CD Review: Redeeming the Time (Kingdom Heirs)

Redeeming the Time - Kingdom HeirsEvery generation of Southern Gospel quartets has a select few that leave a permanent mark on the genre by inspiring the next generation of singers to follow in their footsteps. Members of the Kingdom Heirs grew up listening to Gold City, the Kingsmen, and the Cathedrals; members of the next generation of Southern Gospel legends are cutting their teeth on the Kingdom Heirs. Look at “favorite singer” sections on countless regional groups’ websites, and you will probably see Kingdom Heirs members mentioned more than any other current group.

Some groups attempt to bring new fans into Southern Gospel by changing their approach to appeal to fans of other styles of music. The Kingdom Heirs bring new fans into Southern Gospel by capturing and perfecting the fundamental elements that have always defined and drawn fans to Southern Gospel.

These elements are found as strong as ever on Redeeming the Time. “Sermon on the Mount” is a strong album opener and would also make a strong concert opener. The two convention songs—”Just Beyond the Sunset” and “The Joys of Heaven”—are two of the strongest they’ve ever added to their repertoire. Toe-tappers like “Expect the Unexpected” and “Just Preach It” don’t disappoint. Among the anthems, the Jerry Martin-anchored “I Thank You” is a particularly strong arrangement and performance. And if “I’ll Know I’m Home” doesn’t get audiences shouting by the end of the final verse, nothing will.

Two songs deserve special mention: “How We Gonna Live in Babylon” and “Redeeming the Time.” (Rebecca Peck wrote the latter; she co-wrote the former with Dianne Wilkinson.) These represent a welcome trend in Southern Gospel songwriting. Much like the optimistically patriotic songs that frequently surfaced in our genre twenty years ago, they are cultural commentary. As our culture becomes increasingly hostile to Biblical Christianity, songs copying the patriotic optimism that worked so well in the 1980s and 1990s seem increasingly naive. In contrast, these two songs offer a more mature look at our current cultural milieu. Sure, we might want America back, but it’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’re going to get America back. If we don’t, we need to brace ourselves for the lions’ den. “How We Gonna Live in Babylon” explores this directed, while “Redeeming the Time” ponders how we can be “redeeming the time / in this evil day.”

Redeeming the Time is easily one of the strongest albums the Kingdom Heirs have ever released. It’s also the strongest album released so far this year, handily earning its five-star rating. No quartet fan wants to miss this album.

Traditional or Progressive: Traditional vocally; mixture of traditional and progressive instrumentally.

Group Members: Jerry Martin (tenor), Arthur Rice (lead), Steve French (baritone), Jeff Chapman (bass), Andy Stringfield (pianist), Kreis French (bass guitar), Dennis Murphy (drums).

Credits: Producers: Arthur Rice and Jeff Collins. Engineers: Van Atkins, Arthur Rice, Jerry Martin, Tim Smith. Mixed and Mastered by Arthur Rice and Zack Knudsen. Musicians: Jeff Collins (piano, keyboards), Andy Stringfield (piano, keyboards), Tony Creasman (drums, percussion), Jeremy Medkiff (bass guitar, electric guitar), David Johnson (acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, resonator guitar, harmonica, steel guitar, banjo), Milton Smith (orchestrations), Steve Patrick (trumpet), Barry Green (trombone, bass trombone), Doug Moffet (tenor sax).

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): The Sermon on the Mount (Dianne Wilkinson, Rebecca Peck); Just Preach It (Dianne Wilkinson, Rebecca Peck); How We Gonna Live in Babylon? (Dianne Wilkinson, Rebecca Peck); Redeeming the Time (Rebecca Peck); Wasted Years (Wally Fowler); Just Beyond the Sunset (Dianne Wilkinson); I’ll Know I’m Home (Dianne Wilkinson, Jeff Crews), The Joys of Heaven (Dianne Wilkinson); I Thank You (Dianne Wilkinson); Expect the Unexpected (Rebecca Peck, Logan Peck); The Borrowed Tomb (Dianne Wilkinson, Rebecca Peck).

Album Rating: 5 stars.

Five-star songs: Sermon on the Mount; How We Gonna Live in Babylon; Redeeming the Time; Just Beyond the Sunset; I’ll Know I’m Home; The Joys of Heaven.

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CD Review: Dedicated (Childress Family)

Childress Family - DedicatedSouthern Gospel has national groups, regional groups, and groups like the Childress Family. Groups in this third category are content to do much of their traveling in their home state and bordering states, but have offered decades of consistently professional recordings and live concerts. When you pick up a new Childress Family recording, you know it will be good.

Perhaps the Childress Family is best known for launching Shannon Childress’s career. After starting his career with his parents and sisters, he left to join The Hoppers in 1985. He would stay with them for thirteen years, till 1998; his skills as a producer and arranger, not to mention his piano playing, played no small role in their rise to the Southern Gospel stratosphere.

Meanwhile, he continued to help his own family from the sidelines, playing major roles in arranging and producing their albums for years. So when he died in May 2011, it was more than a personal loss to his family. They questioned whether they could keep the group going without his behind-the-scenes production skills. But they decided to try; sisters Carla Childress and Teresa Childress-Lutz stepped forward to produce the Childress Family’s latest release, Dedicated.

As it turns out, during the decades they were watching Shannon at work, they must have been taking good notes. Dedicated is an unquestionable success. Vocally and instrumentally, it hearkens back to the early-90s production style that took the Hoppers to the top—with a little dash of Talleys influence in the mix, with several members of the studio team that records Talleys projects (pianist/orchestrator Jason Webb and electric guitarist Jeremy Medkiff). In a neat twist, given the years that Shannon added guest bass vocals to Hoppers projects, Hoppers bass singer Mike Hopper adds guest bass vocals here.

Most of the songs are pulled from the repertoire of leading Southern Gospel family groups. But unlike regional groups, which often record leading groups’ current or recent hits, the Childress Family dug a little deeper and found several gems that deserved another chance to shine. These include “Calvary and Amazing Grace” (originally Talley Trio), “Anchor to the Power of the Cross” (Hoppers – a Shannon Childress co-write), and “Glorious Tomorrow” (Liberty Quartet). They add a particularly welcome convention-style touch to the latter song.

There’s no question that losing Shannon was a major blow to the family. But Dedicated proves that they came through with class and style.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road with some convention-style and some orchestrated elements.

Group Members: Ken Childress, Marlene Childress, Teresa Childress Lutz, Jamey Lutz, Courtney Lutz, Carla Childress. (Guest bass vocals from Michael Hopper.)

Credits: Producers: Carla Childress, Teresa Childress-Lutz. Engineer: Ben Harris. Mixed and Mastered by: Ben Harris. Musicians: Jason Webb (piano, keyboards, B-3, orchestrations); Gary Lunn (bass guitar), Carla Childress (bass guitar), Brian Fullen (drums, percussion), Jeremy Medkiff (electric guitar), Bruce Watkins (acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle), Sonny Garrish (steel guitar).

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): Glorious Tomorrow (Phil Cross); He Didn’t Throw the Clay Away (Gene Reasoner); Everlasting Joy; Calvary and Amazing Grace (Geron Davis); Anchor to the Power of the Cross (Shannon Childress); I Just Came to Talk With You, Lord (Dottie Rambo); Hallelujah Anyhow (Joseph Pace II); How Deep the Father’s Love For Us (Stuart Townend); Heaven in the House (Ronny Hinson); I Bowed on My Knees (Nettie Dudley Washington, E.M. Dudley Cantwell), Bonus Track: Only God Would Think of That (Shannon Childress, Phyllis McCraw)

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CD Review: Classic Hymns (Liberty Quartet)

Liberty Quartet - Classic HymnsAt the 2007 National Quartet Convention, I met Liberty Quartet. They handed me a review copy of their CD Timeless Treasured Hymns 2. I did not expect what I heard. Out of countless hymns projects I have reviewed over the last six and a half years, I have only given three or four five-star reviews, and Timeless Treasured Hymns 2 was the first. In the review, I stated:

Since this was a hymns project, I didn’t come into the review process with high expectations. Even the good hymns projects tend to use either arrangements straight from the hymnal or familiar earlier Southern Gospel arrangements. But after hearing Liberty Quartet sail effortlessly through more chord, time signature, and tempo changes than a typical mainstream group on a major label release, I found myself hoping that their projects of new songs could measure up.

How does Classic Hymns measure up?

There are two newly recorded acapella arrangements, “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” and nine tracks pulled from earlier in the group’s recording history (mostly from the two Timeless Treasured Hymns projects.) 

That said, the vocal performances here are strong enough to merit a new release. Bass singer / manager Royce Mitchell is the only remaining member of the 2007 lineup; he is joined on this album by tenor Philip Batton, lead singer Doug Wiley, and baritone Jordan Cragun. (Cragun announced his departure right after this project was completed.) Vocally, this lineup can stand shoulder to shoulder with the 2007 group; they execute the Timeless Treasured Hymns arrangements with ease, and add their own touches where appropriate. Two songs where the new lineup particularly shines are “Hallelujah! I Am Free” and “There is Joy in the Lord.”

Classic Hymns may not quite be Timeless Treasured Hymns 3, but it proves that this lineup has the talent to pull off a third hymns installment—and leaves long-time Liberty Fans hoping that they will do just that. For fans new to the group, Classic Hymns is as good an introduction as any.

Traditional or Progressive: Traditional to middle-of-the-road.

Group Members: Philip Batton (tenor), Doug Wiley (lead), Jordan Cragun (baritone), Royce Mitchell (bass).

Credits: Produced by Royce Mitchell. Musicians: Jason Webb (piano, organ), Mark Hill (bass guitar), Kelly Back (electric guitar), John Willis (electric guitar, acoustic guitar), Steve Brewster (drums), John Hammond (drums), Eric Darken (percussion), Bruce Watkins (fiddle), Scott Sanders (pedal steel guitar, resophonic guitar), Terry McMillan (harmonica), Mike Douchette (harmonica). Engineed by Scott Pergande and Luke Meade for The Mix House in Boise, Idaho. Mixed and Mastered by Van Atkins for Crossroads Studios, Arden, NC.

Song List: How Great Thou Art; Hallelujah! I Am Free; It is Well With My Soul; ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus; Precious Blood Medley; In the Garden; My Country ‘Tis of Thee; Precious Memories; There is Joy in the Lord; Holy Holy Holy; When the Roll is Called Up Yonder / Hallelujah! We Shall Rise.

Five-star songs: Hallelujah! I Am Free, There is Joy in the Lord.

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CD Review: Amanda Allman (Amanda Allman)

Amanda AllmanAmanda Allman is Chris Allman’s daughter-in-law; she married his son, Dustin Allman (of Friday Night Revival fame), about a year ago. This self-titled debut project was produced by Chris Allman; Gerald Wolfe played piano and was the session leader for the tracking session. 

With seasoned hands like these at the helm, guiding the Crossroads Studios team, the album has a major-label level of production quality. The style is middle-of-the-road. Most of the tracks would fit at home stylistically on a Greater Vision table project (e.g. The Ones that Got Away); there are middle-of-the-road songs, songs with a hint of traditional country, and two songs (“Things are Different Now” and “I’m Free”) add more electric guitar to the mix for a less acoustic feel.

“I’m Free” is the same song recorded by The Talleys on their 1999 Life Story album, as a Lauren Talley feature. (It was written by Chris Allman). On this song and a couple of others, Amanda’s voice has a touch of Lauren-esque soul. Her voice seems to be at its strongest, though, on slow and mid-tempo songs; her tone here is more like Olivia Collingsworth or Courtney Collingsworth Metz, with a little more country twang.

Interestingly, the background vocals are all done by Allmans—by Chris and his sister, Robin Allman Riggins. One of the album’s highlights is an Amanda/Chris duet on “God on the Mountain.” Their mellow take is dramatically different from either the McKameys or Lynda Randle versions, but works quite well.

Though the album has its uptempo moments, by and large, it doesn’t seem to be the sort of album that would leave you at risk of speeding on your morning commute. It’s an enjoyable and relaxing listening experience.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road.

Credits: Produced by Chris Allman. Project coordinator: Dustin Allman. Session leader: Gerald Wolfe. Musicians: Gerald Wolfe (piano/keyboard), David Johnson (acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar, harmonica), Jeremy Medkiff (bass guitar, electric guitar), Tony Creasman (drums, percussion), Milton Smith (Hammond B-3, orchestrations). Background Vocals: Chris Allman, Robin Allman Riggins. Engineered and mixed by Scott Barnett and Van Atkins at Crossroads Studios in Arden, NC.

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): I Lean On You  (Dawn Thomas); I’m Free  (Chris Allman); God On The Mountain  (Tracy Dartt); That’s Why He Died (Chris Allman); Too Late For Lazarus (Daryl Williams); Jesus Saves (Chris Allman); Tears Fall (Chris Allman); Things Are Different Now (Chris Allman); That’s God’s Job (Rodney Griffin); I Will Praise Him (Margaret J. Harris).

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3:1 CD Review: Before the Rain (The Dills)

The Dills - Before the Rain3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Before the Rain: This Tim Dill feature is the strongest song the Dills have ever recorded, both lyrically and musically. It captures the pathos of Job, Lamentations, or some of the sorrowful Psalms: Even in the hard times, we still praise God for His blessings. The song was co-written by Lee Black, Gina Boe, and Lisa Qualsett; Black and Boe have already written any number of hits, but even so, this would have to be one of their finest moments.

2: A King and a Pauper: Musically and lyrically, this is the album’s most unusual song. Originally written and recorded by singer/songwriter Brian Arnold, this is the song’s first appearance in Southern Gospel. But despite (or perhaps because of) its unusual traits, the song is immediately memorable. It’s a project highlight from the first spin, and gets better on repeated plays. 

3 or :1? Clear Thematic Vision: The meat and potatoes of the Southern Gospel diet is songs with a clear focus on the Cross and on Heaven. References to the Cross and Heaven aren’t gone from Before the Rain, but they’re rare. With one exception—the Marcie Kelsey-penned convention song “Oh, What a Beautiful City,” a clear high moment for the project—the songs clearly were selected with a focus on the here and now. This focus will be common to fans of Contemporary Christian Music, but it’s not like this is a CCM project. It’s a CCM lyrical focus in relatively middle of road Southern Gospel musical setting. 

To its credit, the project is not a collection of ten random, unrelated songs. But that does mean that it doesn’t exactly have something for everyone. If you like a lyrical focus on the here and now, this will probably be your single favorite Southern Gospel release of the year. If that’s not your cup of tea, this project might not be your cup of tea. But even then, in this era of single-song digital downloads, the title track is a definite must, and you may well want to throw in “A King and a Pauper” or “Oh, What a Beautiful City” while you’re at it.

Also worth reading: If you’d like a more in-depth look than this by-nature-brief review, Wes Burke’s in-depth review is well worth a read.

Traditional or Progressive: Progressive lyrically, middle of the road musically.

Group Members: LeeAnn Dill, Bridget Dill, Tim Dill, Shawn Dill.

Credits: Produced by Matthew Holt and Donna King. Recorded by Steve Dady at Sunset Boulevard Studios. Vocals recorded by Tim Dill. Digital editing by Tim Dill. Orchestration on “Oh, What a Beautiful City” by Milton Smith. Track for Before the Rain by John Willis. Musicians: Jason Webb (piano, B3), Matthew Holt (keyboard), Dave Cleveland (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, gut string guitar); Mark Hill (bass); Steve Brewster (drums); Tim Lorsch (cello); Gene Walden (strings, percussion).

Song List: A Song to Sing (Kenna Turner West, Paula Stefanovich); Before the Rain (Lee Black, Gina Boe, Lisa Qualsett); I Still Trust You (James McFall); Something to Say (Marty Funderburk, Steve Marshall); As For Me and My House (Tim Sheppard); A King and a Pauper (Brian Arnold); This is How We Know (Kenna Turner West; Lee Black; Cliff Duren); Oh What a Beautiful City (Marcie Kelsey); The Lord’s Prayer.

Album rating: 4 stars. Five-star songs: Before the Rain, Oh What a Beautiful City.

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CD Review: Glorious Day (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound - Glorious Day

Is it a coincidence that Paul Harkey is wearing a short tie on Glorious Day‘s album cover?

Ernie Haase thinks visually; small details don’t escape him. It’s probably no coincidence that Harkey’s debut album cover with the group has a distinct visual connection to the era that took the group to the top of the genre some eight years ago.

While recently departed bass singer Ian Owens’ voice was a cultured and perhaps even high-church departure for the group, Harkey brings back the excitement and flair of the Tim Duncan era. In fact, a fan of the group eight years ago who hearing the group on the radio today, might not even notice that there had been a bass singer change. Given how beloved Duncan was, and that his eight years with the group included the group’s most popular era to date, this is hardly a bad thing.

Harkey has two stellar solos, “Scars in the Hands of Jesus” and “Two Coats. Both have been historically identified as songs for higher timbres of voices; “Scars in the Hands of Jesus” was a Florida Boys’ tenor feature staple for years, while “Two Coats” is a classic Ralph Stanley bluegrass tune. Harkey’s fresh interpretation of each song makes the songs fully worth this revisiting.

No factor is more determinative of an album’s quality than the strength of its songs. This is the strongest collection of new songs Signature Sound has put together since their 2006 release Get Away Jordan (reviewed here). Besides the two Harkey features already mentioned, other standout tracks include the uptempo quartet song “Water-Walking God” and the mid-tempo-with-a-touch-of-soul Ernie Haase feature “When I Was a Sinner.” There’s also a live acoustic version of “Sometimes I Wonder,” a Doug Anderson feature that was easily the standout track on Signature Sound’s previous mainline, Here We Are Again (reviewed here). 

Ernie Haase is definitely not one to think inside the box. In the decade he has been running Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, he has never gone more than a year or two without trying something dramatically unique. Sometimes his innovations bring the genre forward. Other times (e.g. “Happy Birthday, Anniversary Too” and perhaps “Everytime”), he’s so far outside the box that the Southern Gospel box will never catch up!

Ten years from now, looking back at this project, will we see a couple of things that, in retrospect, look cheesy? Perhaps. But we’re also fairly certain to see a number of things and think that the group was a decade ahead of their time. That’s the risk innovators take.

One aspect particularly stands out: Ten to fifteen years ago, digital studio technology reached a point where vocal and instrumental performances could be enhanced to a level of perfection beyond the best humanly possible performance. Digitally induced perfection quickly caught on in this genre and others. Several of the songs on Glorious Day suggest that Ernie Haase and producer Wayne Haun seem to think that this trend has peaked and run its course. Songs like “Shh, Be Still” and “When I Was a Sinner” aren’t phrased as tightly as similar songs on previous albums. (Put another way, there are slight differences between when group members singing harmony parts start or end a musical phrase.) Could it be that Southern Gospel fans have reached a point where they are ready to prefer performances that are a little less polished and more human? Haase and Haun seem to think so, and I suspect they might be right.

Glorious Day might not be the single strongest recording Ernie Haase & Signature Sound has ever recorded. (“Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord” stays close enough to previous versions that it would have been more at home on a table project.) But it is the strongest project of new songs they have recorded in six or seven years. If you loved Signature Sound in the Seaton/Anderson/Duncan era, but haven’t been following as closely since, the time has definitely come to give them another chance.

Traditional or Progressive: All of the above, plus bluegrass, brass band, and just about anything else you can think of.

Group Members: Ernie Haase (tenor), Devin McGlamery (lead), Doug Anderson (baritone), Paul Harkey (bass).

Credits: Producer: Wayne Haun. Recorded by: Kevin Ward and Michael Stankiewicz. Mixed by Kevin Ward. Mastered by Alan Silverman. Musicians: Not credited.

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): When the Saints Go Marching In; When Jesus Breaks the Morning (William J. Gaither); That’s Why (Ernie Haase, Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey); Scars in the Hands of Jesus (Marijohn Wilkin); Shh, Be Still (Ernie Haase, Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey); Water Walking God (Ernie Haase, Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey); Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord (Robert Schmertz); Two Coats; While I Was a Sinner (Jeff Bumgardner, Wayne Haun); Glorious Day; Sometimes I Wonder (live acoustic version) (Ernie Haase, Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey).

Album rating: 4.5 stars. Average song rating: 3.8 stars.

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CD Review: Limited Edition (Collingsworth Family)

Limited Edition (The Collingsworth Family)

Several months ago, the Collingsworth Family recorded and released two DVDs; one featured songs from their recent Christmas release (reviewed here), while the other featured songs from their 2011 mainline release, Part of the Family (reviewed here). 

Five of the songs they recorded for these DVDs are not available on any of their CDs. Limited Edition features the live renditions of these five songs. Two are vocal; three are instrumental. The two vocal performances are the opening hymn (“Since Jesus Came Into My Heart”) and an a cappella rendition of “God Bless America.” Of the three instrumentals, one (“The Prayer”) is a violin duet between sisters Brooklyn and Courtney Collingsworth, and the other two are Kim Collingsworth piano solos. “When We All Get To Heaven” shows that though Kim may not play the classic convention-style piano solo every night, she can play that style with the best of the male quartet pianists. “Battle Hymn of the Republic” is a show-stopper, in the tradition of her now-classic renditions of “How Great Thou Art” and “It is Well With My Soul.”

Especially due to the fact that there are only two vocal performances, this isn’t the CD you would want to use to introduce a new Southern Gospel fan to the group’s music. On the other hand, especially if you’re a fan of Kim Collingsworth’s piano playing, it’s definitely worth picking this title up for the two piano solos alone.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road.

Group Members: Group members: Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair (soprano), Olivia Collingsworth (soprano), Courtney Collingsworth Metz (alto), Kim Collingsworth (contralto), Phil Collingsworth Jr. (lead), Phil Collingsworth Sr. (baritone).

Credits: Producer: None credited. Musicians: None credited. Engineer: None credited. Mixed and Mastered by: None credited.

Song List: Since Jesus Came Into My Heart; When We All Get to Heaven; The Prayer; God Bless America; Battle Hymn of the Republic.

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3:1 CD Review: Twelve (Three Bridges)

Twelve (Three Bridges)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Forgive Myself: This John Lemonis / Amy Sue Keffer lyric is finely crafted and delivers a powerful message: “If Jesus can forgive me / then it’s time to forgive myself.” The bridge brings the message home: “His forgiveness is tomorrow’s hope / and where my healing starts / My failure isn’t final / although there will be scars.” Add in the conviction of Three Bridges’ passionate vocals, and this is easily the project’s strongest track. 

2: The Day Nobody Praised Him: This isn’t the same song as the one by the same title that The Jody Brown Indian Family and The Anchormen recorded. It does, however, bear a strong musical and lyrical resemblance. The Anchormen/JBIF chorus ends with “But the day nobody praised Him / is why I praise Him today.” The Three Bridges song ends with “But the day nobody praised Him / is why I praise Him now.” However, set the similarities aside, and this anthem is one of the album’s high points.

3: Novelty songs (?): If you love novelty songs with a hearty scoop of soul mixed in, you will love “House of Good News,” “Shadrach,” and “Salvation Station.” And if you don’t . . . remind me again why you were purchasing a Three Bridges project?

:1: He Touched Me / My Tribute (To God Be the Glory): Both arrangements of these covers are professionally executed but don’t cover much ground that dozens of previous renditions have already covered. The album would have been stronger as a ten-song collection, leaving off these two covers.

Traditional or Progressive: Soulful progressive.

Group Members: Elliott McCoy (baritone), Shannon Smith (lead), Jeremie Hudson (tenor).

Credits: Produced, mixed, and mastered by Rick Sandige. Recording Engineers: Rick Sandige, Paul Corley. Vocal Arrangements by Tim Parton and Three Bridges. Session led by Tim Parton. Musicians: Tim Parton (piano), Duncan Mullins (bass), Tommy Wells (drums), Kelly Back (guitar), David Floyd (orchestration and brass). Recorded at Oak Tree Studio.

Song List: Drinking From The Well (written by Dianne Wilkinson, Kelly Garner, and Amy Keffer Shellem); Forgive Myself (written by John Lemonis and Amy Sue Keffer); House of Good News (written by James Payne); Search (written by Robert MacGimsey); By His Word (written by Rebecca J. Peck and John M. Robinson); Livin’ in the Lion’s Den (written by Glen A. Bates and Glenn E. Ashworth); The Day Nobody Praised Him (written by Eric Hudson); Salvation Station (written by Richard A. Moore, Joel A Parisien, Mark S. Rogers, and Joshua F. Toal); Have a Talk with God (written by Stevie Wonder and Calvin Hardaway); He Touched Me (written by William J. Gaither); Walking With The Lord (On My Knees) (written by Michael Combs); My Tribute (written by Andraé Crouch).

Five-star songs: Forgive Myself.

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CD Review: Incredible Power (Rogers Family)

Incredible Power (Rogers Family)The Rogers Family might not be a particularly recognized name as a Southern Gospel performing artist. But close observers who actually read production credits will have been seeing their names for years. James Rogers, patriarch of the family, was a staff writer for the Singing Americans Music Company for six years; his best-remembered song from that time period is probably “Holy is Thy Name,” recorded by the Singing Americans and the Perry Sisters. He also owns and is engineer for Crowning Touch Studio.

James is joined by his wife, Wanda, their son Paul, and Paul’s wife, Brittney. Paul, a drummer, played drums for the album. They were joined by an all-star team of musicians—Danny Crawford at keyboards and strings, Mylon Hayes on bass, Jeremy Medkiff on electric guitars, and David Johnson on everything else.

Group members also wrote over half of the album’s songs; James Rogers wrote five songs, and his daughter-in-law Brittney added two more.

Most recordings by Southern Gospel groups leave a variety of aspects (songwriting, instrument playing, engineering, post-production) to professionals in each area. Sometimes a group member will pitch in in one area; Gus Gaches and Arthur Rice both are involved in engineering their groups’ projects, while Rodney Griffin and Joseph Habedank both write significant percentages of their groups’ songs. But all too often, when you see group members involved in every step of the process, at least one or two of the areas hasn’t been done as well as a professional would have done it. This album is a shining exception; every aspect is as professionally done as one would expect out of a Daywind or Crossroads release.

Standout tracks include “Look What Happened There,” “There’s Still Power,” “Heart Collector,” and “I’ll Never Stop Loving Him.” Also, “There’s a Light Guiding Me” is a strong rendition of the classic song.

A project this strong from the Hayes Family, the Browns, or the Old Paths might come as no particular surprise. But a project this strong coming from a regional group is a pleasant surprise.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road.

Group Members: James, Wanda, Paul, and Brittney Rogers.

Credits: Producer: None Credited. Recorded, mixed, and mastered at Crowning Touch Studio. Engineered by James Rogers. Musicians: Danny Crawford (Keyboards and Strings); David Johnson (Acoustic, Steel, Mandolin, Dobro, Fiddle, Harmonica, Electric Guitars); Jeremy Medkiff (Electric Guitars); Mylon Hayes (bass); Paul Rogers (Drums).

Song List: Grave Robber (written by James Rogers); Looking to the Master’s Plan (written by Brittney Rogers); There’s Still Power (written by Carl Apple); Heart Collector (written by Bruce Carroll and James Isaac Eliot); Incredible Power (written by James Rogers); My Heart Was In Your Hand (written by James Rogers); I’ll Never Stop Loving Him (written by James Rogers); Jesus On the Main Line; There’s a Light Guiding Me; No One Else But You (written by Brittney Rogers); Look What Happened There (written by James Rogers); Don’t Wait Any Longer (written by Jeff Smith).

Five-star songs: Look What Happened There.

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3:1 CD Review: Legacy (The Bilderbacks)

Legacy (The Bilderbacks)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Production Quality: The Bilderbacks have been touring for at least fifteen years. Through the years, they’ve had a number of charting hits and started the transition from upper regional group territory into national recognition. This album will certainly help that transition; it was produced by Paul and Tré Corley for their new label, Activate Records. From arrangements to instrumental and vocal performances to post-production, every aspect of this album was done at a national group’s caliber.

2: “I Can See the Lights” / “Faith Looks Up”: The album’s two opening tracks are its strongest.

3: Lyrics: It’s refreshing and all too rare to see lyrics included in a project’s layout. Including them here was a big plus.

:1: Song selection: The album doesn’t really have any major flaws. So that leaves the only thing that would have made it stronger would have been more strong songs.

The only noticeable flaws aren’t in the disc itself, but the liner notes:  Group members aren’t credited, and the website is listed incorrectly (pointing to a defunct .com version when the correct version is www.thebilderbacks.net).

Traditional or Progressive: Leans slightly progressive/country.

Credits: Produced and engineered by Paul and Tre’ Corley. Mixed and arranged by Tre’ Corley. Recorded at Oak Tree Studios in Hendersonville, TN. Musicians: Blaine Johnson (piano), Scott Sanders (steel), Jeremy Medkiff (acoustic and electric guitar), Jason Hardin (bass), Tre’ Corley (Drums, Piano, Keys, Orchestration, Programming).

Group Members: Euel, Marsha, and Blake Bilderback.

Song List: I Can See the Lights (written by Euel Bilderback); Faith Looks Up (written by Marty Funderburk and Donna Brooks); Vessel (written by Tre’ Corley and Shawnel Corley); Legacy (written by Marty Funderburk, Barbara Fairchild); Warming Up (written by Carroll McGruder); Things Change (written by Sam Corley III); I’m Movin’ (written by Marty Funderburk and Deborah Bailey); Just Speak His Name (written by Euel Bilderback and Tre’ Corley); Brand New Day (written by Tre’ Corley); My God is Real (written by Euel Bilderback).

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