Summer has officially begun for me, and I’m excited! I have many plans, but writing more is certainly among them. I decided to kick it off by answering a request from some readers to review David Phelps’s new solo album, Freedom. I poked some fun at the album cover a couple weeks ago, but people wondered if I was actually going to comment on the music. So, for the first time in a long time, here’s my track by track take on the project. As you all know, I’m unfailingly honest in my reviews. So I’m anticipating that some Phelps Phans may read some of my feedback and get upset, even though I’m preparing to compliment many things about this album. Be it known, therefore, that I intend to monitor comments closely. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the music!
Everyone’s favorite hip retro southern gospel quartet is baaaaack with another CD/DVD, coming soon to a Christian bookstore near YOU (pre-order). This is me NOT commenting on the album cover’s color scheme! Spoiler: I couldn’t resist forever, but you’ll have to read the whole review to get to the part where my will breaks.
So… what are you waiting for?
The Old Paths Quartet may not be a household name even among fans of southern gospel music, but they have built a reputation as one of the most consistent groups in the industry. Last year, they garnered some well-deserved extra attention with their big ballad “Long Live the King.” With Stay, available today, they offer the same solid vocals their fans have come to expect, paired with new songs mostly penned by Dianne Wilkinson and Rebecca Peck. Click below the fold for my thoughts. Continue reading
L to R: Kristopher (age 18), Keith (age 22), Katie (age 14), Kody (age 20)
The Erwins are the latest signees of Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun’s Stowtown Records venture. Ranging in age from 14 to 22, this fresh-faced foursome has been making some waves in the southern gospel world of late. I will admit that when I first saw the brothers alone in a showcase slot at NQC a few years back, I thought they were fine, but they didn’t seem like wave-makers to me at the time. Well, with some time to polish their craft and with the addition of baby sis Katie, they are now turning more heads, including mine. Add some memorable new songs and the sure-handed production of Wayne Haun to the mix, and the Erwins are Ready to Sail.
From Southern Gospel’s most popular trio comes their first major release in several years. While this album isn’t available at digital outlets like Amazon or iTunes, the balance of original to cover material qualifies it as more than a table project. (Pick up your own copy at their website here.) It also offers listeners a first look at new baritone singer Paul Lancaster since long-time member Jim Brady took his leave. So without further ado, let’s see what I thought of it!
The Jim Brady Trio is one of the hottest new acts in southern gospel, and with good reason: Jim comes off a staggering twelve-year run with the Booth Brothers besides being a prolific songwriter for other groups, his wife Melissa is also a prolific writer and vocal coach, and Tim Parton is well-known for his tenure as Legacy Five’s pianist/producer. With so much experience and talent in one place, good things are bound to happen. The release of their debut album is especially poignant in the wake of Lari Goss’s death, since this was one of the last projects he worked on. Today marks its official drop date, and you can head over to iTunes for your own copy. But first, have a gander at what I thought of it. Continue reading
I started this series to showcase some of my favorite Christmas albums, but it fell off a couple years ago. Since I have some all-time faves that I didn’t even begin to get into, I’m going to revive it this year. (Feel free to catch up with the first five I wrote, which have been neatly sorted for your reading pleasure here.)
We’ll start with A Very Veggie Christmas. Yes, Bob, Larry and Co. are having a Christmas party. Unfortunately, Oscar the Polish caterer is inexplicably a no-show, so while they’re waiting, the Veggie crew puts on a Christmas production like nothing you’ve ever heard. The theme is Christmas Around the World. As Pa Grape describes it, “Kinda like Missionary Week. Without the food.”
This is definitely one of the most original Christmas projects I have, and I’m not joking when I say it’s one of my all-time favorites. It’s constructed as a running series of skits, interspersing the songs with off-the-wall banter and typical guest/party chatter, Veggie style. (“Larry, where’s the food?” “I dunno, shoulda been here by now.” “Bob, where’s the bathroom?” “Down the hall, first door on the left.”) Connecting tracks are literally labeled with titles like “Talking,” “More Talking,” and “Vegetables Talking to Sheep.” Like Pet Sounds or The White Album, this one has to be appreciated as a whole.
After signing a batch of family acts, it was natural for fast-growing StowTown Records to add a soloist to their already impressive roster. It’s probably safe to say that they picked out the most naturally gifted one in southern gospel: Taranda Greene. Her debut album Stronger plays like a triumphant personal testimony to the griefs she’s experienced and overcome after losing her husband, Tony. She lends her flexible voice to a wide variety of sounds here, with a heavier urban emphasis than one might expect from an SG record. (Translation: White girl got soul!) The result may sometimes veer into over-the-top theatrics, but it’s a solid, entertaining piece of work, arriving just in time to land on everyone’s “Best of 2014″ lists.
Out On a Limb is a wide-release re-packaging of Gaither Vocal Band tenor Wes Hampton’s former table project Reality. It is his second solo effort, following 2011’s A Man Like Me, which I first reviewed at Southern Gospel Journal here. Blending Wes’s fresh, confident vocals with a batch of new songs from CCM hit-maker Sam Mizell and friends, it’s sure to satisfy most die-hard Hampton fans. But will it satisfy fans of great music and songwriting? Does it satisfy me as a fan of all of the above? And does anyone else think the cover looks like someone dropped a Land’s End photo shoot in the middle of a Gustav Dore engraving?
The Akins are some of my favorite artists in southern gospel. Their freshness, natural musicianship and contagious enthusiasm always lift my spirits. However, their country-rock flair is a tad edgier than most fans of southern gospel may be used to, so they’ve been quietly flying under the radar for a while. However, their music definitely deserves a closer look. (Pssssst, hey Ernie/Stowtown…?) This table project finds them tackling some old standards with vim and vigor. The production credits are simple: recorded, sung, mixed, and mastered by the Akins. Lucas Vaughn is the only outside contributor, playing drums. The result sounds very organic and cohesive. Continue reading