The Ubiquity of Bridges

About a month ago, we were discussing whether every Southern Gospel song needs a bridge to get cut. Just how ubiquitous are bridges in current Southern Gospel songwriting?

Let’s examine the most recent front-line (non-table) release by five of Southern Gospel’s most popular artists.

  • Talley Trio, Life Goes On. Bridges were on six of ten songs (Winds of This World, Calvary and Amazing Grace, I Will Sing of My Redeemer, My Hope is In the Lord, Hallelujah Praise the Lamb, Life Goes On). One borrowed an earlier song (I Will Sing of My Redeemer / Redeemed.)
  • Perrys, Almost Morning. Bridges were on three of ten songs (If You Knew Him, Prior to a Prayer, You Cannot Improve on the Truth). One borrowed an earlier song (If You Knew Him / He Lives).
  • Gaither Vocal Band, Lovin’ Life. Bridges were on four of thirteen songs (I’m Forgiven, There’s Always a Place at the Table, I’m Lovin’ Life, When I Cry). One borrowed from an earlier song (There is Always a Place at the Table / Come Home).
  • Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Dream On. Bridges were on seven of fifteen songs (Right Place Right Time, Never Give Up, No Unknown Soldiers, Sundays are Made for Times like These, Are You Enjoying the Show, Out of Bondage, We Need Each Other). One was a spoken word narration (Are You Enjoying the Show). One borrowed an earlier song (Out of Bondage / I’m Free).
  • Collingsworth Family, The Answer. Bridges were on four of fourteen songs (I Shall Not Be Moved, Fear Not Tomorrow, Within the Reach of a Prayer, More than Anything). Two borrowed earlier songs (I Shall Not Be Moved / I Shall Not Be Moved, Fear Not Tomorrow / I Know Who Holds Tomorrow).

This comes out to twenty-four of sixty-two or 38.7%.

Each CD had one song pulling a bridge from a hymn; the Collingsworths’ had two. This averages at about one of every ten songs using a hymn bridge. Let’s look at this one differently: How many of the songs would have been as strong on their own merits? Actually, probably all would have been as strong or stronger.

The best hymn bridge pairing of the six would be in “Fear Not Tomorrow.” All too often, borrowed hymns just work on the emotional level, offering the emotional punch of a long-time favorite song on a related theme. But this one actually works on an intellectual level, too, as the lyric to “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” does what the lyric of a bridge is supposed to do: Complement, round out, and complete the thought.

Is the ratio of, roughly, four of every ten songs having a bridge, with one of every ten having a hymn bridge, about right, too much, or overkill?


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33 Letters to the Editor

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  1. I wouldn’t have an iron clad rule or percentage and just use them where they were needed or made the song better. So, the ratio would change according to which songs were used.

  2. Are you thinking of the Booth Bros.’ Declaration as a table project? I know it’s only available from their website and at their table for now, but isn’t it ultimately going to be available everywhere?

    • I only had time to cover five; there are plenty of groups I didn’t get in. 🙂

      • Hmmmm. Okay, but that’s such a landmark project I might have replaced one of the projects on your list with that one. 🙂 Just for fun, I’ll do what you did with that album right here:

        Booth Brothers, Declaration: Bridges were on four of 11 songs (not counting the bonus track). Those were “I See Grace,” “The Gospel Song/Before the Cross,” “We Believe,” and “This Is the Day.” One borrowed from an earlier song (“This Is the Day/I’m Gonna Keep On Singing”). I could have listed “In Christ Alone,” but I think of the inclusion of the English hit there as creating a medley rather than forming a bridge. It would be different if they had gone back and done the last verse of the Getty song after working in the CCM chorus.

  3. I think it depends on how the lyric is used and whether or not it flows with the song. “Calvary and Amazing Grace” is a great song, but the bridge feels disjointed when it transitions back to the chorus. Thus I would argue it has to be a quality over quanity thing when it comes to hymn bridges (actually any bridge really).

  4. I think it is a table project. I picked it up after their concert in Huntington, WV (excellent by the way) and it doesn’t have any liner notes.

    • It’s a table project for now. It was a full-budget release, with a budget far larger than any of their previous projects.

  5. Declaration is an independent project for sure. There is nothing “Daywind” anywhere on it. Of course they are well known for cranking out the best table/indy projects you will find. Declaration stepped it up a few notches though.

    • Well that’s odd…I asked Daniel when he reviewed it where it would be available from, and he said it would ultimately be sold “pretty much everywhere.”

      • I’m still sticking by that. 🙂

      • Really? Now I’m really confused…I thought if something was an indie project, it was only distributed through the artist’s own website.

      • Things are not always as they seem, and things as they are now are not always as they will forever be.

      • Legacy Five’s “Know So Salvation” was an independent project, but it had a wide release.

      • I thought Daywind picked it up eventually.

    • Huh…. I got a digital copy for the mega-review, and didn’t know till now it was independent release. It truly did step it up a few notches!

      • Well the linier notes are available on their website… And this is not a fully independent project… They spent 3 times the amount on the making of Declaration than on any other CD they have ever done… I expect to see a “street date” as it were soon… Daywind had one listed on their website at one time but they removed it… We will see soon…

  6. I think I have figured out why there seems to be more bridges in the past decade than before. Michael English was one of the biggest stars of the late eighties and early nineties. On his solo album, he had the song “Let’s Build A Bridge”. I think the kids back then grew up to be in the music biz and took him at his word. 😉

  7. Well, if we don’t have the bridge how can we get to the other side of the song? A culvert won’t suffice.:)

  8. I think it is like what has been said before sometimes bridges really do just that; bridge two songs and is essentially the recapitulation – that is part of the structure of a song that reaffirms the message and point, but other times it just seems monotonous.

  9. Interesting that you said “Always a Place At the Table” borrowed from an earlier song for the bridge. I don’t think it’s the Cathedrals’ “Come Home” if that’s what you’re referring to. Sounds like a different tune to me. Is there a different “Come Home” you had in mind?

    • “Softly and Tenderly”?

      • Yes…it’s the chorus to “Softly and Tenderly”.

      • That’s what I was thinking (vaguely) – I just wasn’t 100% sure. Thanks!

      • Are we talking about the place where it does an octave interval on “Come home…” then down to the fifth on the second “come home”?

        If so, I don’t know what song that is, if any. Might be just something they made up.

      • Wait, no it’s not. LOL. I’m trying to do this from memory instead of by ear. I have it at home.

      • See I don’t think so. It’s loosely similar, but definitely not the same. However, I know they did a little tag from that song at the end of the DVD performance of “Place at the Table.”

      • Yeah, I messed that up. What I did was I imagined the chorus to “Softly and Tenderly” being sung there and convinced myself I had heard that before. Then I looked up the lyrics and realized I was wrong.

        That’s what I get for thinking and typing too fast. 😉

      • Here’s the deal. It’s not a direct quote, but I think it’s close enough that that’s what they were borrowing from, albeit altered.

  10. Thanks for doing the research on these five projects, Daniel. Good choices, and very interesting.

    For this genre, 4 out of 10 songs having a bridge is probably just about right. Sometimes the bridge is needed, and sometimes it isn’t. Great writers know when to pull that trigger.

    And yes, the L5 “Know So Salvation” project is distributed by New Day (the distribution side of that company), but it is not a Daywind release.

  11. I’m less concerned about whether a song has a bridge and more concerned about whether it contains at least one unique thought.

  12. I saw this post a few days ago, but a few minutes ago I realized that “ubiquity” only has one T.

    I also wonder if the results would be any different if we analyzed just radio songs?

    • Thanks!

      And you know, I think they would be.