NQC: Day 3, Wednesday

Day 3 (Wednesday) started with an hour or more in the media room uploading Tuesday’s posts, photos and video clips.

After a nice conversation with Mike LeFevre earlier in the week, I promised him I’d catch his quartet’s set on the mainstage. They had only twelve minutes, and fit three songs in that time: “Let Me Tell You About Jesus” (featuring lead singer David Staton), “Without Him” (featuring baritone Mike LeFevre and Gus Gaches), and “Big Mighty God” (featuring Staton). The song that connected the best with the audience was “Without Him”; as a LeFevre, Mike had instant credibility staging the song, and it went over well.

After a while in the vendors’ hall, I returned to Freedom Hall in time to catch most of the Freemans’ set. After a rousing rendition of “Sea Walker,” they closed with “Children of the Dust.” Since I had never heard them live before, I had been particularly hoping they’d include “Children of the Dust,” and I was delighted they included it. Judging by the reaction, quite a few others there were similarly delighted.

The Greenes took the stage with “Glorious City of God.” After “We’ve Weathered Storms Before,” Tony Greene took some time to share about his recent trials with kidney failure and dialysis and how they had drawn him closer to God. This led into “Hold On.” Their set closed with TaRanda Greene singing Greater Vision’s arrangement of “O Holy Night” (albeit in a higher key than Gerald Wolfe sings it.)

Kim Hopper sang her recent single, “Gospel To the World.” Jim and Melissa Brady and Charlotte Ritchie provided live background vocals.

When the Kingdom Heirs took the stage, a couple technical glitches delayed the start of their first track. Steve French did have a decent “let me tell you about what Amway has done for me” joke to fill the time, but there was an awkward pause between the joke and when the sound techs got the sound working right. The set was hurt by other sound issues; Arthur Rice’s mic, in particular, seemed to cut out at points. They sang “The Rock’s Between the Hard Place and You” (featuring Arthur Rice), “Anchor of Hope” (featuring tenor Billy Hodges), “Since I Met Him” (featuring Arthur Rice), and “What We Needed.” After a year of staging the song, it is pretty clear that this song is indeed the next “I Know I’m Going There.” I caught several encores on video; unfortunately I stopped the camera before the final encore, which had a particularly impressive Kingsmen Big-n-Live-style ending. I wasn’t the only listener who thought Billy Hodges’ high ending on the final encore sounded remarkably like Ernie Phillips would have sung it.

(The video didn’t include the final encore.)

After their set, I spent more time in the vendors’ hall and in the media room uploading material for the website. Sets while I was out included Naomi and the Segos and Brian Free & Assurance. The Segos sang “One Day at a Time,” “Where the Roses Never Fade,” and “I’ll Put on a Crown” (with David Hester on bass). Assurance sang “What a Beautiful Day,” “Save Me a Seat at the Table” (featuring bass singer Jeremy Lile), “Prayin’ Man,” and “I Believe God.”

I came back in time to catch the Toney Brothers’ set. Dan Keeton filled in on tenor and started the set with a rendition of “Hide Thou Me” that was impressively right on. The lead singer, who I found out afterwards (shame on me!) was probably George Amon Webster, delivered a solid rendition of “Tougher Than Nails.” The baritone singer was featured on the final song in their set.

Tribute Quartet started by featuring bass singer Dennis Duggar on “Bring Back the Shout.” Their new tenor, Brian Alvey, was featured on “When Those Gates Open Wide.” His impressive rendition no doubt erased many doubts about whether Tribute would falter after Jacob Kitson’s departure for Greater Vision. They also featured Alvey on “Who am I” before closing their set with lead singer Gary Casto singing “I’m In That Crowd.”

Before the Perrys came on, Jeff Stice played his classic piano solo rendition of “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.”

At the start of the Perrys’ set, the Dove Brothers joined them on stage for “I Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey Now.”

Three of the four songs in the remainder of their set were the same as they sang on Monday–“I Know it Was the Blood,” “The Potter Knows the Clay,” and “I Wish I Coulda Been There” (joined by the Dove Brothers). They also sang “He Will Hide Me.”

The Dove Brothers sang “I’ve Still Got a Feeling,” “Takin’ it Back,” “You Would Think He Would Learn,” and “I Can Pray.” During their entire set, Jerry Martin’s microphone kept cutting in and out. Even by the end of their set, when Martin was spotlighted on “I Can Pray,” the sound techs still hadn’t straightened out the issue; his microphone was still cutting in and out.

The Perrys and Dove Brothers closed the evening together singing “Get Away Jordan.”

A few technical notes: Whoever started the rumor that the video crew was cut to two was mistaken. I saw at least four cameramen active concurrently (and though I couldn’t see the fifth camera, it was also presumably manned). Though there was no boom (though there may well be from Thursday through Saturday), all other camera positions in place last year were still there.

Also, I had been somewhat curious how the four large video screens at the top of the screen were operated. A flatscreen monitor that size would be both prohibitively expensive and prohibitively heavy. As I suspected, the video screens are done via a projector; in this case, the projector is actually located directly above main stage, behind the screens; the screen is of such a quality that the projection stops at the screen and is visible as though it was a television monitor. If you want to see a mirror image of the video feed, watch the back of the screen opposite yours.

Highlights: Wednesday’s highlights for me occurred in the vendors’ hall. I had neat conversations with Chris Freeman, Dustin Sweatman, Kim Collingsworth, and the young man who leads the Taylors, a new group out of North Carolina. (His first name escapes me presently). The Freemans’ rendition of “Children of the Dust” was also neat to finally hear live.

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NQC: Day 2, Tuesday

I got to Freedom Hall early on Tuesday to cover the Talley Trio’s soundcheck for TalleyTree-o. (I will be posting a video or two there.)

After the soundcheck, I finally found an Internet connection and was able to upload Monday’s coverage. But what made things even better was that the room was next to the Artist Spotlight showcases. After a couple of sets (the Glovers’ specifically sticks out in my mind), Cross 4 Crowns came on stage. After giving their CD a 5-star rating, and there being a bit of controversy in the comments over whether they could replicate that sound in a live setting, I had been particularly hoping to hear them live. Even though I couldn’t leave my computer unattended and run over as I was uploading a video clip, I listened closely. They did a good job; I particularly noticed that the lead singer (whose name escapes me right now) and Dallas Rogers were singing right at the center of the pitch. (At least, to the best I can hear. I can’t hear if a pitch is 1% or 2% off, but if someone is 10% off, I can hear that.) The bass singer had a weak note or two towards the beginning of the first song, “I’m Going There,” but finished strong (hitting a low F-sharp, I think, with confidence.) I talked with a friend afterwards who said Cross 4 Crown’s bass singer, Justin Terry, mentioned he was really struggling with allergies this week. Cross 4 Crowns only had two songs; they closed their set with an acapella rendition of “God Bless America” that was well excecuted and got prolonged applause. Since I wasn’t in the room, I didn’t see whether it was a standing ovation, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was.

I caught a couple of other sets (including Voices Won) from the media room before I dove into the vendor’s hall for a while, lining up interviews and other things that should help make the next few months even more interesting on this site. I’ve been amazed by how many of you (artists and fans alike) have recognized me, some from seeing my photo (here) and some once I mention my name. Thanks for all the encouragement; seeing real faces of readers every now and then keeps me going even on the (very rare!) days I don’t feel like making a post.

While Tuesday will probably be the day I spent the most time in the vendors’ hall this week, I did catch several mainstage sets. I caught most of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver’s set while I was finding a seat; by the time I was paying attention, they were singing their recent #1 hit on the Singing News charts, “Help Is On the Way.” After an uptempo rendition of “One of These Days,” they sang their current single, “Eternity Has Two.” The lyric in particular grabbed my attention when I reviewed their project a couple of weeks ago, and the song is a great choice for radio. They closed with an acapella rendition of a convention song, “He Made it All Right.”

They Talley Trio took the stage with two songs from their latest CD, “God is Great, Good, and Merciful” and “Winds of This World” (featuring Lauren). Lauren was then featured on “The Broken Ones”; then Debra and Lauren sang “The Healer.” The set closed with a rendition of “Searchin'”; Greater Vision joined them on the song. More extensive coverage can be found on Talley Tree-o.com.

Greater Vision started their set with “We Are So Blessed” and “It Means Just what it Says.” Then Gerald Wolfe took a minute to introduce Jacob Kitson, in his first mainstage appearance with Greater Vision (and, Wolfe indicated, his first mainstage appearance altogether). When Kitson sang “Little is Much,” Freedom Hall came unglued. Even the people in the balconies joined the virtually unanimous standing ovation. (We spent some time discussing NQC standing ovations in Monday’s post. Continuing that discussion, it seems that even when everyone on the floor stands up, virtually nobody in the balconies ever seems to stand.)

Greater Vision then sang “I Want to Know that You Know,” a song from their new CD (Not Alone), before bringing Karen Peck and New River on stage to sing “My Name is Lazarus” together. Greater Vision seemed to want to share solos with New River; however, it seemed as though there was no set plan of who would sing and when. Jacob Kitson went over and talked with Karen Peck; it looked like he was perhaps offering her the solo, but ultimately Devin McGlamery sang Kitson’s verse. This got Greater Vision a second enthusiastic standing ovation.

Karen Peck & New River’s set started with “Hold Me While I Cry.” Their second song, “Hey,” had a fun video with artists and fans waving at the audience and saying “Hey” each time the word came up in the song. After singing “Whispered Prayers,” Karen Peck sang an acapella rendition of “Amazing Grace.” They closed their set with “Four Days Late.” The audience was so moved that there was applause after each verse, and, of course, a standing ovation at the end.

Then the Talley Trio and Greater Vision joined Karen Peck and New River on stage for a rousing rendition of “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown.” My favorite part of the song was watching the security guard in my section, a black lady whom I mistakenly assumed wouldn’t care for Southern Gospel, getting into the song. By the end, I think she even jumped a little as she called out, “Glory!” (Truth be told, I kinda felt like doing the same myself at the end of the song, but I was a little too reserved to actually do it.)

I stopped by the Talley Trio booth afterwards to tape some videos and set plans for my coverage of the remainder of the week on TalleyTree-o.com. One plan worth mentioning here: If you’ve been blessed by one of their songs, stop by the booth Friday at 6 P.M. to share your story; I’ll be taking video clips of these stories to post on their site.

Here is one:

I was in the vendors’ hall for most of the rest of the night, and had great conversations with numerous friends and artists. I did stop in sight of the main hall to catch some impressive soprano singing during the Pfeifers’ set and Brian Free & Assurance’s renditions of “Sheltered in the Arms of God” and “Jesus Will Pick You Up.”

Tuesday Highlights: Two things stand out. The first was seeing Jacob Kitson blow the roof off Freedom Hall, a couple of times but particularly on “Little is Much.” The second was waiting in line at Greater Vision’s booth to talk to Dianne Wilkinson. Talking to her was great, but the highlight was waiting in line since I was behind Debbie Bennett. Hearing Dianne and Debbie reminiscing about “Roger Darlin'” for five or ten minutes was one of those priceless moments that no live audio feed or video clip of Main Stage can capture—the kind of thing that makes it worth the trip to be at NQC in person.

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NQC: Day 1, Monday

Brian Free & Assurance kicked day 1 off with an energetic rendition of “Long as I Got King Jesus.” They had a live band—Roy Webb on keys, Dean Hopper on bass guitar, and Mike Hopper on drums.

After an encore or two, they left the stage. Gerald Wolfe came on to lead the audience in “There’s Within My Heart a Melody” and “Because He Lives.” Tim Parton, pianist for Legacy Five, was at the piano as the group was first on stage. The flawless accompaniment seemed fairly unrehearsed; Wolfe called the keys (G for “There’s Within My Heart” and A-flat for “Because He Lives”) and called for a turnaround at one point.

Legacy Five was the first group to take the stage. Scott Fowler sang the first song, “God Will Go Before You.” Glenn Dustin was featured on “Roll On”; I noticed Tim Parton singing a fifth part on that song. After the first two songs, Fowler said enjoyed singing at NQC as it was their most politically incorrect audience. While he would often use that as a preface to a political discussion, he instead focused on watered-down theology, segueing into an introduction of Scott Howard’s “Take it to the Cross.” They closed their set with a convention song, “We’re Leavin’ Here.”

Side note: As a manner of explanation for the shorter sets, I was talking later in the evening with a friend from a group that had a shorter set than in previous years. He told me no group this year has a set longer than 17 minutes, allowing groups to fit in three or four songs at most.

The Kingsmen were the second group to take the stage. Their first three songs were from their most recent CD (When God Ran), “This Could Be the Cloud He’s Coming Back On” (featuring lead singer Phillip Hughes), “Gospel Road” (also featuring Phillip), and “When God Ran” (featuring baritone singer Bryan Hutson). “When God Ran” got a strong response—the first standing ovation of the night. (It is worth noting that there are virtually no unanimous standing ovations; a strong standing ovation is when 1/4 of the people in the room stand, and a very strong standing ovation is when 1/2 of the people in the room stand. I only noticed one point on day 1 when virtually the whole audience stood; more on that later.) The Kingsmen closed their set with a rousing rendition of “Beautiful Home” that got the audience back on its feet. Eric Ollis from the Whisnants was playing piano; perhaps to avoid rumors that arose when Ollis was with them last weekend, Kingsmen emcee Bryan Hutson did make clear that Ollis was filling in.

Kingsmen bass Ray Dean Reese introduced the Mark Trammell Trio by mentioning each member’s connection with the Kingsmen. He said that one member’s father wrote many songs that the Kingsmen sang (Gerald Sweatman, father of Dustin), another member’s father sang tenor with the group (Ernie Phillips, father of Eric), and the group’s leader, Mark Trammell, was a “long-time” member of the Kingsmen. The reference struck me as odd since, as I recall, Trammell wasn’t with the Kingsmen for two years before getting the call from George Younce and Glen Payne and joining the Cathedrals. (As an aside, I am not drafting the posts with Internet access handy; I post them later in the day on a friend’s computer. So I’m working from memory here and elsewhere.)

The Mark Trammell Trio sang four songs from their new CD, Always Have a Song. They started off with the project’s opening track, “I Know that I Know.” Lead singer Dustin Sweatman was featured on two songs, the ballad “What Good Would a Crown Be” and the uptempo convention-style song “Coming Out and Moving In.” Mark Trammell closed the set with a powerful new ballad from Rodney Griffin, “If Only Just a Few.” While some stood and applauded at the end, most everyone in the room was hearing the song for the first time; look for a bigger response later this year (and possibly even later this week). Tenor Eric Phillips was not featured on any songs; however, since he has several strong solos on their new project, look for him to be featured later this week.

I decided to head for the vendors’ hall for a while. On my way out, the King’s Heralds sang an acapella rendition of “You’d Better Run.” Speaking of my time in the vendors’ hall, my find of the day was the Mark Trammell Trio’s latest, Always Have a Song. I knew it would be good, but this is one solid CD! More on that in a couple of weeks when a review comes out.

While I was out, the Primitive Quartet sang a strong set that included renditions of “No Longer an Orphan” and “I’m Walkin’ in the Highway.” The Dove Brother’s set included “Have a Nice Day,” “You Don’t Know God’s Love,” “I’ve Never Ever Been the Same,” “You Can’t Fix It,” and “Alive and Well.” The Booth Brothers joined them on the last chorus before starting their own set. Accompanied by Roy Webb on the piano, the Booth Brothers sang “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “Going Back,” “Tears Are a Language,” and “This Love is Mine.” I caught most of their set on live video feeds in the vendor’s hall, and it looks like they got a pretty strong response. Interestingly, they didn’t seem to feel the same compulsion most of the other groups to focus on songs from their most recent CD; perhaps they are working under the idea that if you put a good set together, people will stop by your booth and pick up your latest CD while they’re at it. It’s an interesting concept, at any rate.

The Dixie Melody Boys took the stage to “Give the World a Smile.” They also sang “Roll On, Jordan,” “A Soul Such as I” (featuring Steve Cooper), “It Will Be Worth it All” (featuring Joe Kitson, a relative of Jacob Kitson, though I don’t recall whether they are brothers), “What a Wonderful Day” (featuring Jonathan Price), and “When I Cross to the Other Side of Jordan” (featuring Ed O’Neal). The Dixie Echoes came on the stage for the final song’s encore, and the song ended up being encored a few times. Before the final encore, the Dixie Melody Boys were leaving the stage and seemed to clearly view their set as over. But Michael Booth, who was on drums, sensed the crowd’s enthusiasm and started a drumroll; most of the audience not yet on their feet got on their feet (except the audience in the nosebleeds, who seemed to never stand) and they did a final encore.

By the time the final encore was done, the Dixie Echoes had the two vintage microphones set up for their own set. As usual for they group, the accompaniment was simple (and completely live), with Stewart Varnado on piano and Scoot Shelnut (also the baritone) on bass guitar. By cutting out virtually all commentary and not encoring any songs, they managed to squeeze six songs in: “I’ll Be Ready,” “Miracle Will Happen On That Day,” “How Big is God” (featuring bass Pat Barker in one of the night’s strongest performances), “Gonna Move to the Sky,” and “Little is Much.”

I went back to the vendor’s hall for a while. But on the various monitors spread throughout the hall, I caught a decent portion of Gold City’s and the Inspirations’ sets. Gold City’s set started with three songs from their new CD, “Cast My Bread On the Water,” “Walkin’ and Talkin’ About My Lord” (featuring bass singer Aaron McCune), “What Children Believe” (featuring baritone Danny Riley), and “In My Robe of White” (featuring Steve Ladd).

The Inspirations’ set was of interest due in part to lead singer Matt Dibler’s departure a couple of days before NQC. Darren Osbourne, who has filled in for Archie on tenor, filled in at the lead part for Matt. Baritone Melton Campbell stepped forward to sing lead on some songs as well. Probably due in large part to this last-minute re-arranging of parts, they stuck to familiar songs. They started with an acapella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” and also sang “I Have Not Forgotten,” “If You Only Know,” and “Touring That City.”

I didn’t return to the vendor’s hall until partway through Soul’d Out Quartet’s set. I didn’t really get to focus on their set since I was finding a seat, but they appeared to be coming to a strong finish, punctuated by the bass threatening to blow out the subwoofers on the song’s ending (and again on the encore).

Reggie Sadler sang bits of secular songs for ten minutes. It seemed to be roughly the same set of songs he sang last year. I was puzzled why this audience of Southern Gospel fans responded more enthusiastically to this than to any of the Christian songs sung for the rest of the evening (well, with maybe two or three exceptions). He did have a couple of good jokes, but the show was absolutely stolen by a lady in the front row who he asked to faint at a certain point in a song. She did a very convincing job.

The Perrys’ was the last complete set I caught that evening. They sang four songs, starting out with “I Wish I Coulda Been There.” I was slightly surprised at the round of applause when the soundtrack for Libbi Perry Stuffle’s “The Potter Knows the Clay” started. Either the song has been singled to radio (I don’t listen to radio often enough to recall) and really started connecting with people there, or enough fans have their latest project to know the song. Either way, the song was well received. The group’s third song was “I Wish I Coulda Been There.” This was the closest to a full standing ovation I saw that night; from where I was sitting (er, standing), it looked like roughly 1/4 of the audience stood at the end of the main song. Roughly another 1/2 of the audience stood after the first encore, and most of the remaining 1/4 was on their feet by the time lead singer Joseph Habedank started into another encore.

They closed their set with “Holy Shore,” which got another regular (i.e., partial) standing ovation. By the way, I’m writing this before I read any other coverage, but (whether or not yesterday’s performance was discussed), Habedank has been criticized in the past for his elaborations to the tune. The most ludicrous of the charges was that he was elaborating and changing the tune because he couldn’t sing the song as recorded. In that light, I particularly noticed that Habedank sang his verse of “Holy Shore,” a slightly more challenging number, in a straight-ahead fashion with virtually no elaboration.

The evening closed with Triumphant Quartet; they closed with “I Remember the Day,” and were joined by the Perrys for an encore as the evening’s grand finale.

Notes: Many of these song titles are guesses. Those of you familiar with current songs by groups covered are welcome to post correct titles in the notes; I’ll eventually edit the post. Also, a note of thanks is due to Sony Elise, who kept helpful notes of sets I missed.

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Guest-blogging on Talley Tree-o.com

Earlier this year, Crossroads Records and the Talley Trio launched TalleyTree-o, a site for Talley Trio fans to interact with the group. [EDIT, 3/16/13: Broken link removed.] Through this process, the fans have gotten to watch and even contribute a little as the Talley Trio recorded their new release, Life Goes On.

I received and accepted an interesting invitation—to guest-blog at this website during NQC 2008. I’ll be covering the group’s mainstage appearances and other things that come up throughout the week.

This will be in addition to the coverage on this blog; while I’ll probably do a bit of cross-linking here and there, for the most part, I’ll be covering all groups other than the Talley Trio on this site.

Thanks to Crossroads and the Talley Trio for this opportunity—I think it will make NQC a little more interesting both for me and for you, the readers!

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NQC 2008 Open Thread

Hi, everyone! I will be posting as much as I possibly can this week, but I won’t be able to cover everything.

So I thought I’d kick off the week of NQC coverage with an open thread. It’s both for those who can be there and those who can’t. Let’s hear your thoughts!

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Preview: NQC 2008 Coverage

SouthernGospelBlog.com will be on-site at the National Quartet Convention this year. A couple highlights to watch for:

  • I’ll be covering highlights of the main stage performances and showcases. I probably won’t catch every set, but I’ll cover as many as I can. My contributor Sony will hopefully be chipping in with a couple of posts, too, covering some sets I miss.
  • FYI: I am planning to mess with the dates on the posts a little. Most posts will actually appear the following morning or afternoon, but the date will be set to right before midnight the day of the concert, to make it easier to sort and find posts afterwards.
  • If I can find a consistent Internet connection long enough for more sustained uploads, I’ll be posting photos and video clips. If not, those will go up once convention is over.
  • I’ll also be guest-blogging at another website during the week. I have to get a few more details in place before announcing which site, but be watching for an announcement.

Also, I’ll have a couple of ways you can participate:

  • I’ll have an NQC open thread where you can comment on showcases or evening performances that we missed.
  • If you’ll be there and taking pictures, I would be happy to post them in our Photo Gallery. Just email them to editor@southerngospeljournal.com. Don’t worry about sending a few dozen—you are quite unlikely to crash the voluminous inbox. Photos from the mainstage, showcases, and the vendors’ hall are all great. (One side note: While I can post a few pictures of you with your favorite artists, ideally a majority of photographs will be of general interest.)
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Concert Review: Ball Brothers

On Sunday (August 10), I took the chance to see the Ball Brothers at Calvary Baptist Church in Ashland, Ohio. It was an annual event; though not all-day, it was otherwise my first time to be at an old-fashioned all-day-sing and dinner-on-the-ground.

The Ball Brothers are actual brothers; Andrew Ball sings tenor, Daniel Ball sings lead, Stephen Ball sings baritone, and Josh Ball, though not a bass in voice quality, sings what I call “choir bass” (think Bill Gaither, Claude Hopper). Their blend and harmonies are very tight, tight enough to make their sound unique among male quartets. In professional Southern Gospel circles, most family groups where all the members are related have at least one female vocalist; though Southern Gospel fans have become accustomed to tight family blends in mixed trios or quartets, this group is unique among male quartets.

They sang a mixture of new (orchestrated), acapella, and classic piano-and-bass-guitar convention songs. They did not have live accompaniment; however, they did have a sound man, Josh Gibson, Daniel Ball’s brother-in-law.

  • My Lord and I
  • He’s a Personal Savior
  • I’m Already Living Forever
  • There is a Mountain – A highlight of the set, even though it was a little odd to hear five voices. In the studio version (found on Vocalized) the group had a guest bass vocal from Daren Rust; that part was played.
  • Walkin’ in Jerusalem
  • Alright

During intermission, a church quartet and mixed trio each sang several songs. The church quartet, led by the pastor singing lead, sang “Damascus Road,” “I Rest My Case at the Cross,” “Glory Road,” and “Even Thomas Couldn’t Doubt It.” The mixed trio sang “I’m Happy With You, Lord,” “God is a Good God,” and “In My Robe of White.” The last song, “In My Robe of White,” was written by Genice Spencer Ingold, who was a member of the trio.

  • I Wonder
  • Somebody Loves Me
  • Blessing Burden Bearing God
  • A Comfort to Know – This featured Josh Ball on a solo.
  • Promises One By One – This acapella song was fully acapella, with no drum track.
  • Mercy Said No – This featured Andrew. I originally heard the song as recorded by Greg Long on CCM radio; I consider the Ball Brothers’ rendition to be superior. The song has finally found the genre for which it was written (perhaps unbeknownst to the author).

I had the time to talk with members of the group for a little while about some of their upcoming plans. Be watching for big things from the group.

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Concert Review: Dan Keeton Quartet

On August 2, I had the chance to catch a set by the Dan Keeton Quartet at an outdoor sing north of Mansfield, Ohio. It was a fairly short set; they only sang eight songs.

  • Saved to the Uttermost (featuring Dan and Nancy Keeton)
  • Heroes of the Faith (featuring Dan)
  • Movin’ Up to Gloryland
  • Oh, What a Savior (featuring Dan)
  • I’m Not Perfect, Just Forgiven (featuring Dan) – a Hemphills song
  • I Must Be Getting Closer to the Cross (featuring Nancy) – a Hinsons song
  • Saints Will Rise
  • I Feel So Good About It (featuring Dan) – a Downings song

Perhaps partly because of the lineup change, the group stayed in mostly familiar territory musically, both as to who was featured (most of the songs featured Dan) and as to song selection (most of the songs were familiar classics, though the group did one original song and two relatively forgotten songs from the Hinsons and Downings repertoire.

“Saints Will Rise” was the high point of the set; the group ended with a sky-high three chords and a cloud of dust ending and got a response that would have made an encore fitting if they had had a track ready.

The group is in transition, so this brief set was probably not that great of a snapshot on which to rate them. But it did show their potential.

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In Concert: Blackwood Brothers (Harrod, OH)

Yesterday, my family and I went out to Harrod, OH to see the Blackwood Brothers in concert. The Blackwood Brothers Quartet is run by Jimmy Blackwood, son of James Blackwood. Jimmy himself sang lead for the Blackwood Brothers for some time in the ’70s before leaving the road; several years ago, he brought the name back.

The Blackwood Brothers Quartet is one of the few groups on the road today to do their entire program with two old-fashioned microphones. Much of their program is done with light soundtracks (piano and perhaps some bass guitar), but for some of the program their baritone/pianist, Brad White, moves over to the piano (where a third old-fashined microphone is set up) and accompanies the group live.

First set:

  • How About Your Heart (featuring lead singer Jimmy Blackwood)
  • The Man Upstairs
  • The Old Country Church (with encore)
  • Group Intros
  • Jesus is Coming Soon (featuring Jimmy)
  • I’m Feelin’ Fine (featuring a piano interlude by baritone/pianist Brad White)
  • This Old House (featuring bass Randy Byrd)
  • The Lighthouse (featuring tenor Wayne Little)
  • Since Jesus Came Into My Heart (Brad White piano solo)
  • How Great Thou Art (Randy, Jimmy)

During intermission, Brad White played a second piano solo, “Tis So Sweet.”

Second set:

  • Jesus is a Waymaker (Jimmy)
  • He Bought My Soul
  • I Get Happy (Randy)
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • I Wanna Be More Like Jesus

Then, they did a request time, taking several audience requests:

  • Sweet Hour of Prayer (Brad on the melody)
  • Prayer is the Key (Jimmy)
  • Suppertime (Randy)
  • Looking For a City (Wayne)
  • His Eye is on the Sparrow

Then, returning to the program, they finished with:

  • Learning to Lean (Jimmy)
  • Oh, What a Savior (Brad)
  • I’ll Meet You in the Morning (Jimmy)

The requests time was certainly one of the evening’s highlights. Much of their program was the same as when I saw them two years ago (with This Old House being a delightful addition), but the requests are different every time. In fact, the requests are perhaps the biggest reason to go see the group multiple times–even if the rest of the program remains the same, you can always ask for a favorite during requests.

After entertaining the thought of asking for “Excuses,” primarily to see what they would say, I settled on “Victory Road.” They didn’t know it well enough to feel comfortable doing it, but they let me have a second pick, and I asked for “Suppertime.” I had heard good things about Randy Byrd’s rendition, and I was not disappointed. He is one of the hidden gems on the Southern Gospel scene, and has both the voice and the personality to become a fan favorite once more fans get to know him

It was an enjoyable evening, and worth the nearly two-hour trip.

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Concert Review: Mark Trammell Trio (Shelby, OH, 7/20/08)

Last night, I had the chance to catch the Mark Trammell Trio in Shelby, OH.

First set:

  • Won’t it Be Wonderful There (old one)
  • I Still Believe
  • Weary At the Well
  • How Great Thou Art
  • Moving the Hand of God
  • Introductions
  • There’s Something About That Name / In the Garden
  • Hallelujah, I’m Going Home
  • Glory Road
  • Once Upon a Cross

The group got three standing ovations during their first set. The first was for Mark Trammell’s rendition of “How Great Thou Art.” Then they got back-to-back standing ovations for “Glory Road” and “Once Upon a Cross.”

Mark Trammell introduced “Glory Road” by explaining how he loved coffee and his wife didn’t care for it but fixed it for him anyhow since she loved him. He said he’d been singing “Glory Road” ever since he started in Southern Gospel thirty-four years before, even singing it at his first talent contest, and he’d performed it with every group he had been with since. He said that he was sick of the song, but like his wife making him coffee, he loved the audiences enough to do the song for them anyhow. Tenor Eric Phillips tore the song up, as always.

During group introductions, Trammell commented that, interestingly enough, this was their first concert at a Lutheran church.

During the intermission, Dustin Sweatman played two piano solos, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” and a quartet-style mid-tempo piano solo. The song sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it.

Second set:

  • Thank God I’m Free
  • Walking with Jesus
  • When Compared to God
  • I Know that I Know
  • I Believe In a Hill Called Mount Calvary
  • Won’t it Be Wonderful There (new one)

“I Know that I Know” will be on their next project. They had a great routine leading into it, with Mark Trammell asking lead singer Dustin Sweatman about the song’s title. Dustin said something, to which Mark replied, “I Know, but what’s the song title?” Dustin said, “I Know that I Know.” Mark said, “That’s all good and well, but what’s the song title.” Dustin replied again. Mark ended up saying he gave up, and “just tell me what key it’s in.” (They played it in F.)

Mark Trammell got a standing ovation for his performance of “I Believe in a Hill Called Mount Calvary.” The final song on their set, “Won’t it be Wonderful There” (this time, the newer Chris Allman-penned tune), also got a standing ovation (which was partly for the overall concert).

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