The Top 5 Albums Of 2009

Much like my top 10 songs from yesterday, I’ve gone back over the projects I’ve listened to this past year to come up with my top 5 albums of the year.  I’d say this is a pretty strong collection.

Top 5 Albums of 2009

  1. The Crist Family – Declaration
  2. Brian Free & Assurance – Worth It
  3. The Perrys – Almost Morning
  4. The Ball Brothers – Breakthrough
  5. The Collingsworth Family – The Answer

Each one of these albums is fantastic, and if you don’t have one of these, they come highly recommended by this blogger.  I’ve heard them and really REALLY enjoyed all five.

The Top 10 Songs Of 2009

I did this last year as well, but since I’ll be out of pocket next week visiting family in Florida, I thought I’d go ahead and do this now.  This is a list of the top 10 songs that I have personally heard/reviewed (some with reviews upcoming) that were released in 2009.  This is NOT a reflection of chart action, but these are the 10 songs that really blew me away when I heard them.  I have probably 10-15 more that could be listed here, but at some point I just have to come up with 10 and go with it.  So without further adieu, here are the top 10 songs of the year:

  1. “Almost Morning” – The Perrys
  2. “Die Another Day” – Brian Free & Assurance
  3. “Fear Not Tomorrow” – The Collingsworth Family
  4. “There Is No Other Name” – The Crist Family
  5. “You Must Have Met Him” – Brian Free & Assurance
  6. “Everyday” – Triumphant Quartet
  7. “If You Knew Him” – The Perrys
  8. “It’s About The Cross” – The Ball Brothers
  9. “God Saw A Cross” – The Kingsmen
  10. “Worthy The Lamb” – Gaither Vocal Band

Ball Brothers Album Preview

“By Jove, I’ve done it again!”  You can also preview the full album of the Ball Brothers’ new release Breakthough on Song Garden’s site.  This certainly sounds like a unique album, and I’ll be giving it a full review shortly.  For now, head to Song Garden’s site and give it a listen.  You can also order the CD for a special discounted price of $9.99 right now.

Why Southern Gospel’s Future Is In Good Hands

Over the past year or so, I’ve been trying to expand my horizons a bit and listen to some of the newer groups that are “paying their dues” in the SG industry.  A frequent topic of discussion on these blogs is the future of our genre.  Well over the past year or so, I’ve found several groups that reassure me that SGs future is in good hands.  This is not to knock any others, but these four groups especially give me great hope for the future of the music that we all love.

  • The Crist Family – This mixed group just has it right.  Their latest CD, Declaration, is phenomenal.  They’ve got good material, great arrangements, incredible talent, and dedication to their craft that is unparalleled.    No one takes the musical risks that these guys take, and their style is fresh and innovative.  They are the real deal, and should be one of our top mixed groups for years to come.
  • The Ball Brothers – What the Crist Family is to mixed groups, the Ball Brothers are to male quartets.  They have a sound all their own, with incredibly tight harmonies, and a polish to their sound that a lot of groups that have been on the road for much longer don’t.  I’m anxiously awaiting their new disc, Breakthrough, to hear what kind of inventive sounds they come up with this time.  These 4 young men should make an indelible mark on our industry for a long time.
  • The Dills – Another mixed group that has an incredibly smooth blend, and show an amazing amount of versatility.  Their latest CD, Story Of A Lifetime, is a big step forward for them, both in the strength of their material and in their arrangements.  “Holy of Holies” is an absolutely incredible song that could become a sugar stick for them.  They’re young, they’re talented, and they are dedicated to constantly improving their overall sound and presentation.  Shawn Dill is one of the most underrated vocalists in SG today, what a great voice.  They’ll be around for quite a while.
  • Mike Lefevre Quartet – OK, so calling them a new or up and coming group is a bit of a stretch, but they’ve really started picking up since signing with Canaan.  Again, these guys are on the cutting edge of male quartet music.  Stacey Bragg isn’t a subsonic bass, Gus Gaches isn’t a screaming high tenor, but they are flat-out good.  These guys perform some of the smoothest vocals you’ll ever hear, the material on their latest CD, Nothin’ But Good, is incredibly strong, and I rated that CD the top CD of 2008.  These guys are just starting to make their mark on the quartet world, and should become one of the major influences in SG.

There are other great newer groups out there like the Collingsworth Family, the Browns, Tribute, and Brothers Forever, but these four deserve special mention.   At least, they do in my opinion.  So to all four of these groups, keep doing what you are doing, stay the course, and Southern Gospel music should thrive for years to come with these groups taking a greater and greater place on the scene.

Groups That Need The Career Making Song

In a comment on Daniel Mount’s post about the Collingsworth Family’s latest single, an interesting question is brought up about groups that may be top notch groups that have not had that one song that puts them “on the map” or “over the top”, so to speak.  Think Gold City and “Midnight Cry”, the Cathedrals and “Champion of Love”, the Nelons and “Oh For A Thousand Tongues”, etc.  Of course, off the top of my head I came up with the obvious new groups that are poised to do so:  the aforementioned Collingsworth Family, the Dills, the Crist Family, the Ball Brothers, Tribute Quartet, and so on.  Then my brain went into overdrive and I came up with two well established and wildly popular groups who still fit the above criteria:

  • Legacy 5
  • Triumphant Quartet

As popular as these two groups are, and as talented as they are (two of my favorites, even), I still can’t point to the one “monster” song that has defined their career.  Legacy 5’s closest is probably their debut single, “I Stand Redeemed”, but it still isn’t the “signature song” that “Midnight Cry”, “When He Was On The Cross”, or “Get Away Jordan” has been.  With Triumphant it is even harder, though “Don’t Let The Sandals Fool Ya” was and is pretty popular for them.  What do YOU think?  And who would you add to the list of groups that still haven’t had that one smash of a song that is a line in the sand and a measuring stick for all others?

Ball Brothers Sign With Song Garden

In their latest email newsletter, the Ball Brothers announced that they have signed on with Song Garden records, and are currently working on their debut project with the label, entitled Breakthrough.  They mentioned that the project is being produced by Jason Webb and Darren Rust.  Rust worked with the guys on their Christmas CD last year, and it ended up as a fantastic project.  Webb also produced the Canaan debut for the Mike Lefevre Quartet, which I rated as my top album in 2008.  With these two guys producing, this should make for one incredible album.  Congratulations to the Ball Brothers on getting on a label.  They are certainly deserving, and be watching for big things from this group sooner, rather than later.

Review: Ball Brothers – Christmas

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This is the latest release from the Ball Brothers, and according to Daniel Ball, is more of a “table project” than a mainline release.  That being said, this is a high quality table project!

Tracks:

  1. O Come All Ye Faithful – Stunning acappella opener to the disc.  The harmonies are incredibly complex, the blend smooth, and the arrangment impeccable.  This was available on Daniel Mount’s blog as a free download.  If you didn’t download it, shame on you!  I honestly can’t think of any more perfect opening to the CD.  10/10
  2. The Christmas Song – Soft jazzy version of this song.  The tenor lead is reminiscent of the arrangement that the Gaither Vocal Band did on Still The Greatest Story Ever Told.  Once again, there are some nice, complex jazz vocal harmonies on this song.  The understated track helps to highlight the incredible harmonies.  9.5/10
  3. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas – This song may spark quite the discussion.  The track opens with some chatter, then the instruments kick in.  Let me say this, this sure isn’t “Beautiful Star Of Bethlehem.”  This arrangement sounds like something TrueVibe or PlusOne in the CCM market would have done, maybe 4Him from the early ’90s, or to use a secular reference, think 98 Degrees or N’Sync.  That being said, this is a great performance.  Nice soaring harmonies, smooth vocals, and this stacks up against any secular “boy-band” recording you can name.  I personally love this, but I can see this causing a little stir among more traditionalists than me.  9/10
  4. What Child Is This? – Another acappella tune that is sung in a very smooth, deliberate manner.  The jazz chords don’t come into play as much here, but there are some really nice vocal arpeggios behind the lead vocal on the verses following the first.  These guys are incredibly talented singers and this song showcases that talent.  9/10
  5. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – This song returns to the pop sounds of “Have Yourself.”  Again the vocals are smooth and rival any secular vocal group.  There are some random “Santa sounds” interspersed here.  Once again, a potentially controversial arrangement, but it’s a very solid performance.  They do some nice building up the harmony from unison on the first verse.  Solid performance.  7.5/10
  6. Hark The Herald Angels Sing – Back to a more traditional acappella approach on this carol, there are some nice moving harmonies and chords interspersed here.  If you like Take 6, this is a Take 6-esque arrangement.  It doesn’t quite have the complexity of Take 6’s version, but it doesn’t miss it by much.  Once again an incredible performance, and a nice broadening of the last verse that keeps the song interesting.  9.5/10
  7. Silent Night – This song has some smooth block vocals with an acoustic guitar accompaniment on the first verse that hearkens back to the original performance of this timeless carol.  The second verse adds a little more instrumentation, and some more complex harmonies from the first verse.  Solid performance here.  7/10
  8. O Holy Night – Fairly traditional version of this song.  The first verse is totally solo, there’s a piano solo for the first two lines of the second verse, the solo comes back in with some wordless background harmonies that are gorgeous until the last two lines with full group vocals.  The typical high tag is used and the last word is sung solo.  Solid arrangement.  7.5/10
  9. Blue Christmas – This is an interesting way to close the CD.  The song is performed with acoustic guitar accompaniment.  The complex harmonies return in the background behind the lead line.  It’s a great performance, and the key change in the middle is exquisite, as are the harmonies following.    8.5/10

Overall:  9/10 This was my introduction to the Ball Brothers’ music, and I have come away incredibly impressed.  You’ve read my pleas for more creative arrangements, jazz influences, and you’ve listened to me lament the demise of Friends IV.  Well these guys are an answer to those pleas.  Their vocal arrangements are incredible, their harmonies performed expertly, their blend very smooth, and they have produced an immensely enjoyable Christmas album.  The first half of the disc is a bit stronger than the second half, and closing with “Blue Christmas” is a bit of a head scratcher to me, but if you enjoy the pop songs like I do, then there won’t be anything here you’ll want to skip over.  Kudos to these guys on a great album.  If this is what they consider a “table project”, I can’t wait to hear what they do for their next major release!

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