Thoughts On The Tracy Stuffle Benefit

I watched the large majority of the benefit concert for Tracy and Libbi Stuffle online last night. What a tremendous outpouring of love and support by our fellow SG artists. I thought Jason Crabb and Joseph Habedank did marvelous jobs hosting the concert, and there were a lot of highlights. Former Palmetto State tenor Robert Fulton was singing with Gold City, and they sounded pretty solid.

There was quite a unique lineup of The Hoppers last night as well. Kim is very ill with sinus problems, and may even be facing surgery, sloshed and Dean were at home. Taranda Greene filled in for Kim, and Jason and Joseph alternated filling in Dean’s part. “I’ve Come Too Far” was fantastic, Connie and Taranda both nailed their parts of the song, and on the encore, Tim Riley supplied some incredible bass vocals.

The Booth Brothers did their two songs with only piano accompaniment from Nick Bruno, and it showcased their amazing blend and harmonies. The Collingsworth Family did an exquisite version of “Fear Not Tomorrow”, with Olivia joining what was a trio of her mom and sisters. I’ll disagree with my esteemed colleague Daniel Mount, as to my ears it sounded like Olivia was doubling Courtney, not Brooklyn. Mark Lowry was hilarious, and Paul Harkey was impressive with EHSS. The Oak Ridge Boys also sang with only piano accompaniment as well, and they were very genuine in their love and support for Tracy and Libbi.

More important and significant than all of this, though, came with The Perrys set, and the surprise appearance by Libbi, who sang a heart wrenching performance of “ThroughThe Night.”. After the set, Dr. Phil Hoskins took the stage and had a time of anointing and prayer for Libbi and Tracy. Seeing all of the artists in attendance gathered at the altar with their arms outstretched toward Libbi in prayer was the single most powerful moment I’ve witnessed at a concert. After several minutes of prayer, Libbi began singing “‘Tis So Sweet” from the midst of the group, and the rest of the artists and congregation joined in singing acappella. It was an incredibly sweet moment.

I have no idea how much money was raised last night, but judging from the crowd it had to have been a significant amount. Even,ore important though, 25 or so people rededicated their livestock Christ, and 8 or 9 were saved when Dr. Hoskins gave an altar call. This is what Southern Gospel is all about, and it made me proud to be even peripherally involved with this industry. All in all, a great night, and I was thankful to be able to watch the online stream.

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NQC Final Round Ballot

Here are my votes for the final round, with necessary changes listed.  I had a hard time choosing a soprano last round, so I switched votes on that category so that I have voted for each of my choices once.  I know the results don’t work that way, but it eases my troubled mind.  I honestly couldn’t just choose one or the other, I think both are deserving. :)

  • Bass – Tim Riley
  • Baritone – Mark Trammell
  • Lead – Joseph Habedank (Bill Shivers not in the list)
  • Tenor – Brian Free (Gus Gaches not in the list)
  • Soprano – Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair
  • Alto – Libbi Stuffle (Courtney C. Metz not in the list)
  • Soloist – TaRanda Greene (Steve Ladd not in the list)
  • Male Group – Booth Brothers (Gold City not in the list)
  • Mixed Group – Collingsworth Family
  • Musician – Jeff Stice
  • Album – Let It Be Known, Booth Brothers
  • Song – “Blue Skies Coming”, Perrys (“On The Banks… not in the list)

There you have it!  Mileage may vary….

NQC Awards Ballot: First Round

Since several others have posted their ballots in the first round of the NQC awards voting, I will do the same.

  • Bass: Tim Riley
  • Baritone: Mark Trammell
  • Lead: Bill Shivers
  • Tenor: Gus Gaches
  • Soprano: Karen Peck Gooch
  • Alto: Courtney Collingsworth Metz
  • Soloist: Steve Ladd
  • Male Group: Gold City
  • Mixed Group: Collingsworth Family
  • Musician: Jeff Stice
  • Album: Let It Be Known – Booth Brothers
  • Song: “On The Banks Of The Promised Land” – Karen Peck and New River

Review: Collingsworth Family – Part Of The Family

This is the latest release from the Collingsworth Family, and is their first recording on Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase’s StowTown Records.  Personnel are Phil Collingsworth, Sr., Kim Collingsworth, Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair, Courtney Collingsworth Metz, Phil Collingsworth, Jr., and Olivia Collingsworth.

Tracks:

  1. God’s Family – Written in 1975 by Lanny Wolfe, this classic is given a fresh treatment by the group.  The song is a flowing 6/8 meter and features full group harmonies throughout.  Like the Crist Family, the Collingsworth Family tends to use a lot of complex harmonies and this song really lets those harmonies shine.  Some are so fleeting and passing that you may not catch them on first listen, but the next time through it will jump out at you.  It’s a good, solid start to the disc.  8.5/10
  2. Tell The Mountain – Contributed by Lee Black, Sue C. Smith, and Kenna West, we stay in a 6/8 meter but a much more country influenced style.  Phil Jr. takes the lead on the verses and really shines on this song.  It’s a nice lyric that encourages a listener that is facing various trials.  Others have compared Phil’s vocal on this song to Doug Anderson of EHSS, and it’s a valid comparison.  This would make a great radio release.  9/10
  3. Joy Unspeakable – Wayne Haun and Caleb Collins wrote this uptempo song.  It’s got just a hint of a soul style, with some nice piano playing in the track.  There’s a nice key change and a broadening to a straighter rhythm that leads to a tag with another key change.  It’s a solid song.  8/10
  4. Jesus Is All I Need – The first ballad on the CD was penned by Marty Millikin, and right off the bat we’re treated to a new configuration for the group: a trio of Phil Sr., Phil Jr., and Kim.  It’s a nice sound with an inspirational style ballad.  Kim sings the verses as a solo, and turns in a fine performance.  Lyrically the message is in a similar vein to “Tell The Mountain” in its encouragement.  At the bridge, the rest of the family enters with Brooklyn taking the lead on a chorus of “He’s All I Need” that has some nice harmonic twists to it.  There’s a nice softer tag to the song.  Very pretty.  9/10
  5. Nothing’s Worrying Me – Marty Funderburk and Jerry Kelso contribute the first major highlight of the recording.  This is a midtempo, bluesy/jazz number that features Brooklyn in what is her finest vocal performance to date.  The chorus features thrilling background harmonies from her siblings.  Musically this song would feel right at home on a Katherine McPhee album or on American Idol, and that’s the feel that Brooklyn gives it.  She turns in a confident performance with just a hint of “attitude” that sells the song extremely well.  A great lyric, awesome arrangement, and fantastic performance.  10/10
  6. I Pray – Written by Lyn Rowell and Wendy Wills, this song gives Olivia a feature and completes her transition that started with her feature on The Answer from a child vocalist doing mostly gimmicky songs (“My Favorite Things”) to a more serious vocalist.  “I Pray” announces that Olivia is following in her older siblings footsteps and is growing into a fine vocalist as well.  She takes this tender, acoustic ballad and turns in a very solid performance with her siblings adding background harmonies behind her.  She shows a fullness and depth in her lower alto range that points directly at her maturing voice.  It’s a very pretty song that Olivia communicates very well.  8.5/10
  7. At Calvary – William Newell’s classic hymn has had a lot of different arrangements and performances over the years, but it’s hard to top this one.  The first verse and chorus are performed by the entire family, then the ladies’ trio takes the second verse.  Phil Jr. steps up and nails third verse, with his two older sisters joining him on the last two lines of the verse and a chorus.  The arrangment shifts slightly from a traditional ballad to more of a power ballad.  The last verse brings the whole family back in and continues ratcheting up the intensity.  It’s a tremendous arrangement that really drives home the power of the lyric.  The other major highlight of the recording.  10/10
  8. I Found It All – Courtney steps up to sing this flowing ballad by Wayne Haun and Helga Kaefer that has just a hint of an inspirational feel to it.  She’s joined by Brooklyn and Phil Jr. on the choruses.  Sometimes you come across songs that seem to be just made for a certain singer’s voice.  This is true of this song and Courtney, she has just a certain quality to her voice that fits this song and arrangement.  The three older Collingsworth children have really developed a sound and blend that is something special.  Another really good song.  9.5/10
  9. Just Another Rainy Day – The tempo speeds up on this song that was written by Cindi Ballard and Daryl Williams.  Originally recorded by Lordsong, this version is a bit more fully developed with some nice bluesy piano playing behind vocals.  Phil Jr. takes the first verse, Courtney takes the second, then after a second chorus the key changes and Brooklyn takes the melody.  After a false tag and ending, the chorus repeats.  This would be another great radio release and should be a huge concert hit that gets the toes tapping and hands clapping.  I really like this one!  9.5/10
  10. Praise You – The group pulls out a fairly obscure Bill and Gloria Gaither tune that has a flowing midtempo feel to it.  Brooklyn starts out singing solo, then is joined for a duet by Phil Jr., then the ladies trio comes in.  All of which happens just in the first verse.  The entire family comes back in for the chorus.  After a key change, Phil Sr. takes the next verse, joined by Kim for a duet in the middle of the verse.  If I’m not mistaken, Olivia joins her parents to finish the verse as a trio, another sign of her growth as a vocalist.  It’s interesting that we get all the way to track 10 before Phil Sr. has a vocal feature.  I still would love to hear him sing baritone with a male quartet at some point in time, he’s got such a rich, full voice.  The tag has some neat vocal turns that are a bit reminiscent of what you’d have heard from the late 70s – early 80s Imperials.  Nice song.  8.5/10
  11. That’s The Place I’m Longing To Go – Written by Robert Batton, this is an acoustic/mountain flavored ballad.  It’s a beautiful ballad that points to Heaven.  The entire family sings the first verse and chorus incredibly smoothly.  The second verse starts out with the ladies trio, then Phil Sr. takes the last couple of lines with the rest of the family behind him for the last couple lines of the verse.  The subsequent chorus provides the musical “moment” of the album, when the instruments all drop out in the middle of the chorus to feature a couple of acappella lines from the family that feature incredibly tight, lush harmonies.  If you aren’t listening close, you’ll miss some of the chord voicings that really fill out the harmonies.  It is gorgeous and will give you a shiver and get the hair on your neck standing.  Wow.  That’s what this group is so good at.  Just a nice, easy listen on a beautiful song with some added bonus thrown in musically.  9.5/10
  12. The Resurrection Morn – Another largely forgotten Bill and Gloria Gaither classic closes out the disc, and it does so in fine fashion.  The song starts with the family singing in unison, then Kim sings the second verse solo.  There’s a sense of restrained building from the beginning of the song, you can tell from the moment that the vocals come in that the song will not stay in the restrained manner that it starts.  After the family sings the chorus, Phil Sr. sings the next verse solo and does an excellent job.  The fourth verse sees the family sing in unison, with a key change in the middle of the verse, then they split into parts on the last phrase verse to lead into the chorus with Brooklyn taking the melody.  There’s some nice chord changes in the tag that make you think they are changing the key again, before going back to the original key.  It’s a powerful close to the disc.  9/10

Overall: 9.5  To be honest, my first reaction to the CD was “This is good, but not quite as good as The Answer.”  While I still don’t find a song that knocks my socks off the way that “Fear Not Tomorrow” did, this album has really grown on me with repeated listens.  While this CD may not have an individual standout song, top to bottom I believe this album equals its predecessor.  “Nothing’s Worrying Me” is unique, and “At Calvary” is the best of arrangement of that classic hymn I have heard.  Producer Wayne Haun is a master at getting the most out of the groups he produces.  Two things really stand out to me on this CD:

First, the growth of Phil Collingsworth, Jr. as a vocalist.  His voice had started changing on The Answer, but it has completed its transformation on this disc, and young Phil has developed quite a tenor voice, in a mixed group sense.  The influence of Signature Sound’s Doug Anderson is unmistakeable in his approach to singing, and Phil would make a fine quartet lead singer.  His voice has retained a higher range than that of his father, and has a lighter tone to it that really complements his father’s heavier sounding vocals.  While the last album was Courtney’s opportunity to shine as a maturing vocalist, the spotlight is squarely on Phil, Jr. with this album, and he steps up and meets the challenge head on.  It will be exciting to watch his progress as a vocalist.

Second, the Collingsworth family has become so adept to complex harmonies that it is quite remarkable.  There are a multitude of places in the course of this CD that the group uses to tricky, complex harmonies, but they use them in passing tones as they are changing chords, and if you aren’t paying attention you are apt to miss them.  The effortlessness with which they perform advanced harmonies is nothing short of amazing.  This is mostly present in “That’s The Place”, but you can find the same thing in several other spots on the CD as well.

This is a great start to a relationship between the Collingsworth Family and StowTown records.  Wayne Haun picked the right songs and arranged them in a way that really complements the strengths of each of the vocalists.  With her performance on “Nothing’s Worrying Me”, Brooklyn has taken the next step towards becoming an elite level soprano.  Courtney continues to impress, and her song “I Found It All” fits her voice and style perfectly.  She is well on her way to becoming another of SG’s unsung “glue” vocalists.  Phil Jr. gets a lot of chances to shine on this disc and he doesn’t disappoint with any of them.  Olivia shows that her transition to a capable vocalist has been completed, as not only does she do well with her feature, but she’s also more present in the mix when the entire family is singing.  You already know that Phil and Kim are going to give you the highest level of quality in their performances, and they continue to do so on this album, but they’ve also seemed to take a step back on this CD to allow their children to showcase their growing talents and abilities.  This album is also unique in their canon in that it is all vocal performances, there are no instrumentals to be found, which is a testament to the maturation and growth of the vocal ensemble sound.  Part Of The Family is a resounding job well done by all involved, and you won’t want to miss out on this album!

NQC Coverage, and Day 1 Summary

Once again, the NQC train is passing me by.  However, I was able to catch a couple of hours of the broadcast via enLighten.  Those of you who follow the blog on Twitter will notice I was doing some tweeting as I was listening.  I will attempt to continue to do so the rest of the week, though most likely not Wednesday or Thursday (church and my son’s soccer practice, respectively).  If you’d like to follow along, you can get to the blog’s Twitter page here.

Of the limited sets I heard last night, the highlight was definitely the Perrys, and specifically Tracy Stuffle singing “Plan Of Salvation.”  What a touching tribute to Tracy’s hero, George Younce, and Tracy more than held his own singing George’s bass lead.  I’m glad I was able to hear it.

The next best set I heard was the New Gospel Singing Caravan.  You can really tell those groups are having fun on stage doing their set, and they were joined in a surprise appearance by the Nelons.  My wife made the statement while we were listening to their set that the Caravan CD was probably her favorite of the CDs I’ve forced her to listen to while I was reviewing them.  :-)

Greater Vision had some sound issues, at least over the radio feed, but once they got them done they turned in a very credible set, with one outstanding performance: Chris Allman singing “I Know A Man Who Can.”  Chris has made that song his own and he absolutely nails it.

Highlights that I didn’t hear personally, but have noticed on Twitter include Karen Peck and New River singing “On The Banks Of The Promised Land” and Karen’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner”, Gold City’s set overall and debuting a new song “Peter, James, and John”, and the sets of the Collingsworth Family (again, they were the major buzzworthy artist last year as well) and Brian Free and Assurance.

That’s about it for day 1.  Follow along on Twitter tonight, I’ll do my best to post some more comments.

Catching Up

A couple of blurbs caught my attention over the past week or so.

  • Nick and Jessica Trammell have folded their trio and are joining forces with Jessica’s family group, The Browns.  With the rest of the family located in Iowa and the Trammells in Alabama, that will make for a challenge meeting the bus!  Plans are already under way for a new recording, so stay tuned.
  • Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun have officially launched Stow Town Records.  First up by the label is a George Younce solo album with EHSS singing backup and a Doug Anderson solo album.  Also notable is that the Collingsworth Family has been signed to the label as well, I’ll be very interested to hear their first release on Stow Town.
  • NewSoGoFan, a frequent commenter here and former contributor at Daniel Mount’s site, has launched out on her own and started a blog: Southern Gospel Yankee.  Welcome to the blog world!
  • Diana caught a performance by Wilburn & Wilburn.  True duos are a bit rare in SG, so it will be interesting to see how they are received.  For what it’s worth, Jordan Wilburn definitely has a nice voice, and his dad’s vocal prowess is well known, so here’s hoping for the best!
  • Finally, here’s the reason for my absence:

Prayer Requested For Phil Collingsworth Sr.

The Collingsworth Family posted on their Facebook page a request last night for Phil Sr.  Phil will be undergoing brain surgery this morning to move an artery in his brain stem that is pressing against a nerve that controls the muscles in the right side of his face.  Please keep Phil and the rest of the Collingsworth family in prayer.  Daniel Mount has some additional information about the surgery here.

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