Dills Raising Funds For New CD

The Dills have been one of, if not the most, fan-connected groups in the SG industry.  They are continuing that connectedness in trying to raise funds for a new album.  They have a stated goal of $10,000 and would like to have it raised in the next month.

From the page dedicated to the effort on their website:

Recording new music and making it available to our friends, fans and supporters is a passion that we take very seriously… but often comes with a huge cost!  We’ve never had to borrow money to record a new CD!  This is a huge blessing since most independent artists have to take out a loan for thousands of dollars just to record a new project.  However, when you add up the cost associated with studio musicians, engineers, producers, duplication, graphic design and mechanical license fees the recording process can easily cost $20,000 or more.  Many times we are forced to wait about recording that new CD, simply because the money is not there.  As always, we have no intention on borrowing money to make this CD… so that’s where we need YOUR help!

In a similar fashion to what the Ball Brothers did recently, they have offered perks for fans who contribute.  The perks start at a free digital copy of the album (for $10 donations) and include things like an autographed CD, t-shirt, getting your name in the liner notes, all the way up to actually being listed as an executive producer (for donations > $1k).  They even have a near-real time update of the number of contributors and the amount they have been pledged in progress toward

I have a lot of respect for ministries that are financially responsible, and especially when they are attempting to take on a large amount of long-term debt.  My church built our sanctuary debt-free, and we are currently building a family life center in the same fashion.  God has blessed those efforts, and I have no doubts that He will bless the efforts of the Dills to record this album in a financially smart manner.  So if you feel led, click here and help them out!

Miscellaneous SG Notes

Here are a few notes from around the SG world:

  • The Dove Brothers have just announced the departure of Jonathan Price.  Price is leaving the road to deal with personal issues.  More here.
  • DBM had the scoop that the iconic album by the Weatherfords, In The Garden, will soon be re-released on CD.  You can find more information on Lily Fern Weatherford’s website here.
  • Morgan Easter will be releasing a solo album, titled Not Without Love,  on 11/11/11.  Produced by her brother Madison (who was busy with this album, serving as writer, guitar player, arranger, and vocalist) and mother Sheri, it also features guest appearances by Wes Hampton and Joseph Habedank.  It is available for pre-order here, and you can find a preview of the album below.

Top 5: Greater Vision on Greater Vision

I’m starting a new series of posts that are called Top 5 Artist on Artist.  These posts come from me polling current and/or former members of iconic groups and asking them the best 5 albums ever released by said group.  Up first is Greater Vision.  All three of the current members responded to my request (thanks guys!), so without further ado, here are the top 5 Greater Vision albums as seen by the members of Greater Vision:

5 Live At First Baptist Atlanta (2002)
4 Everything Christmas (2010)
3 Quartets (2003)
2 Take Him At His Word (1995)
1 Hymns Of The Ages (2006)

I find a couple of things interesting. First of all, the similarity in all three responses is incredible. Out of a possible 15 slots for albums to be named, there were only 9 (and Gerald’s list had 6, as he had a tie for 5th).  It really shows the unity and similarity in the way these three gentlemen think.  Also, Gerald nailed the top 5. In order.

So what do you readers think? You’ve seen what the guys of Greater Vision think, do you agree?

Is Church Music Dying?

This is a difficult post to write, as it hits very close to home, but it is something that needs to be said.  I’m about to turn the oft debated topic of “Is SG dying?” into a larger argument.  What is going on with church music programs as a whole?  I’ve heard rumblings of problems with church music, especially choral music programs for a while, but it seems the problem is getting worse and at a more rapid pace.  We’re currently knee-deep in Christmas cantata practice, yet we have 10-15 people at rehearsals.  We have one tenor.  Me.  Five to seven years ago, we were putting over 40 people in the choir loft for cantatas.  I have been averaging less than 10 kids in my Children’s choir rehearsals, and we’re well into our Christmas cantata practices as well.

We also in that same time period of 5-7 years have gone from a pretty full praise band (piano, keys, guitars, banjo, bass, drums, and even a mandolin) to now typically piano, keys, and guitar.  If my dad is out of town, we typically have either piano and guitar, or most of the time just piano.  We used to have a bunch of youth in our church choir that sang in their school choirs.  Now we have one.

Music has an undeniably important part in the corporate worship ceremony.  Not only does it involve active participation from the congregation, but it also is an outlet for those who have been gifted with musical talent to use those talents to glorify God.  A well selected hymn or chorus can accentuate a sermon and serve as a conduit for the Spirit to move.  For example, Sunday morning our pastor’s sermon dealt with the difference in simply calling yourself a Christian vs. living your life as a true disciple of Christ (see Colossians 3).  I’d already picked out “Living For Jesus” as an invitation hymn earlier in the week.  The song and sermon dovetailed wonderfully, and drew multiple people to the prayer rails.  It never ceases to amaze me how God can work those types of things out, as it has happened on numerous occasions and always leads to a powerful service.

So why does the music program seem to suffer?  Is this a problem in more areas of the country than just mine?  Is it simply a lack of emphasis or a lack of importance placed on music, or is the music program suffering a symptom of a larger problem of people wanting to be passive instead of active participants in churches?

Greater Vision Releases Digital Downloads

In their latest newsletter, Greater Vision has announced that they’ve made their out of print albums available for download in a new digital store.  You can access the store here.  Albums are $9.90-$11.99, single songs are $0.99, which is pretty typical for digital downloads.  It’s good to see these albums made available, and it’s a good way to complete your GV discography.  Here’s hoping that other groups follow suit.

Thrift Store Finds

I had 45 minutes or so to kill Friday afternoon before I met my wife and kids for a birthday party for one of my son’s friends.  Down the street from where the party was being held, I came across a thrift store that had a name like “Hands of God Thrift Store” or something similar.  I figured I could look around for a while, and I’m glad I did!  I ended up walking out of the store with the following:

  • Booth Brothers – Harmony still sealed CD ($1)
  • Brian Free and Assurance – Requests cassette (the ultra rare original trio project, $0.50)
  • Gold City – Requested Hymns vol 1-3 cassettes (Brian Free/Ivan Parker/Steve Lacey lineup, $0.50 each)
  • Imperials – Now LP ($1)
  • A various artists LP from the early – mid 60s ($1)

The various artists LP is a bit intriguing, it’s a HeartWarming album, but on an early budget label.  It includes songs from Ira Stanphill, Dottie Rambo, The Gospel Echoes (Rambos, I’m guessing), the Imperials, the Plainsmen, and several other well known names.  More on that album when I get a chance to rip it to mp3.  Thrift stores have always been good to me!

Concert Review: The Kingsmen

Last Friday night, my church hosted the Kingsmen in concert.  The crowd size was a little disappointing, but with a big high school football game that night, I wasn’t too surprised.  I would guess the crowd to have been around 200 strong.  Despite the crowd being a bit down, the Kingsmen showed no lack of energy when they hit the stage.

Set List:

  • Inside The Gate
  • Loving Shepherd, Gracious God
  • After The Sunrise
  • When I Wake Up To Sleep No More
  • Missing People
  • What A Day That Will Be
  • He’s Everything I Need
  • That’s When I Knew It Was Him

Intermission

  • Instrumental (a piano solo by a young man named Andrew Flower, who was in attendance)
  • Traveling Home
  • I Owe It All To Him
  • I Can Hardly Wait
  • Healin’ Stream
  • Getcha To The Other Side
  • Glory Road
  • When God Ran
  • Invitation (I Surrender All)

First let me say that Randy Crawford was very sick, and could barely talk, much less sing.  Other than a couple of pickup lines on “Glory Road”, about all he was good for was adding in the baritone notes on the end of songs and a little bit in the trio section of “Loving Shepherd”.  Big time kudos to Randy for giving literally everything he had.  He couldn’t talk very loudly before the concert, and afterwards he could barely whisper, but he did his best, the sign of a true professional.  Hope you recover quickly, Randy!  Reviews of the newest Kingsmen album, Grace Says (including the one upcoming on this site), have all pointed to “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God” as a highlight due to Ray Reese’s touching vocal solo on the second verse.  As good as it is on disc, it’s even better live.  Ray has always been a great communicator at the bass spot.  He may not have the smoothest or lowest voice, but few singers connect with the message of a song or the crowd at a concert better than Ray Dean Reese.

“After The Sunrise” is also a cut from the new album, and it’s a great one in concert.  It’s classic Kingsmen “three chords and a cloud of dust” that goes over extremely well.  It was also neat to hear “Missing People” live, during the break towards the end where the studio version has different voices speaking, those recitations are not on the track and Bryan Hutson speaks live.  I had wondered how they would pull that off in concert.  “He’s Everything I Need” is a Joseph Habedank penned tune and is there latest single.  See “After The Sunrise” commentary.  The first half closed out with Harold Reed singing “That’s When I Knew It Was Him.”  If you liked “God Saw A Cross” on their last album, you’ll like this one as well.  Harold did a fine job on it.

After the intermission, Bryan and Ray gave a product pitch then asked a young man in attendance, named Andrew Flower, to come on stage and play a piano solo.  He’s a student at Bethel University (where Matthew Holt teaches), and can flat out play piano.  He’s a friend of a friend of the group, and he did a great job playing.  The second half was primarily made up of Kingsmen classics.  “Traveling Home” started off with some great energy.  Bryan then dedicated “I Owe It All To Him” to the memory of Jim Hamill.  While this was one of Big Jim’s signature songs, Bryan Hutson absolutely drilled the song.  It’s a bit of an obscure tune these days, but it’s a great song that Bryan really does justice.  Ray Reese does a great job on “Healin’ Stream,” and apparently my 7 month old loves that song, because once it started she began bouncing up and down on her mommy’s lap, which nearly caused Harold Reed to bust out laughing.  Funny moment.  “Getcha To The Other Side” was a pleasant surprise, as I’d not heard reports of it being on their set list.  Also, Harold told me after the concert that it was the first time they had performed “I Can Hardly Wait” live.  If that’s the case, they need to keep it on the set list.  It’s another great uptempo song.

Let me say also a few words about Harold Reed.  When he joined the Kingsmen, there was a lot of debate about whether he could be a “Kingsmen tenor” or not.  I’d been fairly impressed with his performances on CD, but he did a great job live as well.  In listening to their recordings I’d wondered about his power in his upper range, but those concerns were put to rest Friday night.  While Reed was a solid tenor with the DMB, in the middle of the concert I leaned over to my dad and mentioned how much he’d improved since then, and he wholeheartedly agreed with me.  Harold Reed IS a Kingsmen tenor.

Members of the Kingsmen typically have a certain song they become known for.  With Jim Hamill it was “Love Lifted Me”, Wayne Maynard had “Child Child”, Tim Surrett had “Wish You Were Here”, Jerry Martin had “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet”, Squire Parsons had “The Lovely Name Of Jesus.”  For Bryan Hutson, that song is undoubtedly “When God Ran.”  That song was just written for Bryan’s voice.  He sings it with such conviction, feeling, and power that if it doesn’t stir you, you need to check yourself out.  I was glad to see it still on their set list, and I personally hope it stays there indefinitely.

Lastly, let me talk about a thrill of a lifetime.  After I finished playing the offertory, and as Ray was getting ready to start his product pitch, Bryan came and sat beside me and leaned over and asked me if I knew how to play “Glory Road.”  I told him I did, and he said he’d bring me on stage to play it for them.  So right before “When God Ran”, Bryan did just that.  You’ll see a couple of pictures of it below that were taken by our church’s Ministry Assistant.  (Thanks Donna!)  It was an absolute thrill, and I’m going to hold Bryan to getting to play a couple for them the next time they are at Faith!  Seriously, thanks for the opportunity guys, you don’t know how much that meant.

The Kingsmen have been flying a bit under the radar lately, at least since “When God Ran” was released, but they are definitely alive and well.  I’ve always considered the lineup with Jerry Martin, Bryan Hutson, and Parker Jonathan to be the most vocally talented lineup the group has seen, but their current lineup absolutely rivals that late 90s group.  Coupled with the release of a very strong CD (review coming soon, I promise!), the Kingsmen are poised to return to the top of the quartet world.  If you have a chance to go see them, please do!  I can guarantee you a night of great singing, high energy, and moving lyrics.  Thanks for stopping by to sing guys!

Photos:

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