David, Kelly, and Odie Boggs are a mixed trio from Ohio. Davy and Kelly have been involved in ministry/evangelism for a decade, and now they are joined by their grown daughter, who has cerebral palsy and a stirring testimony. Ben Isaacs is Davy’s first cousin, and he has produced their last few projects, which gives them a more polished sound than the typical regional group. Last year, they recorded their first live project in California. Says Davy about the song selection:
We sing mostly in church services rather than more formal concerts. Many of the good songs that groups write and record are tailored more toward a concert setting. They are very enjoyable to listen to and the lyrics are scriptural but they do not translate well into a worship services for us. We really have a hard time finding songs that work in a church setting. Therefore we end up doing a somewhat eclectic mix of old and new drawing from a wide variety of gospel music that has influenced us. Our background includes, bluegrass, Hymns, soulful mountain singing (similar to black gospel in many ways), 70’s CCM and of course heavy doses of southern gospel. You will find traces of all of this when we sing and minister and on this project.
This is a good summary of what you can expect to hear on this album. It has a raw, untouched sound that’s simultaneously exciting and worshipful. Percussion, bass, and piano (played by Kelly herself) were recorded live with organ and electric guitar dubbed in later by Jason Webb and Kelly Back. There are thirteen songs in all, interspersed with some “preachin’ ” from Brother Davy. Davy weaves the themes of the songs together with Scripture and will frequently make a connection between the last song and the next song. It sounds like nothing was abridged or edited out. Davy said that given what they have read about “the death of the live album,” they attempted as much as possible to leave the concert as it was, with minimal vocal fixes after the fact.
Although there was obviously wonderful chemistry between the Boggs and their audience, some aspects of the project may not translate as well to a private listening experience. For example, some may want to skip through the audio tracks to get to the music. Also, some tracks (“Ain’t Gonna Give Up Medley,” “Never Would Have Made It,” “Miracle Man”) are enjoyable but long enough counting encores that I’m generally ready to move on before they’re finished. But despite a few weak moments, there is a lot to like on the project.
The group’s sound is very authentically SG, with Davy’s voice providing a rough, sturdy anchor for the blend. At times they recall the style of the Collingsworth family, while other times they have a soul-tinged sound reminiscent of the Crabbs. Kelly’s piano playing is tasteful and restrained. She is equally capable with a jazzy sound, e.g. “I Want to Thank You,” “Made Up Mind,” and a thoughtful ballad, e.g. “There is Power In the Name” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus.” Indeed, the latter is a definite highlight of the project, along with “The Solid Rock,” both of which she carries with her clear voice.
Daughter Odie sings alto, and she carries “There is Power” as well as their signature song “I Don’t Have a Prayer Without You.” Both are moving songs, and Odie introduces “I Don’t Have a Prayer” with some powerful words about having faith in the middle of her struggle with cerebral palsy.
Odie’s testimony is probably the highlight of the spoken portions, but Brother Davy brings many good insights into the Word and the Christian life between songs. I found his introduction to “Everything Is Gonna Turn Out Right” particularly meaningful, as he frankly rejects the “prosperity gospel” and presents the true message that Christians are not promised a life free of pain or trials, yet can live with hope and courage. The Boggs themselves are a living testimony of this truth.
The production is surprisingly strong for a regional album, and as mentioned before, this is the work of Ben Isaacs. Live and studio instrumentation are seamlessly blended together for a simple, yet rich sound. Kelly’s piano work is frequently enhanced and complemented by Webb’s organ, and Back’s guitar lends added texture to nearly every song. Also worth mentioning is the extra effort that was put into the liner notes: They provide color photos, complete lyrics, and full songwriter/musician information.
Vocally, the Boggs family are not the most polished group you will hear. But they don’t set themselves up to be. Davy says candidly in the acknowledgments, “We have never sounded as good as we would like.” However, they are making the very most of what they have, and you will enjoy their sound if you like country/gospel family harmony. It’s refreshing to hear a live project with this much spontaneity, and I would invite other artists to take notice. The listener feels like he is there with the audience, and you can hear the emotion behind every word Davy, Kelly and Odie sing. It may be rough around the edges, but it’s exactly what a live album should be: an experience.
Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.