DVD Review: Sing Out America Vol. 1 (Various Artists)
Mansion Entertainment recently issued a video series from the Sing Out America television program on DVD. While most of the entries in the series focus on a specific group, this opening volume offers ten songs from ten groups.
- Children Go Where I Send Thee (The Florida Boys). Les Beasley takes the lead; other personnel on this song are Glen Allred, Buddy Liles, and (possibly) Rick Busby on tenor. Darrell Stewart’s contagious enthusiasm shows how he got a generation of future pianists hooked on the genre. The Florida Boys’ years of experience in front of the video camera gives their delivery a relaxed confidence that few groups before or since have approached.
- My Tribute (The Blackwood Brothers). Though the song is billed as “the Blackwood Brothers featuring Jimmy Blackwood,” it is actually Jimmy singing solo with invisible backup singers. That caveat aside, he offers a strong rendition of this Andraé Crouch tune, with a powerful and high finish. Movie actors in Hollywood are told not to look directly into the camera for more than two or three seconds, as it can produce an almost creepy effect, and very few can pull it off. This is something that, for whatever reason, seems to happen quite frequently in Southern Gospel videos, particularly studio tapings.
- My Assurance (The Dixie Echoes). This was taped in 1982 or 1983, with Eddie Broome featured on tenor – thus placing it within the last year or so of lead singer Dale Shelnut’s life. Randy Shelnut is on baritone, and, chronologically, it would make sense for Randy Allred to be the bass singer. A brief camera angle selection focusing on Dale Shelnut congratulating Broome on his performance right after the song is a delightful bonus.
- Cool Drink of Water (Gold City Quartet). The song is billed as “Gold City Quartet with Ivan Parker,” which might make sense from a marketing standpoint, with Parker’s Homecoming-related name recognition, but in fact, Parker, Tim Riley, Brian Free, and Mike LeFevre all have solos on this uptempo song.
- If God Be For Us (The Hoppers). The song is actually “If God Be For Us”; “Be For” is mistyped on the cover as “Before.” This would have to be from the late ’70s or early ’80s, with an energetic Roger Talley on piano and adding a fifth vocal part. Claude Hopper has the solo. I’m honestly not quite sure if the soprano part is being held down by Debra Talley.
- Look What He’s Done For Me (The Hinsons). This features and was written by Ronnie Hinson. Based on the introduction, it sounds like it may have been his first solo. An extended instrumental interlude is somewhat awkward, largely because the Hinsons are using a soundtrack instead of a live band. Oddly, both the video and audio fade out at the end.
- Pearly Gates (The McKameys). Fans who only know Peg McKamey from recent years will enjoy watching a much younger and just as energetic Peg on the solo.
- Heart Mender (Rusty Goodman). Based on Rusty’s beard, this was probably recorded somewhere around 1983. Note to soloists: Totally apart from the musical benefits, a solo appearance is far more visually interesting with a live band. Even if you can’t get a band on every date for financial reasons, it helps to have it at major appearances.
- Before The Rocks Cry Out (The Speer Family). Brock Speer is on bass, Harold Lane is on lead, and Ben Speer is on piano. I’m less familiar with the ladies who made up the Speer lineups, so I’m not sure who’s on soprano and alto. Brock Speer offers a nice walking bass on this mid-to up-tempo song.
- Rock-A-By Song (Wendy Bagwell). This features Little Jan Buckner. Referencing the discussion above about looking directly into the camera, both Bagwell and Buckner employ the technique. Buckner can pull it off better than many, but it’s still distracting.
Despite the low resolution—due to limitations of 1980s television studio equipment—the image quality is high. The visual aspects of the production are produced well enough to get out of the way of the performances, and not distract. This series is a must-have for Southern Gospel collectors, and is a great introduction to the era for more recent fans.
Rating: 4 stars. ♦ Available from: Mansion. Review copy provided.