Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.

Archive for November, 2009

CD Review: The Inspirations – The Son Came Down

November 23, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Inspirations

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Martin Cook & Jeff Collins
Label: Horizon Records
Website: www.theinspirations.com
*This project was purchased directly from the artist. This detail had no bearing on the final rating.

Buy This Project

The Inspirations are a group that has carved a unique niche and developed a consistent sound in its history in Southern Gospel music. (Think the Dixie Echoes.) Before this project was recorded, the group got both a new lead singer, David Ragan, and a new tenor, Dallas Rogers. The latter came after long-time tenor, Archie Watkins, resigned from the group to take on a less hectic solo schedule. The obvious question here is this: how does two such changes impact the sound of the group?

The answer is, the group still sounds the same, but younger.

In hiring Dallas Rogers, the group hired a tenor that sounds like Archie Watkins when he first started with the group. The comparison is arguably strongest in the re-cut of a song that originally featured Watkins, “Thank God I Made It.” Roger’s vocal style and timbre is eerily similar to the elder tenor’s, and that fact helps keep longtime fans of the group happy.

As far as the project goes, the group has found a new spring in their step with their past few projects. They’ve picked songs that fit the group well and are stellar selections. It really started with “I Have Not Forgotten,” then “The Rose,” and now the title track for this project. I have a feeling that will be the next big hit for the group.

The project as a whole lets every vocalist get the spotlight. Dallas Rogers gets a big feature on a new song called “Dealing With Gold,” popping a few higher-end notes I wasn’t expecting. Baritone Melton Campbell sings a Joseph Habedank offering called “Stone’s Throw Away” that seemed tailored for his voice. Bass singer Mike Holcomb shines on both “Heaven Knows Where I’ve Been” and his solo verse on “The Son Came Down.” New lead singer David Ragan gets a feature on the latter as well, and he injects some young blood into the group just like Rogers.

Bottom line: Like I stated earlier, The Inspirations are steadily improving the quality of the material they put out. This project is a great way to introduce the new lineup to the world and show them what they are capable of.

Checking In

November 21, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Uncategorized

Yes, folks, I am still here! The day-to-day stuff has all seemed to catch up at once, so I haven’t had time to do much of anything outside of school and extra-curricular activities. I hope to get back to regular posting soon. My review of The Inspirations’ The Son Came Down project should be up Monday.

CD Review: The Kingsmen – Missing People

November 07, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Kingsmen

Rating: 4.5 stars

Producer: Jeff Collins
Label: Horizon Records
Website: www.kingsmenquartet.com
*This project was purchased directly from the artist. This detail had no bearing on the final rating.

Buy This Project

1. Missing People – Right off the bat, the title track shows that The Kingsmen are sticking with the “today” sound that they adopted on their previous effort, When God Ran. Like the title track of that album, Bryan Hutson gets the feature on a beautiful song. This one carries the message that up in Heaven, no one is missing. Given the recent cases of shootings and people going missing here in Virginia, this song strikes a special chord with me; it is very timely and relevant.

2. Someday – A driving, country-flavored quartet number jump-starts the CD here. Lead singer Phillip Hughes sings the verses, with longtime bass singer Ray Dean Reese getting some standout lines and a nice low note at the end. This song is one of those sings that bridges the generations of Kingsmen fans; it’s just “traditional quartet” enough to please long-time fans, while simultaneously being modern enough for the younger crowd.

3. They Went To Pray – A swinging tune that gives tenor singer Harold Reed the feature on the chorus. Reese shows a higher end to his range on the second verse, and the group hits some interesting chords on the final chorus. At first listen, this song didn’t stick out, but I enjoy it the more I hear it.

4. Mountain Of Grace – Lead singer Phillip Hughes carries this beautiful ballad. The first verse and chorus are done with piano as the only instrumentation. When the orchestration kicks in, it is just as good. This is easily one of the best features that Hughes has ever gotten.

5. When It’s All Said And Done – Another throwback to the classic Kingsmen sound, this brand new song by Dustin Sweatman and Scott Inman does a great job of capturing the fact that this lineup of The Kingsmen can “bring it.” The upbeat, toe-tapping tune is sure to be a hit when sung.

6. Cheer The Weary Traveler – This arrangement of the Southern Gospel classic doesn’t stray too far from the one that the The Rebels Quartet did in 1970 on The New Sounds Of The Rebels, save for the turnaround at the end. The turnaround features tenor Harold Reed hitting some super-high notes in the same style as Ron Booth did on the original take.

7. God Saw A Cross – Harold Reed gets the solo on what is perhaps the standout ballad of this project. This song from the pen of Rodney Griffin says that for every fault of mankind, God only saw a cross. This will be considered a Kingsmen signature for years to come.

8. He Picks Up A Beggar On The Way – It’s back to the hard-driving country sound, this time featuring Bryan Hutson. Hutson sounds a bit like Arthur Rice on some of his lines here, which is never a bad thing!

9. God Knows – In his final feature of the album, Phillip Hughes get a slow country ballad that tells us that God knows our problems and cares about them. The country style fits Hughes’ very well, and this song really brings that fact to the forefront.

10. He Is The Only One – The final true song of the album is another slower one. Nothing really sticks out about it, but there are some good harmonies throughout.

11. Reprise: Someday – The second track is revisited, giving it a piano-and-bass treatment, with another nice low ending note from Ray Dean Reese.

Final Thoughts: In a trend that started with Good Good God and was very evident with When God Ran, The Kingsmen have molded their sound into something that can hold its own with the legendary Kingsmen lineups of the 70s and 80s. Each vocalist on this project gets a song that is tailored to their voices and brings out the best in them, which makes for a solid project.

Bottom line: Like I said earlier, this lineup bridges generations with its sound. The past couple of projects gradually brought the Kingsmen back to their place as one of the top quartets, and they can only get better if they continue in this vein.

CD Review: The Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, & Legacy Five – Jubilee

November 03, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Booth Brothers, CD Reviews, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Gerald Wolfe
Websites: Booth Brothers, Greater Vision, Legacy Five

Buy This Project

Jubilee is an interesting undertaking, in that it takes three of the most popular groups out there today and brings them together all in one recording. In a situation like this, there’s only two possible outcomes; the sounds of each singer can click and sound very good together, or there could be a clash and the whole thing ends up sounding terrible.

Thankfully, the sounds have a great blend. The opening and closing songs of this project put a spotlight on the very full sound that the groups have together, sounding almost like a men’s choir (hat tip, Nate) The rest of the project features a mix and match of different vocal configurations. Perhaps the most notable one is the eighth track, “Jesus My Wonderful Lord.” The first chorus features the Booth Brothers themselves, but then Legacy Five’s bass singer, Glenn Dustin, gets a solo verse and joins the group for the rest of the song. The blend is incredible, and while the Booth Brothers are one of the best trios out there, their quartet sound is just as good.

Each individual group gets a song featuring only them here as well. The Booth Brothers do a smooth arrangement of “In The Sweet By And By,” Greater Vision’s “He Pilots My Ship” features the powerful vocals of Gerald Wolfe, and Legacy Five’s “Someone Who Cares” doesn’t really catch on till a couple of spins.

Bottom line: The lineup of Jubilee could be this generation’s KingsGold. It is a very strong project that has me hoping to hear more of stuff like this.