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

NQC 2012 News

February 15, 2012 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It’s about that time of year again: the time when there’s a new development in the upcoming National Quartet Convention’s schedule on a pretty much regular basis. Two news items have come down the pipe today:

1. The NQC has added the NQC Music Awards, taking the place of the Singing News Fan Awards. This will take place at a Friday afternoon showcase.

The Fan Awards have been at Dollywood the past couple of years and will continue to be held there this year. The absence of the awards show has arguably taken away much of the buzz that used to come with NQC, especially near the end of the week. The wrinkle that separates these new accolades from the old is that there are two divisions to the awards; one is voted upon by fans, and the other is voted upon by “music professionals,” which is defined as those who are exhibitors during the National Quartet Convention. Color me intrigued; perhaps this will help to fill in the “empty” feeling that has hung around NQC these past couple of years.

2. The initial draft of the Showcase Schedule has been posted. Notable additions include:

  • The Gaither Vocal Band Reunion Encore. This is intriguing. I’m hoping that there will be songs picked for this time that weren’t featured on the videos or in the showcase last year. The GVB catalog is broad enough that they can bring out the stuff that hasn’t been revived to death. I’m hoping this will also bring back some of the alumni who haven’t been present at any of the reunion events (Terry Franklin, Jonathan Pierce… heck, how about Lemuel Miller?) I noticed that Guy Penrod gets his own dedicated showcase the same afternoon as this one, but that is done in plenty of time for him to be able to attend the Reunion this year.
  • There’s another Crabb Family reunion showcase. I remember the last one being at NQC 2008, and I enjoyed it for the most part. I also remember it featuring most of their latter, more progressive material, and witnessed a large number of folks walking out on the showcase. Perhaps the Crabbs will play it safer this time around?
  • Tim Parton is reviving the Parade of Pianos. This showcase, originally done by Anthony Burger, then done by Roger Bennett, hasn’t been around in any capacity since Gerald Wolfe hosting it in 2008. The NQC Board wisely gave Dino his own showcase that year, saving the Parade of Pianos from becoming the Dino Show as it had in years past. I’m looking forward to seeing the collection of pianists that Parton puts together.
  • Lari Goss is getting a tribute showcase this year. Well-deserved, and it’s about time! The Hoppers, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, The Booth Brothers, and others will be a part.

CD Review: The Hoppers – Something’s Happening

August 20, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Hoppers

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Lari Goss
Label: Hopper Music
Website: www.thehoppers.com

Buy Here

Track list: “Victory Shall Be Mine,” “Oh How Amazing Is Amazing Grace,” “Something’s Happening,” “Nobody’s Too Bad Or Too Good,” “I’ve Been To Heaven,” “East of Jerusalem,” “Could It Be I’m Dreaming,” “He Remembers To Forget,” “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” “On The Authority,” “Living In The Arms Of Mercy,” “Statement Of Faith”

I’ll admit, I’m a casual fan of The Hoppers. Other than the occasional iTunes purchase of some of their more well-known songs and stuff they’ve done that I heard and enjoyed, I’m not all that familar with their work. I am, however, familiar enough to know that they have maintained a solid sound for the past few years, and this collection of songs is no exception.

The project opens with two upbeat tracks to grab the listeners attention. “Victory Shall Be Mine” has the typical orchestrated, driving sound that the group is known for, and “Oh How Amazing Is Amazing Grace” features a New Orleans big band style. On the other end of the spectrum, the title track is a big ballad that was originally done by male quartet Mercy’s Mark. The Hoppers take a more epic, ponderous approach to it than that group did, featuring the whole group on the first verse, Dean Hopper on the second, and Kim Hopper on the third verse, all the while building to the powerful chorus. What truly separates this version from any other, however, is Connie Hopper’s recitations sprinkled in between the verses, which fit in perfectly with both the lyrics and the sound of this song.

The other covers on the project include another Mercy’s Mark song, “Living In The Arms Of Mercy,” which is given a more traditional treatment this time around, and the GVB hit “On The Authority,” which is considerably jazzier than the Vocal Band rendition. The former features drummer Mike Hopper stepping behind the mic, and the latter, Dean Hopper. A Southern Gospel classic, “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” is also redone, and is slightly faster than most versions I’ve heard. That track features Claude Hopper in his only solo of the album.

Some of the other memorable songs from this project are “Nobody’s Too Bad Or Too Good,” which features Dean and Kim Hopper’s daughter Karlye, and is both well sung and well written, and “East of Jerusalem,” a big slow number that features Kim Hopper, and manages to be a great song in its own right without any sort of nod to the group’s hit, “Jerusalem.” The final song, “Statement of Faith,” features all the same vocalists that are on the version found on the Legacy Five project, Just Stand.

Final thoughts: In the world of modern Southern Gospel music, the names Lari Goss and The Hoppers are almost synonymous. Goss is once again behind the producer’s chair for this latest project, and the combination once again turns out a fine body of work. While not exactly exploring groundbreaking material for the group, this project sticks to the tried-and-true sound that The Hoppers have attained over the last few years, while still throwing in a few unique numbers to add flavor. One thing you can say about this group is this: they are consistent in the quality of their material. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” indeed.

Bottom line: Fans of The Hoppers, or quality Southern Gospel in general, will enjoy Something’s Happening.

Mega-Review: Booth Brothers – Declaration

June 01, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Booth Brothers, CD Reviews, Mega Reviews, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Uncategorized

The bloggers featured in this review are Daniel Mount, Wes Burke, Brandon Coomer, Nate Stainbrook, Phil Boles, and myself. The project released today (June 1, 2010) and was produced by Lari Goss.
We hope you enjoy reading this review as much as we enjoyed writing it!

Song 1: A Higher Throne

Daniel: A few hours before this CD arrived in my mailbox, I was pondering Lari Goss’s iconic introduction to the Cathedrals classic “Champion of Love.” It’s an instantly recognizable riff—and not just because it is the melody of a line whose lyrics we remember. It’s inherently unforgettable on its own merits. I was pondering whether Goss would ever offer another intro of that caliber.

Now Declaration isn’t even in bookstores yet as I write this, so it’s far too early to declare this intro iconic. But incipiently iconic or not, the introduction instantly grabs your attention. A soaring trumpet crescendo is answered by swelling strings and woodwinds. The trumpet sounds again, and the orchestra answers. The band kicks in, and trumpet, orchestra, and band set a fittingly majestic backdrop for a lyric depicting Heaven’s throne room.

Though Declaration is so full of strong songs that there will be stiff competition for radio slots, this song should unmistakably go to radio. Though it’s 5 minutes 25 seconds long, a tempo on the fast side of midtempo makes it seem to go by faster.

Wes: What a great choice to open the disc.  I love the anthemic feel of this song, and right away this cut shows that the partnership between Lari Goss and the Booth Brothers is going to exceed every possibility you’ve imagined since it was made known.

Nate: Agree totally with you guys about this song. I can’t help but get excited when I hear this song. I love it from the opening to the ending. It ends with a breathtaking, sweeping, epic ending.  You mentioned the beginning being a great opening stanza, but the song also ends on a great note. Great song that Lari Goss struck gold on again. And I can’t wait to see this song get staged live.

Daniel: I knew the song was good on its own merits. But not until several weeks later, when I came across the original, by Keith & Kristyn Getty, did I fully appreciate what Goss had done with the song. I should say that I rediscovered the original, to be precise, since I had already heard it. But the arrangements are so different that I hadn’t connected the two until searching for the songwriter.

Goss deserves to be named in the same breath as Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. It would take a talent of that level to take the original and give it this level of treatment.

Song 2: God Did it All
Daniel: This Ronnie Booth feature starts simply enough. A lush orchestral track featuring the woodwind section accompanies a beautiful, lilting melody about Creation. By the chorus, the song becomes a powerful statement of God’s sovereignty. The song builds into a huge ending that should equally captivate live audiences and radio DJs (though Daywind should cut the encore before singling it, as 6:10 is too long for a single.)

The melody for this Rusty Golden / Dianne Wilkinson collaboration has a fascinating provenance: Wilkinson wrote the lyric and composed a melody for the chorus. She brought up the song during a collaboration session with Golden, who proceeded to come up with a melody for the verses—without having heard her chorus melody. Then she showed him what she had for the chorus—and they realized it was a perfect fit.

Nate: This song is very well written and very well performed. I love Ronnie Booth’s voice. This song makes you take notice of just how good of a singer he really is. I love the message to this song. It should challenge you to get ready, and to tell others that “God Did It All.”

Wes: This is the first big ballad you hear from Goss and the Booths, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Ronnie Booth turns in a tremendous performance.  This should be a single, the length not withstanding.  Actually, the Kingdom Heirs singled “He Had To Hold To Calvary” back in the mid 90s, and it was 6:01.

Daniel: It wouldn’t be more than a minute of work to cut out the encore. They’d be wise to single it without the encore (even if they leave the alternate version on the radio compilation disc  for any DJs who want it).

Song 3: I See Grace
Nate: This song written by Jim Brady along with Barry Weeks and Tony Wood, is a song that the Booth Brothers have been staging for several months now. It is one of my favorites on this project. It starts with a epic sounding intro, that settles into to a great medium to fast tempo song, that is very well orchestrated. Jim Brady gets the lead on this song.He never ceases to amaze me with his vocal versatility and range, and he really shows it here. He has Michael Booth stacked above him for part of the first verse, making for some nice harmony. I love the end of the second verse that says “Those who have come through unbearable loss not defined by the past but defined by the Cross.” That is a great line that really defines this song and makes it a potential radio hit. I have been told that this song has been going over particularly well in concerts, and I can see why.


CD Review: Roy Webb – Timeless

May 22, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Roy Webb, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producer: Lari Goss
Label: Song Garden Music Group
Website: www.roywebbmusic.com

Roy Webb has made quite a name for himself in Southern Gospel Music already. He first became well-known when he traveled with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound for several years before leaving the group in May 2007 and embarking on a solo career. Last December 31, he joined Gold City as their pianist. Although he released another solo project while still with EH&SS, You Raise Me Up, this project is his major-label debut.

On Timeless, the sounds Webb incorporates run the gamut, from the jazzy/swing flavor (“Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee,” “Amazing Grace,” “He Keeps Me Singing,” “Blessed Assurance”) to the powerful, orchestrated style (“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God/I Sing The Mighty Power of God,” “Come Thou Fount/There Is A Fountain,” “It Is Well With My Soul). A couple of the songs feature no orchestration or background whatsoever, and feature solely the piano (“Old Rugged Cross,” “Just As I Am”). A tribute to piano great Anthony Burger is found here as well, with an arrangement of “Old Time Religion/William Tell Overture” that Lari Goss originally arranged for Burger, but Webb puts his own spin on it, and does an excellent job.

Bottom line: While I enjoy watching and listening to a player perform songs on the piano live, just sitting back and listening to a CD of it doesn’t do much for me. However, I can honestly say I enjoyed this project. The arrangements are unique and exciting, and the album is quality all the way around. Fans of Roy Webb, or piano music in general, will find plenty to love on Timeless.