Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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CD Review: Sounds of Jericho – The Story of His Grace

March 02, 2013 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Sounds of Jericho

Rating: 4 starsSounds of Jericho - The Story of His Grace

Producer: Mark Dowdy
Label: Independent Release
Website: www.soundsofjericho.com

Song titles: Deeper Journey; If The Lord Wasn’t Walkin’ By My Side; Living Testimony; Resting Place; Wayfaring Stranger; Spread It Around; Jesus Never Changes; Standing In The Storm; I’d Rather Have Jesus; Leave The Light On; Ten Thousand Angels; Operator

Every so often, I’ll have a project come across my desk that is the debut for a brand new quartet to hit the Southern Gospel scene. Such is the case with this CD from Sounds of Jericho, a quartet out of Flowery Branch, GA that contains a couple faces we’ve seen before. The group was formed by tenor Stephen Sigmon and bass Stacy Bragg, who were both charter members of the LeFevre Quartet. These two are joined in this new endeavor by lead Matt Tyler and baritone Ken Thomas. Since the release of this project, producer Mark Dowdy has joined as pianist.

Obviously, the challenge given to any new group is to establish themselves as a unique presence in the SG music world. A look at the history of this genre will tell you that the groups with a sound that sets itself apart have had a lot more staying power than a group that sounds like a carbon copy of what’s already there. Given that two of the group’s members were part of a well-known group already, I expected there to be a similarity to the sound of that era of the quartet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that there was only a passing comparison.

With a project made of mostly original songs, Sounds of Jericho does a good job of establishing their own identity. Some of the arrangements are pretty ambitious for a new group, but it was a risk that worked. Among the “cover songs,” I enjoyed the brassy treatment of the Henry Slaughter classic “If The Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side” and the Country-Western tinged treatment of “Wayfaring Stranger.” The latter is probably the best classic cover on the project; it’s certainly unique from any other version I’ve heard.

The original songs make up the majority of the project, and do a good job of highlighting the sound of the group. The anthem “Living Testimony,” from which the project title is derived, would make a good choice for a radio single. “Deeper Journey” is a good harmony song. A couple of songs, such as “Spread It Around” and “Jesus Never Changes” are strong save for “plugged in” bridges made of hymns; they seem unnecessarily thrown into the songs, but this is a minor quibble.

One particularly surprising choice that a new group doesn’t usually make is throwing in an a Capella track. “Resting Place” starts off sounding like it could be a lead-in to a country or bluegrass track, but turns out to be completely instrument-free. This is a bold move, especially with some of the places the arrangement goes, but the quartet has a sound that blends well. It’s refreshing to see a new group click like this right off the bat.

I appreciate the fact that no singer strays out of their range anywhere on the album. In the early LeFevre Quartet days, Sigmon and Bragg both had moments where they seemed to be out of their comfort zone. That improved even during their time with the group, and has carried over to now. This debut project by Sounds of Jericho makes me wish that they traveled more outside of their home state, and hopefully, this project will start something in that direction. The Story of His Grace  receives 4 stars.