Review: The New Gospel Singing Caravan – Keeps Rolling Along

Back in the 60s, the Gospel Singing Caravan was a popular concert tour/TV show/recording series that featured groups like The Lefevres, The Prophets, The Johnson Sisters, and several others.  Fast forward to 2011, and the Caravan is now back on tour, and releasing an album with The Blackwood Brothers, The Lefevre Quartet, and The Chuck Wagon Gang.

Tracks:

  1. This Great Caravan – The recording starts off with this bouncy rendition of the theme song of the original troupe, written by Vep Ellis.  Immediately the arrangement of voices on the disc will remind you of the “Gaither Choir.” It’s also a song that will get stuck in your head for days on end.  In what becomes a recurring theme throughout the disc, the basses get frequent “pick ups” and runs and do a fine job with them.  Solid opening tune.  8/10
  2. Crown Him King – Yes, there are two songs on this CD with the same title.  No, they are not duplicates.  The first of the two is a fairly new song written by Dianne Wilkinson.  It’s actually given a similar tempo and bounciness as the preceding track.  The basses all alternate solo lines on the second verse.  It’s a solid song that fits in quite well with the classic songs on the CD.  7.5/10
  3. Sinner’s Plea – Joe Roper’s jazzy classic is next up by the ensemble.  The sheer number of vocalists and range of voices from basses all the way up to sopranos really weaves a thick web of harmonies surrounding the tenor/alto melody.  The arrangement is similar to most, especially the version by the “New” Statesmen in 1992, but with a thicker sound.  It’s a good version.  8.5/10
  4. I Always Have A Song To Sing – Originally recorded by the Mark Trammell Trio and written by Jerry Kelso, this uptempo tune is the other “new” song on the CD.  This also is the first single from the project.  The song is a bit rearranged from the MTT version to give the basses the melody on the chorus with the other ensemble members engaging in a countermelody type of backing vocal that is typical of convention style music.  Like the Dianne Wilkinson song earlier, this song feels right at home on the album and is a good choice for the first single.  The harmonies on the tag are more complex and the execution is perfect.  9/10
  5. Wait Upon The Lord – A classic tune from J.B. Coats.  The ensemble sings the verses, and the basses and tenors split the chorus in a call and response type structure.  There’s an interesting key change at the end of the end of the chorus that leads into the second verse.  A repeat of the chorus with the basses changing the melody to drop lower finishes out the song.  It’s an enjoyable cut.  7/10
  6. Revival Days – Jimmy Jones penned this tune that features a plethora of different configurations of singers taking turns on the verses and choruses from well known hymns.  One thing I wish I had is a list of who is featured on what, as I’m not familiar enough with all the artists to really be able to tell.  Structurally, this song is reminiscent of JD Sumner’s “Old Country Church.”  The entire group comes in on the final chorus of “Oh Happy Day.”  Another solid cut that is interesting to hear all the different vocal configurations.  7.5/10
  7. I’m Too Near Home – Written by Charles Wycliff, this song has been done in myriad versions by multiple artists.  This is a straight ahead version that makes it easy to sing along.  There is one thing unique, however, in the last chorus, the bass vocalists and the bass accompaniment do a “walk down” on each of the chord changes.  It gives just enough spice to the tune to keep it from being too monotonous.  7/10
  8. Oh The Glory Did Roll – It wouldn’t be a convention style album without some kind of contribution by G.T. “Dad” Speer.  This is the first of two Dad Speer songs on the album.  This is a great choice that really lends itself to the large ensemble sound.  On the last chorus, the basses take the lead singers’ lines.  Another solid, enjoyable cut.  7.5/10
  9. Crown Him King – This is the familiar song by Luther G. Presley.  It’s another song that really lends itself well to the ensemble sound.  It’s also done at near break neck speed, especially for such a large group of singers.  The diction and attention paid to rhythm is extremely impressive on this song.  It would be really easy to have the “machine gun” entrances and cut-offs on this song, but they stay together the whole way through.  Impressive cut.  8/10
  10. Daniel Prayed – This is the other Dad Speer song on the album.  This song features the entire ensemble for the first verse and chorus, but then uses a couple of different “scrap iron” type ensembles for the second verse.  There’s a key change afterwards that really showcases the bass vocals on the chorus showing off some deep range.  8/10
  11. I’ve Found A Hiding Place – Theodore Boyd’s classic is tackled by the group next.  After a group vocal on the verse, the first chorus features the baritones and leads taking turns on solo lines.  The repeat of the chorus then features a “battle” between the female vocalists and the tenors.  There’s some lush, swelling harmonies on the line “there’s glory in my soul.”  It’s another one that is done at a fast tempo that again showcases some really precise singing.  8/10
  12. How Great Thou Art – Stuart K. Hine’s classic rounds out the disc, and is the only real ballad on the disc.  The first verse starts out as a low duet, then adds a third part.  The second verse is done as a solo that is split between a male and female vocal that adds a nice contrast.  A group vocal follows on the chorus with the exception of a female solo in the middle.  The key changes before the final verse.  To this point, I’ve not identified any of the soloists or featured vocalists, partially because a lot of them I just don’t know.  I’m going to deviate from that here, because these two gentlemen need some recognition for what they bring to this song.  The final verse is split between Jimmy Blackwood and David Staton.  Both sing their lines admirably, but the real genius in choosing these two singers is the contrast their voices provide.  Jimmy Blackwood’s vocals are so reminscent of his father, James Blackwood’s, that it is almost scary.  David Staton has a much more modern, edgy styled voice.  By splitting the verse between them, they pay honor to SG’s storied past (Blackwood), while looking forward to what the future of SG has in store (Staton).  It really is a nice contrast.  The ensemble finishes the chorus building to a power tag that is a fitting conclusion to the disc.  9/10

Overall: 8  This is an extremely enjoyable CD.  While there’s not anything here that is really going to bowl you over or grab your attention, there also isn’t anything that will have you wanting to skip a track either.  This is the type of CD that you want to pop in your car as you are driving and enjoy singing along with a majority of familiar songs.  The arrangements are fairly straight ahead, but have some spots that are surprisingly complex that are all pulled off in fine fashion.  The bass vocalists in particular really shine on this CD, as they are featured in some fashion on almost every cut.  Also, there was great care taken in the execution and precision of the vocals on these songs.  With a lot of countermelody or call and response type structures, it’s easy to get a little sloppy with your timing or diction, and you will find none of that here.  Extreme attention to detail was paid to the vocal execution, and that is greatly appreciated.  This is a CD that will provide you with countless hours of enjoyment.  I guess the highest compliment I can give it is that I put this CD in my wife’s vehicle, she told me she loves it and listens to it constantly, as my 2 oldest kids (6 and 4) sing along with several tracks.  Great job by all involved!

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About Wes Burke
I'm a .NET developer and Southern Gospel music fan. Married with a wonderful family.

One Response to Review: The New Gospel Singing Caravan – Keeps Rolling Along

  1. Gaithermusicaddict says:

    Great review. I wanna buy it.

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