CD Review: The News is Out, by Driven Quartet

Driven Quartet is a young men’s group currently signed to Chapel Records. They’ve been around for a while, even if you may not recognize their name. Their roots run deep in southern gospel, and lead singer Jason Funderburk is the son of legendary Cathedrals tenor Danny Funderburk. In 2009, David Bruce Murray said their self-titled record was the best non-label release he had heard that year. Now they have returned with a new project. Click below the fold for my review.

Likes

*Bass singer Will Lane is definitely the MVP of the group and has a bright future ahead of him. He combines a rock-solid low end with a very melodious upper register that is used to great effect on “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power.” He sounds like a seasoned vet even though he’s only 31. A very well-rounded singer to keep your eye on. He gives me Armond Morales vibes, and coming from me that’s a huge compliment.

*Lane is also featured on another excellent song choice, the ominous country/folk standard “Run On” (sometimes known as “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”). It’s been covered by everyone from Johnny Cash to Elvis Presley. Driven’s quartet spin most closely follows the work of the Jordannaires and the Imperials, who backed up Elvis’s arrangement. Perhaps this is why Presley’s name is in the “author” spot on the credits, but it’s a traditional tune that he definitely didn’t write.

* “If I Didn’t Know” (wr. Chris Binion) is a new to me uptempo song, and I like both the music and the message. I like the theme of basing our faith on the historical fact of Jesus’ miraculous life instead of merely relying on a subjective feeling:

If I didn’t know he walked on water

If I didn’t know he calmed the sea

Hey, doubt would take me under

If I didn’t know what I believe…

* “Hand on the Plow” (wr. Shane Roark) is a new song to me. It has a solid beat and a great country twang to it. I could hear Gold City performing it. Lane’s low work has that Tim Riley feel here.

*The vocals are very tight on the title track and really all the up-tempo numbers.

 Dislikes

*Tenor Wesley Smith is sometimes overshadowed by the other members of the quartet. His vocal stamina could be improved, as he tends to crack and lose steam when going for high notes.

*This leads to the biggest problem with the song “The Deeper the Valley.” Oddly, they left in a piece of the bridge where Wesley actually drifted from the song’s key for several notes. I’m surprised nobody caught and fixed this. The song itself is not terrible, although it takes a while to get going.

* “I Heard About a Man” has some promise, but the lyrics closely resemble “He Saw it All” while at the same time being significantly less fresh and clever. The song needed to ripen more and find its own identity.

* The Paynes/Inspirations cover “How Great it Is” has a nice inspo swing to it and an interesting first verse but, the pay-off of the chorus is weak: “How great it is to serve a God that’s real, who sees my every tear and knows just how I feel.” It feels a bit trite, as if this is the central, all-important consequence of God’s reality.

Bottom line: Driven Quartet has a strong bass anchor, and they have mastered the up-tempo quartet sound. However, they are still finding their feet with slow-building numbers. They offer a classic style that will please fans of Gold City or Triumphant Quartet. With some shoring up of their vocal technique and some stronger ballads, they could become a force to be reckoned with.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Review copy provided. A positive review was not required.

 

 

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