Review: Sounds Of Jericho – The Story Of His Grace

sojIt’s not often that the opportunity presents itself to review a group’s debut project, but I am excited to do just that for this quartet.  Bass Stacy Bragg and tenor Stephen Sigmon were original members of the Lefevre Quartet, and they’ve joined forces with Matt Tyler and Ken Thomas to form Sounds of Jericho.  This CD was produced by Mark Dowdy.

Tracks:

  1. Deeper Journey – A collaboration between Rob Johnson, Gene Pistill, and Michael Puryear, this is a mid to uptempo tune with a country feel.  The first verse builds up starting from baritone Ken Thomas for the first couple of lines then Stacy Bragg has a solo line or two.  The chorus features some nice smooth harmonies.  Nothing flashy here, but it’s a good solid song that showcases the group’s blend.  7/10
  2. If The Lord Wasn’t Walking By My Side – Henry Slaughter’s classic is given a bit of a funky, soulful, brass driven makeover that works very well.  It’s a bit reminiscent of something Gold City would have done in the late 90s or early 2000s.  High energy, and it’s great to hear this song brought back in a more inventive fashion.  This is a bit of a risk, with a song so closely associated with the Statesmen, but the inventive arrangement pays its own form of tribute to the pace setting quartet of yesteryear.  8.5/10
  3. Living Testimony – Penned by Michael Puryear and Gina Vera, this is a beautiful ballad sung by baritone Ken Thomas.  I love the opening line “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.”  It’s a great lyric that reminds us of our responsibility to share in words and deeds the good news found in Christ.  Very pretty song.  8.5/10
  4. Resting Place – This is not the song made famous years ago by the Wilburns, but instead this is a song written by the team of Rob Johnson, Gene Pistill, and Michael Puryear and is performed completely acappella.  It’s not a little surprising that a new group would stick their vocals out front like this on their debut, but these guys do a fine job.  There’s a nice key change toward the end of song that is done flawlessly. Nice cut.  7.5/10
  5. Wayfaring Stranger – Matt Tyler and Stacy Bragg are featured on this classic by Charles Davis Tillman.  It’s given a country/bluegrass treatment that works pretty well.  This song is commonly done as a bass lead, so to hear Sounds of Jericho feature their lead singer on the first verse is a nice change.  This is a very solid version of the song, and Bragg does a fine job on his feature.  He really has a nice bass voice.  8/10
  6. Spread It Around – Written by Joseph Habedank, Dwight Liles, and Michael Puryear, this midtempo tune has a bit of a bouncy, brassy pop type feel that features each vocalist on a line of the first verse before Matt Tyler takes the melody for the chorus.  The round robin lead continues on the second verse.  The chorus features some call and response lines, as well as some nice unison in addition to the full quartet harmonies.  After a bridge of “I Love To Tell The Story”, the chorus repeats twice before ending.  Another good solid tune. 8.5/10
  7. Jesus Never Changes – From the pen of Paula Stefanovich and Michael Puryear comes this ballad that features Stephen Sigmon.  Sigmon isn’t the highest tenor you’ll hear, but he’s got a nice full sound that is very pleasing to the ear.  It’s a good lyric that reminds us that even though Christ never changes, He causes complete change in us.  Sigmon has the melody on the verses and the first chorus, then Matt Tyler takes the second chorus with the harmony inverted up. After a bridge of “Hold To God’s Unchanging Hand” and a key change, Sigmon takes the melody again.  Solid song.  7/10
  8. Standing In The Storm – Michael Puryear, Dwight Liles, Laureen Smith, and Gwen Moore penned this midtempo country flavored tune featuring Matt Tyler.  The chorus features some nice harmony from the group.  Much like the opening track, there isn’t a whole lot of flash here, just some solid quartet singing. The tag is nice.  7/10
  9. I’d Rather Have Jesus – This song has gained some poignancy since the death of George Beverly Shea, who put the music to Rhea F. Miller’s lyrics.  This is given an acoustic treatement, and I love the cello that is prominent in the introduction.  The first verse features Stacy Bragg, who does a great job singing the song and letting the melody shine.  Stephen Sigmon has the melody on the first half of the chorus that has some gorgeous block harmony. Bragg takes a solo line and the group sings unison on the last line of the chorus.  Sigmon takes the melody on the second verse that builds to a nice high last line leading back into the chorus with Matt Tyler resuming the lead.  The tag has some beautiful harmonies.  It’s an understated arrangement, but it’s beautiful in its simplicity.  9/10
  10. Leave The Light On – Kenna West, Dwight Liles, and Michael Puryear contributed this country tinged midtempo tune that features Matt Tyler.  This is the first single from the album.  The last chorus features a nice cascade of harmonies behind a solo line from Tyler that serves to set it apart from the rest of the song.  It’s a solid tune that should serve as a good introduction to the group.  7.5/10
  11. Ten Thousand Angels – Once again a familiar title, but new song written by Mark Dowdy and Vince Wilcox, this is a progressive styled ballad featuring Matt Tyler.  I like this lyric in the chorus: “what made Your grace amazing was what you could have done, but did not do.”  This is a really nice ballad that would make a nice follow up single for the group.  8/10
  12. Operator – William Spivery’s classic made famous by The Downings is covered here with a pop feel that is almost Huey Lewis and The News-like.  It just needs the horn section, but gives us a rock organ flavor instead.  There’s a choir that comes in with the call/response of the chorus.  There’s a nice guitar solo in the instrumental break before the quartet comes back in.  I think this is well done, and it’s different enough from both the Downings version and the later Dove Brothers version to make it unique.  8/10

Overall 8  This is a good debut for the group, and 12 songs on the CD is a nice surprise when most established groups only give you 10.  Four of the twelve are covers, but even in that the selection is nice, as two of them, “If The Lord” and “Operator”, aren’t songs you would immediately think of for a group to cover.  I’ll echo what Aaron Swain said in his review that the vocalists all seem to have a good idea of their vocal ranges and don’t stray from where they are comfortable singing, which is always a plus.  Sigmon has a nice full sound to his voice, Tyler carries his lion’s share of lead vocals admirably, Thomas has a smooth baritone voice that gets the chance to show a little range by occasionally jumping above Tyler’s lead, and Bragg sounds like he hasn’t missed a beat since leaving the Lefevre Quartet.  Putting an acappella song on your debut album takes some guts, and they pulled it off pretty well.  This is solid start, and I’ll be interested in watching how this group grows and forms their own identity over subsequent projects.  Good job guys!

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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: Sounds Of Jericho – The Story Of His Grace

  1. Scot Eaves says:

    Nice review. I look forward to listening to this project.

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