NQC 2013, Day 5: Homecoming Sing-A-Long Showcase

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!

11:02 “When the Saints Go Marching in” featuring Three Bridges’  Shannon Smith on verse 1, Danny Riley sings out for verse 2. Les Beasley crossed the stage (marching in?). Matthew Holt and Stan Whitmire closed it out with a piano duet.

12:58 Bill Gaither says they are closing the set with Glorious Freedom. David Phelps steps forward. The Gaither Vocal Band was joined by Jim Brady, Wesley Pritchard, Gene McDonald, Tim Duncan, and Jason Clark.

12:52 “My Savior’s Love,” featuring Amber Nelon Thompson on the first verse and Charlotte Ritchie and Jason Clark on the second verse. David Phelps sang verse three. Bill Gaither had the crowd sing an encore.

12:47 Mark Lowry was joined by Becky Bowman and Charlotte Ritchie for “I Call Him Lord.” Bill Gaither led the choir in another chorus.

12:43 Wesley Pritchard, Libbi Stuffle, and Mark Lowry sang “What a Lovely Name.” When Libbi had a feature, the fellow singers cheered.

12:39 Sue Dodge sang “Tell Them When You Saw Me I Was On My Way.”

12:31 Willie Wynn, Woody Wright, Reggie Smith, and Gene McDonald sang “Jesus is Coming soon.” Sue Dodge joined for an encore.

12:25 Woody Wright steps back forward for “Back Home Again.” Charlotte Ritchie and Becky Bowman added harmony.

12:21 Charlotte Ritchie featured on “Down to the River to Pray.” Sonya Isaacs Yeary joined her later in the song. They concluded with an A Capella chorus.

12:16 A video clip of JD Sumner was played and led into Charlote Ritchie, Ann Downing, and Jeanne Johnson singing “I Know the Savior Heard My Prayer.”  They switched to an old homecoming video for a middle verse.

12:12 Bill Gaither described how he learned music by counting with his teeth–Mark Lowry & Kevin Williams provided commentary. Bill Gaither lead into telling about the Stamps-Baxter School of music.

12:09 Introduction of band by Kevin Williams and Bill Gaither. Kevin Williams is playing guitar, Greg Ritchie is on drums, and Matthew Holt was playing the piano. They called Stan Whitmire over to play a “I’ve Got That Old-Time Religion” in a “windshield-wiper style.”

12:02 “Heaven’s Jubilee” featured Keith Oxendine who sang with soul, and the singers rose to their feet! The song was encored…and encored again!

11:58 “When God Dips His Pen of Love in My Heart” featured Wes Hampton. The Martin sisters, Jeanne Johnson, and Charlotte Ritchie joined.

11:54 The Martins are featured on “Life is Like a Mountain Railway.”  TaRanda Greene came up for the second verse then Matthew Holt did a piano feature.

11:51 “After Awhile” featuring Ben Speer, Jeanne Johnson, Gene McDonald (Sue Dodge, Kelly Clark and Ann Downing stayed up for this song.)

11:48 “I’d Rather Have Jesus” featuring Becky Isaacs Bowman, Sue Dodge, Ann Downing, and Kelly Nelon Clark on the first verse. Mike Bowling stepped out on the second verse for a feature.

11:44 “There is a Fountain.” David Phelps stepped out for a feature on a verse and chorus. The feed started cutting out towards the end.

11:42 We see Libbi Stuffle made it!

11:38 A.M. Event kicks off with a stage full of singers singing “Just As I Am” and then “Jesus Paid It All” on which Woody Wright sang a verse.


Read More

Song Snapshots #18: Bless Your Holy Name Again (Lesters, Three Bridges)

Ben Storie spent ten years honing his songwriting skill while traveling in a Southern Gospel group with his wife before moving to Nashville to pursue songwriting professionally. After three years with little success, he decided to make a last-ditch effort, recording demos for about a dozen songs and passing them out at a National Quartet Convention one year.

“I gave it to anybody and everybody, including Daryl Williams,” he recalls. “I had met Daryl several years before, because my family’s group had done some of the same events as the Daryl Williams Trio.”

He continues: “I didn’t hear anything from anybody. That was my last-ditch effort; financially, we had to make some decisions, so we ended up moving back home, where we had come from, in Oklahoma.”

For the next six months, he kept submitting songs to different artists and publishers. One Tuesday, he got a polite no-thank-you letter. “I honestly don’t even remember exactly what happened,” he recalls, “but I just made the conscious decision that I would no longer pursue writing as a professional goal. It was one of those moments where I told my wife and the Lord, ‘I get it. This is not meant to be. I’m wasting a lot of time and resources and energy and this is not the direction You have for me.’ And I settled it in my soul.”

“I don’t know how to describe it,” he continues. “It wasn’t dramatic; it was just one of those moments where I made peace with it. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; I had walked away and laid it down. I knew that if I wrote again, it would be just purely for personal enjoyment.”

That Friday night, he got a call from Daryl Williams: “Ben, I’ve had a chance to listen to your music, and the stuff that you’re writing is already good enough to be published and for artists to be interested. You just need someone to connect you.”

Not only did Williams introduce him to Rick Shelton at Daywind Music Publishing, he also co-wrote eight to ten songs with Storie over the next several months. “He was just very, very gracious to mentor me and encourage me. What looked like the end of the road became the beginning of my songwriting story, professionally.”

One of the songs they wrote together was “Bless Your Holy Name Again.” “We set out to write a Southern Gospel praise and worship song,” he recalls,” something that would have a chorus that was very congregational in nature.”

“We wanted to communicate a praise and worship thought that a Southern Gospel artist and a Southern Gospel audience could identify with and want to sing,” he adds. “A lot of Southern Gospel artists want to have a point in their concerts where they invite audiences to join in singing a worship song together to the Lord. At that time, I think we were thinking that the Gaithers had the market cornered on congregational-type songs; we wanted to write one of those. It’s something that would still flow in a traditional worship service with a fresh melody and a fresh lyric.”

Three Bridges, the Lesters, and David McVay all ended up recorded the song; the Lesters used it as a concert opener. “It really is fun when you you write a song and it kind of takes on its own life and gets cut by several artists,” he concludes. “It is cool to hear through the grapevine that someone else has recorded this song and has breathed a new life in it.”


Read More

3:1 CD Review: Twelve (Three Bridges)

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

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

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

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

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

Traditional or Progressive: Soulful progressive.

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

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

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

Five-star songs: Forgive Myself.

Read More

3:1 DVD Review: A Country Campmeeting (Three Bridges)

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

1. “Satan and Grandma”: Since bringing on two former Imperials members, Elliot McCoy has had the vocal talent to bring the group name back to the forefront. He needed the song. This is that song. Tenor Jeremy Hudson turns in such a strong performance that even theological nitpickers will be willing to look past the line about Grandma getting her wings. With this song, Three Bridges is back.

2. Staging: On “Cooling Water,” Three Bridges sang around a classic quartet-style microphone. It’s not something you expect from a progressive group, yet it worked brilliantly.

3. Live Band: A four-piece live band added welcome energy to an already energetic vocal presentation. The drummer, bass guitarist, and electric guitarist appear to be the same as on Palmetto State Quartet’s companion video.

:1. One thing I would change: Choir outfits. The final four songs were filmed with a choir. Many of the ladies’ necklines were low enough to concern conservative viewers.

Traditional or Progressive: Rather progressive vocally; lean progressive musically.

Credits: Producer: Not credited on packaging. • Group members: None credited on packaging. • Review copy provided. • Song list: David; A Little Song Coming On; Cooling Water; Nothing Like the Presence; In the Valley; Satan & Grandma; In the Sky; Wait on that Mountain; I Just Feel Like Something Good is About to Happen; Amen; Great is Thy Faithfulness; I’m a Soldier (joined by guest vocalists Larry Strickland and an uncredited female vocalist).


Read More

CD Review: Another Blessing (Three Bridges)

Three Bridges released their debut album, Soldiers, in 2002. From 2002-2007, they recorded with Crossroads’ Sonlite Records. In 2007 or 2008, their lead and tenor singer left the group. (Former lead singer Mitchel Jon Kenitzer now is a solo artist with Crossroads.) Baritone Elliott McCoy assembled a new lineup with tenor Eddy Bolton and lead singer Scott Johnson, and Another Blessing was the group’s first release on Homeland Records.

During their Sonlite years, the group was known for a sound as much influenced by Black Gospel as by Southern Gospel, and the new lineup keeps this sound going with Another Blessing. A country influence is also noticeable on “When I Get Where I’m Going,” popularized by Brad Paisley and Dolly Parton, and a nod is made to folk / rock with the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody.” The album closes with a cover of Black Gospel artist Richard Smallwood’s “Journey’s End.”

Highlights include “Took His Breath Away,” a ballad penned by and featuring tenor Eddy Bolton, and “Just the Beginning for Me,” an Aaron Wilburn song also recently cut by the Dills.

This project should enable the new lineup of Three Bridges to pick up right where the previous lineup left off.

Rating: 3.5 stars (of 5). ♦ Average song rating: 2.6 stars. ♦ Group members: Eddy Bolton (tenor), Scott Johnson (lead), Elliott McCoy (baritone). ♦ Produced by: Rick Sandidge. ♦ Available from: Artist. Review copy provided. ♦ Song list: Step Back On the Rock; I Get To; Straiten It Out; Took His Breath Away; Another Blessing; Gotta Serve Somebody; I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About to Happen; Just The Beginning For Me; My Do Good God; There’s Nothing Like the Presence; When I Get Where I’m Going; Journey’s End.

Read More

Homeland signs Three Bridges

Homeland Entertainment Group announced yesterday that they had signed Three Bridges to a recording contract. [EDIT, 2/22/13: Broken link removed.]

This signifies a couple of things. First, obviously, Three Bridges is no longer with Crossroads. I hadn’t heard that, but then, I suppose there just aren’t press releases when a group’s contract with a label expires and is not renewed.

Second, this is the first major artist Homeland has signed, and, according to the press release, the first signed to their “top label” (i.e., Homeland itself).

What I don’t know, and don’t have the inside sources to ask, is what type of label Homeland is. Southern Gospel’s major labels (Daywind, Crossroads, Canaan) follow the practices of major labels outside of Southern Gospel and foot the bill for recording projects, making money back later through royalties. Southern Gospel also has what I’ll call “artist development” labels (Eddie Crook Co., Lamp Music), where the artist foots the bill for the project, but the label still has marketing and distribution infrastructure to get the project in the hands of buyers.

Some labels (and, though I don’t know for a fact, I suspect Song Garden may be on this list) have two separate branches, a mainline label and an artist development section. If Homeland is like this, I can’t help but wonder if names like RiverSong and HeartWarming will now be the artist development sections.

Anyhow, if Homeland is structured like an artist development label, this could be construed as a step down for Three Bridges; if not, it’s just a step over. And given that they’re Homeland’s only top label artist annouced to date, it could even be a step up in that Homeland can focus its promotional energies on them, rather than just being one entry in an all-star cast of groups that include the Talley Trio, the Kingdom Heirs, Ivan Parker, and the Dove Brothers.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. If Homeland follows this announcement with a couple of others in the coming months—perhaps several of the other groups who were looking for a label at NQC—this announcement could be the first step in a climb back to the top.

Read More

Three Bridges hits #1 on June chart

Three Bridges’ song “I Feel a Little Song Coming On” occupies the #1 position on Singing News’s June airplay chart, posted today. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link is broken and has been removed.] In contention for the #1 spot next month (besides Three Bridges, which must have amazing radio promoters to get where they are and could always turn in a repeat performance) are the Hoppers’ “He Erased it” at #2 and the Dove Brothers’ “I Can Pray” at #3. The Hoppers’ song moved three notches, up from #5 last month, while the Dove Brothers’ song moved a lot faster, from #14 to #3.

In this case, I’d like to see the Dove Brothers claim their first #1. In this case, it’s not just that I feel the Dove Brothers’ song is stronger; the Hoppers have spent twelve (non-consecutive) months holding the #1 spot on the Singing News chart with different songs, while the Dove Brothers have yet to see their first #1 hit.

Legacy Five’s “Strike Up the Band” and the Booth Brothers’ “Testify” both held even at their previous slots, #4 and #7 respectively.

Songs that made particularly noticeable gains include Brian Free & Assurance’s “It’s All About the Blood” (#11 to #6), the Perrys’ “He Forgot” (#34 to #15), the McKameys’ “You’re Still God” (#72 to #35), and two songs that I think could both (and ought to both) be headed for the #1 spot, Karen Peck and New River’s “Last Night” (entering the charts at #40) and the Mark Trammell Trio’s “Once Upon a Cross” (#73 to #42).

One bit of trivia, for those who care: Both the Dove Brothers and Stateline Quartet have songs on the radio right now called “I Can Pray.” I did a bit of research and found that they are two different songs; the Stateline Quartet’s is also a good song.

Read More