Song Snapshots #35: Red Letter Day

Sometimes even the strongest songs take a few years to find a home.

After Kenna Turner West wrote “Red Letter Day,” it took three years of pitching before it was recorded. “I believed in the song,” she recalls, “so I was willing to get a lot of no’s until I found a yes.”

One day, Roger Talley called her to put it on hold for The Talleys, along with a song called “That’s Why I Believe.” The very next day, two other major artists called and asked to place the same two songs on hold! But, of course, the hold had already been granted to The Talleys, who ended up recording both songs. “It took years for ‘Red Letter Day’ to find the right artist and the right project,” she said, “which is why I always tell songwriters who are pitching their own material to never give up on a song. If you believe in it, keep sending it. Eventually, it’ll find its way to the place that it’s supposed to be. There are songs I’ve pitched for years and keep at it because I believe in what they say.”

Red Letter Day is a happy, upbeat song. “But if you knew where the song came from,” she shares, “you might see it differently.” One summer morning, she was on her way home from dropping off her then-nine year old son at Vacation Bible School. He had already undergone four eye surgeries, and the fifth was scheduled for the following day. Her heart was broken for him. “I just remember driving up the hill by our home with the sun’s glare on my windshield, saying to myself, ‘Come whatever, it can only get better,’ which became part of the chorus.”

“It’s crazy, but it’s on my hardest days that I write my favorite ‘happy’ songs because I am speaking hope to my own heart,” she adds. “Regardless of what is going on in my life, God’s still good, He’s still on the throne, and He’s still holding all things together by the power of His Word. That’s what ‘Red Letter Day’ reminds me.”

When she hears the song today, she still remembers that day. “When I hear ‘Red Letter Day,’ I remember how badly I needed the Lord to help get me through that day, so for me, it’s not just a ‘sunny’ song but a declaration of faith. I literally put both feet on the floor that morning, determined to walk that day out with joy, even though my heart was breaking. That’s where that song came from.”

Watch on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuVy0QZKDY8

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Friday News Roundup #218

Worth Knowing

  • Longtime Diplomats bass singer Joe Brown has returned to the group.
  • Blackwood Quartet member David Mann is coming off the road due to voice issues. In an open letter, he commented: “My windpipe was full of mold that, I later found out, I had been breathing in from a mold infested vehicle. This problem had collapsed a portion of my airways, and prevented me from using more than 1/3 of my lung capacity.” On doctor’s advice, he has decided to pursue non-musical lines of work, at least for the next several years.
  • Roger Talley entertained the audience at a recent Talleys concert in Norway by coming on stage dressed in the costume of their Olympic curling team.

Worth Reading

On Monday’s “Creating Trends” post, Pat Barker posted insightful thoughts on the relative merits of gimmicks and the songs to back them up:

I was told by one of my managers in the early days of me traveling that most Gospel music fans were also wrestling fans. In those days I was still trying to be “High Church” in my presentation because that is how I was taught. The problem was that it wasn’t getting past the first row. His point was that most of the fans want a gimmick. They want something they can identify with every time they see you. That is true.

The dilemma is presenting the gimmick with class so it doesn’t come off as hokey or “local group” for lack of a better term. A gimmick can be anything from an old man to two microphones. It can also be a white flag or a passionate piano player. There has to be something that brings the people to the concert night after night.

Here, in my opinion, is where many groups miss the boat. YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE SONGS TO BACK UP THE GIMMICK! Glen was always the old man, but they didn’t have their greatest success till We Shall See Jesus. Brian Free was always precious, but Midnight Cry was their launching pad. Gerald has always made fun of Rodney, but Lazarus, to this day, has to be sung night after night. Thank God that at the end of the day, whether you like wrestling or not, It’s all about the song. That’s the way it should be and I hope that’s the way it always will be.

Worth Watching

One bass singer, Legacy Five’s Matt Fouch, interviews another, the Mark Trammell Quartet’s Pat Barker:

Also of note: Reality TV stars The Duggar Family attended a recent Collingsworth Family concert. They invited the Collingsworth Family over after the concert, and filmed and posted a video of the Collingsworth Family singing “God Bless America” a cappella in the Duggar’s living room:

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2013 in Review: Southern Gospel’s Biggest News Stories

Site Statistics

In 2013, SouthernGospelBlog.com reached a significant milestone: It was our first year with more than 1 million unique visits (1,070,730). We’ve come close several previous years, but this was our first to actually pass that mark. Thank you for reading! For anyone interested, here a report with other interesting site statistics.

Top Posts of 2013

The top posts of 2013 included several from previous years, and several that were not news stories.

  1. Michael English and Mark Lowry to Leave the Gaither Vocal Band (October 29, 2013; 13,509 views)
  2. Updates on Tracy Stuffle [Update 5] (May 21, 2013; 8,982 views)
  3. Tim Duncan Joins Canton Junction (October 7, 2011; 5,886 views during 2013)
  4. Joseph Habedank Leaves The Perrys (May 22, 2013; 4,619 views)
  5. Tim Duncan leaves Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; Ian Owens Joins (January 19, 2011; 4,609 views during 2013)
  6. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (April 25, 2013; 4,461 views)
  7. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (January 18, 2013; 4,380 views)
  8. An Interview with Tim Duncan (October 27, 2011; 4,302 views during 2013)
  9. Tracy Stuffle Suffers Stroke [Update 1] (January 22, 2013; 4,004 views)
  10. Gaither Vocal Band to perform 2014 tour with Phelps/Hampton/English/Gaither Lineup (October 24, 2013; 3,606 views)

Due to the mixture of posts and topics, this list doesn’t really answer the question of what were the year’s top stories.

Top News Stories of 2013

The two biggest stories of 2013 unfolded over multiple days and were covered in multiple posts. To determine the top stories, we combined the view counts on all posts in the unfolding story.

  1. Tracy Stuffle’s stroke (1 2 3 4 5) (18,653 total views)
  2. Michael English and Mark Lowry leave the Gaither Vocal Band (1 2) (17,115 total views)
  3. Joseph Habedank leaves The Perrys (4,619 views)
  4. Where is Glenn Dustin Now? (4,461 views)
  5. National Quartet Convention posts 2013 Schedule (4,380 views)
  6. Mike Holcomb Leaves The Inspirations (2,407 views)
  7. Dan Keeton Leaves Gold City (2,189 views)
  8. Shane McConnell Joins Canton Junction (2,157 views)
  9. David Ragan leaves The Inspirations (1,959 views)
  10. Debra Talley injured in fall (1,825 views)

Incidentally, these view counts do not count readers reading the post on the home page, via RSS, or via email. So they don’t measure a story’s full reach; however, home page, RSS, and email views stay steady enough that the numbers provide a valid apples-to-apples comparison, even if the numbers are similarly incomplete for each post.

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Saturday News Roundup #202

Worth Knowing

Worth Watching

Here’s Wes Hampton singing a song introduced by Travis Cottrell, “Jesus Saves”:

Also worth watching: On The Couch with Fouch: Matt Fouch interviews Scott Fowler.

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday–you decide!

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NQC 2013, Day 6: Live Blog

If you’re at NQC in person or watching on the live webcast, jump in and join the discussion in the comments area!

Highlights

In reverse chronological order:

  • “Till We Meet Again,” Legacy Five. It was fitting that the final full set at NQC was by the group that came directly out of the Cathedrals at their retirement.
  • “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary,” The Collingsworth Family. There aren’t many singers or songs that could follow the emotional moment Freedom Hall just experienced. Perhaps the Collingsworth Family themselves, as good as they are, would have struggled prior to starting to sing this song earlier this year. But the song and the moment came together!
  • Freedom Hall came unglued again at the end of the Perrys set. There was an emotional and prolonged standing ovation for Libbi Perry Stuffle as she walked off stage. It’s one of the longest I’ve heard in convention history. Then, Libbi held up a cell phone with Tracy Stuffle on FaceTime, watching live; when the camera picked up Tracy live, there certainly could not have been a dry eye in the house.
  • During the Perrys’ set, the video crew played a video greeting from Tracy Stuffle, thanking everyone for their prayers. He closed with, “I’ll see you next year in Pigeon Forge. I love you!” At that, Freedom Hall came unglued.
  • The Mark Trammell Quartet’s entire set was perfectly paced. This time, it wasn’t a song that stood out—it was Mark Trammell’s classy and elegant introduction to “Too Much to Gain To Lose.”
  • “Movin’ Up to Gloryland,” The Voices of Lee. Verse one was performed like you’ve never heard it before; a young African-American man delivered the solo as a slow, jazzy, spectacular high tenor solo. The tempo kicked into the familiar high gear for the chorus and second verse. Another young man (this one Caucasian) did verse 2 as a bass solo. After a medley segment with “Just Over in the Gloryland,” the young man from verse 1 nailed the classic “Mo-ooo-ooo-vin” tenor feature on the final chorus. This young man, who was also featured on the following song, has a tremendous vocal talent and on-stage charisma. It would be an unexpected move, but it sure would be nice if one of the genre’s leading quartets hired him on board as their tenor after he graduates college.
  • The Kingdom Heirs’ set was strong beginning-to-end, with three recent #1 hits and the strongest slow song on their latest CD. They ended with all cylinders firing—the sort of ending that the Kingsmen loved to pull off when their live band was at its very finest.
  • After The Talleys’ set, Roger Talley stayed at the piano as Michael English walked on stage, singing “Going Home.” Dean and Kim Hopper walked on stage for chorus harmonies. After verse and chorus 1, Michael talked about losing his father three weeks ago, and how much the song meant to him at that point. He then sang verse two, going through the roof on the verse ending. 
  • The Talleys’ entire set. After one song with tracks, Roger Talley went to the piano for the next three. The piano-and-vocals-only portion of the set was a welcome change of pace from the rest of the evening. The high point of the night was “The Broken Ones,” The Talleys. Lauren Talley introduced it with an incredibly moving story a fan told her this week of how the fan shared it with a girl in an abusive situation, and how that girl learned the song and even sang it for her church.
  • “All is Well,” The Whisnants; Melissa shared how, about the same time the Whisnants recorded it, both her parents were diagnosed with cancer. The song came full circle, as the Whisnants’ version ministered to her. (Thanks be to God, both her parents beat cancer.) Melissa sang the song with them.
  • The Taylors’ set was strong beginning to end. It takes no small level of vocal confidence to attempt a complicated acapella arrangement to kick off an NQC set, and no small level of vocal talent to pull it off.

Live Play-by-Play

11:38: Dean Hopper closes by saying: “We love you very much. All these artists love you very much. Keep us in your prayers. See you at Pigeon Forge in 2014!” And with that, the Louisville era of the National Quartet Convention is in the history books.

11:08: The Finale begins with The Talleys singing “Testify.” Song 2: The Mark Trammell Quartet, “I Want To Know.” Song 3: The Perrys, “I Wish I Could Have Been There,” with Libbi FaceTiming Tracy as she sang. Guests, including Jeff Chapman, joined in by the end. Song 4: The Kingdom Heirs change up the pace completely with a piano-and-vocals rendition of “How Great Thou Art,” featuring Arthur Rice doing his signature hold-a-note-forever ending to the final verse. Song 5: “Show a Little Bit of Love and Kindness,” Collingsworth Family. Final song: “Statement of Faith” (Hoppers, Greater Vision, Booth Brothers, Legacy Five).

10:50: Legacy Five begins their set with “He Loves Me So.” It’s a good choice; after the emotional high point we’re still on after the Perrys moment and the Collingsworths’ solid set, most songs would have been jarringly out of place. That one fit. Song 2: “Ask Me Why.” Song 3: Scott Fowler shares memories; he was on the main stage (with the Cathedrals and then Legacy Five) at every single Louisville NQC. He uses those memories to introduce “Till We Meet Again.” Song 4: “Boundless Love.” And Michael Booth is on drums, which means things are about to get really good. (Let’s revise that. They were already really good. They’re about to get better.) They did.

10:50: We’re fourteen minutes behind schedule at this point, but given the sort of unforgettable moments that led to the delay, I doubt anyone minds.

10:29: The Collingsworth Family begins their set with “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary.” See the highlights section! Song 2: “The Lord’s Prayer,” featuring Phil Jr. It was wise to do another piano-and-vocals song, I think, before bringing the energy level back up. Song 3: “At Calvary.” Another standing ovation! Song 4: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” A Kim Collingsworth piano solo was listed in the schedule for the start of the set. But it just didn’t make sense to put it there, so it was moved to this slot. Song 5: “Hallelujah Chorus,” a piano solo; part of a medley with the previous song.

10:06: The Perrys start their set with “If You Knew Him.” This is their first time to stage at NQC after Joseph Habedank’s departure. Well, they pulled it off to a standing ovation! Song 2: “I Know It Was The Blood.” Song 3: “Celebrate Me Home.” Libbi Perry Stuffle nails her feature, as always. Then, there’s a video clip from Tracy Stuffle, thanking everyone for their prayers, and closing with “I’ll see you next year in Pigeon Forge. I love you!” That video clip got a standing ovation! Song 4: “This Old Sinner Testifies.” Leah Page, who has been filling on alto all year, came up for the final chorus. There is an emotional and prolonged standing ovation for Libbi as she walks off stage. See the highlights section!

9:48: The Mark Trammell Quartet begins their set with “How Long Has It Been.” Song 2: “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.” Song 3: “Way Past Ready.” Song 4: After some heartfelt testimony and recollections, song 4 is “Too Much to Gain To Lose.”

9:47: Clarke Beasley pays a heartfelt tribute to NQC’s twenty-year run in Louisville, mentioning some of the greatest moments in Convention history.

9:21: The Voices of Lee start their a cappella set with “The Old Rugged Cross.” A young African-American man offered an excellent solo on the final verse. Song 2: “Movin’ Up To Gloryland”; see the highlights section! The choir director shared that the young man who sang the first verse lost his sister to brain cancer recently, introducing him on another song, the Chris Tomlin top 5 CCM radio hit “I Will Rise.” He did an excellent job on both.

9:16: Showcase winners: The Stevens Family, singing “Unclouded Day.”

8:59: The Kingdom Heirs begin their set with “Tell Me Why.” Song 2: A second #1 hit, “Just Preach Jesus.” Song 3: “That’s When I’ll Know I’m Home,” one of the strongest songs from their current CD. Song 4: They close with their current #1 hit, “Just Beyond the Sunset.” Watch for a big ending! Afterwards: The video cutaway to Josh Singletary absolutely beside himself in excitement at the power ending was really neat.

8:58: Clarke Beasley came on stage and noted that attendees of the 2012 NQC reserved 2,600 hotel rooms that week for NQC 2013. He said it would interest anyone wondering if the move would be a flop to hear that, this year, over 5,000 rooms were reserved for NQC 2014!

8:52: See the highlights section!

8:35: The Talleys begin their set with “The Promise.” Song 2: Debra Talley sings her signature song, “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Home.” Roger Talley went over to the piano for this one; it’s a simple piano-and-vocals-only rendition that’s a welcome change of pace. In fact, it’s been two hours since the last piano-and-vocals-only song (and I’m not even really sure if we should count that one, since it was Susan Whisnant singing “Happy Birthday” to her son!) Song 3: “The Broken Ones.” (See Highlights section.) Song 4: “Orphans of God,” performed as a medley with “The Broken Ones.”

8:31: A video is played of highlights from the week. At this point, it looks like we’re now seven minutes behind. (A video clip from a past NQC, scheduled for 8:06, was bumped to bring us closer.)

8:17: The Down East Boys start their set with a medium fast song, “Every Word in The Word.” Lead singer/manager Ricky Carden has the solo. Song 2: “I’ve Got That Old Time Religion.” Song 3: Tenor Tony Jarman is featured on a strong slow song, “I Won’t Trade My Crown.” Song 4: “Waiting For The Day.”

8:02: The Crist Family begins their segment with “Where it All Comes From,” from their CD that (officially) releases next Tuesday. Song 2: Their new radio single, “The Closer I Get To The Cross.” Song 3: “Great Beyond,” from their debut recording. Song 4: The Crist Family closes strong with “Lift Up The Cross.”

7:57: An ad for TBN. We’re now twelve minutes behind schedule.

7:53: Showcase winner: High Road III. This isn’t the first time they’ve been on the main stage; I seem to think they’ve been a showcase winner before, and they also provided instrumentation for the Grassroots Rambos set a year or two back. They’ve never disappointed, either.

7:34: Tribute Quartet takes the stage, starting with their signature song, “Good News From Jerusalem.” If this is the start, then they surely must have something pretty incredible planned for the ending! Song 2: They do their version of Greater Vision’s classic “God Wants To Hear You Sing”—but as an Anthony Davis bass solo instead of Greater Vision’s tenor solo. Song 3: “Outside the Gate.” They went into the audience for an a cappella encore. It was quite the challenge for the camera crew (filming in the dark) and the audio crew (avoiding feedback), but it was effective for the audience.

7:17: The Kingsmen start their set with “Meet Me At The Table.” Les Butler is making a guest appearance on piano. Song 2: “I Will Rise Up From My Grave.” Song 3: “Land of the Free.” Song 4: “Stand Up”; an energetic ending.

6:57: The Primitive Quartet starts with “You’ve Been So Gracious To Me.” Song 2: “God Can.” Song 3: “I’ll Be Waiting At The River For You.” Song 4: “I Wonder What They’re Doing In Heaven Today.” Song 5: They close strong with “No Longer an Orphan,” quite possibly their most-beloved song.

6:51: Penny Loafers sing “Ain’t Got Time to Die” (? on title). The Primitive Quartet evidently isn’t set up yet, so Dean Hopper asked for a second song, “That’s When the Angels Rejoice.” At this point, we’re about seven minutes behind schedule.

6:35: The Whisnants begin their segment with “I’m In The Gloryland Way.” Song 2: It’s Ethan Whisnant’s 16th birthday today; he stands as Susan sings “Happy Birthday” to him. Song 3: The Whisnants bring up Melissa Brady to sing “All Is Well” with them. (See the highlights section!) Song 4: “New Day Dawning.” Encore: Melissa Brady, Kim Hopper, and Jim Brady join on stage. The audience is on their feet!

6:33: Several minutes of recording audience applause for later editing. This always a fun segment.

6:14: The Taylors begin their set with “I Can Call on Jesus Anytime / Operator,” performed acapella. There were some microphone feedback issues; they worked past those flawlessly, like the true professionals they are. Song 2: “Oh, I Want to See Him.” The Taylors are performing a very strong set. Song 3: “I’m Gonna Make It.”

6:09: The Browns had another instrumental feature; they performed “I Sing the Mighty Power/Canon in D” with three fiddles. They have had a number of instrumental features this week in addition to their mainstage headliner slots, and I believe they have performed this in three or four of them. In past years, the instrumental showcase slots were spread between a half-dozen players, most of them pianists. Most of those slots were given to the Browns this year; perhaps it is because fewer groups carry a pianist than in past years?

5:57: 11th Hour starts their set with “Steppin’ Out.” Song 2: Outgoing soprano Candice Jordan, who recently announced her upcoming departure from the group, sings the solo on the group’s biggest song so far, “Room With a View.” Song 3: “Adam’s Fall,” featuring alto Amber Eppinnette. This was a professional, nicely-paced set; the group acquitted themselves well for their first headliner (i.e. non-showcase-winner) appearance on the mainstage.

5:55: Dean and Kim Hopper will host this evening.

5:51: Dean Hopper leads an audience singalong, with Gerald Wolfe on piano.

5:46: Greater Vision sings “My Name is Lazarus.”

5:39: Tim Lovelace talks with audience members via the fan cam.

5:37: Showcase winner: The Erwins are singing a song you may have heard the Kingdom Heirs do twenty years ago, “That Very Moment.” There are three brothers and a sister; the sister, who is the youngest, isn’t merely good for her age; she’s good, period, and exceptional for her age. Tim Lovelace talked with her after the song and found out that she was twelve.

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NQC 2013, Day 4: Live Blog

Highlight of the Night

The Perrys’ set was one of the strongest sets of the week. They started with “Blue Skies Coming,” a song with an incredibly timely message given their struggles over the last eight months (as bass singer Tracy Stuffle recovers from a January stroke and five cerebral hemorrhages since.) Things got even better with another song appropriate for this trial, “Through the Night.” I was prepared to note that song as one of the highlights of the night, but the Perrys were just getting started.

Libbi told David Ragan and Bryan Walker that she was going to throw them a curveball and change up the program. She spent the time frame that would normally have gotten allotted to song three testifying to God’s faithfulness during these last eight months. She then talked about how the two most important things in our lives are God and our families, and offered a sharp rebuke to people who put expensive cars, houses, and boats at higher priorities. It was a passionate and timely reminder.

Libbi said that as she was leaving Tracy’s side this morning for the drive up to Louisville, she told him that they would use FaceTime to show him their set live. She asked if there was a song he wanted them to sing. He asked them to sing his all-time favorite song, “I Rest My Case At The Cross.” They did, and Louisville came unglued.

These are the sort of moments that capture the essence of the National Quartet Convention, the moments that make it feel more like a family reunion than just a big concert or a trade show.

Other highlights

In chronological order:

  • Southern Raised was one of the best performers in today’s showcases. Their rendition of “Angels, Swing a Little Lower” was incredible, both instrumentally and vocally.
  • “I’m Winging My Way Back Home,” Dixie Echoes, featuring Andrew and Alex Utech. Andrew was singing lead; Alex was singing bass. The audience responded with an enthusiastic ovation.
  • “He Ain’t Never Done Me Nothin’ But Good,” The Isaacs. 
  • “He’s Alive,” The Talleys. (The whole Talleys set was strong.)
  • “Grace Will Always Be Greater Than Sin,” The Hoppers.
  • Triumphant Quartet had an all-around solid set, with moments of heartfelt testimony, humor, and no-holds-barred big endings.
  • “We Believe,” Booth Brothers—both the song and how Michael Booth used humor and serious exhortation to introduce it.
  • “Tradin’ The Old Cross,” Booth Brothers. The Collingsworth Family, who also recorded the song, came up on the encore. Great energy late in the night!
  • “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” The Collingsworth Family. An acapella highlight!
  • “Oh, Holy Night,” Kim Collingsworth piano solo.
  • “Hope Has Hands (Grace Has a Face),” Greater Vision. Subtle brilliance; a highlight of the Christmas section.

Play-by-play highlights

We’ve hidden the complete play-by-play from the home page for space considerations; click “read more” or on the post’s title to read the detailed coverage.

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NQC 2013, Day 2: Live Blog

Are you watching in person or online? Jump in; join the discussion and share your thoughts in the comments section!

Highlights

In no particular order.

  • The webcast quality was greatly improved from last night. There was only one point where there were any significant interruptions—though, sadly, it was…
  • The Cathedral Family Reunion appearance—Danny Funderburk, Ernie Haase, Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, and Scott Fowler, joined by guest bass Paul Harkey—singing their new radio single, “We’ll Work.” I could only catch a few seconds here and a few seconds there, but it was enough to confirm that it was one of the evening’s highlights.
  • Even though Legacy Five’s set had the somewhat odd pacing of three bass solo songs to open, it showcased Matt Fouch’s growth into his role as a Legacy Five-style bass singer within the past year.
  • I was prepared to describe the Kingdom Heirs set much like I described one or two sets from yesterday: Solidly paced, and so great as a whole that it deserved mention here, even though there wasn’t one song that stood head and shoulders over the rest. But then they closed with their current #1 hit, “Just Beyond the Sunset.” They gave it the all-our barn-burner treatment that they’ve given to previous favorites, “He Locked the Gates” and “I Know I’m Going There.” 

Highlights of their respective sets include: “Homecoming Day” (Tribute Quartet), “Searchin'” (The Talleys with Jason Crabb), “When He Spoke” (The Perrys), “That’s What The Blood is For” (Jason Crabb), “Calvary Conquers It All” (Gold City), “Goodbye World Goodbye” (Penny Loafers), “When We Meet to Part No More” (Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver), “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More” (Inspirations), “Reason Enough” (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound), “What Remains of Me” (Dixie Melody Boys with The Isaacs), “Hold On” (The McKameys), “Four Days Late” (Karen Peck and New River), “I’ll Trust The Potter’s Hand” (The Whisnants)

Live Play-By-Play

Click “Read More” to read the live blog; it is hidden from the home page for space considerations.

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Debra Talley injured; R.C. Talley passes away

As multiple online sources have reported, Roger and Kirk Talley’s father R.C. “Red” Talley passed away this afternoon. He had been ill for some time. He was preceded in death by his wife, Connie Talley, in 2010. The visitation and funeral will be on Monday.

It’s never a good time for a parent to pass away, but some are decidedly worse than others. Debra Talley is currently in a Nashville hospital with a concussion. Her chair fell off the back row of the stage at yesterday’s Gaither Homecoming video recording.

Please keep the Talleys in your prayers!

UPDATE (5/23): Debra has been released from the hospital and is on the mend.

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Song Snapshots #15: Applause (The Talley Trio)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

Ideas for songs often come from decidedly unusual places, and the inspiration for “Applause” is no exception. Of all things, it was inspired by Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

It’s a show that songwriter Ben Storie enjoys watching. He particularly loves the moment, toward the end of each show, when a bus sitting between the family and their house is moved, and they are shown their remodeled house. “I think at some time in our lives,” Storie shares, “everybody should have a crowd cheering and encouraging and responding to you like those families did. I love the idea of these families who’ve been through so much pain being received by this crowd. It actually kind of makes me choke up.”

He pivots to apply the emotion of the moment to Heaven: “I think that if I had a concept of Heaven, what it’s like when we finally finish this journey, with this great cloud of witnesses that are receiving us into God’s presence—it’s not this quiet, hushed, somber thing! It’s this celebration, this pandemonium breaks out that another child has made it home! I just wanted to write a song about that moment.”

He wrote a chorus and several versions of verses, but he didn’t think any of the verses were as strong as they needed to be. So he approached another songwriter, Lee Black, with the idea. “I had met him at a writers retreat. I had never written with him, but I was a fan of his writing style and his talent, so I asked if he would work with me on it.”

Black recalls meeting Storie at a songwriter’s retreat. “We had nametags,” he recalls. “We would drop them in a box and draw out one or two names for a co-write. I met Ben there; our names never ended up getting drawn out of the hat, but I got to know him there, and at the end of the day, we would kind of get together and just share the songs that we had written. I remember thinking, ‘Man, that guy’s a really good writer; I’d love to write with him.’ So we stayed in touch from there.”

“Applause” was the first time they wrote together. They didn’t finish it at once; they worked on the verses over several sessions. They wrote most of the lyric over the phone, and met at Daywind one night to work on the melody. “Together, we molded the verses into what they are now,” Storie recalls, “and then he helped me make the melody pop a bit more than what it had when I was working on it solo.

Black lived in Alabama at the time. He took the song back home and recorded a demo at his home piano; that was the version that got pitched to the Talleys. The Talleys recorded it on their final album as a trio, Stories and Songs, and even selected it as a radio single. It hit its peak at #2, staying at that position for two months (on the August and September 2011 Singing News radio charts).

The first verse of a song speaks of a missionary’s sacrifices. Storie recalls that it was inspired by Lottie Moon, “a missionary that I’ve heard about all my life.”

The second verse takes an unexpected turn, speaking of the faithfulness of a husband and father who lived a very ordinary life. “I liked the idea of taking it in a slightly different turn,” Storie recalls. “Some of us will be vocational ministers and do the obvious things. But I do think that we’re going to be really surprised when we finally get into eternity and see that there were a lot of things that mattered that we didn’t value like we should have, or that we didn’t notice. I think those folks are going to be just as valued, and maybe more so in some places. Plus, I didn’t want to make it this grand thing that you’ve got to be a missionary to be received joyfully into God’s Kingdom.”

Black adds, “We wanted to start with the obvious one, but then say, ‘You know what, serve the Lord where you are, even if you’re not a missionary in Africa. Serve the Lord well by running the grocery store or working at the post office or being a nurse or fireman. Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord and honor Him in that.’ We wanted to approach it in that way.”

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Song Snapshots #11: Every Scar (The Talleys, Darin & Brooke Aldridge)

Song Snapshots is a column featuring the stories behind new and classic Southern Gospel songs.

One day, Gina Boe’s daughter asked her about a scar on her hand or her arm. When Gina told her daughter the story, she commented, “Oh, every scar has a story to tell.” It occurred to her that the line would make a good song, so she wrote it down.

One day, Boe, Jerry Salley, and Lee Black were writing at Brentwood-Benson. She mentioned the line, and they all started talking about it. They started off with the intent of shaping the thought into a country song. But, as Lee Black recalls, “The more we got into it, we thought, this just cries to go to a second verse about Jesus.”

Black recalls that it took them several writing sessions to finish the song. “We really put a whole lot of thought into every one of those lines, both verses and the choruses, and I think it took us two or three sessions to finally settle on everything. We tried to take our time and make sure that we really, really get this right.”

The song references a number of stories of how the narrator picked up different scars. Many of these, Black recalls, were drawn from real life. One day, Black’s brother and cousin were fishing; his cousin got a lure stuck in his head. This inspired the lyric “I got this one one summer / on the bank of Salt Creek / brother thought he’d caught a big one / but it was just me.”

Halfway through the second verse, the lyric pivots to talking about Jesus’ scars. Black, Salley, and Boe were particularly cautious not to fall into the realm of hackneyed clichés. “We’ve all heard scar songs before. I think that if you hear this song in a church setting, you know that the second verse is going to be about Jesus. But we were trying to write in a way that, even if you hear it in a church setting, by the time it gets to that line, it’s still going to catch you off guard. Even though you know it’s going to that place, we tried to write it in a way that it’s still going to get you in the heart.”

Even though the song has only been out for slightly over a year, it has already been recorded three times. Darin & Brooke Aldridge introduced the song on their August 2011 release So Much In Between. The couple, known as the “Sweethearts of Bluegrass,” had an inside track to land the song; the album was produced by co-writer Jerry Salley. Their rendition charted on the Singing News Bluegrass Gospel charts, and also charted for several months on their Top 80 Southern Gospel charts.

Just a few months later, the Talleys picked up the song; they offered a straight-ahead Southern Gospel version, featuring baritone singer Roger Talley, on their May 2012 release Love Won.

This fall, Dailey & Vincent bass singer Christian Davis recorded a Christian Country album, and offered a country rendition of the song.

Black is delighted to see the success the song has found on stages beyond church platforms: “I still think it’s the kind of song that could resonate with the crowds who might not hear it on church on Sunday, and still be a great message to them.”

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