Saturday Survey #7

*The Dove Brothers have found their replacement tenor. I think Jonathan had the better voice, but I 100% support McCray in the turnover. I’m sure he’d appreciate your prayers.

*Our favorite Southern Gospel Blog contributors, the Garms family, took a tour of the Cathedrals’ legendary bus this week, the Silhouette.

*Jackie Wilburn, the Wilburn family patriarch, passed away the other day. Steve Eaton has posted some exclusive vintage concert clips of the Wilburns, featuring an incredibly young Jonathan Wilburn—I’m gonna guess he’s no older than 23 or so. Here’s a moving obituary from Jonathan.

*DBM has a new column: Hype/Reality, in which he takes the hype over a new album or song and assigns a letter grade based on how well it reflects his own opinion. Check it out.

*Just came across an episode of Southern Gospel Gardener featuring a surprise guest appearance by Clayton Inman. We love the gardener! I sure hope he reads my blog. Maybe some of his coolness will rub off on me.

*Here’s a disappointing blog post by Dr. Russell Moore, in which he gives his readers his class’s final ethics exam. Not only is it highly unprofessional, charged with manipulative language to make the students feel pressured into giving one particular answer (which is blatantly obvious much as he may protest to the contrary), but it is also strangely and deliberately unrealistic. It’s a situation involving American law concerning immigration, except Moore has made the laws far more draconian in his hypothetical scenario. You’d think that if you were trying to equip students for ministry, you’d train them to think and reason under real-world conditions instead of giving them deliberately skewed hypothetical scenarios. But sadly, I wasn’t that surprised by this post since Moore has shown oddly left-leaning instincts in the past, religious-righter though he may be considered by most die-hard liberals. So this just continues the trend.

*So many stupid blog posts, so little time to tear them apart…

*I’ve recently been indulging myself in some Pixar movies. Discovering and re-discovering. First, I revisited the original Toy Story after what has to be roughly a decade and a half (it’s still awesome), then I watched Toy Story 3 (forced, melodramatic and overrated, but still pretty good—heck, I cried at the end). I then went and found some priceless behind the scenes footage for the latter. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in peak form:

Then I revisited Finding Nemo (more crying), and then I discovered what all the fuss was about Up. That movie is not overrated. It is the most brilliant piece of film-making sincesince… well, anyway, it’s JUST BRILLIANT! More crying. Oh yes, and I realized where Michael Booth got his “squirrel” line from…

Then I revisited A Bug’s Life, which has one of their best blooper reels…

Finally, I watched Monsters Inc., which made me cry twice. TWICE! That one may actually be my favorite. I might even be heretical and say I like it better than Toy Story, but… I don’t feel brave today.


Saturday Survey #2

Hilariously, this is only my second survey/open thread in the life of the blog. I guess I’m generally too lazy to go around collecting newsy tidbits, especially since everybody else is so good at it. But a few things caught my eye this week. In no particular order:

* Former Tribute tenor Brian Alvey has joined the Talleys. As I’ve said elsewhere, this thrills me to no end. Brian is a fabulous and (IMO) underrated singer, and I can’t wait to see what Roger cooks up for the new sound. Some of us were wondering where Lauren would take her career when she and Brian got married last month, but this is certainly a pleasant surprise. Expect some impressive vocal interplay between Brian and Lauren in the group’s future.

* It came out in the comments section of this blog post of mine that Terry Franklin won’t be participating in this year’s live Gaither Vocal Band Reunion at NQC due to various scheduling conflicts. He will definitely be missed. I don’t know how many other GVB tenors will make an appearance, but I sure hope Steve Green makes it.

* Yet another SG blogger has launched, at His latest post is a convicting message to southern gospel groups about paying songwriter royalties.

* Chris Allman’s son Dustin proposed to his sweetheart, and she said yes. Way to go, D! You’re a great guy, and I’m confident you and Amanda will have a sweet marriage.

* Photo of the week: This priceless shot of Brian Free with his new grandson, born July 20. Isn’t that beautiful? Of course, the newsworthy aspect of this photo is that it appears Brian has grown a goatee. And here we were laying bets on when he would shave his soul patch. Who’da thunk it? Personally, I think his sharp, classic features have always lent themselves best to the clean-shaven look, but that’s just my .02.

* Video of the week: Hat tip to Josh for posting this video of the Garms family’s “Little Adventurers” performing an acapella number (with a little last-minute backup from big brother Ben). Little Caleb is singing lead, sister Jayme is singing high harmony, and Sam is singing low harmony while providing a few comedic movements with Caleb. Sammy is turning into a miniature Michael Booth—look out world! He even plays drums! (Not shown in this video.)

The thread is yours.

CD Review: Thank You Lord by Great Adventure Gospel Band

The southern gospel world was first introduced to the Garms family through this video of their youngest child, Caleb, with Legacy Five. 7-year-old Caleb stole the show with his easy charm and stage presence, making a couple members of the group uneasy about being able to keep their jobs in the long run (particularly Glen Dustin, when it was revealed that Caleb aspires to be a bass!)

Some time later, the entire Garms family became contributors to, and their posts have become regular high points. When I discovered they were a traveling gospel band, I checked out the sneak peek of their debut album and was delighted at what I heard. They graciously provided a review copy at my request, and today I bring you my thoughts on this fresh project from the Great Adventure Gospel Band.

The CD was independently produced with technical mastering and mixing handled by Ben (age 20), the acknowledged techno-whiz of the family. Ben also provided all the guitar work (acoustic and electric), as well as some banjo and electric bass. Vocalists include Mom (Kris) and Dad (David), Ben, Taylor (age 19), Leesha (age 16), Sam (age 11), Jayme (age 9), and of course Caleb (age 7). Mandolin is provided by Taylor (with some contributions from Uli, another sister who doesn’t tour with the band), dobro by Leesha, piano by Kris and Taylor, violin by Jayme and Taylor, harmonica by David, and percussion by David and Sam. A few songs are completely handled by the female trio of Kris, Taylor, and Leesha, while others are completely handled by the trio of “Little Adventurers” (Sam, Jayme and Caleb).

The style ranges from straight-up southern gospel to bluegrass to folk. Here are some highlights:

“Leaning On the Everlasting Arms”: This features the female trio, who offer a very refreshing vocal blend and put a few twists on this familiar hymn. Leesha sings lead and sounds mature for her sixteen years, Taylor sings high harmony, and Kris sings alto. Ben provides some exceptionally smooth bass support as well. Perhaps this is a good indication of what Caleb will sound like in fifteen years or so!

“Wonderful Time Up There”: This is a father/son duet between David and Ben with backup from “the girls.” David sings the lead, but Ben really steals the show as we get to see his bass singing in full action on the familiar classic. He’s probably the family’s most polished singer at the moment. Kris also shines on piano. Really fun stuff, and it’s almost over too soon.

“Were You There”: Everybody shines on this folk-flavored arrangement of the dramatic spiritual. Ben’s haunting acoustic guitar provides the backbone for the instrumentation, but 9-year-old Jayme also plays an impressive, Celtic-sounding lead violin, with Taylor playing harmony violin. The little ones sing the first verse very movingly, Taylor sings a poignant solo on verse two, the female trio handles verse three, and the whole family sings the triumphant final verse. One minor quibble: My understanding is that the final verse changes the “it causes me to tremble” line to “I feel like shouting glory.” Here, it’s “tremble” all the way through.

We’re treated to some extra violin interplay as the arrangement closes. This cut is a major standout for sure. Great harmonies and production.

“Poor Wayfaring Stranger”: This is the most pure folk cut on the whole album, sung by the female trio. Their vocals here have that raw, hard-to-describe feeling that’s characteristic to folk music. It’s like something from the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack—unpolished, untouched, and appealing for precisely that reason. Definitely not a southern gospel sound, so it might have to grow a little on those who are unused to folk/bluegrass. But I think it fits the mood of the song perfectly. There’s an extra bit to the arrangement at the end which sounds pretty cool, with some ethereal effects added to the ladies’ voices. However, the sudden New Age feel does seem to clash musically with the earthiness of the rest of the arrangement. It’s a neat sound, just a slightly odd genre shift.

“Beautiful/Beautiful Savior Medley”: The female trio sings the first song in the medley, alternating between unison and harmony. Harmonizing with each other seems to bring out the best in their voices, and they do some of their best singing on this cut. The family resemblance among their voices is very strong. Then “Beautiful Savior” is sung by the whole family in simple, lovely acapella to finish the disc.

Also worth mentioning is that one song on here was written by a little adventurer! Jayme Garms is apparently a budding songwriter as well as singer/musician, and she wrote “I Need You Lord” when she was only seven. The song might not seem particularly remarkable by itself, but when the age of the author is taken into consideration, it’s rather impressive. A very simple, jangly folk tune, it follows a lyrical progression obviously inspired by Pilgrim’s Progress, as the singer asks for help to remove his burden, is told to go to the cross, and finds it taken off there. It will be interesting to watch as Jayme’s writing talents continue to mature. Other songs include “Lord I Want to Thank You,” “Bigger Than Any Mountain” (sung by the Little Adventurers), “He’s Still Working On Me” (ditto, and a great one to play for little kids), and “Power In the Blood.”

Southern gospel fans will definitely find much to enjoy in the song selection, even though some of the songs and arrangements sound more bluegrass/folk than gospel. It’s also worth checking out for its impressive production values. Even though it was mixed in a home studio, this does not sound like a cheap, shoestring project. And of course, fans of family harmony will be charmed by the range of ages represented here. Even the younger kids already have a striking grasp of harmony and blend. Their youthful contributions make this project especially appropriate for families with small children. But it truly is a CD for all ages. Definitely recommended. Hear clips and buy it here.

The Garms Kids interview Michael Booth

I had to put in a plug for this interview because it’s just too darn cute. Michael Booth is interviewed by some of his youngest fans, amidst much hilarity and profound insight! The Garms family promises to be a valuable addition to Their contributions have already been highlights. This interview is probably their best so far. Be sure to watch the whole thing. [Update: The video has been removed from Youtube, so I have removed the embed. However, it can be viewed in high quality at the link above or at the Garms family’s blog.] Here is a transcript:

Jayme: We are at Lakewood Temple, Mainwood, Minnesota.

Sam: Interviewing Mr. Michael Booth of the Booth Brothers.

Caleb: Hey Mr. Booth [couldn’t quite make out the rest of what Caleb said here.]

Michael: I’m happy to be interviewed. Thank you. Thank you. [Channels Elvis.] Thankuvermuch.

Caleb: All right. All three of us have questions for you.

Michael: All right!

Caleb: First: What is your favorite song you’ve ever sung on stage?

Michael: What is my favorite song I’ve ever sung on stage? Uh, believe it or not, probably “His Grace is Sufficient.” Probably “His Grace is Sufficient” is my  favorite song, because I think it covers…I think it covers everybody’s need at the same time.

Caleb: Oh thank you.

Michael: You’re welcome. You’re welcome.

Jayme: What was it like singing on the NQC stage for the first time?

Michael: It, it was a lot of fun but it was, I learned that it was hard to sing if you can’t breathe. Because I was so nervous and overwhelmed. I’m thinking, “Wow this is the same stage that George Younce was on and the Happy Goodmans and the Kingsmen and all that, so I was very much overwhelmed. But I’ll say it went quick because our first couple years at the quartet convention we had eleven minutes to sing. And also we lost Horizon Group three times. That’s the limit. [Laughter]

Sam: Mr. Booth.

Michael: Yeah!

Sam: How do you prepare yourself for a concert spiritually and mentally?

Michael: How do I prepare myself spiritually and mentally for a concert? I was asked this last night by an evangelist. It’s, the best way to answer is it’s a lifestyle. It’s not something you do one day or just a few minutes before you go on stage and sing. It’s a lifestyle. And honestly a gospel singer’s lifestyle should be no different than any other Christian’s lifestyle. So basically my job is not to grieve the Holy Spirit so that he can work through me when we’re singing. And I do a lot of reading. Read the Bible, read some other writers: John Piper, John MacArthur, R. C. Sproul, David Jeremiah, Charles Stanley, you know on and on and on, you know, lot of reading. And I watch, believe it or not I watch a lot of sermons on Youtube. I think that’s a very, very valuable thing if a person can handle going on there. That helps me a lot.

Sam: All right. Interesting!

Caleb: Here’s another question. You’ve recently become very involved as a preacher. And you’ve been excelling at presenting a clear gospel message. This has been greatly appreciated by our family and many others. Now tell us, who has influenced you most in this area?

Michael: Thank you. Who influenced me the most? That’s a huge question…um, how much tape you got there?

Dad: Plenty. [Laughter]

Michael: Long story short is a friend of mine of the family’s, his name is Darrel Toney, from the Toney family, Toney Brothers, he you know in a very loving, compassionate way gave me a good godly rebuke, if you will, of my, what he recognized as my ignorance of the Scripture. Because he could tell one night I might make a point but next night I wouldn’t. And it was hit and miss and very inconsistent on the platform. So when I realized and I was convicted over that, it didn’t make me angry, it didn’t hurt, and I realized I had to do something about it. So I started studying, studying the Scripture, and I started with the gospels. Well one day I typed in “preacher,” and somehow on Youtube it came up with a guy by the name of Paul Washer and a sermon called “The Shocking Message” came up. And it stunned me, absolutely stunned me. And it’s the same message now that I present of making sure that our salvation is in faith in Christ and not in a prayer that we prayed, basically. And so you know there’s confession and repentance, and all those things are involved, but it’s not just walking in and out. So a lot of his preaching influenced me, and then as I studied, it’s an amazing thing how the Spirit brings back words that I heard from former messages from my former pastor Ledoux Strong, out of Brandon Fellowship Baptist Church, and David Rakes from First Baptist Temple, Parrish, Florida, and on and on and on, Gene Sorenson, and my current pastor Mike Stalnaker. So when you read the word and you’ve heard the word, the Spirit puts it together and just seals it in your mind. So that’s kind of how all that came about. So now we just feel… [camera shifts over to the kids, Michael moves in front of them] Now we just…over here. I’m right here. [Laughter] Sorry. Now we just feel it’s a great opportunity every night to take 10, literally 10 minutes and present a clear presentation of the gospel, ‘cuz we don’t know if everybody’s, everybody’s born again. And I think it’s, I’ve enjoyed doing that.

Caleb: Wow. I’ll take that to heart.

Michael: Thank you.

Jayme: You have been involved in the southern gospel music industry for over 20 years [Michael looks sad], traveled countless miles, met lots of people and visited many different places. Looking back, if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Michael: I know exactly what I would do differently: I would enjoy things more. Specifically when we were singing to 20 or 30 people. Because now I realize I’ve learned to enjoy myself by being fulfilled in being effective, and not because of the size of the audience. Let me say that again: Learn to be content. I wish I had been content and enjoyed singing to 30 people because I’m being effective for the kingdom, not because of the size of the crowd. Because I had a huge awakening, if you will, one time when we were with the Gaithers and I was sitting between Guy Penrod and Jake Hess, and there were 15,000 people, literally, out in front of me. And I thought, “This is it. This is the biggest Christian tour, biggest crowd I’m ever gonna sing to. It doesn’t get any bigger than this.” And it was one of the lowest points of my life, because I realized I had…I tried to find joy in being part of a big thing, not in part of a big message. So, I thank God for delivering me from that. So those of you who are singing to 20 and 30 people, you’re still representing the King of kings and Lord of lords. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. Nothing is bigger than you singing about Christ.

Sam: All right. When you sang here at Lakewood Temple last year, you mentioned from the stage that you have chosen not to watch television on the bus. This spoke volumes to our family, for we also do not watch TV. Would you explain how and why you came to this decision?

Michael: Did I say that?? [Laughter] What is critically important is what goes into our mind. And in our society today it’s very easy for one TV show to turn into two, to turn into three, to turn into six hours. And the next thing you know, you’ve got six hours of who knows what influencing your mind. What is most important is that even if you’re going to watch television, you’ve got to offset the junk that has gone in. Junk in, junk out. So good in, good out…I think a person’s gotta know when they’re caught up into something. And bottom line, if you find yourself caught up in something, you gotta try to break away from it. So that’s what I tried to do, is just break away from it. And rather than spend time watching TV, either listening to sermons, even playing games, giving your mind a break. Anyway, just fill in the blank, you say the rest.

Off-the-wall questions…

Caleb: [Pulls question off the wall.] First off-the-wall question.

Michael: The first off-the-wall question.

Caleb: Here is mine. Just wanted to know what was your first impression of Scott Fowler? How did you meet?

Michael: Oh! My first impression of Scott Fowler was [looks down] “Well, he’s a little guy.” [Laughter.] “Thought he was bigger on stage.” No, honestly, Scott Fowler is one of my dearest friends. And I’ve always had a love for simple people [laughter]. I just, no, Scott’s one of my best friends. We go to Cracker Barrel all the time. I did find out this: When the check is put on the table, don’t go “I’ll get that,” because he’ll say, “Okay.” And then you end up paying for it. He don’t ever pay for nothing. Matter of fact, at quartet convention this year, he went all six days without buying lunch one time. Yeah. He manipulates people, he does. That’s what I think of Scott. [Laughter]

Jayme: Here’s the second off-the-wall question [goes and pulls it off…] Are there any questions you have never been asked but are dying to  answer?

Michael: Wow. Yes, October 8th is my birthday. What would I like for a gift? [Laughter] You know what, just send a Visa gift card. That would be fine, and then I can just, you know, pray about it and get whatever I need at the time. That would be, that’s something I’ve never been asked. Anybody like to ask me? What would you like for your birthday? Visa gift card.

Jayme: Interesting.

Michael: Your turn? [Hands mic to Sam.]

Sam: As for the third and final off-the-wall question…which is, what is the most unusual thing that has happened at a concert?

Michael: [Laughs] Um, one time I was singing and Scott Fowler was there. [Laughter] I’m kidding. Most unusual that’s ever happened at a concert… Well I don’t know how to des…no, I can’t, I can’t tell that one. [Laughter.] Um, wow, see there are a lot of things that have happened. I’m just trying to think which one I can put on the internet. I’m drawing a blank man, there’ve been…I remember one time the electricity went out. So we’re a track group and all the tracks are gone. So we do what we can and we start singing acapella. And an old guy, I’m guessing 80, 90, 400 years old, whatever it was, old guy…he stood up several rows back and he said, “That, that’s good singing right there! You don’t need all that RACKET!” That’s a true story, true story. That’s one thing that happened, and there have been a lot of things happened to me. Get back to me on that one and I’ll try to think of ’em, bring ’em to memory. Some of them I’ve sponged from my memory.

Li’l Adventurers Together: This is Sam, Jayme, and Caleb Garms. Reporting for southerngospelblog. Dot com. Bye!


Thanks kids for giving me some more great reminders of why I like Michael Booth so much. Keep the great interviews coming!