July 28, 2009 6 Comments
Recorded in late 1959, this RCA Victor album captures the Statesmen Quartet in a live concert at the Ryman Auditorium with their still fairly new tenor, Rosie Rozell. Jake Hess, Doy Ott, “Big Chief” Jim Wetherington, and Hovie Lister round out the personnel on this particular recording.
- I Wanna – The album gets off to a rousing start with this popular uptempo song that features Chief. This song has become a classic, being redone many times, but none measuring up to Chief here. Some have said that Chief goes a bit overboard here, but the performance is impeccable, especially the last chorus when the Statesmen kick in the modern harmony. It went over well enough to demand an encore.
- Thanks To Calvary – This is Vep Ellis’ classic, not the Gaither song that the Cathedrals made so popular. This is a midtempo song that features Jake Hess and Chief in the chorus. Jake sings the verses with some magnificent background harmonies from the rest of the group. For those who are only familiar with Jake through his Gaither video appearances, this is a great song to show what a great lead singer he was in his prime. The last chorus features some harmony inversions with Rosie taking the lead occasionally.
- Something Within – Another song that has been covered by everyone from Take 6 to the Dove Brothers. This song features each of the Statesmen, starting with Jake, then moving to Big Chief. Doy Ott steps up for the next feature, followed by Rosie. They set a pretty bouncy tempo for this song, and Rosie skies on the tag. This is a great song to introduce each of the members of the group.
- Room At The Cross – This hymn is, according to Hovie’s introduction, the most requested song the Statesmen sing. Rosie sings the melody on this very pretty version of the timeless hymn. The song is done slowly, but not so slow that it drags, which is a big plus. The Statesmen show that they can slow the tempo down just as well as they sing the uptempo numbers.
- The Amen Corner – One of Rosie’s signature songs comes up next as he gets a chance to show off his ability to sing the spirituals. Chief does a lot of vocal bass guitar runs during the song that I personally love. The crowd absolutely eats this up, as a song that barely clocks in at a minute is encored several times, so much that Rosie’s voice falters a bit on the last time through. Even the host of the concert “persuades” Hovie to encore it “one more time.” Of course, the crowd eats up the whole thing.
- He’s Already Done – This song starts off with Chief singing a slow, broad intro with the quartet behind him, and smacks a nice low note on the end of the intro. Jake Hess then takes the lead on a slow, methodical verse that you just know is building up to something else. This is a great example of Jake’s stylistic means of singing lead. At the end of the verse, Rosie takes the lead and the tempo picks up and begins to swing in a typical spiritual rhythm. This is a great song for the Statesmen. Jake reclaims the lead for the tag.
- Wade On Out – An incredibly fast paced song from Mosie Lister’s pen that features the quartet on the first verse, Doy on the chorus, then a key change and Jake on the second verse. Chief sings the melody on the second chorus until the end where Rosie takes the melody for the tag and hits an incredibly high note at the end. One of my favorites on the album.
- Gonna Open Up All The Doors – Sometimes called “Light Of Love”, the Statesmen go right into this song with no introduction. This is quintessential Statesmen and is encored. Another one of my favorite cuts on the album. This again has been redone many times, but no one can match the Statesmen.
- It’s Worth More – Slower paced song that features Jake Hess, and features some nice modern harmony in it as well, which showcases the immense talent of the Statesmen. Hess’s performance is great, and the harmony behind him is spot on. The last couple lines Jake inverts up for a nice powerful section. Rosie takes the tag and brings it back down with some nice harmony.
- He Set Me Free – This isn’t the same song that was redone by Greater Vision in the 90s. This one features Jake singing some nice vocal embellishments. A lot of lead singers should listen to Jake’s performance here to learn how to embellish a song without going overboard. Jake was a master stylist as a lead singer and this song definitely shows off that ability.
- Hymn Medley – Each one of the Statesmen step up and sing a verse and chorus or so of their favorite hymns. Chief starts off singing “O How Much He Cares For Me”, then Doy steps up with “He’s My Friend.” Jake then sings “Jesus Is The Sweetest Name I Know” and Rosie sings “Standing Somewhere In The Shadows” very sweetly. Hovie then sings “Jesus Is The One” and the group builds up to a power tag. Hovie encores his part after the rousing applause. This is Southern Gospel music at its best. Classic.
- Get Away Jordan – After the slow paced hymn medley, Hovie then sets the stage on fire to end the album with the Statesmen’s (arguably) most popular song. This is THE version of this song by which all others are judged. As has been pointed out, this is a much faster version than the studio recordings of the song. If you were to ask the average SG fan about the Statesmen, this is probably one of the songs that comes to their mind first, along with Rosie’s “Oh What A Savior.” At the end of this song, as the audience is applauding, you can hear some laughter rippling through the audience. Maybe one of our resident historians can shed some light on what the laughter was about.
If you ask me what my favorite Statesmen album is, depending on the day I’ll either say Through The States or this album. This really captures the Statesmen in their heyday. Hovie’s MC work is masterful, and he has the crowd in the palm of his hand practically from the first notes of “I Wanna” and leaves them standing with “Get Away Jordan.” The concert is paced very well, and there are some classic moments on this album that every true SG fan needs to hear. Obviously this album is not commercially available, but it’s worth scouring yard sales, record stores, and the internet to find a copy. This is one of the Statesmen’s finest LPs and a must listen for any SG fan. Quartet fans will most likely fight each other over a nice copy of this one.