Song Snapshots #38: We’re Not Gonna Bow

Kenna Turner West started writing songs as a child. “But they were horrible,” she recalls. “‘Sam Lives In a Garbage Can’ is the first song I ever remember writing, and then there was the big hit, ‘He’s Contagious, and He Might Rub Off On You.’”

When she was in her twenties, she wrote songs as part of her devotional time. “I wouldn’t really call them songs,” she recalls, “though they rhymed and had a melody. They were really just thoughts and feelings from my heart to the Lord, so they had value, but they weren’t commercial songs by any means.”

During those years of her life, she was pursuing a different aspect of the music business, singing on the road full-time. Her father is Ken Turner who sang bass for the Palmetto State Quartet, the Dixie Echoes, and the Blackwood Brothers. In her teens, West also sang with her father and sister as a trio during the summers on tour with the Blackwoods.

West came to Christ in 1983 at eighteen. “About a month later,” she remembers, “I flew out to California to spend some time with my dad who was on tour.” Turner was still a member of the Blackwood Brothers. Cecil Blackwood told her to bring a track and she could do that song each night of the West Coast tour. But things quickly grew; and the one song became three songs with the group at the end of the concert, and then the second half of the program. By the end of the trip, she had been added as a full-time member of the Blackwood Brothers and was with the group for two years before launching a solo ministry that has reached across the country and around the world.

She married Kerry West, son of country music legend Dottie West, in 1992; their son was born two years later. While he was a baby, napping, she began to spend more time writing. “They weren’t songs that you’d want to hear, but it was a starting place for me,” she remembers.

In the mid-90s, she continued to grow as a songwriter. “When I began to make it more personal, add a Scriptural parallel, and offer application for the listener, it began to come together.”

One night at a Bible Study, a friend at her church encouraged her to start singing her own songs. “I had a career in music but I was singing other people’s songs!” West remembers. “But I knew that was the Lord; I began to realize that if what I had written spoke to my heart, then maybe they would speak to someone else’s.”

Her husband is an audio engineer for country singer Ronnie Milsap. They went into a friend’s studio with her church band and recorded ten songs; these became her first CD of original material.

She gave a copy of the CD to a friend from her church who worked at Spring Hill. One day, that friend was playing the CD in her office when Phil Johnson, the Spring Hill A& R Director, walked in, heard the songs, and contacted her.

“I had given her the CD because she was one of my best friends,” West recalls, “but truly, I didn’t know if the songs were even good enough for me to go and sing, much less pitch to other artists. There would be a value in me singing them because they came from my heart, but the thought of another artist wanting to say those same things wasn’t on my radar at all.”

Johnson asked West if she would write for Spring Hill. She agreed. That first CD had a song Karen Peck & New River recorded, “A Taste of Grace.”

The day Johnson contacted West, her husband had just finished adding a home studio. They used that studio to record her first Spring Hill demos. One of these songs was “We’re Not Gonna Bow,” a song Jeff & Sheri Easter would record.

“It was my first single,” West said, “and it went to #1, and it was nominated for a Dove Award. I didn’t even know I could do write! No one was more surprised than me.”

“Like a lot of people, I wrestle with insecurities,” West shares. “There’s no way to say this well, but I couldn’t understand why, out of all the songs that were written, why somebody would cut mine. Early on, I wouldn’t pitch songs because I thought, ‘What if they tell me no?’ But on the other hand, ‘What if they say yes?’ I learned that when you pitch songs, you get a lot of no’s, but sometimes it just takes your time to find the person that song is for.”

“As songwriters, our job is to equip ministries and artists. We are just trying to be true to the Lord and what He’s saying to our hearts, and then prayerfully find the artist who is looking for that particular message in song.”

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Song Snapshots #34: If She Could

“Some songs are written as stories for other people to tell, but some songs I write because the story is mine,” Kenna Turner West shares. “If She Could” falls into that second category.

Her grandmother battled Alzheimer’s for about ten years. It reached the point where it was too dangerous to leave her alone, so West’s mother moved her to Tennessee to live with her.

“Granny was very healthy; she just couldn’t remember,” West said. “It was so hard watching her fail and watching my mom struggle with losing her mom.”

“One day,” she adds, “my mom walked into my grandmother’s room to wake her up and Granny was sitting on the side of the bed. Granny’s name was Estelle, but Mom called her Stellar.”

“My mother said, ‘Good morning, Stellar.’ Granny said, ‘Good morning! I just feel like I know you.’ My mom said, ‘Well, yeah, I’m your baby.’”

“My grandmother began to just sob. She said, ‘What kind of mother doesn’t know her own child?’”

“My mom climbed into the bed with her, tucked my granny’s head into her shoulder, and rocked her until she quit crying, just like my grandmother had done for my mom so many times as a child. When Granny quit crying, she leaned back and looked at my mom with great clarity and said, ‘One day I’ll know you.’”

When Kenna Turner West wrote the song “If She Could,” she wasn’t even sure if she would share it with anyone. She was just writing about her grandmother: “She struggles to hold to things that are fading away / Stares out the window with hours with nothing to say.” The chorus says: “She can’t even remember if the old days were all that good / she’d tell you all about it if she could.”

Her grandmother’s phrase, “One day I’ll know you,” resonated particularly deeply. West thought about the passage in I Corinthians 13, where we shall “know as we are known.”

“That’s why I wrote the song,” she said. “To remind families like ours who are slowly losing their loved ones to Alzheimer’s the promises of God that are theirs in Christ.” At the end of the song, the lyric, ‘When I get to Heaven / I won’t be the same / And when I see you / I’ll know your name,’ was based on a real conversation that my grandmother had with my mom.”

“If She Could” was the story of Kenna’s grandmother, but it was the story of Sheri Easter’s grandmother, as well. Joyce Martin, Karen Peck Gooch, and Sheri Easter recorded a project together, Best of Friends. They included “If She Could” on that project; Jeff & Sheri Easter also later recorded it on a live DVD.

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NQC 2013, Day 5: Live Blog

Highlights of the Night

The evening kept getting better and better; it is safe to call the five-song finale the strongest part of the evening. 

  • Greater Vision kicked it off with “I Know a Man Who Can.”
  • Karen Peck and New River followed it with “Four Days Late.” It’s one of the strongest renditions I’ve ever heard them offer.
  • The Booth Brothers sang “Still Feeling Fine.” 11 PM or not, I’m not sure the audience will sit down at all between Greater Vision and the final notes! (Was that Gene McDonald who came up by the end? I had to look away for a couple of minutes.)
  • Mark Trammell Quartet, “I Want to Know.” I was surprised they didn’t sing it earlier; this was why!
  • To top it all off, there was an unannounced appearance by the Gaither Vocal Band, singing “It is Finished.” Wow! Talk about a strong ending!

Other highlights, in reverse chronological order:

  • Gold City’s set: Three classics and a recent favorite that unleashes the greatest legend amongst current Southern Gospel bass singers makes for a strong set! (And a cameo appearance from Jonathan Wilburn is never a bad thing.)
  • “The King is Coming,” Mark Trammell Quartet. A rousing standing ovation!
  • The Booth Brothers brought Bill Gaither up for the final song of their set, “I Played in the Band.” Before the final encore, Gaither had everyone who had sung in a choir, driven a bus, and done several other specific things he acknowledged, stand. Most of the room was standing.
  • “He’s Alive,” David Phelps with the Gaither Vocal Band. It deserves its own mention!
  • The Gaither segment. (Of course.) “That Sounds Like Home To Me” was particularly strong.
  • Canton Junction’s surprise appearance at the start of the Gaither set was very well-received.
  • The entire Karen Peck & New River set. It’s been their strongest of the week. They started with their current, catchy single, followed with two of their #1 hits, and left the audience on their feet with “We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown.” They did their two biggest hits (“Four Days Late” and “Last Night”) earlier this week; that they could do a set without either song and still turn in their strongest set of the week speaks both to their ability as performers and to strength of their repertoire.
  • “If That Isn’t Love,” Isaacs, with Bill Gaither on the piano. We’re used to the Isaacs with Bluegrass arrangements; it’s nice to see them with Southern Gospel accompaniment once in a while.
  • “The Living Years,” Isaacs. As Bill Gaither walked on stage for the next song, he talked the Isaacs into doing an acapella chorus and tag of this one. Nobody can touch Gaither’s masterful touch at making a good moment unforgettable.
  • “Something’s Happening,” Hoppers. It was good throughout, but kept getting better and better. Then, when TaRanda Greene walked over to Kim Hopper and started singing a third above Kim’s soprano part, the raw musical power was simply too much for even Freedom Hall to contain.
  • The Nelons’ entire set was incredibly strong. They started with their recent radio single, “Excuse Me, Are You Jesus.” Then, they took the daring and risky move of singing the “Hallelujah Chorus” a cappella. The set just kept getting better and better; song 3 was the Sandi Patti song “More Than Wonderful.” Soprano Amber Thompson nailed Patti’s high ending, hitting notes I’ve never heard her hit before. Then, with the Gaither band backing them up, they pulled off an energetic rendition of “I’m Going Home With Jesus.”
  • Freedom’s Showcase Appearance: If this is any indication, John Rulapaugh’s new lineup is off to a spectacular start. But get Rulapaugh, Dale Shipley, and Burman Porter all into one group, and what do you expect?

Live Play-By Play

This post got so long that we’ve hidden the live play-by-play from the home page. Click “read more” or the post title to read the complete coverage.

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NQC 2013, Day 5: NQC Music Awards

Daniel is at work, so Daniel’s Siblings are live-blogging the afternoon showcases.

For all those who signed up, remember the Friday NQC coverage is free!

3:25 Favorite Male Group: The Booth Brothers. Ronnie: “This is called a Quartet Convention award…” Michael, “We did a quartet album this year, so we’re okay.”

3:19 Les & Clarke Beasley brought on stage to explain that a CPA firm validates the results. They introduced the individuals representing the firms. The Southern Gospel Music Guild chooses a business who has made an impact on Southern Gospel. This year’s winner of the Les Beasley Impact Award is Herschend Properties, the parent company of Silver Dollar City and Dollywood.

3:16 Favorite Song: “I Played in the Band” by the Booth Brothers. Michael Booth talking about Bill Gaither believing in the body of Christ and each person doing there part to honor the Heavenly Father.

3:12 Booth Brothers singing “I Played in the Band.”

3:07 Favorite Album: Through the Night! The Perrys.  Libbi, “I’m totally blown away.” David Ragan has his baby on stage with him! Bryan Walker and Leah Page are up there with Libbi. She is saying how Tracy usually is the one who accepts the awards and has something to say. She never dreamed they would live every song of the album. Every song needs to have a message and say something and be scriptural. Someone will need it. This year she was one of those people who needed the songs (and songs from other artists). Libbi thanking Leah for helping and being her right arm and doing an incredible job. She’s thanking the guys in the group and is asking for prayer. Libbi said “Next year, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, Tracy Stuffle will be there.”

3:05 Radio Stations of the Year: WGUS & FWFC.

3:05 Promoter: Landon Beene.

3:05 Producer of the Year: Ben Isaacs.

3:04 The Hosts are introducing Autumn, the award girl.

3:00 Favorite Songwriter: Dianne Wilkinson…and the feed went down! She didn’t expect it. She is saying how she feels such a responsibility. “Sinners need to be saved. Christians need to be encouraged, The Church needs to be awakened, and God needs to be Glorified.”  Thanking the singers and studio players, who do her songs. She is overcome!

2:55 Hoppers singing, “He Didn’t Just Carry the Cross, He Carried Me.” Claude was absent, but Mike and Karlye were singing, making the Hoppers a five part group.

2:53 Video of the Year: “I Wanna Be That Man” by Brian Free and Assurance. BF&A were not in town, touring in North Carolina. The producer accepted the award for them.

2:50 Presenter Gordon Mote brought on and said his trick worked. “I swapped glasses with Kim Collingsworth and it worked!” referring to when she said she couldn’t see to read what was on her card. They continued with a series of humor as would be expected from Mote, Williams, and Easter. The crowd was laughing!

2:46 Favorite Bass: Eric Bennett. Says he’s amazed. Every bass loves to do what he does. “All of them deserve to be up here.” He hopes to never let the fans down. He’s thankful for his wife, the super guys he travels with, and to God.

2:43 Kim Collingsworth’s card didn’t say who was to sing next, so she said, “Whoever is supposed to sing now, come out and they’ll welcome you.” Greater Vision appeared and sang, “He Didn’t When He Could Have Passed By.”

2:41 Favorite Lead:  Ronnie Booth. He said, “I don’t know what to say.” He talked about growing up in Florida, hearing his dad sing for the Rebels Quartet. He talked about the day when there will be an award show like no other and we will lay our awards at Jesus’ feet.

2:40 Presenter Kim Collingsworth introduced. She will be presenting the Favorite Lead award.

2:36 Triumphant Quartet singing “Take it From Me, Meshach.”

2:32 Favorite Tenor: David Phelps. “I’m just amazed by this.”  He’s thanking the fans. “I have nothing other than great appreciation for this.” He loves singing for the people in the seats.

2:29 Legacy Five singing “I’m Still Amazed.”

2:26 Favorite Soprano: Kim Hopper. Saying thanks to the fans. It has been a wonderful year, but one of the most trying years of her life. She was sick at the beginning of the year and enjoyed being at home with her kids, but became homesick for being on the road, doing what God has called her to do, encourage the Christians. She is thankful for God’s sustaining grace.

2:24 The Hosts brought up Josh Singletary as the next presenter.

2:14 Favorite Musician: Kim Collingsworth. Kim’s says she’s at a loss for words. Before she is a musician, she is a wife and a mama. Thankful for parents who introduced her to music and taught her to love God with her heart, soul, and mind. Thankful to her visionary husband. Matthew Holt asked her to play a song.  Kim played “His Eye is On the Sparrow” with just the piano–no tracks! She got a partial standing ovation.

2:09 Kingdom Heirs singing “Just Beyond the Sunset.”

2:07 Favorite Baritone: Jim Brady. “This music is all I ever wanted to sing.”  Psalm 37:4 is true. He is doing the desire of his heart, singing for the Lord. Thanked Booth Brothers, his wife, Melissa Brady, and NQC.

2:05 Presenter Matthew Holt introduced.

2:01 Favorite Alto: Sheri Easter. Sheri saying how she watched Libbi and was thinking of the Grace of God that it takes to sing on stage after 30 years of it being different. “We are blessed.” Sheri thanking fans.

1:57 The Perrys sang “I Got A Hold of God.” (Libbi Perry Stuffle, David Ragan, Bryan Walker)

1:53 Favorite Mixed Group: The Collingsworth Family! Phil Sr. saying 10 years ago, they never envisioned standing here.  He thanked fans for their support and prayers.

1:49 Presenter Jeff Stice brings on the Gaither Vocal Band to sing their top ten nominated song “Glorious Freedom.”

1:47 Favorite Soloist: Guy Penrod! Guy Penrod is in Canada so Jeff Easter held his award for him.

1:45 First hosts: Kevin Williams and Jeff Easter.

Dixie Stampede sponsored the Gaither Sing-a-Long, and it looks like Dollywood is sponsoring the Awards show.

1:42 The NQC Music award show was kicked off by Gordon Mote. There was no microphone at the piano and he shouted something about someone saying he didn’t need a microphone. A microphone promptly appeared at the piano and he started with “Ain’t It just Like the Lord.”  As long as the feed stays up, we plan on bringing you play by play coverage of the award show!

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Previews of Two Upcoming Releases

An all-ladies (or, at least, mostly-ladies) Homecoming taping will release in September. Gaither Studios posted a preview:

James Easter of The Easter Brothers and his son, Jeff Easter, of Jeff and Sheri Easter, were in the studio earlier this week to record tracks for an upcoming father/son duo release. I had the opportunity to film some highlights at the tracking session and record this video:

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Good News for Sheri Easter

A little over five years ago, Sheri Easter was diagnosed with breast cancer. It is too easy for news websites to pass along bad news and forget to post the good news. So let’s make a point of praising God for some great news that Sheri got this week: She is now five years cancer-free, and she posted, “Just got word from my oncologist that I no longer require his services!!! Praise God for good health!”

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Saturday News Roundup #113

Worth Knowing

  • The Old Paths with Chris White

    The Old Paths with Chris White (left to right: Wayne Rackley, Jeremy Peace, Chris White, Daniel Ashmore, Doug Roark)


    Crossroads has signed The Old Paths to a long-term recording agreement (video).
  • The Booth Brothers recently taped a video at Gaither Studios. They “sat down with Bill to discuss music, life, family and their faith. After their interview, they all gathered around the piano with Bill to enjoy a little impromptu harmonizing.” They have posted a photo gallery here. (Hat Tip, TGF)
  • Jeff and Sheri Easter are hosting a contest on their Twitter account, with a prize package gained once they add 1,000 new followers.
  • The Mark Trammell Quartet had a bus fire last week; since it was confined to a bay, thankfully, they only have to replace a wiring harness, several air conditioners, and some wiring. They’re expecting that the bus will be back on the road within a few days.

Worth Reading

  • In a first for Southern Gospel, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound debuted an online Magazine on Issuu.
  • Worship Leader Magazine interviews Bill Gaither. [EDIT, 6/18/12: Broken link removed.]
  • Off-topic but also worthwhile: Bruce Ware on Psalm 2 (video). It’s the best response to Rob Bell and The Shack that I’ve seen to date—largely because the focus is on the glory and majesty of the truth, not on the magnitude of the error.

Worth Watching

Home video footage of the Cathedrals is rare enough to make any discovery a particular delight. Here’s a November 1991 rendition of “Wedding Music”:

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Saturday News Roundup #100

Worth Knowing

  • Ernie Haase & Signature Sound: EHSS’s 2/7/12 release Here We Are Again will be released by Stow Town, not Gaither Music Group. [EDIT, 6/7/12: Broken link removed.]
  • Triumphant Quartet: Clayton Inman’s brother Phil is recovering from the massive heart attack he had last week; he is now breathing on his own.
  • Jeff & Sheri Easter: Jeff & Sheri are collecting Christmas memories on their Facebook page, entering names in a drawing for a ten-CD giveaway of their music.
  • In the Vine: Daniel Childs announced that he will be launching a solo ministry in 2012. [EDIT, 6/7/12: Broken link removed.] He added that he was not able to pull off juggling the schedules to make the time needed for In the Vine in addition to his regular Blackwood Legacy dates. He wishes Joe and Kurtis Kitson the best as they carry on the group.
  • Blackwood Brothers: Former Blackwood Brothers pianist Mike Hammontree had emergency heart bypass surgery earlier this week. He is still on a heart pump today, but is on the mend.

Worth Watching

Merry Christmas Eve!

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide! Are there any Southern Gospel-related presents you’re either giving or hoping to receive?


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Saturday News Roundup #84

Worth Knowing

  • Signature Sound performed the National Anthem before a NASCAR race last year. It got a strong response—so strong that they’re being invited back. They will sing “I Pledge My Allegiance” and the National Anthem at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, September 4.
  • While we may talk about Wal-Mart’s domination—and eating up small businesses—in other fields, that’s not the case in music. It threw in the towel this week, announcing that it will be closing the MP3 download section of its online store.
  • Jeff Easter’s mother, Mary Louise Sechrist, passed away last Sunday, August 7. She was 76.
  • Congratulations to SoGospel Back Row’s Steve Eaton on his one-year anniversary as a Southern Gospel blogger!

Worth Watching

Here’s a blast from the past—the early ’90s Perfect Heart singing “In the Sweet Forever”:

Danny Funderburk is singing tenor here, and Jeff Stice is on piano. Other members in this particular lineup are, if I’m not mistaken, Dale Shipley on lead, Mark Lanier on baritone, and Mike Presnell on bass.

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Saturday News Roundup #79

In the News

  • Jeff & Sheri Easter’s bus was in an accident early yesterday morning. Via Madison Easter, a driver swerved into their lane. Jeff & Sheri’s bus driver slowed down and moved over; his actions were enough to avoid any injuries, but the driver slammed into the side of the bus anyhow. The driver of the other vehicle was uninsured and was arrested for DWI.
  • It’s not been the best of weeks to be a Southern Gospel bus, or a group that owns one. The frame on the Ball Brothers’ bus broke in half on a recent trip. Mechanics estimate a $20,000 repair charge. While they are optimistic that their insurance will cover this, their insurance will not cover the $9,000 to rent a bus until repairs are complete. So, to help cover the bills, they have offered a limited-time complete download set of all of their music for $25, noting that if 360 fans purchase this, it would cover the needed funds for the month. It can be purchased here.
  • Justin/sgmusicfan has launched a blog chronicling his quest to collect Southern Gospel autographs. Along the way, he plans to offer other news and commentary.
  • Singing News has posted audio file submissions from the 4th Annual Songwriter’s Search.

Video of the Week

How often do you see an artist slip over to the mixing board and get to work mixing their next major-label release?

Yes, this is for real, and not a “just for TV” staged moment. (If it was staged, I would have surely done something about the awful lighting!)

Open Thread

Consider the comments section an open thread.

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