Daniel J. Mount (www.SouthernGospelBlog.com)
Wes Burke (Burke’s Brainwork)
Aaron Swain (Swain’s Musings)
1. Amazed at the Change
Aaron: The album with a slightly slow, country-style tune. Sounds like something out of The Kingdom Heirs’ songbook. Nice way to open up the project.
2. Keep Me
Wes: This is a nice midtempo song with a slightly progressive edge to it. The harmonies are nice and smooth, and they do a really good job of using some unison lines and verses to keep the song musically interesting. This is a really nice cut.
Aaron: This song utilizes some great progressive harmonies to drive it. The group would do well to release this to radio soon.
3. Broken But Blessed
Daniel: This song, featuring tenor Keith Waggoner, is musically subdued but lyrically powerful. It was co-written by Twila LeBar and Sue C. Smith, two of the best but least recognized songwriters in Southern Gospel. (LeBar is co-writer of songs like “Orphans of God” and “The Great I Am Still Is”; Sue C. Smith has co-written songs like “But For the Blood,” “He Forgets,” “Forgave Me Saved Me Raised Me,” and “Realms of Glory Bright.”)
Wes: Keith does a great job on this song. He’s not the highest tenor you are going to hear, but he has a very pleasing voice and does a great job interpreting this song. There’s nothing really flashy here, as Daniel alluded to, but just some solid singing on a nice tune.
Daniel: Keith actually does have a few high notes in him. But he’s said in the past (here) that one thing the group stresses is that none of the vocalists push the limits of their range—that they only record and stage what they can consistently produce.
Aaron: That’s an interesting tidbit, Daniel. That shows me that these guys care about putting out quality music and preserving their voices.
The project’s first truly slow song is a good song. Just straight-forward singing, no vocal showboating.
4. Just Stand
Wes: Midtempo number featuring bass singer Royce Mitchell. This sounds a lot like something you’d hear from the Kingdom Heirs. Actually, there are several songs on this disc that sound a lot like KH tunes. Since the KH are one of the most solid quartets around, that’s a good thing. This is a very enjoyable tune.
Daniel: Royce has had professional voice training and often utilizes an operatic voice. On this song, he drops the vibrato. I’d agree with Wes’s observation that this gives the song a Kingdom Heirs feel.
Aaron: Like the other guys have said, this does sound like a KH song, but I also find that it recalls the song “God’s Still Good” from Gold City’s Revival project. Mitchell displays a nice lower range here.
5. Into the Water
Daniel: This uptempo song is a nice change of pace from a string of slower ballads. If Liberty singles an uptempo song, this is probably the most radio-friendly uptempo song on the CD.
Wes: There is some nice smooth harmony on this song. These guys know how to sing and how to blend.
6. Call It What It Is
Daniel: This song has a distinctive enough lyric and melody to be unique—but at the same time, it is unmistakably a Southern Gospel big ballad. This song should stand out and do well if singled. I received the CD about a week ago and (rare for me) the song is already on my top 50 most played list on iTunes (out of 11,000+ songs).
Aaron: Awesome song. Lead singer Dan Gilbert has a sound to his voice that sounds like Bryan Hutson, and it works very well for this track. Great choice for a single.
Daniel: Interesting comparision. I hadn’t thought of comparing Gilbert to Hutson—I’d been thinking along the lines of a comparison to Phil Cross or even Arthur Rice.
Wes: I actually don’t hear any of the 3 comparisons. I think Gilbert has a sound all his own. That doesn’t detract from the fact that this is one of the strongest songs on the disc. Nice smooth harmonies on this number. I really like this song.
7. Music at Midnight
Wes: Nice uptempo number. This song sounds like the group was going after the type of sound that was found on Gold City’s “If God Be For Us” with strings and brass behind the more traditional SG instrumentation, including some nice banjo/guitar interplay on the instrumental break. This song doesn’t quite measure up to Gold City’s gem, but it is still very enjoyable, and kudos on the arrangement.
8. He’s Been There Too
Daniel: Liberty Quartet bass singer Royce Mitchell is featured on this song. It’s somewhat unusual to give a bass singer a solo on a big ballad, but Mitchell is equally adept at singing straight-ahead low bass and almost operatic higher bass, and he showcases his operatic bass/baritone range to great effect here.
Aaron: As a first-time listener of Liberty Quartet, one would be hard-pressed to believe that the featured singer here is the same guy that was rocking the low end of the spectrum a couple of tracks back. But it is indeed Royce Mitchell, and like Daniel said, his bass/baritone range sounds great here.
Wes: This is a nice ballad, and Mitchell really shows some nice range.
9. Why Wouldn’t I
Aaron: Lead singer Dan Gilbert is a two-fold singer; on slower songs, he sounds like Bryan Hutson. But give him a hard-driving faster song like this and you have a young Arthur Rice. This is a good, country-style track.
Daniel: I didn’t notice earlier that you were about to get to the same comparison I had in mind!
Wes: This is a nice, solid uptempo track. Nothing flashy, but just good solid singing.
10. He Will Quiet You
Wes: This is a nice, soft, tender ballad. I like the echo harmonies on the first part of the chorus up against the unison echoes on the last part of the chorus. The round like harmonies on the bridge are very nice as well, and something to set this song apart.
11. That’s What Love Does
Daniel: This song was written by baritone/pianist Doran Ritchey. The group pulls off some tight jazz harmonies with confidence.
Wes: I’m a sucker for jazz influenced songs, and these guys pull it off very well. They have a really smooth sound, and this is one of my favorites. The soft swing beat gets your foot tapping and your head bobbing.
Daniel: This is one of the strongest independently released projects I’ve heard this year. A label would really do well to pick this group up as soon as they can.
Aaron: I can’t say much more than Daniel has. It’s about time that this group gets the national recognition they deserve and get picked up by a major label. Of course, with Crossroads signing groups like nobody’s business these days, it may not be long!
Wes: These guys are one of the best kept secrets in Southern Gospel music. These guys are solid at every position in the group and have a good concept of their strengths as vocalists. They play to their respective strengths and don’t try to be something they are not. They’ve done a good job of including a variety of styles on this project as well. Somebody needs to pick these guys up on a major label, and soon!
Daniel: Average song rating – 4.0. Overall rating: 4.5.
Aaron: Average song rating – 4 stars. Overall rating: 4.5 stars.
Wes: Average song rating – 4 stars. Overall rating: 4.5 stars