Southern Gospel Yankee Turns One!

Well, I made it! My first year with my own blog. I can’t tell you all how grateful I am for your readership, your interest, and your comments. Over the past year, I’ve invited various people to check out what I write, but every now and again I ask myself “Why?” Well truthfully, I want to encourage people, and I particularly want to encourage artists whose music I enjoy. But there’s a punchier (and not necessarily untrue) answer as well, which is that I’ve got a lot to say about a lot of stuff, and I want the rest of the world to know it! But then you wonder, “Am I just talking to myself? Is there anyone out there who actually gives a hoot what I think about anything?”

That’s where you come in. Every bit of positive feedback I get means something to me. It tells me I’m doing something right. It tells me someone’s reading and enjoying what he reads. And it tells me someone would be genuinely disappointed if I shut everything down. (On the other hand, constructive criticism is welcome too, with an emphasis on the constructive part. Later some time this week or next week I’ll open up a thread where you can offer comments on what you like/dislike about the blog and where you might like to see it go.)

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank some special people who have graciously given of their time and support to me over this past year. They deserve to be acknowledged by name. So, in no particular order, I would like to thank…

Terry Franklin: For being, quite simply, one of the best men I know. I can’t thank you enough for your readership, your encouragement of me in my singing and writing, your time, and your friendship. I am deeply humbled and deeply grateful.

Dianne Wilkinson: For being my sweet, honorary Southern grandma. Thank you for reading, for telling me I can write songs, and for sharing your wisdom with me.

Michael Booth: For telling me that I have a purpose and that I’m fulfilling it well. And for singing a duet with me. 🙂

Kevin Williams: For being as sweet as you are hilarious. I can’t believe you actually remembered who I was and handed me free music at the Christmas Homecoming. Thanks for being my fan. I assure you the feeling is mutual.

Buddy Greene: For giving me free music, for reading, and for being the means of Steve Green leaving a comment on my blog. 😮 To know that you’re reading makes me slightly nervous but very honored as well!

Ernie Haase: For your readership and continued support. And for singing a duet with me. 🙂

The Other Signature Sound Guys: For being sweet and supportive and letting me interview you. Y’all rock.

Wendy Wills and Lyn Rowell: For being willing to go behind one of the best songs of 2011 with me. Thanks to Wendy in particular for your continued correspondence and friendship.

Jim Stover: For your enthusiastic support and encouragement. We are kindred spirits. 🙂

I also want to thank the other southern gospel bloggers who’ve allowed me to fit right in—DBM, Swain, Burke, all you guys. You make me feel cool. 🙂 Special shout-out to me Irish matey across the sea, Phil. It was fun to get know you this year.

Also, a shout-out to all the artists who have sent me their music for review. Because after all, without southern gospel music, there are no southern gospel bloggers.


Devotional Thought: Freedom

Are you the kind of person who tends to blame yourself for everything? If so, then you’re a lot like me.

Like the song says, when something goes wrong, I’m the first to admit it. I’m always second-guessing myself in every area of life. It ranges from the trivial (did I get everything right on that quiz?) to the less trivial (have I done wrong by a friend?)

It doesn’t really matter how unjustly I’m treated. It doesn’t really matter how obviously I’m in the right. I will always find some way to excuse the other party, particularly if that person is someone I look up to or trust. Whatever has gone wrong, in the end it must be my fault, somehow.

Recently I came to a point where I was finally able to let go of something I’d been beating myself up over for a long time. I realized the truth—that I was not guilty. I was free. I didn’t have to carry around that burden anymore. Even though the truth was something sad that I hadn’t wanted to admit, it freed me from that burden.

If you’re clinging to needless guilt, let go of it now, today. There are plenty of crosses you will not be able to avoid bearing in life, crosses God means for you to bear. Don’t add ones of your own making.

The Week In Review #17: Dove Awards Talk, Doug Wilson on Lent, and More

It’s been a long week, but I feel ready to tackle my midterms. Looking forward to a weekend of rest and preparation. Meanwhile, let’s look at the week as it went down in the rest of the world…

*Devin McGlamery is back on the bus with EHSS, but he’ll have to keep his arm immobile in a sling for three weeks, then go through half a year of physical therapy. Moral of the story: Maybe intense weight-lifting isn’t such a good idea?? We wish Devin the best as he continues to heal on the road.

*Dove Awards: Kyle Boreing has the scoop here, showing that southern gospel is faring rather well as far as Dove nominations are concerned, with nominations in several major categories like Song of the Year (“Please Forgive Me,” “Celebrate Me Home,” “I’ve Been Here Before”), Group of the Year (Gaither Vocal Band). Also, I saw on Beyond the Ashes’ twitter that they’ve been nominated for New Artist of the Year. In the Song of the Year category, “Who Am I” was also nominated, but I have no idea why, since it’s a decades-old song that just happened to be covered  by Jason Crabb in 2011! At any rate, I’m still plumping for “Blessings” to take home the bird this year. It’s the strongest nomination by a margin. (By the way, can somebody, anybody, explain why this bit of pablum continues to get recognized by anyone and nominated for anything, let alone a Grammy AND a Dove?)

Also, Wayne Haun has raked in his usual dozen or so nominations, though Jason Crabb’s publicist apparently jumped the gun by saying that Crabb was leading the number of nominations. His eight are impressive, but still, Haun is leading by a very wide margin. I’m not sure how this happened or how involved Jason himself was in the press release, but I hope someone gets this right.

*Some of you may or may not have been following the story of pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces execution in Iran for becoming a Christian. His execution order was just recently issued. We should pray that his life will be spared, but we should also pray that he will come to a fuller knowledge of God than he has now, since he disavows the Trinity. On one hand, his willingness to suffer martyrdom should be rightly admired. On the other hand, there is a sense in which he isn’t a true Christian. Either way, he needs prayer.

*Here is a great and very funny article by Doug Wilson on the potential dangers of fasting over Lent. Anyone with Catholic friends will completely relate to this.

*While browsing through Kevin DeYoung’s archives for February yesterday, I saw that he posted a couple more great car ads from the Super Bowl. I still haven’t found anything to top Ferris Bueller’s return, but these are pretty good:

*And finally… this blog has a birthday coming up! Be watching for a special post next week. 🙂 Just so there’s no confusion, I won’t be doing a giveaway or anything like that, but I do want to thank some people properly. So, as I said, look for that next week—in fact, Monday if I’m not mistaken.

It’s an open thread! What do you want to talk about?

Tim Hawkins On Overly Long Songs

Whenever I feel physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually drained, good comedy really helps lift my spirits. I felt that way last night, and I was searching for some Tim Hawkins clips I’d never seen before. Among many others, I came up with this, in which he abridges some classic (but lengthy) songs—specifically, into a single verse apiece:

He should do this with “American Pie,” or anything by Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan… come to think of it, most folk or Western ballads could probably use the Tim Hawkins treatment. And there may be a few southern gospel songs that could use trimming too… Any other suggestions? 🙂

Masculinity, the Church, Post-Modernism, and Southern Gospel

John Piper has apparently upset some feminists. Recently, he made some rather direct comments on the masculine nature of Christianity. To quote directly:

God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother… The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male…God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose 12 men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head. Now, from all of that I conclude that God has given Christianity a masculine feel.

Well. You can just imagine the howls of indignation from Rachel Held Evans and her ilk. Of course Piper is spot-on, but naturally many will disagree.

Meanwhile, a certain blogger who shall not be named has offered his own take on the controversy as it relates to southern gospel. As an English professor and a post-modernist, his reaction is really rather typical. But it’s tricky. It’s slimy in a subtle way. So today I’d like to unpack it a bit for the benefit of my readers.

You see, when a liberal encounters something that clashes with his preferred political tastes—whether it’s in literature, in the culture, in the Church, or what have you–he can react in one of two ways. First, he can have an immediate negative knee-jerk response, i.e. “Such-and-such is terrible because it’s [fill-in-the-blank–sexist, racist, etc.] We must write books and articles shouting from the rooftops how terrible such-and-such/so-and-so is.”

Or, he can say, “Well… such-and-such seems bad on its face. But under the surface, there are all kinds of fascinating tensions and sub-texts that make it far more complicated and nuanced than the average layman might think. Really, we can’t be too simplistic, and having made a study of these underlying tensions, I’ve concluded that such-and-such should be received positively, whether it was meant to be or not.”

For example, consider this in the area of literary criticism. A passage of Shakespeare annoys the first group of liberals because they think it’s sexist. Up goes the cry, “Shakespeare is sexist!” But along come the post-modernists to say, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. I think you’re unaware of the sub-texts. Really, when you get under the surface of this passage, you discover that Shakespeare isn’t a sexist after all.” Because the Muse is liberal, you see, and because Shakespeare is great, Shakespeare must be a liberal at the end of it all. Otherwise he couldn’t create such great art. His artistic impulses are carrying him leftward whether he wills them to or not. So they do a post-modern “reading” of Shakespeare in order to “find” what they think has to be there.

This is what passes for respected intellectualism in the disaster that is our modern educational system—a disaster that would be laughable if it weren’t so profoundly and harmfully influential. And it’s what our blogger who shan’t be named is doing with southern gospel. In fact, it’s exactly what he’s doing with southern gospel. He begins by taking Piper’s quote as a sort of evangelical template for accepted gender roles. But then he says that even though fundamentalists would like to believe things are that simple, because such a foundation of “absolutes” gives them “security,” things are not as they seem. He then discusses ways in which he sees southern gospel “upending” the standards of this traditional template, e.g., the popularity of groups with a female lead singer, the fan love for tenor singers (“the man who sings like a woman”), and emotional songwriting (like Marshall Hall’s “When I Cry”).

Now of course that’s a lot of… I’m going to restrain myself here… baloney sausage. But you have to get inside the post-modernist’s head to see how this works. Yes, it’s twisted. Yes, it’s ridiculous. But you see, they’ve got to find the… here comes the word… “subversive” forces at work in whatever they’re analyzing. (That word by the way is explicitly used in the blurb for said blogger’s upcoming book, which should be a textbook example of this kind of analysis in its full glory.) The southern gospel culture isn’t so sexist and hypocritical after all. It’s so much more interesting than that. It has to be.

Let me close with a candid word from my own experience: One of the reasons why I was initially attracted to southern gospel was because it seemed like a much “manlier” genre than, say, CCM or praise and worship. Or, to be more specific, what CCM and P & W have become in the last decade or so. I was so sick of the effeminate singing, the effeminate songs, the cheap emotionalism. I was sick of dudes with bad hair and torn-up jeans singing love songs to Jesus. But when I watched this video clip, I felt like I was standing in front of an open door. There was a whole world of music out there that I had never explored. And it looked promising. Much more promising. From there, the rest is history. (And please, for those of you who just can’t wait to spill your insinuations about how southern gospel is really infested with homos… save it. I’m not denying that there may indeed be some, nor am I denying that this is a problem if true. But pointless gossip is worse than pointless. I for one am content to enjoy the many perfectly normal men who are singing good, manly music.)

So, that’s about the closest you’re going to get to a review of our blogger’s upcoming book from me. I have no intention of wasting pennies or seconds on it, because I can already recognize it for the insignificant bit of post-modern clap-trap that it is. If you were planning to spend your own time and money in that way, it’s none of my concern. (And I know that Daniel Mount is bravely volunteering to do so for the purposes of reviewing it.) However, I do encourage you to spend that time and money elsewhere. I believe it will be better spent that way.

The Week in Review #16: NQC News, Devin McGlamery Update, Grammys Talk

*NQC has announced a new awards show. Naturally this will be seen as a replacement for the Singing News Fan Awards, which now appears to have landed in Dollywood indefinitely. The question is… do we need it? DBM has a discussion on his blog. Read the comments thread for further details from Clark Beasley himself.

*The second piece of NQC news, which I am MUCH more excited about, is a GVB Reunion showcase encore. It was such a smash last year somebody had the bright idea of bringing it back. Guy Penrod apparently WILL be at NQC, but so far it’s too early to specify who will or won’t take part in the showcase. However, I think it’s safe to say that there will be many eyebrows raised and questions asked if Guy doesn’t participate. Hopefully this means they can stage songs they didn’t stage last year, like “I Believe In a Hill Called Mount Calvary,” “The Old Rugged Cross Made the Difference,” or “It is Finished.”

As for the other no-shows last year (including former tenors Jonathan Pierce and Terry Franklin), I think it’s an open question whether they’ll come, but I would be very happy if Terry could somehow squeeze it in around his worldwide ministry schedule. I joked on Swain’s blog that fingers crossed, Terry won’t be in Uzbekistan or something during NQC week. 🙂 His voice is still supple and strong after all these years, and he would add immensely to the showcase.

*Devin McGlamery had surgery on his left pectoral muscle this week and is recovering at home. He’s still in a lot of pain, and he’s been fighting nausea on top of that, so continue to keep him in your prayers.

*Want to see Wayne Haun smile? Finally, you can. Shhhhhh, no comments on the fishiness of the photo.

*Poet Voices: I will be watching one of their re-launch concerts this evening and writing something up afterwards. Who’s planning to be there with me? [Update: The concert for Saturday night has been canceled.] [Further Update: Technical problems plagued the ASGM team, and they were unable to broadcast on the 19th either. I don’t know if the 17th was a success or not.]

*I didn’t watch the Grammys, and I don’t really give a hoot about Chris Brown, Nicki Minaj or whoever has been making recent Grammy headlines. Perverted products of a perverted culture. Though I am disgusted by liberal Christian attempts to guilt-trip other Christians into “forgiving” Chris Brown, just like the Grammys “forgave” (read: re-marketed) him. Number one, why exactly do WE have to forgive Chris Brown, especially when some of us barely give any thought to his existence, and number two, since when has renewed elevation and celebration coupled with trivialization of past wrongs become the new definition of “forgiveness?”

Meanwhile, the really big news from the Grammys as far as I’m concerned is that Laura Story’s song “Blessings” captured top honors in the “Contemporary Christian Song” category. I am blown away. Not only am I blown away by the fact that a good quality Christian song became popular enough to be nominated for a Grammy (especially looking at a few of the other nominees), but I’m blown away that it actually WON. Way to go Laura. You can read a nice piece on her win here, which also details some of the backstory that inspired the song. In celebration of her victory, here is “Blessings”:

I hear this is also becoming a popular worship song, so the wasteland that is contemporary P & W has gotten a little boost in quality too.

The Best of Praise & Worship, Hymns and Southern Gospel—Your Picks?

In view of Daniel Mount’s most recent post, and in view of the fact that I have little time to write these days, I’m going to let my readers write the interesting stuff here for me.

If you could pick just three favorite contemporary praise songs—your ripest picks—what would they be and why? (Note: I am using “contemporary” loosely. It seems only fair to allow you to pick stuff from the 90s/80s, since southern gospel has such a rich history. This means you can include something like “Great Is the Lord.”)

If you could pick just three favorite southern gospel songs—again, prime cuts—what would they be and why?

Now let me ask another question: If you tried to compare the worship songs with the gospel songs in terms of quality, do you think you could? Or would you feel like it was an apples and oranges question?

Here is a harder question. Try it with HYMNS and southern gospel. Three hymns, three southern gospel songs. Can you do it now?

Whitney Houston, RIP

Dead at 48, a legend of pop music, many regard her as one of the greatest female voices of all time. Her life stands as a sad witness to Satan’s destructive work on those blessed with great fame and fortune. I do not know her fate, for it rests in the hands of God only. But I know that the memory of her voice will live on for many more years to come. Here she is, in her prime, singing the National Anthem as only she could.

The Week in Review #15: This and That and Paul Simon

I’m bone tired right now and just getting some tidbits from the week together. It’s been a long week… full of lots and lots of school and lots and lots of Paul Simon music. I’m a new fan, a bit late I know. Anyway I’m positive I couldn’t have survived this week without him. There were many beautiful moments when his music wove its way into what would ordinarily have been mundane, everyday occurrences—cleaning the bathroom, driving home from school, doing my homework… That tends to happen for me with good music. I’m constantly listening to something or other, so whatever I listen to essentially becomes the soundtrack of my life.

So what’s new in southern gospel or the world in general? Let’s see…

*It’s not too late to win a free online ticket to a Poet Voices concert. Follow the link here.

*The mother of all Best of Johnny Cash collections is in the works. Hat tip, DBM, read more about it here.

*Southern Gospel Critique really is all the way back now, and we SINCERELY hope they’re never hacked again!

*From assorted Facebook posts, it looks like Devin McGlamery of Signature Sound hurt himself while lifting weights and tore a muscle in his chest. He wasn’t present at their most recent concert [Update: Actually he was there and did sing a song, but sat out most of the evening.], and it looks as though he’ll need surgery. Keep Devin in your prayers! Ouch.

*Speaking of Signature Sound, their brand new album Here We Are Again is now available at all retail outlets. Go get it! It’s really good. I expect most of you have already read my review, but in case not, read it here.

*David Bruce Murray is just going ahead and saying it: Ernie Phillips… the Kingsmen… reunited… as Bill Gaither would say, why not?

*In the world of politics, Obama’s outrageous new health-care regulations have united Christians across the country in protest. The Senate Democrats successfully blocked a Republican attempt to repeal it. Big surprise there. This news item has happened to coincide with the fact that Susan G. Komen allowed itself to be arm-twisted into continuing to fund Planned Parenthood. You know that passage about crying “peace, peace” when there is no peace? Yeah, about that…

*Either I’m too tired to keep looking, or it’s been a quiet week. I’m guessing both. So I will leave you with… Paul Simon. This was the first song I heard from Graceland, and from that moment, I was hooked. As a matter of fact, that album just celebrated its 25th anniversary. There was something about the music of the song, it just put inexplicable tears of joy in my eyes because it was so richly infectious. I don’t know whether it was the horns, or the bass, or the “Ta-na-na-na-na…” or the wonderful, impossible blending of them all together.

Does everybody know what I’m talking about? I mean everybody here know exactly what I’m talking about?


It’s an open thread, which means you can talk about something else besides Paul Simon if you want to.

What’s the Big Deal With Michael Buble?

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.