Southern Gospel blogger Daniel Britt is reporting on the Musicscribe blog that Kelly McRae Free (who recently married Brian Free & Assurance drummer Ricky Free) is going to leave the McRaes. [EDIT, 6/6/12: Broken link removed.] Sister Annie intends to stay on the road and will probably find two other vocalists and start a trio, which may or may not keep the McRae name.
Daniel Britt also mentioned a rumor that Ricky Free will also come off the road with Brian Free and Assurance. Whether or not Ricky will come off the road, and whether or not Kelly Free stays off the road, it is certainly understandable that they would want to spend the first few years of their married lives spending more time together than those passing moments when both of their groups happen to be off the road.
Behind the Headlines analysis
The Crabb Family’s recent announcement of their retirement came shortly after they canceled their much-anticipated “Blur the Lines” tour. Those who attended early concerts in the tour have said that attendance was below what was anticipated, and speculated that the low attendance may have led to the cancellation of the tour.
While I do not know anything about the attendance at recent McRae concerts, this announcement makes the McRaes the second Crabb Jam Tour progressive Southern Gospel act in as many months to announce a group retirement to form separate ministries.
This could, of course, be a completely random coincidence, or it could mark a deeper trend. Over the past several years, there has been a concerted effort to push Southern Gospel in a progressive direction. Vocals that reflect a country or mountain Gospel influence are backed by instrumentation that sounds like 1980s CCM. Could it be that this progressive effort has been unsuccessful?
Mistake me not, there always have been and always will be Southern Gospel groups who expand the art form while staying completely within it. The Statesmen were unmistakably a Southern Gospel Quartet, as were the early Imperials. Signature Sound is unmistakably a Southern Gospel Quartet, and is so good at singing traditional quartet music that many traditional quartet fans find themselves inclined to forgive the occasional progressive numbers.
But with the disbanding of the Crabb family and of the McRaes as we know it, the effort to make Southern Gospel sound like 1980s CCM has taken a hit that it may not survive.