Most Marketable Southern Gospel Singers?

We all have our favorite southern gospel singers. But some of the qualities that make a great southern gospel singer are unique to southern gospel. There are certain singers who are legendary in that niche, but you listen to them and you think, “That guy could never sing anything but southern gospel.” (I’ll let you fill in the blanks on who some of those singers might be!)

But then you have singers who are still popular within southern gospel, yet comfortable singing multiple styles. This is where classification can be a little tricky. For example, do we classify David Phelps as “southern gospel” just because he sings in the most popular SG group on tour at the moment? Or is he an inspo/popera misfit who just happens to satisfy Bill Gaither’s eclectic, sometimes theatrical tastes? Sometimes a singer’s sound is so far removed from what anyone would call “southern gospel” that it seems like a stretch to keep calling him a “southern gospel singer.”

However, many of our still comfortably southern gospel singers might be marketable beyond southern gospel in the cousin genre of country music. Now I hope all you SG purists don’t rise up in protest, but we have to acknowledge that country is a close cousin of southern gospel, despite their differences. Had Amber Nelon Thompson gone with the flow on her American Idol journey, she would no doubt have been groomed into a country starlet a la Carrie Underwood. Some of our older voices might also fit comfortably into Johnny Cash/Hank Williams-era country music, although that kind of voice has become less marketable over the decades. That’s a sign of how much the face of country music itself has changed. However, there might be room in today’s country market for a smooth, strong upper register bass tone, like Josh Turner’s.

Another genre to consider is CCM. Some of our more progressive SG singers have a pop edge to their vocals that gives them the freedom to try a more contemporary sound. But as with country, whether it’s contemporary enough for today’s CCM is another question. Obviously a singer like Michael English enjoyed a lot of success in CCM during the 90s, but his style is no longer current in that genre.

It is also sad but true that the younger and better-looking you are, the better your chances are for enjoying success in either of these genres.

Among southern gospel voices, who do you think would have the best chance at a career somewhere outside of southern gospel today?

Jason Crabb in a Feature-Length Movie

This film was released at the beginning of this month, but I just now heard of it. It’s called Uncommon, and it’s about religious liberty at the highschool level. Here is an article explaining the synopsis, and here’s a trailer for it. I mention it here because our own Jason Crabb is featured in it! It looks like he plays a pastoral role.

I also notice that Ben Davies from Courageous plays the leading role. While I wasn’t blown away by his work in Courageous, I thought he showed a surprisingly good dramatic range in another Christian film called New Hope (which I think is one of the better Christian films out there, as movies in that genre go of course).

No, Jesus Wouldn’t Bake the Cake

[02/23: Today Powers has published ANOTHER fluff piece along with partner in church-wussification Jonathan Merritt, this one regarding a similar law that’s being proposed in Arizona. Since her attempt at exegesis worked out so well, this time she tries to use “logic.” Someone please tell this woman to stop before she hurts herself. Meanwhile, read Russell Moore’s measured response here. And Al Mohler’s here.]

Many of you may have been following the recent defeat of a bill in the Kansas State Senate (after passing in the House) that would protect Christian business-owners from lawsuit and potential financial ruin for refusing to lend their services to gay “weddings.” Unfortunately, this defeat has met with sanctimonious approval from a number of alleged Christians.

Among them is columnist Kirsten Powers, whose conversion to Christianity from her hard-core secular New York background was recently highlighted in Christianity Today. Conservatives passed the testimony around as an intriguing story. Of course I was pleased to see another soul won to Christ, but Powers’s testimony in that article and also in this video raised some red flags for me. I was concerned by her very evident discomfort with conservative politics in general and her relief at finding “other Christians who were like me—very progressive-minded.” She clearly now believes that she can be a Christian and keep most of her favorite liberal security blankets at the same time (except maybe for being pro-abortion). Tim Keller was the pastor who initially influenced her to become a Christian, but while he’s almost certainly more conservative than she is, he’s not the best pastor to provide hard-edged clarity of political thought to a Democrat who needs a wake-up call. (In fact, I heard a sermon where Keller said “moving” or “changing” in your politics is a sign of Christian maturity no matter which direction you’re moving—presumably becoming even more conservative doesn’t count.)

Anyway, all those worries are coming home to roost in Powers’s shallow, childish little rant about the fact that conservative Christians (shocker!) thought the Kansas bill was a good idea, in which she proves that she still doesn’t grok Christian morality and enlists the aid of outright liberal pastors like Adam Hamilton and Andy Stanley in the process. Where to start? Continue reading “No, Jesus Wouldn’t Bake the Cake”

Meet the New Gaither Vocal Band

Gaither announced it yesterday, and it’s official: Todd Suttles is indeed the new fifth man in the Gaither Vocal Band. Here’s a great new video put together to introduce the new group, devoting a generous amount of time to Adam and Todd:

A few of my comments:

1. Viewers with sharper hearing than I possess have confirmed that the songs we’re hearing in the background are all-new recordings with this lineup. While we’re still short on material that really showcases Suttles’s voice well (I collected everything I could find here), it’s cool to hear a little taste of this blend.

2. I liked Bill’s playful candor in saying that Adam has always been a little bit lost in the shadow of his older brother, so he takes pleasure in pulling him out of that shadow now.

3. I especially loved Bill’s comments about researching Suttles’s background as a physical trainer at Vanderbilt. What he learned from speaking to people who knew Suttles in that context had nothing to do with his singing and everything to do with his character. It’s a great reminder to do whatever you do with excellence to the glory of God!

4. I noticed that the cameraman made the group sing while he took their pictures. I’m not sure if this was because they were showing off or because making your subject speak/sing is a great way to get a natural expression. 😉

5. I enjoyed hearing Wes and David’s take on the new lineup. Interestingly, David especially praised Todd’s voice. The other day I and another reader were expressing some hesitations about Todd’s chops, but obviously David has had more opportunity than we to hear what he brings to the table, and apparently he’s impressed. I would take a compliment like that from David very seriously. Hopefully Todd will find his groove as he sinks his teeth into some meaty Gaither material.

So, from what you all have heard so far, where would you rank this latest lineup in the pantheon of GVB lineups? Would you rate it as less strong than the last one but stronger than the Wes/Guy/Marsh lineup? Do you agree with Bill’s choice to keep the five-man formula? Do you think Adam and Todd are going to leave their mark on the Vocal Band in a memorable way?

CD Review: Legacy Five, Great Day [Updated]

As a backer of Legacy Five’s new project, I just recently received the final mix of their project Great Day. I am pleased to offer the first review of this record, officially out March 25th! I’m using what I believe will be the cover of that project based on the fan poll they held on their blog. Enjoy my thoughts in bullet point form!

Likes

* Y’all know I’m a sucker for gospel shuffles drenched in B-3 Hammond. Standout track “Christ is Still the King” (the number on which some lucky backers got the chance to sing BGVs) goes straight to that happy part of my brain. Congrats to Rebecca Peck and Dianne Wilkinson (the lady is a machine!) for an exceptionally strong lyric and melody. It just keeps building and building to a triumphant finish with the aforementioned fan choir. The relative restraint of the production until that final verse makes it all the more effective.

Souls can still be rescued

For mercy still redeems.

Rejoice, the tomb’s still empty

And Christ is still the King. Continue reading “CD Review: Legacy Five, Great Day [Updated]”

Todd Suttles: Future GVB Material? (Video!)

[Update: As of February 18th, Suttles has joined the GVB. My thoughts on the new promo video are now available here.]

Various other bloggers have been rounding up everything that can be found on Todd Suttles, the potential fifth man in Bill Gaither’s GVB lineup. His name has come out of nowhere, since he has little background in live music. However, I have read that he’s done some studio work, but his day job is an athletic trainer. According to a fan quoted on Musicscribe, he could “kill you with one punch.” Cool.

But then I realized that I actually had heard Suttles’s voice before. You see, David also posted a video of Wes Hampton singing “It is Well,” which I had fixed for lip-sync and reposted on my Godtube channel some time ago. I noticed this second guy taking the third verse, but never got his name. Turns out, that was Todd! Here is the (fixed) video:

His voice bears a striking resemblance to Jason Crabb. However, in my opinion that performance wasn’t his best. Here is he is chilling out to “Georgia On My Mind”:

[Added February 18th: HT to MusicScribe reader Philip Murray for this low-quality duet of “Encourage My Soul”:]

We don’t have much else on him yet, except this Myspace link rustled up by Aaron Swain. Even that is mostly empty save for one really lame ballad (which is the song’s fault, not his) and “Amen.” There are also a few low-quality recent videos of him filling in with the vocal band, though none featuring him. I was wondering, “Is this guy really short or is Adam Crabb just really tall?” until I watched some from a better angle. The verdict is in: Dude is SHORT. He does seem to be fitting in well with the band’s sense of humor:

More:

I’m hopeful, but not entirely sure about Suttles. He’s fresh-faced and talented, with winning stage presence, but from a purely vocal perspective he still strikes me as a little green and pitchy. Furthermore, he seems to have an easier time “selling” a power number than a quiet one. However, this industry could use a bit of fresh talent, and for Bill to catapult an unknown to instant stardom would be exciting. I would like to see where Suttles could go with more training and experience.

What do you think?

In Not Of: Christians in Entertainment, Part I

Last week I promised some posts on Christians who are currently navigating the larger entertainment world. Here is the first installment. I’m going to begin with two incidents, involving two female Christian singers, that caused some kerfuffle around the 2014 Grammy Awards. First of all,  as some of you may have picked up on the interwebs, there were several performances in particular that were especially offensive this year. One was an obscenely sexualized number by celebrity couple Jay-Z and Beyonce. Another was a so-called “wedding ceremony,” including same-sex couples, officiated by a female celebrity with a temp license and blasphemously set against the stained-glass backdrop of a church service.

Natalie Grant and Mandisa are two of the most popular female vocalists in contemporary Christian music. Some of you are probably already familiar with Grant’s work on a couple of Gaither videos. Mandisa may be less familiar, but she was a stand-out on American Idol s0me years back and has since enjoyed a successful career on the CCM circuit. What else do these ladies have in common? Both were nominated for Grammys in categories for the best Christian song/record of the year. Also, both chose to make a public gesture distancing themselves from the culture of the Grammys.

In Mandisa’s case, she had already chosen not even to attend the ceremony. Here is an excerpt from what she had to say on her Facebook wall:

I have been struggling with being in the world, not of it lately. I have fallen prey to the alluring pull of flesh, pride, and selfish desires quite a bit recently. Continue reading “In Not Of: Christians in Entertainment, Part I”

Borrowing: Brian Dunphy, “God Be With Those Days”

You might recall a post I wrote some time back comparing an Irish pop/folk band called The High Kings with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. (And if perchance you haven’t read it, do take a look an it please you, I’m partial to it and you might discover some good new music. Also, my favorite High King found and liked it, so there’s that.) Anyway, while the High Kings mostly stick to folk as a group, their solo tastes vary widely. Today I’m pulling a song from baritone Brian Dunphy’s solo project and offering it as a “borrowing” candidate for a southern gospel soloist. In my head, I think this would suit Devin McGlamery particularly well. Stylistically, I would compare it with his recent solo single “While I Still Can.” It’s a sweet tune, written by Dunphy himself together with band-mate Darren Holden, and I believe it’s dedicated to his parents. (I was also reminded of the tune “Ellsworth,” which I consider to be a compliment, but I know some readers don’t share my sentiments there. Perhaps they’ll be glad to know this one isn’t as transparently tear-jerking. 😉 ) Ronnie Booth is another singer who comes to mind.

They’d talk about forever

Hold each other close

Dream about the family they would raise

They were young and innocent

In their old-fashioned ways

God be with those days

This may not be the last High Kings solo entry in the “Borrowing” series. Darren Holden also has one or two country tunes that could translate over quite well.