I hadn’t really thought of Somewhere Between as “contemporary” exactly—classical almost in places, if you ask me. But I guess since Josh Groban is a new artist, and the vocal stylings are Grobanish, that might explain your pegging of it as contemp. Sort of a popera feel. Incidentally, I thought it was a brilliant album, probably his best.)

        Anyway, I think his worship album Always was the most contemporary-sounding he’s done, by which I mean the songs sounded closest to what I hear on CCM radio (though I hasten to add that the album was good—these days good CCM seems like a contradiction in terms).

        I just bought his new album, and I really like it. Again, the worship covers are very CCM, but it’s a mellow listen overall. “Zion” really reminds me of the stuff on Somewhere Between (so it should be a favorite of yours, Daniel!) The song with Wes and David is a highlight.

        Oh yes, and Wes is a class act! It’s fun to be a fan of a fan, if you know what I mean…:-)

  8. I was born in 1955; making me 55 years old on March 12. I remmber the “good old days” and so often we romanticize them, forgetting the less than stellar parts.

    My first car was a 1957 Ford Fairlane. I now drive a 2008 Tundra Pickup. One better than the other? Nope. Just different; different features; different options.

    This discussion between typeos of music boils down to the same thing. As long as the Name above all names is being proclaimed, that’s the key thing.


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