When I first started the blog, I promised a series in which I looked at some key moments in my discovery of southern gospel music. After providing my first entry on Wes Hampton’s duet of “It is Well” with Steve Green, I promptly left the series hanging and gave you no more installments. With my semester wrapped up, I’m going to (try to!) make up for that in the coming weeks. Here then, for your enjoyment, is part two of my stroll down southern gospel memory lane.
The little-known song “A Place Called Hope” was an important stepping-stone for me when I very first discovered gospel music. I first ran across it because I watched this popular Singing Success ad with Wes Hampton, and when they ran a clip of the climax from this song, I went ballistic. For some reason, the lyrics weren’t posted anywhere online, so I was crestfallen when I couldn’t find the name of the song or a full version.
So instead I began watching other songs from the Give it Away project, and interestingly they didn’t all click with me right away. I remember coming to really like a lot of them in time, but initially the individual vocals in particular didn’t reach out and grab me. However, the blend that was created when all four voices came together intrigued me. It wasn’t like I had never heard a southern gospel quartet before—I sometimes listened to a radio station that featured inspirational and gospel singing. But I hadn’t seen and heard one quite like this:
When I finally found the song in full on Youtube, I was very pleased. The combined power of the melody, the lyrics, and the delivery on the chorus captured everything I was coming to like about southern gospel music. In particular, the explosive climax made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, partly because it comes so unexpectedly in the song. Wes’s high power tag impressed me very much. But curiously, the voice that most pleased me in this song was Guy Penrod. In some notes I made at the time about the group, I said that Wes and especially Marshall were still growing on me, but Guy had a “nice, clear voice” that just immediately felt like a comfortable shoe. My readers might find this amusing since Guy is really most famous for belting out power tunes, but remember that all these songs and voices were completely new to me at the time. More on Guy later.
Most of all though, it was the song. Admittedly, it takes a little while to “kick into gear,” but it stirred something inside me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I’m actually a bit surprised that it never had much circulation and seems to have been forgotten.
Conclusion: Never underestimate the power of a good, strong ballad. When delivered with power and conviction, it will tap into the emotion of even a non-SG listener. It does things a toe-tapper just can’t do.