Crowds are thickening and things are getting more fun! Here’s tonight’s installment. Continue reading
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I originally wrote this post when Michael Buble came out with his new Christmas album. It had been brewing for a while, but I kept forgetting to write it. Then when I started to see people talking and tweeting about the new project, it reminded me of him, so I wrote it. Then I forgot about him again and this post got forgotten in the process. I’m posting it now for no particular reason, except the fear that I might forget… again.
Basically, here’s my question: What’s all the fuss about with this guy? For those of you who may not know, he’s a crooning swing-pop sensation who sings “throwback jazz” in the style of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. And he appears to have quite a few fans within Southern Gospel. In fact, I don’t keep up with the secular music scene, so that was how I first heard about him. And it was all rave reviews. So I thought I would check him out.
My conclusion was that he has some nice chops. But let’s just say his personality and ideas of comedy leave a lot to be desired.
I’ve browsed through numerous concert reviews from all different venues where people have consistently described his jokes as “R-rated.” On several different occasions, he’s even singled out small kids in the audience in some way (pointing them out, getting a picture with them, etc.) and then turned right around and done “the finger” or dropped the f-bomb. He also jokes about the fact that people think he’s gay, sometimes saying that even though he isn’t, he would be “very proud of it” if he was. And all that is just the tip of the iceberg. I should add that this kind of behavior has been noted even by people who are giving him positive reviews—they seem to think it’s funny.
There’s another thing I know some people might be able to brush away, but I think it’s worth mentioning as well. Granted his music and music videos may be tame by certain standards, but the vid for the song “Haven’t Met You Yet” features Michael lounging around with some cute chick on a bed in the middle of a grocery store. Fully clad, but still. I’d feel weird if my 10-year-old put it up for her Facebook status (which a 10-year-old I know of actually did).
However, whatever your opinion may be on that, I think a lot of his Christian fans who’ve never been to a concert of his (or who’ve caught him on a good night, as one gospel singer did) may simply be unaware of the kind of show he consistently delivers. The consensus: NOT a family-appropriate one. And I don’t know about you, but that really lowers my respect for him and makes me disinclined to listen to his music, even if I think he has some talent. It just makes me appreciate performers who have real class all the more.
Now let me clarify something before going further: I’m not against listening to secular artists. My ipod is loaded with them. Sure, Billy Joel isn’t exactly a model of morality. But he’s not aiming for the demographic Michael Buble is aiming for. And I can’t appreciate the kind of artist who markets himself to a wide age range, attracts families with children to his concerts, and then proceeds to frat-boy his way around the stage with no regard for that demographic whatsoever. If you’re going to be crude and obscene, at least don’t pretend to be the classy, family-friendly type in the image you project to the market.
And you know, the sad thing is that I can see why he’s popular. I can see why a lot of people like his music, and the reason is that his style hearkens back to a more innocent time. It’s different from the junky hip-hop and club disco and electro what-not that’s circulating around these days. People associate his music with class, elegance, and style. Would that he personally embodied those characteristics in the way he acts when he’s not singing. And tell the truth, it’s difficult not to sense that he’s immensely pleased with himself even when he sings—very much of an “Anything you can sing, I can sing smoother” attitude.
So bottom line is… if you see some of your favorite gospel singers tweeting about Buble, and you don’t happen to recognize the name… it’s a lot of hype over a guy who doesn’t deserve it. Take my word for it.
–I for one actually enjoyed the pairing setups for emcees and am sorry to see the shift to solo. There was some fun chemistry in 2011. I particularly enjoyed Brian Free and Sheri Easter, Michael Booth and Susan Whisnant, and Gerald Wolfe and Karen Peck.
–Yay for all quartet night. Someone was listening. I notice that Paul’s Journey is getting a slot—good for them. They impressed me last year.
–Am I the only one who’s actually sad to see the King’s Heralds gone for the acapella moment? They always had the best blend of anyone. Not that I’m crying over hearing more of the Sisters though.
–No idea why the Nelons weren’t on mainstage last year. Glad to see they will be this year.
–I’ll be interested to see whether Signature Sound has a scheduling conflict and drops NQC this year for that reason. Could it be signaling a new trend if so?
–Correct me if I’m wrong, but at a glance it seems like Soul’d Out has just one slot. That seems a little odd with the addition of Hutson.
I guess the Booth Brothers and Brian Free & Assurance are being given first and second slots after being forced to go last or nearly last most nights in 2011. Even though I understand the logic behind “saving the best for last,” as people have commented it didn’t even work like it was supposed to (Booth Brothers weren’t featured on the live DVD partly because of the empty seats), and I could tell it was brutal on the singers. Brian Free and Michael Booth in particular seemed to be feeling the strain. So I’m glad these two groups are getting a break this year.
[Edit: I somehow missed that the groups are listed alphabetically. Scratch all that. But I DO hope those groups don't get saddled with the last slots again.]
If you’re not already reading Fuson’s Findings, let me encourage you to check it out. It’s a regular new blog by a new blogger who loves the music and has good insights. He recently started a column called “It’s Just My Opinion,” in which he shares candid IMHOs about southern gospel-related things he’d rather were done differently.
I decided to give him a little support for his most recent one, which is an honest (though very courteous) complaint about the projected track listing for this year’s NQC collection. After looking it over, I have to agree with Brian that it could have been much better. While some of the selections are great and deserve to be on there, many major artists were left off, and a few that were included were featured with songs that didn’t stand out.
Here is the list as it’s shaping up now:
Kingdom Heirs – No Bones About It
Ivan Parker – Twenty-Four Hours A Day
Collingsworth Family – The Resurrection Morn
Kingsmen – He’s Everything I Need – That’s All I Need
Crist Family – I Love Lovin’ Jesus
Jeff & Sheri Easter – Hear My Heart
Tribute Quartet – Homecoming Day
Dove Brothers – I Recall
Talleys – The Broken Ones
Hoppers – All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
Mark Bishop – My Name Is Jesus
Greater Vision – You Were Faithful Yesterday
Legacy Five – Thankful for the Change
Triumphant Quartet – Almost Home
The Dixie Melody Boys Celebrate 50 Years
Antioch Church House Choir
Greater Vision – Looking for a Tenor (aka Looking for a City)
The Perry’s Birthday Surprise! I Wish I Could Have Been There
Laughin’ With The Swan
This is NQC!
Right away you notice that Crossroads artists make up a huge percentage of the featured names. Is this a bad thing? It needn’t be… if they were legitimate highlights of the whole convention. The problem is that not all of them were.
Let’s go down the list in order, starting with the Kingdom Heirs. Why not include “We Will Stand Our Ground” instead of “No Bones About It?” It could have been sound or mix issues, but in that case I would say the Kingdom Heirs should maybe be replaced with another artist, because that song was the main highlight of their appearance. But I’ll assume “We Will Stand Our Ground” was doable and say that song should have been included instead.
Right away, the Crist Family and Ivan Parker selections jump out at me as huge head-scratchers. (I know, this is jumping out of order, sorry). They didn’t stand out in any way. I would cut them both and replace with them with, say, the Booth Brothers’ “She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name” and the Gaither Vocal Band’s “He is Here.”
Collingsworth Family: I’d definitely leave this one on.
The Kingsmen’s new single is a solid song. It’s not one I’m dying to cross out, but I’d be inclined to replace it with Gold City’s “I’m Rich,” because it was Craig West’s first and last appearance on NQC mainstage, and he nailed it.
The Easters, “Hear My Heart”: I’d probably leave this one. However, I’d be more inclined to feature James Easter’s guest appearance on “Thank You Lord For Blessing Me.”
Tribute Quartet, “Homecoming Day”: Yeah, keep this. Great moment, great showcase of young talent.
Dove Brothers, “I Recall”: Well, since this featured Burman Porter upon his return, one might be inclined to keep this, but I’m sure something better could have taken its place (plus there’s the Jonathan Price situation). What about something by the Mark Trammell Quartet, like “That’s Enough For Me To Know,” or “Echoes From the Burning Bush” or “Statue of Liberty?”
The Talleys’ “The Broken Ones” was of course a good performance of a hit song, but it didn’t particularly stand out as a memorable moment of NQC 2011, even though the Talleys were debuting a new lineup. I’d replace it with the Dixie Echoes’ “I Am a Pilgrim.” They also had a new lineup, and that particular number doubles as great comedy because Stewart Varnado was doing funny stuff with nothing to do as the pianist.
The Hoppers, “All Hail the Power”: Again, good music sung well, but I’d replace it with something else. How about “Well Done, Well Done,” Kim’s tribute to Tony Greene? That was a great moment.
Mark Bishop, “My Name is Jesus”: You know, even though I personally would probably replace this with something else, it was a significant moment at NQC and featured a good lineup of artists (even though the mix was terrible—I bet there was a lot of over-dubbing on this one).
Greater Vision, “You Were Faithful Yesterday”: I don’t get this at all. Replace this with “I Know a Man Who Can!”
Legacy Five, “Thankful for the Change”: Well, okay, I’ve loaded this up with ballads, so I might keep this fast-paced number. But personally, I’d lean towards featuring Gus’s performance of “For What Earthly Reason.” He was a little hoarse, but it was a really good performance of a great song.
Triumphant Quartet, “Almost Home”: Can’t argue with this selection. Great new song and great performance.
Bonus Features: Cut the Swan and replace him. With what or how much I’m not sure, since I don’t know how long the segment is, but I’d go for a few choice picks from the GVB Reunion showcase, or maybe Squire Parsons and friends singing “Beulah Land,” the whole thing (as opposed to the snippet featured in the montage).
What do you think? Would you be more inclined to buy an NQC 2011 compilation with this lineup of songs? Here it is in more graphic form:
Kingdom Heirs – No Bones About It [Replace with "We Will Stand Our Ground"] Ivan Parker – Twenty-Four Hours A Day [Replace with Booth Brothers, "She Still Remembers Jesus' Name"]
*Collingsworth Family – The Resurrection Morn
Kingsmen – He’s Everything I Need (That’s All I Need) [Tentative cross-out. Possibly replace with Gold City, "I'm Rich?"]
Crist Family – I Love Lovin’ Jesus [Replace with Gaither Vocal Band, "He is Here"]
*Jeff & Sheri Easter – Hear My Heart [Tentative cross-out, possibly replace with "Thank You Lord?"]
*Tribute Quartet – Homecoming Day
*Dove Brothers – I Recall [Replace with something by the Mark Trammell Quartet.] Talleys – The Broken Ones [Replace with the Dixie Echoes, "I Am a Pilgrim"]
Hoppers – All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name [Replace with "Well Done, Well Done"]
*Mark Bishop – My Name Is Jesus
Greater Vision – You Were Faithful Yesterday [Replace with "I Know a Man Who Can"]
*Legacy Five – Thankful for the Change
*Triumphant Quartet – Almost Home
The Dixie Melody Boys Celebrate 50 Years [I didn't watch this showcase. Was it any good?]
Antioch Church House Choir [I think this is the choir Wilburn & Wilburn sang with. Am I wrong? A bonus feature about them might be really neat.]
*Greater Vision – Looking for a Tenor (aka Looking for a City) [An obvious keeper.]
*The Perry’s Birthday Surprise! I Wish I Could Have Been There [Ditto.]
Laughin’ With The Swan Dennis Swanberg [Replace with something, anything. Maybe a choice pick or so from the GVB Reunion Showcase, or perhaps "Beulah Land" with Squire Parsons and friends.]
This is NQC! [Well, this montage is about the only way we're getting to see even snippets of some of NQC's actual highlights, so we need it!]
I was browsing through comments on an old post at another blog, and I came across a fascinating discussion. A guy posting under the pseudonym of “soundcheck” was commenting on the vocal abilities of a couple of lead singers, both of whom he had worked with live and in the studio. He said that although the one had more popularity and name recognition, the other was unquestionably more talented. The way this guy put it was that singer A had gotten where he was because of “one group and one song,” while singer B had gotten where he was through raw vocal ability alone. (He then went on to add that they are both great guys and good friends of his, so he clearly wasn’t speaking out of spite—just honestly giving an opinion based on what he knew from personal experience.)
It got me thinking: Just how crucial is a signature song to a southern gospel singer’s success? Are there any SG singers who have achieved “star status” without that one hit that everybody knows and identifies with them? And can we observe the same phenomenon in other genres?
…what do they see?
Once, out of curiosity, I decided to have a bit of fun with my classical pianist/composer/music snob and musician extraordinaire uncle. Because I know he can’t stand southern gospel, I tried to put myself in his shoes and come up with a way of describing the genre that he would consider accurate. So I said, “It seems like from your perspective, there are three basic categories in southern gospel: the trite, upbeat ditties, the schmaltzy treacle-fests, and the overblown big ballads. Am I right?” He wrote back and said, “Well…okay, you’ve got me.”
It was a humorous moment, but I’ve been thinking about to what extent that’s an over-exaggeration and to what extent there may be a grain of truth to it. On one hand, there are definitely good southern gospel songs that couldn’t fairly be categorized in any of those categories. (In fact, it might be fun some time to see how many we could come up with that wouldn’t even begin to fit.) But on the other hand, I think a lot of it comes down to how much a listener is willing to put up with, and in what area. Are you the type of person who can’t bear to hear any song that’s just light and upbeat, or can you relax enough to enjoy that sort of thing? Do you have zero tolerance for schmaltz, or can you allow yourself to get into the schmaltz spirit to a point? Do you have the patience to listen while a big ballad takes its time to unfold, or do you find yourself wishing they would just pitch the ball?
There are levels to this, of course. Every person is different. You can even observe differences within the community of southern gospel artists themselves. I remember an interview with Brian Free where he was talking about the song “If it Takes a Valley” and said, “Every now and then you’ll come across a fast song that says something. This song says something.” Michael Booth has stated that he plans to eliminate as much fluff as possible from the Booth Brothers’ future repertoire. But not every artist places as much weight on that sort of thing.
Within my family, Dad is less extreme than my uncle (his brother), but as you may recall, he has some of the same reactions. I’ve heard him say, “Southern gospel just doesn’t do ballads very well. Yeah, it’s catchy, it has a beat, but ballads? Not so much.” But then when he hears slower fare, even some pretty hefty slower fare, he’ll say it takes too long to get going. So lyrical content is obviously only part of the story. His taste has always leaned more towards a CCM style. But naturally there are tradeoffs. For example, I have found that even very good CCM doesn’t always stick in your head from a musical perspective. Still, my dad would go for a rather repetitious melody coupled with deep lyrics before he’d go for light lyrics with a great melody. And the sooner it gets down to business, the better.
By contrast, my mom demands that a melody be easy to remember and is willing to put up with some sentimentality if the music sticks in her head. It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate substance, she’s just more easy-going where Dad gets impatient. She also doesn’t mind a slow-burning ballad as long there’s a strong melody holding it all together. Needless to say, she’s taken to southern gospel like a duck to water. But because my dad’s threshold for that type of thing is lower, I have to pick and choose a bit to find southern gospel he can believe in. (Of course, I’m more Pandora than Pandora when it comes to picking music for people, so I haven’t had a whole lot of trouble there either. ;-))
The truth is that one man’s trite ditty is another man’s rousing barn-burner, and one man’s overblown big ballad is another man’s powerful anthem. Unless we’re dealing with a level of cheese that couldn’t be denied by anybody with a well-developed ear for lyrics or music, this sort of thing is largely subjective. There may even be times when both sides have a point. I can look at a song like “He Touched Me” and say, “Schmaltzy? Yeah.” Then I turn around and say, “But by golly, when you get a really great male quartet or two in there to sing the socks off of it, I’m shouting glory along with everybody else.”
Such is the nature of southern gospel. There’s precious little room for a middle ground between “love” and “hate.”
Here’s the second part of my thoughts/ramblings on what southern gospel is and isn’t. (Part I here.) Except this part is really a cogitation on the difference between the label “CCM” and the label “SG.”
Contemporary Christian Music is such a vague umbrella term that it can encompass every sound and style of music, as long as it is (or claims to be) “Christian” in some way. Though it’s getting harder to tell what that’s even supposed to mean, especially when you look at the albums Christianity Today seems to consider as falling in that category. But even if we grant, for the moment, that the music is generally coming from a Christian perspective, it can be rock, pop, heavy metal, light jazz, or folk and still be called CCM.
This isn’t true for southern gospel music, because that label is pin-pointing a very specific style and sound. Granted, there is flex room for influences from other styles. Perhaps there’s a jazz piano or a bluegrass fiddle, or perhaps a song has a country or pop flare. But too much borrowing can lead away from “southern gospel music” pretty quickly. Sort of like Garth Brooks and country music. (Though whatever you want to call him, he’s pretty darn good.) I’m not saying that this means we should find a new label, I’m just pointing it out as a matter of curiosity.
So what are some key characteristics of the “true southern gospel sound?” Well, there’s a certain male quartet sound that could really only be described as southern gospel. It’s very hearty and expressive, completely different from the barbershop quartet. There’s also the convention sound, which can display itself in the piano or in vocal harmonies. It doesn’t get much more southern gospel than an old convention song. I could give numerous examples, but “Give the World a Smile” is coming to mind as one perfect example.
It seems like that’s only the tip of the iceberg though. I could keep rambling to try to express what I’m getting at, but I think I’ll let you guys pick up the conversation from here. Feel free to be verbose.
Daniel Mount has written an open letter to southern gospel artists from young fans of the genre. Like him, I am a young fan, and I’ve addressed and will continue to address the points he made here on this blog. They are good points, and I will gladly be one of the co-signers he has called for.
I thought that I would elaborate on some of them in my own post, if my readers don’t mind. This was Daniel’s first point: “Recognize and retain what makes Southern Gospel unique musically.” I agree. Could we imagine southern gospel without the male quartet? The family harmony? The distinctive southern gospel piano?
At the same time (and I don’t know whether or not Daniel would agree with me here), I happen to like a lot of different kinds of music. I love southern gospel, but I also love CCM, country, jazz, etc… when it’s good, of course! So even while I heartily agree that it would be a disaster for southern gospel to lose its identity, I also think that an artist’s repertoire can be enriched by incorporating a wide range of sounds. Signature Sound provides a very good example of this. Much of their work isn’t really southern gospel, but guess what? It’s good music, and it works in a southern gospel setting. Ditto for Brian Free & Assurance’s forays into what I would call classic CCM. Their version of CCM isn’t what I got sick of on the radio a couple years ago. It brings back memories of the kind of CCM my radio used to play, which I actually liked.
So I’m grateful for what the traditional groups are doing, and I think we need them. At the same time, I enjoy the variety. But I think at heart, Daniel and I agree on this point.
His next point was “Recognize and retain what makes Southern Gospel unique lyrically.” I would modify this just a little to say “what makes southern gospel unique lyrically today.” Sadly, Daniel is right that other Christian music is increasingly fluffy while southern gospel is more or less holding the fort where biblical doctrine is concerned. I actually have a couple posts I have been working on to illustrate this very point, completely independently of Daniel’s post. However, in fairness, we can find a lot of CCM songs with very good lyrics. (For that matter, we can find secular songs with very good lyrics, but at the moment we’re staying in the context of Christian music.) But once again, Daniel’s core point is one I agree with, namely that CCM is becoming much more generic much faster than southern gospel, and southern gospel writers should do all they can to keep that gap.
His third point was “Recognize and retain what makes your group unique. Master and perfect it.” I couldn’t agree more. We all get tired of groups that sound the same, and that’s probably not just true for young fans. In fairness, we can find a lot of similar groups in southern gospel, but there are plenty of groups that are distinct from each other as well. Daniel went on to say to the smaller groups that they shouldn’t try to “be” a big group. This is simply good practical advice. If you want to be noticed, don’t blend in with the crowd. At the same time of course, there’s nothing wrong with a smaller group’s trying to learn from a bigger group. It could be argued that this is what happened with Signature Sound and the Gaither Vocal Band. Ernie said they learned a lot from the GVB, yet nobody can deny that they emerged with a distinctive style of their own!
“Talk to us” was Daniel’s next point, encouraging artists to take full advantage of social media. I know that I personally am drawn to artists who keep a steady line of communication with the fans, and I don’t know whether this is specifically because I am young or not. But either way, it makes sense, and it probably is especially important for young fans.
His last point stings a little: “Live the life offstage that you portray on stage.” I think that pretty much speaks for itself. But of course, it’s something that should extend to all who claim to be ministers of the gospel, southern gospel or not.
Your thoughts are welcome.
Some time ago, I e-mailed this video of Gus Gaches singing “I Stand Redeemed” to my dad. He wrote back and said, “If this is southern gospel, then I’m a southern gospel fan.”
But recently, this conversation took place between Dad and Mom…and inspired this post:
[Mom, sitting in the living-room happily listening to a Gaither Homecoming Hymns Cracker Barrel special, is interrupted after the first three tracks by Dad, who had hitherto been working in another room.]
Dad: What is that? Is that your Gaither CD?
Dad: Man, that is NOT my thing.
[Dad rants a little, Mom tries to find out the cause and asks whether it's Vestal. Dad says no but mentions a bass line on one that was like Chinese water torture. Finally Mom says...]
Well, that’s about as Southern Gospel as it gets. That’s right in the center of what Southern Gospel sounds like.
Dad: Well, then I guess I’m not into Southern Gospel.
[At this point, "Leaning On the Everlasting Arms" is starting up.]
Mom: But what about this? You like Buddy Greene, right?
Dad: Oh yeah, Buddy is awesome.
[It must be the Buddy effect, because Dad then proceeds to hang around and clap along for that particular track.]
Later Dad elaborated some more and said those first three cuts (“Beulah Land,” “Eastern Gate,” and “Rock of Ages”) were “dull,” “didn’t move,” and “all sounded the same.”
This caused me to start thinking: What is the essence of southern gospel? As mentioned at the beginning of the post, Dad sometimes responds well to music that would still fall within the realm of southern gospel. He loves the Collingsworth family, has enjoyed Signature Sound twice in concert, and in general likes things with a contemporary twist. Which is natural, because he’s a CCM guy at heart. That very night, I sent him another excellent ballad by Legacy Five and this gorgeous song by Brian Free & Assurance, and he said, “Two winners, thumbs up.”
And yet Mom was right: That Gaither album really is smack-dab in the center of that “Southern Gospel sound.” If Dad couldn’t handle it, or some of it, does it follow that really, he doesn’t like Southern Gospel music, however well he may respond to some other artists and songs that aren’t quite so smack-dab?
If I look around, I can find plenty of artists who are officially under the “SG umbrella,” but who are making music that more resembles adult contemporary or CCM than SG. Brian Free & Assurance often get mentioned in this context, and I think Beyond the Ashes is a good current example. So, are they southern gospel artists?
Then there’s the question behind the question… (sorry, slipping into Rob Bell mode here). Anyway, the question is, is there really such a thing as an “essence” of Southern Gospel? Is there a certain point at which we say, “Okay, this isn’t really ‘true’ southern gospel anymore”? That question is easy to answer when a southern gospel group just plain is borrowing from another genre. The Kingsmen can sing “When God Ran,” Gold City can sing “Mercy Came Running,” and those are gospel groups singing contemporary songs, not gospel songs. Where it gets harder is when a group like Brian Free & Assurance introduces original songs that sound contemporary from the beginning. “Die Another Day” has been mentioned, and other songs of theirs could be pointed out too. Sure, they’re a male quartet, but sonically they experiment a lot more than other quartets.
What do we conclude from all this? So far, this is my conclusion: There is a real sense in which some artists and songs can be “more” or “less” dyed-in-the-wool Southern Gospel. There’s a certain sound and a certain “essence” that can be fully or only partially adhered to depending on the artist. The more other sounds and styles are mixed in, the further away you move from “that sound.” However, this doesn’t mean that artists like BTA or BFA “aren’t really southern gospel,” because they do a mix, and some of their stuff is more traditional than some of their other stuff. Yet it would probably be fair to say that if a person were to pick up one of their CDs and really get into it, that doesn’t necessarily make him “a Southern Gospel fan.” If you really want to put him to the test, make him sit through a Gaither homecoming.
When was the last time you saw a really high quality music video from a professional southern gospel artist?
My guess is you’re casting about for an answer right now, because the truth is that there really aren’t that many southern gospel music videos out there, good or bad.
Here are a few that I have found, in no particular order. (Important note: We are not counting Mark Lowry’s many and sundry comedic masterpieces.)
I’m a Jesus Fan (by The Paynes—No comment on the song…)
I’d Like To Go Home Again [Update: This link has been removed] (by The Spencers—Beautifully done. Skip intro, video actually begins around :50.)
Praying (Also by the Spencers—LOVE this one. Again, skip intro.)
Famine In Their Land (by The Nelons—This would be my personal pick of the lot, but it has unfortunately been removed from Youtube.)
Welcome to Heaven (by The Singing Americans—WOW, Clayton Inman looks young!)
This Ole House (by the Cathedrals—Kind of odd, but cute nonetheless.)
Behold the Lamb (by David Phelps—Nice cinematography, but conceptually…meh. IMVHO of course.)
Arms Open Wide (also by David Phelps—Ditto.)
John In the Jordan (by Signature Sound—I’ve always liked this one. Cute stuff.)
Somebody Like Me (by Jason Crabb—Best cinematography of the bunch.)
Feel free to add more in the comments as you think of them. I’m running out myself. The reason this intrigues me is that this is not the case in CCM. From established artists to up-and-comers, it seems that whenever somebody puts out an album, a concept video is created for (usually) the record’s lead single. Not every artist does this, but it seems to be pretty common practice.
Why is this such a rarity within SG? Well, I’m only guessing as to the reasons, but two plausible ones that come to mind are budget and subject matter. First, music videos cost money, and even established southern gospel artists understandably would probably be hesitant to make that kind of investment. Because CCM reaches a wider demographic, my guess is that the average CCM artist’s income is greater than that of the average SG artist. This means that CCM singers have more freedom to create something like a concept video. The thrown-together, low-budget look of the Cathedrals’ “This Ole House” might be some support for this theory, as they were arguably the most popular group in their field at the time, yet inexplicably couldn’t seem to produce something higher quality. (They didn’t even bother to make the singers in the audio match the singers in the video!)
My second thought is that the subject matter of SG songs doesn’t seem to lend itself as readily to concept videos as other genres of music. For example, there are more story-songs in the realms of country and even CCM. Gospel songs tend to be more doctrinally focused, which limits the possibilities for creating something with visual interest. Either that or they deal with biblical stories and characters, which would be difficult to recreate convincingly.
Still, I think myself that it would be fascinating if some of gospel music’s top-tier artists (e.g. GVB, EHSS, Booth Brothers, BFA) began investing in high quality concept videos for selected, appropriate songs as they released new material. What do you think? I can think of some songs already out there that would have been perfect for the purpose. For example, imagine a concept video for Signature Sound’s “Until We Fly Away,” or the GVB’s “Always a Place At the Table.” Or with more recent songs, imagine the possibilities for something like the Booth Brothers’ “I See Grace.”