NQC Catch-Up: Gaither Vocal Band Reunion

I see that in my NQC reporting I failed to make any mention of the GVB Reunion showcase. Others fortunately caught it live and provided a set list. I’ve finally finished watching it on-demand. Basically it felt very off-the-cuff and informal, which meant there were some mix-ups and goofs, but it was real. You could tell they hadn’t had much time to run through everything. I actually like that sense of making things up as you go along. The biggest problem was (surprise, surprise) sound. Members would pick up their mikes for key solos and find them turned off—just had to manage as best they could. The mix was also very uneven. Often parts would stand out over the melody. But again, I liked the real feeling, and there was some wonderful singing anyway. Mark Lowry was as crazy as ever and pulled out his old “Jesus On the Mainline” routine for a hilarious walk down memory lane, plus of course his classic “Mary Did You Know.”

Yes, like everyone else I am puzzled by the fact that Guy’s absence wasn’t even mentioned or explained in any way, but good singing was still done and good music still made. Larnelle Harris essentially stole the show, as others have said. Even when he wasn’t being featured and bringing the house down (“Amen,” “I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked”), he would time and again be chiming in with some bit of improv, waving the microphone about in that delightful way of his and just being generally brilliant. However, Wes Hampton also offered some wonderful moments (“The Love of God,” “I’m Free,” “Something About That Name,” “Daystar,” others I’m probably forgetting where his voice was heard… and I mustn’t forget to mention his little dance moves on “Build An Ark” — priceless). Also, Steve Green did a brilliant job with “No Other Name But Jesus,” setting it up with a great mini-sermon on how both the legalists and the relativists fail to grasp the gospel of salvation. It was his only feature, but it touched me deeply, like Michael Booth touched me on Saturday night with “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet.” For some reason, those two moments both stand out in a special way for me out of all the great music that was performed last week. I think it’s because both Michael and Steve have a rare gift for communicating a song and sending the message straight to the heart, and when that gift is joined with a great lyric, you have something special. I realize that’s not an original thought, but it’s true.

There were others who did great too, like Jimmy Murray and Buddy Mullins (who had a much better haircut than he did a couple years ago on the reunion video set). Just a really enjoyable showcase. You could tell everyone had a great time. The song selection wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but they had to work around the fact that they didn’t have Guy with them so that may explain some of it. One thing I wish they would have done is have Steve Green and Wes Hampton sing their duet version of “It is Well.” It would have made perfect sense for many reasons, one of which is that Wes’s solo project, from which that arrangement comes, has just been released by the Gaither company. Anyway, it was still fun, still good, still worth watching. Don’t miss it if you got the webcast. No videos from it have surfaced on Youtube, but while we’re talking about the GVB, here’s a taste of Wes Hampton’s brilliant Friday night performance of “He is Here.” This isn’t the whole thing, but it’s still great:


His love is like a river, splishin’ and a’splashin’…

Ever noticed that you can play “Splish Splash” and “Love Is Like a River” back-to-back and hardly notice when the one bleeds into the other? Compare:

Striking, isn’t it? It’s that same 50s rock feel, right down to the electric guitar stylings. Even the dance moves are the same. But then, Bobby Darin and Elvis were pretty much exact contemporaries. (Side note: I always get a slightly surreal feeling when I watch these old, old clips from when rock ‘n’ roll was in its embryonic stages. It seems so innocent and harmless looking back.)

Anyway, I guess this might fall into the category of “singing the world’s music for Jesus.” Whatever. I’m lovin’ it. Now I’m off to see if I can layer them together in Audacity so that they’re playing simultaneously in sync. (Can you tell I’m not having a busy summer?)

Reminiscing, Part 2: “A Place Called Hope”

When I first started the blog, I promised a series in which I looked at some key moments in my discovery of southern gospel music. After providing my first entry on Wes Hampton’s duet of “It is Well” with Steve Green, I promptly left the series hanging and gave you no more installments. With my semester wrapped up, I’m going to (try to!) make up for that in the coming weeks. Here then, for your enjoyment, is part two of my stroll down southern gospel memory lane.

The little-known song “A Place Called Hope” was an important stepping-stone for me when I very first discovered gospel music. I first ran across it because I watched this popular Singing Success ad with Wes Hampton, and when they ran a clip of the climax from this song, I went ballistic. For some reason, the lyrics weren’t posted anywhere online, so I was crestfallen when I couldn’t find the name of the song or a full version.

So instead I began watching other songs from the Give it Away project, and interestingly they didn’t all click with me right away. I remember coming to really like a lot of them in time, but initially the individual vocals in particular didn’t reach out and grab me. However, the blend that was created when all four voices came together intrigued me. It wasn’t like I had never heard a southern gospel quartet before—I sometimes listened to a radio station that featured inspirational and gospel singing. But I hadn’t seen and heard one quite like this:

When I finally found the song in full on Youtube, I was very pleased. The combined power of the melody, the lyrics, and the delivery on the chorus captured everything I was coming to like about southern gospel music. In particular, the explosive climax made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, partly because it comes so unexpectedly in the song. Wes’s high power tag impressed me very much. But curiously, the voice that most pleased me in this song was Guy Penrod. In some notes I made at the time about the group, I said that Wes and especially Marshall were still growing on me, but Guy had a “nice, clear voice” that just immediately felt like a comfortable shoe. My readers might find this amusing since Guy is really most famous for belting out power tunes, but remember that all these songs and voices were completely new to me at the time. More on Guy later.

Most of all though, it was the song. Admittedly, it takes a little while to “kick into gear,” but it stirred something inside me that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I’m actually a bit surprised that it never had much circulation and seems to have been forgotten.

Conclusion: Never underestimate the power of a good, strong ballad. When delivered with power and conviction, it will tap into the emotion of even a non-SG listener. It does things a toe-tapper just can’t do.