Producer: Adam Kohout
Label: Independent Release
Song titles: Somebody Sing; I’ve Been Saved; Blessed Be His Name; I’ll Keep On Running; He’ll Carry You; God Always; I’ll See God Smile; When I Think About Heaven;
Rolling Away; Unconditional Love
There is always a bit of trepidation when I sit down to review an artist’s debut project, especially if it’s kind of an “out of nowhere” type of group. With a group like Freedom or Canton Junction, I have an idea of the quality I’ll be faced with based on the members of the group, but I’m never quite sure what to expect when it comes to completely fresh talent. This time around, I’m only familar with one member: lead singer Donald Morris. Donald sang for several years with the Dixie Melody Boys, and was last seen on the group’s 50th anniversary project, The Call Is Still The Same. He brings his Ed O’Neal University diploma with him to the Hoggle Family, with also consists of soprano Reagan Hoggle, alto (and Donald’s wife) Kaylan Morris, and baritone Dylan Hoggle. With a group that is 75% “new” faces to the genre, it was going to be interesting to see what kind of first impression they would make.
Not even considering the “debut status” of the project, I was impressed with the quality of both the music and the vocals. The group has a decidedly country flavor, as evidenced by tracks like “He’ll Carry You,” and “When I Think About Heaven,” and “Rolling Away,” but songs like “Somebody Sing” and “I’ll Keep On Running” lean more towards straight-forward Southern Gospel. Speaking of “I’ll Keep On Running,” the group’s first single from this CD is one of the stronger songs of the collection, and it does a good job of highlighting both the individual voices and the blend. The preceding track, “Blessed Be His Name,” is the standout ballad, and should be seriously looked at for radio as well. Both of these have seen repeated plays on my iPod lately.
Like Steve Eaton of Musicscribe, I was impressed with the song selection found here, and to find out that Donald Morris wrote all ten tracks was even more impressive. We heard some of Donald Morris’ songwriting on his last DMB project (“Bottom of the Basket” and “Go To The Well”), but this project really showcases his repertoire. To have every song be from the same writer and not seem stale or carbon-copied is no easy feat, and I think we may soon see Morris’ name alongside those of Joseph Habedank and Scott Inman when speaking of young SG songwriters.
The Hoggle Family has gotten off to a good start with their first national release. They avoided the pitfall of sounding too “young,” despite the young age of some of the members, and while not perfectly polished just yet, they have a good blend and raw talent that bodes well for their future. This is bolstered by a strong lineup of songs to choose from in concert, and I look forward to hearing what future projects will bring. The Hoggle Family receives 4 stars.