CD Review: “Live in West Virginia” (The Diplomats)
The Diplomats, a group based in Carrollton, Georgia, have toured as a regional group for some years. They are now starting to get national recognition, as evidenced by a recent top 10 nomination for Favorite Mixed Group in the Singing News Fan Awards. They have a strong fan base on the Singing News forums, placing second only to the Perrys in this poll (and, surprisingly, garnering more votes than the Hoppers).
Their most recent project, Live in West Virginia, was recorded some time ago at Christ Temple Church in Huntington, West Virginia. The live taping also featured the Mark Trammell Trio; the groups shared recording costs, but split the taping into separate final projects. While the Mark Trammell Trio only released a DVD (Live at the Temple), the Diplomats were set to release both a CD and a DVD. (However, the CD is currently the only of the two listed on their products page.)
This project is a solid mix of new songs, classic Southern Gospel songs, and hymns. Highlights include “Come and Dine,” an energetic rendition of the old hymn, “He Is,” a more energetic song than the Aaron Jeoffrey / Triumphant ballad, and “Joy Comes in the Morning,” a strong closing song for the album.
Bass singer Joseph Brown showcases his impressive range on “Lonesome Road”; he sings down to the F below low C, and retains a solid, enjoyable tone the whole way down. His pleasant tone and strong low end range suggests comparisons to Dove Brothers bass David Hester.
Alto singer Rita Pearson takes the lead on “Holy Hills” and “Brand New Home.” Her voice is often compared to Vestal Goodman’s, and the comparisons are valid. Her rich, thick alto tones give the group a sound reminiscent of the Happy Goodmans, or, more recently, the Perrys.
Several years ago, when the Perrys lost a soprano and added a baritone, switching to a Happy Goodmans-style vocal structure, they found a niche in Southern Gospel that no major group had been filling. The positive response to the change took the Perrys to the top of Southern Gospel. The Diplomats capture a different element of the Happy Goodmans tradition; while the Perrys capture the polish and class of the Happy Goodmans in their later years, the Diplomats capture more of the raw, unbridled enthusiasm of the Goodmans’ earlier years.
This project is one of the best indie or smaller-label Southern Gospel projects released this year.
Available from: The Diplomats.
Rating: Recommended. (Revised: 4 stars of 5)