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!

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

7 Responses to Review: Collingsworth Family – Part Of The Family

  1. bfuson0384 says:

    Excellent review Wes! This is an awesome cd, but my favorite song is “Praise You”. I ran into Phil Sr. at a Cracker Barrell in Louisville last week during NQC and I made sure I let him know that. As awesome as it is to hear these kids mature as vocalists, their parents are still wonderful singers, and I love Phil Sr’s voice.

  2. Brian says:

    Nice job, Wes. I found myself nodding in agreement with you in lots of places. Excellent recording. I think I’ll get a review written by next week, but you pretty much said it all.

  3. John says:

    Thanks for the review Wes…I was just meaning the other day to check out their website and see if they had something new coming, and then your review popped up in Google reader! Looking forward to giving this one a listen, the Collingsworths have become far and away our family’s favorite group.

  4. I believe #2 is the first single.

    On #11, they did an acapella encore at NQC. It was exquisite.

  5. Wow, you finally got around to doing this one! And we got it at about the same time. I guess that says something about how busy (or not) our respective schedules are. 😀

    Actually I guess I’m busier now that I’m in school, but I managed to squeak in my review just BEFORE school started. Yay.

  6. Oh, and ultimately I concluded like you that _The Answer_ is still better. Like you said, there isn’t a corresponding “jump out and grab you” track on here. But it is very, very consistent.

  7. John says:

    I finally had the financial wherewithal to get this album…love it! The one song that just absolutely gripped me is “At Calvary”. It’s always been in my top 5 hymns, and like you said, Wes, it’s very hard to top this arrangement. In fact I’ve already spliced it into some ringtones for my phone 🙂
    I think in a song like “At Calvary” that’s been done many times, and most people grew up singing, when a group does it so well that the lyrics almost seem new, and really bring out the message of Calvary, well…I don’t know how to end this run-on sentence. I think the Collingsworth’s do that with “At Calvary”. The combination of the vocal arrangement and orchestration really make you stop and think about the grace and mercy that are found in Calvary. Well done.

    Overall I think it’s a great album in that the kids are showcased more (not that I don’t want to hear Phil Sr. and Kim 🙂 but they did a really good job of showcasing everyone. A great album that will be getting quite a bit of play in our van.

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