Booth Brothers Concert Highlights – April 2nd, 2011

On April 2nd, 2011, our family loaded into the van and headed toward Maplewood, Minnesota to experience one of our “Most Anticipated Nights of the Year”: the Booth Brothers’ annual concert at Lakewood Worship and Community Center!  Each Southern Gospel concert we are able to attend is a special treat for our family, especially if it is by one of our favorite groups.  And the Booth Brothers are definitely in the top five category around our home.

But it wasn’t always this way…

In 2009, a friend told our family the Booth Brothers were coming to Minnesota, and immediately our interest was piqued.  We had heard this trio on the Gospel Greats (about our only source of current Gospel music here in our SGM-starved state!), and some of us had started to enjoy their musical style.  Ben, Taylor, and Leesha pleaded with Dad and Mom to let the family go and see them.  Mom especially was very apprehensive about attending the concert, for she did not appreciate trios for the obvious reasons: 1.) They do not have a bass; 2.) they do not have a bass; 3.) and they do not have a bass.  🙂  In fact, Dad and Mom had even seen them during a Gaither Homecoming concert several years before, and didn’t remember much about them!  But finally they decided it was worth attending the concert, and shall we say, the rest is history!

We put together a short video highlighting some special memories from the whole experience, and hope you enjoy traveling with the Garms Family!

For a transcription, click “more”…

Read More

Quick Thoughts: Tribute Quartet (Asheville, NC)

This evening, I saw Tribute Quartet in concert at Trinity Baptist Church in Asheville, NC. Between the late hour of the night and the full schedule of posts for the following days, a full review is not feasible. But here are a few quick thoughts:

  • Tenor Riley Clark, who just turned nineteen, improves every time I see the group. If he keeps improving, he will be one of the ten best tenor singers in Southern Gospel within five years. He has a certain charisma that you just have to be born with, and his voice has a power and quality that makes listeners perk up and take notice. His stage presence has also moved forward since NQC—the two strongest moments of the night were his two big features, “One Holy Lamb” and “Calvary Wins Again.”
  • Speaking of “Calvary Wins Again,” while Tribute Quartet offers a professionally strong delivery of all their songs, they approach this song with a certain confidence in the power of the lyric and melody that offers a foretaste of what they could accomplish if they pick up enough other top-tier songs to become one of Southern Gospel’s top-tier groups.
Read More

Concert Review: Haskell & JoLee Cooley

Last week, I had a remarkable and rare opportunity to see former Cathedrals pianist Haskell Cooley and his wife JoLee – in my home town, no less. They sang a mixture of classic songs and songs they’d written:

  • Newborn Feeling (instrumental)
  • Where Could I Go (instrumental)
  • Showers of Blessing
  • The Old Account
  • Jesus is a Waymaker Warmaker
  • He’s Everything to Me
  • In Gloryland – a song they’d written
  • Nothing is Impossible with God – ditto
  • If I Had a Hundred Lives – ditto
  • How About Your Heart – Haskell introduced this by saying it was one of the prettiest songs he’d ever heard. This intrigued me, since, perhaps due to my primary familiarity with the song being the Blackwood Brothers’ full-blast power rendition, I’d never thought of it as a “pretty song.” But it was prettier than I was expecting.
  • Medley – ? / I’ll Fly Away / He Touched Me / ? / When the Saints go Marching In
  • Happy Rhythm – JoLee, who played bass guitar throughout much of the night, played a bass guitar solo on this song, to the delight of the audience. Her style of bass guitar picking made me think of someone who had been quite tentative about it years ago, but has been playing for so long that most of that has worn off.
  • When I Need Someone to Talk To
  • Giddyup Mule – This was a novelty song that either Haskell or JoLee wrote. Surprisingly, it got the strongest response of the night—it moved the audience from laughter in one verse to tears in another, and a rousing (but not standing) ovation at the end. (The audience didn’t stand all night, but it just wasn’t the style of music where you’d expect to stand.)
  • Glory For You
  • Smooth Sailing
  • Singing Easy – written by Haskell or JoLee
  • Someone to Talk To – ditto

The concert had a relaxed pace; Haskell would play a classic and then ask if anyone in the audience knew the title. It was at a small Freewill Baptist church (though not one with screaming throughout the songs, unlike other FWB churches at which I’ve attended concerts).

Haskell Cooley played for the Cathedrals from 1974-1979, then left to sing with his wife and children. Though the children have grown up and come off the road, thirty-one years later, they are still singing together. This is genuinely (as other groups claim, with varying levels of accuracy) “Gospel music as it used to be sung” – dominant vocals, all-live instrumentation, and speakers at a far from overpowering level. If classic Gospel is your cup of tea, and they come to your area, don’t miss them.

Read More

Concert Review: Perrys, Inspirations, Dove Brothers etc. (Franklin, NC)

UPDATE (5/19/2011): We’ve moved the photo gallery from a separate post to the bottom of this post, the original concert report.

On Saturday, I attended the Inspirations’ Fall Colors sing in Franklin, NC. Time does not permit a detailed report, but here are some highlights:

  • The Punches Family, a bluegrass group from Missouri (parents and four children), got a remarkably strong response. Two sons, thirteen and eleven, play the guitar and banjo; the parents play mandolin (father) and upright bass (mother), and the nine-year-old twin daughters play fiddles and sing. While the cuteness factor undoubtedly played a role in the incredibly strong response (even stronger, in fact, than the professional bluegrass group which followed them), there is enough musical talent in the family, incipient and realized, to show promise of a future where their picking and singing alone will bring the house down.
  • Balsam Range, the current group of former Isaacs/Kingsmen member Tim Surrett, got a mostly warm but not rousing response. I say “mostly” because there was one exception: Tim Surrett introduced the song “Wish You Were Here” by saying that he was going to be singing it on Monday (today) for the funeral of a longtime disabled friend who had just passed away. He said that Balsam Range had never sung the song on stage before. This was reinforced by the fact that banjo player Marc Pruett and mandolin player Darren Nicholson stepped back and did not play on the song; fiddler Buddy Melton played a soft, gentle part, Surrett played bass, and guitarist Caleb Smith stepped up and delivered a remarkably perfect guitar part, carrying the rendition. Both because of the introduction and because the audience was more familiar with Kingsmen music than bluegrass music, the song received the strongest response of their set.
  • The Dove Brothers’ three-piece live band brings an energy to their set that is regrettably fairly unique to current Southern Gospel groups—an energy no soundtrack can reproduce. Dixie Melody Boys tenor Jonathan Price was filling in; despite not even having rehearsed with the group prior to stepping on stage, he did an excellent and (at least very close to) flawless job. As a matter of fact, though former tenor Jerry Martin is one of those incredible talents whose shoes in that regard are virtually impossible to fill, Price blends better with lead singer McCray Dove. He was slightly tentative on the first song—slightly enough that it probably took someone who has watched both Price and the Dove Brothers in person before to notice—but delivered a strong performance.
  • Speaking of great blend with a fill-in, the Perrys called their old pianist Matthew Holt out to fill in on baritone for the weekend, following Troy Peach’s departure last week. Holt’s warm baritone tones were an excellent match for his longtime friend and co-writer Joseph Habedank’s warm but more commanding lead vocals—and as a matter of fact, I can say as one who has heard every Perrys lineup since 1984 (pre-Tracy Stuffle) on recording and every lineup since 2004 or 2005 in person that this is the best-matched, tightest Perrys vocal lineup I have ever heard. I am certain that Bryan Walker will be a good vocalist, but I left the concert wishing that somehow Holt, who now runs a college music program, could have been persuaded to stay. The Perrys’ closing song, “If You Knew Him,” got the strongest response of any song all day. The response it received from an audience who came out to hear the Inspirations’ acoustic mountain style leaves no doubt that it was worthy of its “Song of the Year” title.
  • The Inspirations delivered a strong set. New tenor Jodi Hosterman seems to be getting comfortable in his own shoes—it takes a certain amount of courage to take on “Two Shoes” and “Touring That City” in front of an essentially hometown audience who has been listening to Archie Watkins for over four decades. Lead singer David Ragan, meanwhile, is visibly having a great time on stage with this lineup, hitting the high Fs and Gs to keep up with Hosterman’s incredibly high range, and endings that have never before been heard on Inspirations songs. An all-acapella rendition of “That’s Why I Call it Home,” featuring Ragan and baritone singer Melton Campbell, got the strongest response of the Inspirations’ set.
Read More

NQC 2010 Photo Gallery posted

I took a fair number of photos at the National Quartet Convention, particularly at the 100th Anniversary of Southern Gospel celebration. Here is a selection of some of the best:


Read More

NQC 2010: Wrap-up and Highlights

Last night, I spent thirty minutes reading commentary and discussion from several individuals who heartily disliked last week’s National Quartet Conclusion and came to the conclusion that Southern Gospel was nearly dead. For a moment, I wondered if they were right.

But then I remembered: Wait a minute, I was there. I know what I saw, and I know how the audience responded. Granted, a few mainstage groups and singers are past their peak, and a few at their peak had off days. (That happens to everyone, especially with horse stables right outside to aggravate allergies.)

But there’s no way Southern Gospel is dying. Even if several artists we have enjoyed in decades past have passed their peak, others are peaking now. Between hours rehearsing and a full-time live band, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound can be counted on to deliver a show that leaves NQC buzzing. The Collingsworth Family brings a special anointing to each set, nicely complemented by sheer musical brilliance. Mark Trammell, TaRanda Greene, Courtney Collingsworth, Lauren Talley, Scotty Inman—these and a dozen others could be put side by side with any rock, country, or CCM singer and hands-down sing them off stage.

Speaking of a singer that I would put up against any CCM/rock/country vocalist, I need to correct a mistake I made; Pat Barker was not imitating Big Chief Wetherington on “I Wanna Know.” Inquiries at the Mark Trammell Quartet booth revealed that he was sick / congested throughout the week and compensated by singing a more rhythm-style bass. Certain bass singers of yesteryear would wish they could sing that song as well as Pat Barker does on an off day.

Even if we miss the greats of yesteryear, we have greats today. And most of them hit home runs this year at NQC.

For those of you who were there—or watched the live video feed—what were the highlights? Aside from your favorite group’s current single, a moment we all enjoy, what moments or groups surprised you this year?

Side note: If you are making comments with the NQC highlights video in mind, keep in mind that video selections are drawn from mainstage performances on the final three days, since those are the only sets filmed with a full video crew.

Read More

NQC 2010, Day 6: 100th Year Celebration

Norman Holland (A&R director at Daywind) did Southern Gospel a huge favor by persuading numerous classic groups to reunite in their classic configurations for what is likely the most impressive 100th Anniversary Celebration any genre has had. Southern Gospel historians date the start of the genre to 1910, when James D. Vaughan sent the first male quartet out on the road.

The program included:

  • Gospel Singing Caravan, featuring the Chuck Wagon Gang, Blackwood Brothers, and Mike LeFevre Quartet. They sang three songs, “This Great Caravan Keeps Rolling Along,” “Sinner’s Plea,” and “I’ve Found a Hiding Place.” The clean and precise enunciation of this twelve-piece ensemble was pretty remarkable; even the best choirs frequently have a muddy sound due to enunciation, even with members staying reasonably on key, but this ensemble had great pitch and well-matched enunciation and placement. Word from several people who watched the webcast is that this segment was not included, which is too bad since it was an excellent start to the night.
  • LuLu Roman sang “Two More” and “The King of Who I Am.”
  • Most of the Rambos segment was sung by Reba Rambo McGuire, her husband Dony McGuire, and their daughter Destiny. They sang a medley that included “When I Lift Up My Head,” “New Shoes,” “Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing,” “The Holy Hills,” “Sheltered in the Arms of God,” and “Remind Me, Dear Lord.” Then Reba brought her father Buck Rambo up on stage for the final songs, “Too Much to Gain,” “He Looked Beyond My Fault,” and “Tears Will Never Stain.” Buck’s voice isn’t what it used to be, but the set was still phenomenally strong and got a huge ovation at the end.
  • Instead of going the medley route, the Nelons sang three complete songs, “Bring My Children Home,” “Oh for a Thousand Tongues,” and “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown.” Kelly Nelon Clark held down the alto part, Dan Clark sang bass, Jason Clark and Paul Lancaster sang tenor, and, the soprano part was held down by Amber Nelon Thompson, Karen Peck, Katy Van Horn Peach, and a fourth young lady who was not introduced (and whose name I am presently not recalling). Each of the sopranos took turns leading the closing song, and the audience was energized and standing for the final several encores.
  • The Downings set was the only in the mixed group segment where the response was warm but not over-the-top. Joy Gardner and Ann Downing stood on stage and sang, and Dony McGuire sat behind the piano and played for a majority of the set. The two songs that got the best response were the final two, “Operator” and “Greater is He.”
  • The Speer segment had about twelve people on stage; I won’t even try to start naming names, since I would surely forget several. They sang three songs, “Ever Interceding,” “Heaven’s Jubilee,” and “I Never Shall Forget That Day.” The final song featured Ben Speer and Sue Dodge and received a standing ovation and three or four encores.
  • The Hinsons sang three songs, “I’m So Glad He Found Me,” “I Know He Can,” and “The Lighthouse.” The final song received a standing ovation.
  • To my astonishment, Gold City was not last. Jeff Easter introduced them and indicated that since Ivan Parker had been unable to make it to rehearsal, it was the first time that Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Mike LeFevre, and Tim Riley had sung together in nineteen years. The audience came unglued when those four men walked on stage, offering a standing ovation and remaining standing through the first song, “When I Get Carried Away.” Brian Free took the lead on “I Think I’ll Read it Again,” and, of course, the stand closed with Ivan Parker taking the lead on “Midnight Cry.” The applause could have continued for minutes had it not been cut short by the next group walking on stage.
  • Lewis Tradition and the Easters had the unenviable task of following that. They sang one song, “Keep on the Sunny Side.”
  • Cathedrals alumni Danny Funderburk, Gerald Wolfe, Scott Fowler, and Mark Trammell came on stage (with Glenn Dustin) to pay tribute to the Cathedrals. They sang “There’s Something About That Name” and “Champion of Love.” Both received standing ovations—the first time I’ve seen “Something About That Name” ever get a standing ovation, I think.
  • The Singing Americans set closed the program. Rick Strickland, Michael English, Ed Hill, and Dwayne Burke sang “Home.” English said that due to his voice-reducing neck surgery, he couldn’t hit all his high notes, so he called up fellow Singing Americans alumnus Clayton Inman on stage for the final two songs, “Glory Road” and “I Bowed On My Knees and Cried Holy.”

With the Gold City segment placed 2/3 of the way through the program—to my shock—I figured that the emotional arc of the program would have to be downhill from there. But to my delight, though it never reached the peak of their stand again, the Cathedral reunion and the Singing Americans reunion together gave the program a conclusion strong enough to hold its own.

Other commitments will keep me from catching enough of this evening’s program that I’ll wrap up text coverage with this post. A few more videos are in the works, so be watching for those.

Read More

NQC 2010: Day 5

EDIT: I forgot to mention that today completes the fourth year of daily updates on this blog. Happy birthday, SGB, and thank you for your support these last four years!

Before starting today’s post about last night’s concert, I made the (probably unwise) move of reading the other posts that have gone up so far. I don’t have the time for a point-by-point rebuttal, but permit me to make one general observation: If you look for and focus on what went wrong, you will find it. There were sound glitches and a few weak sets. But even if my highlights list will be a little shorter than yesterday, there were numerous moments of great singing.

My day started with going to a featured artist showcase. After singing their recent single, “It’s a God Thing,” the Browns brought the house down with a violin instrumental rendition of Canon in D / I Sing the Mighty Power of God. It went over so well that they were invited to perform on main stage for the first time, opening for the evening concert, and (wisely) chose that song.

I was prepared to not even mention the Proclaimers Quartet, but their rendition of “Bells of Joy Keep Ringing,” with just a piano and the four quartet members, was surprisingly well-executed.

The Nelons sang a song off of their recent project, “The Love of God,” and closed their two-song set by giving “My Tribute” a big ballad treatment. The latter song falls on a (very) short list of songs I particularly dislike,* so I was prepared to give it a lukewarm response, but it was so well executed that I joined in the rousing standing ovation afterward. (*Footnote: I did love Kim Collingsworth’s piano solo arrangement of the song that I saw earlier in the week. I actually had “How Great Thou Art” on that short list until her piano solo arrangement knocked it off, so perhaps by this time next year I will actually like the song.)

One particular highlight was an Ernie Haase and Signature Sound press conference. I captured much of the event on video, so I’ll hold off on a verbal description since I have that to post later today.

Evening mainstage highlights:

  • Ernie Haase and Signature Sound. They did six Cathedrals songs (and yes, the Cathedrals did record “His Name is Wonderful,” on Plain Ole Gospel in the mid-1970s, even if EHSS has that song on an Influenced project instead of the tribute project). Between the song selection, the energy of a full live band, enthusiastic crowd response (at least where I was sitting—I do notice Nate Stainbrook may have been sitting in a less enthusiastic portion of the crowd), and a special reunion moment at the end, their time goes down as the evening’s strongest set. They built the pace with “Wedding Music” and “Step Into the Water,” before going into an uptempo, creative version of “Boundless Love.” They sang two slow songs, “Yesterday” and “His Name is Wonderful” (the later acapella, with Wayne Haun joining the mix), before closing with “We Shall See Jesus.” On the chorus of WSSJ, Scott Fowler, Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, and Danny Funderburk all came on stage. It was my first time to see Haase and Funderburk sharing the same stage; the vocal power for the big ending was incredible. The set’s significance beyond last night? It wasn’t an EHSS-returns moment, because as they have been steadily returning to a more traditional appearance, the NQC audience has already (by and large) gotten to appreciate their sound and consistently welcomes their sets. But the set does mark another return—of the song “We Shall See Jesus.” Both EHSS and Legacy Five have cut it this year, and the audience response with both groups’ front men on stage last night leaves no question that the song still deserves to be sung, and that the Southern Gospel audience is ready to hear it again. Glen Payne will always define the song, but the song is too good to die with him.
  • Legacy Five. The set featured great singing throughout, but it makes this list due to one of the two funniest comedy moments of the week (the other being Michael Booth playing dead). Tim, the roving cameraman, has lugged his 50-pound camera around for six hours or more each night of Convention for fifteen years. (Just for perspective, he was there for Glen Payne’s 1999 call-in performance, and for Rex Nelon’s, the Speers’, and J.D. Sumner’s final appearances on main stage.) Scott Fowler told him they wanted to honor him, and he asked to sing “Just a Little Talk with Jesus.” Glenn Dustin went down to hold the camera—and given its weight and his lack of experience, surprised me by actually pulling it off for several shots. Tim the cameraman cannot hold a tune and knows it, but he provided a great comedy moment with choreography that included a McCray Dove raindance.
  • Talley Trio / Gaither Vocal Band. The Gaither Vocal Band sang “He’s Alive” in their showcase appearance earlier this week. They have typically repeated the same songs in their mainstage appearance later in the week, but since Lauren Talley delivered a solid rendition of “He’s Alive” that was the musical highlight of the first third of the evening, they pulled David Phelps’ rendition from their set and substituted in “Let Freedom Ring.” That worked for the best for everyone, since Phelps knocked his solo lines out of the park and Wes Hampton provided remarkably able tenor features in other portions of the song.
  • Janet Paschal brought a female quartet on stage for her set. Sound issues—more specifically, Paschal’s vocal being too far down in the mix—were a little too noticeable, but the singers carried on quite well anyhow and offered a fantastic performance.
  • The evening closed with two family groups, the Easters and the Perrys. The highlight of the Easters’ set was Jeff’s commentary before their final song, recognizing his wife Sheri and their bass guitarist for the night, Scoot Shelnut, as cancer survivors, and thanking Scoot for his quiet, behind-the-scenes support during Sheri’s battle with cancer. He then transitioned to talking about Tracy Stuffle’s recent health issues, recognizing Tracy and Libbi for all they have gone through in the past few weeks. It was around 1 A.M. by the time the Perrys got on stage, so Tracy did not join them. Troy Peach and Libbi Stuffle shared emcee duties. They sang two new songs, “Every Time I Need Him,” and “The End of the Aisle,” and two favorites from previous projects, “Did I Mention” and “Calvary Answers For Me.” Libbi set up “Did I Mention” with sharing the trials and blessings of the recent weeks. Joseph took the lyric on “Calvary Answer for Me” and made it his own, earning a well-deserved standing ovation. The Kingsmen, Triumphant Quartet and the Easters joined the Perrys for the finale, “I Wish I Coulda Been There.”

The most anticipated moment of the week, the 100th Anniversary Celebration with the Gold City reunion, is almost upon us, so I’ll wrap up coverage there for now. Be watching for videos later today, if time permits.

Read More

NQC 2010, Day 4

The day started with a Hoppers’ Chapel service. Two closing songs in the set particularly stood out: “I’ve Come Too Far,” which had a powerful acapella (or perhaps minimalistic keyboard-only) encore, and “Yes, I Am,” for which they brought on stage Benjamin, a young black teen they had been helping through music school. Benjamin traded off solo lines with Dean toward the end, knocking it out of the park.

Two highlights from the Daywind Radio DJ’s event were a standing-ovation rendition of “Under His Wings” by Sisters and a surprisingly strong piano-and-vocals version of “There is a Fountain” by Marshall Hall. Yes, Hall was playing the piano while he sang, and yes, he did a great job. Unlike other groups, whose main objective appeared to be to get the DJs to connect with a new single, these two artists had the objective of reintroducing themselves as an artist to the DJs, and both succeeded brilliantly.

As I was in the media room taking an hour or more to prepare and post the videos, I overheard a showcase in the next room. Most memorable moment: Tim Lovelace playing air piano. Line of the routine: He started taking requests to play on air piano, and a lady in the audience brought the house down by requesting “Silent Night.”

I stopped by the “Fire in the Choir” event for a little while, between other appointments. The Greenes delivered a strong rendition of a song whose name I cannot remember, and the Perrys brought the house down with “If You Knew Him.”

I had other things going during the Sarah Palin showcase—I made the drive to Louisville to hear singing, after all, even if I do agree with a politician’s views—but I did walk from one end of the Freedom Hall balcony to the other on my way from my car to the other side, and noticed two points on the way. First, there was hope she would be a big draw, but I am fairly certain that Remember the Music (the Cathedrals reunion) last year drew 5%-10% more, and I know the final Gaither Vocal Band showcase with Guy Penrod drew 25%-30% more. For all three, the room was divided in half, and for all three, the floor was full. For Palin, the lower third of (half of) the balcony was full; for the Cathedrals reunion, it was half to two thirds full; and, for that particular GVB showcase (which I reference since the two since with Michael English have drawn fewer), I had to go to the second or third to the highest nosebleed row to find a seat.

Second, by all accounts, she did a brilliant job connecting with the audience on a faith level. That said, her efforts to connect on a music level fell flat. Sue C. Smith makes several salient points here, to which I would add that, as I was passing through, she mentioned being heavily influenced by Christian music while growing up, “particularly Amy Grant when she was a teenager.” [EDIT, 6/18/12: Broken link removed.] That’s not exactly the best name to drop at this venue.

One evening non-mainstage highlight was a conversation with a precious older lady who came by the Triumphant Quartet to rest at the same time I did. It seemed she wanted someone to talk to, so I set aside plans to move along elsewhere. And I wasn’t sorry I did: It turned out that this was her forty-eighth National Quartet Convention, and she had a treasure trove of memories from previous conventions.

Evening mainstage highlights:

  • The two opening groups were the Diplomats and the Freemans. Both turned what could have been average sets into strong sets through live four-piece bands. The Diplomats’ strongest number was their closing up-tempo song, “Joy Comes in the Morning,” while the Freemans’ new, Dianne Wilkinson-penned radio single, “The Altar, the Father and the Son” was the strongest of their set.
  • Other commentators can say what they will, but I found the Sisters/Booth Brothers collaboration on “Brothers and Sisters” to be brilliant execution of a better-than-average song.
  • The Chuck Wagon Gang sang three songs, “Singing as I Go,” “When He Calls, I’ll Fly Away,” and “Someone to Talk To.” Dave Emery transitioned smoothly through audio issues before the first song—his guitar was not being amplified—and the middle song was a standout straight-ahead rendition of a song that has rarely been done as written in years. (Make no mistake, the Gold City rendition is magnificent, but it was nice to step decades back in time and hear it as written).
  • The Ball Brothers made their first main-stage appearance. Their harmonies are so tight that there are points where they have four different parts in the ensemble without a bass singer.
  • By all accounts, the Collingsworth Family set was one of the evening’s standout sets. A new acapella rendition of “Take Time to Be Holy” was strong, made even stronger by Phil Sr. adding a bass part. The group’s harmonies were already full, and this makes them even fuller. Kim, Brooklyn, and Courtney’s delivery of “Fear Not Tomorrow” got a standing ovation from the floor. (The seats in the balcony are so tight and hard to get in and out of that people in the balcony rarely stand). Kim’s piano solo on “My Tribute,” though, got a rousing standing ovation from floor and balcony alike—the ovation must have lasted over a minute.
  • The Booth Brothers had a wide-ranging set, everything from uptempo (“I See Grace”) to Southern Gospel samba (“All Over the World”) to big ballad (“Then I Met the Master”)—the latter song receiving another of the evening’s strongest and longest ovations.
  • Brian Free & Assurance raised a few eyebrows by closing their set with two slow songs, “Save Me a Seat at the Table” and the title track of their new project, “Never Walk Alone.” Totally apart from the fact that they strike me as being at their best with that style of song, it was a perfect fit for where they are personally: Bass singer Jeremy Lile, who sang the first song, is marking the one-year anniversary of the passing of his father/grandfather (I’ve heard both and am not entirely clear on the point), while tenor Brian Free, featured on the second, is facing the likely imminent passing of his own father. So what if they didn’t do what virtually every other group did, close with a rousing uptempo song or a big ballad? A change of pace, especially this well executed, is refreshingly delightful.
  • Greater Vision’s set was another that drew some criticism for defying conventions. After a fun transition from a fifteen-year-old video of Greater Vision (with Rodney Griffin, Gerald Wolfe, and Chris Allman) singing “I’m Too Near Home” setting up the newly returned Allman leading a current rendition of the song, and a pleasingly mellow version of “You Were Faithful Yesterday,” Wolfe slowed down the pace for a bit. He introduced a couple who came from Spain and enjoyed convention so much that they bought tickets for hotel staff. He then led the audience in a sing-a-long version of “I Will Serve Thee,” before closing with a rousing rendition of the Christmas song “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” And for all the talk about clunky and awkward transitions last night, Gerald Wolfe smoothly answered those objections before they were made by telling a story about a lady who got on his case for singing Christmas music outside of December, until he got her thinking and admitting that we don’t know when Christ was born, so there is no reason to restrict Christmas music to one month of the year.
  • Michael Booth’s introduction to the Booth Brothers deserves a bullet point of its own. Literally. As he was about to bring the group on stage, there was a huge audio glitch that sounded like a cannon. He reacted by dramatically falling over and pretending to have been shot. He stayed there until someone came up from off stage, at which point he started waving his feet in the air.
  • Somehow, Mark Trammell managed to transition from that to starting with a slow rendition of “Gentle Shepherd” with harmonies so tight that they came incredibly close to perfection. After a brass-heavy rendition of “Testimony,” the current single, the set’s two highlights were Pat Barker imitating Big Chief Wetherington on “I Wanna Know” and Mark Trammell delivering a monumental rendition of the Cathedrals classic “It’s Almost Over.”
  • The Perrys sang two songs off of their new project, Blue Skies, “Blue Skies Coming” and “His Love Lights the Way.” Between the two, they did a perennial favorite from Look No Further, “I Know it Was the Blood.” Tracy Stuffle joined them on stage for “His Blood Lights the Way,” and then introduced the closing number, “If You Knew Him,” which received such a strong response that the audience had started rising to their feet by the end of the bridge.
Read More

NQC 2010, Day 3: Mainstage Highlights

Stepping into Freedom Hall for another NQC is a sensation unique in the Southern Gospel experience. At the base of the ramp that leads to a section of seats, a cool breeze strikes you in the face—remnants of the massive undertaking of providing climate control for 20,000 people. A view through the ramp shows the seats on the opposite side of Freedom Hall, also filling in preparation for the evening’s concert. And a few steps up the ramp reveals the main stage, where history is about to be made.

Highlights from Wednesday night’s NQC set included:

  • Dailey and Vincent. This group exploded onto the Bluegrass scene in 2008, with their debut album leading them to a sweep of the IBMA awards (Bluegrass’s version of the Singing News Fan Awards or Dove Awards). Awards and accolades have flowed in a steady stream since, and their strong set left no question why. Bass singer Christian Davis used a good portion of what must be a four or five octave range during a comedy routine on “Daddy Sang Bass.” Then, he promptly shifted gears to deliver a thoughtful rendition of “Thanks to Calvary,” to another strong response. The last full song (other than a customized closing number) was a stunning rendition of “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder,” changing featured vocalists and tempos at several points.
  • Gold City. Despite a timing mishap on the dramatic transposition to the final chorus, Josh Cobb’s performance of the new Gold City arrangement of his signature song, “I Stand Redeemed,” stood out as one of the evening’s best performances. A cover of a Dixie Hummingbirds song which will appear on Gold City’s upcoming mainline release was also quite strong. Unusual and worth noting: I’ve heard a number of different methods of encouraging audiences to clap, but I heard one for the first time during the Gold City set: Clap because the Bible says to. During a turnaround on “I’m Rich,” lead singer Bruce Taliaferro said, “The Bible says, ‘Clap your hands, all ye people.'”
  • The Inspirations. Lead singer David Ragan showed that his acapella solo last year on “The Son Come Down” wasn’t a moment of passing audacity. He did another acapella solo this year; if memory serves me correct, it was on “That’s Why I Call it Home.” Melton Campbell took the second verse. The song was well received.
  • Before the main mainstage program, four artists from the artist showcases each got to sing a song on the main stage. Hayley Patillo, daughter of songwriter David Patillo, sang “It is Well With My Soul”—to Greater Vision’s Lari Goss-produced track, I believe. It was a strong performance and received a standing ovation—a rare feat for a song offered before the main program even starts.

A twenty-two hour day precludes more detailed commentary at this point, but these were some of the standout moments.

Read More