RIP Lari Goss

As busy as my life has been over the past year or so, it would take some huge news to bring me back out of hiding.  Unfortunately, the news of said magnitude is not good news.  It has been reported by many SG artist and industry types this afternoon that Lari Goss has passed away.  I’ve mentioned Lari on this blog many, many, many times, and I consider him one of, if not the biggest unsung heroes in Southern Gospel history.  Lari Goss was the most creative and innovative arranger the genre has ever seen.  He touched so many different artists’ careers that it would be impossible to name them all.  I will say that his fingerprints are all over the albums that were voted on this site a couple of years ago as the top 2 projects in SG: Pillars of Faith by Gold City and Symphony of Praise by The Cathedrals.  He was also a driving force behind the group I’ve long felt should have been more successful, Friends IV, whose arrangements to this day are unparalleled in gospel music.  In recent years, he produced the landmark recording Declaration by the Booth Brothers, which was met with much critical acclaim.  Lari was truly one of a kind.

Enjoy your much deserved reward, Lari.  Southern Gospel music will never be the same without your musical genius.

Thoughts On The Tracy Stuffle Benefit

I watched the large majority of the benefit concert for Tracy and Libbi Stuffle online last night. What a tremendous outpouring of love and support by our fellow SG artists. I thought Jason Crabb and Joseph Habedank did marvelous jobs hosting the concert, and there were a lot of highlights. Former Palmetto State tenor Robert Fulton was singing with Gold City, and they sounded pretty solid.

There was quite a unique lineup of The Hoppers last night as well. Kim is very ill with sinus problems, and may even be facing surgery, sloshed and Dean were at home. Taranda Greene filled in for Kim, and Jason and Joseph alternated filling in Dean’s part. “I’ve Come Too Far” was fantastic, Connie and Taranda both nailed their parts of the song, and on the encore, Tim Riley supplied some incredible bass vocals.

The Booth Brothers did their two songs with only piano accompaniment from Nick Bruno, and it showcased their amazing blend and harmonies. The Collingsworth Family did an exquisite version of “Fear Not Tomorrow”, with Olivia joining what was a trio of her mom and sisters. I’ll disagree with my esteemed colleague Daniel Mount, as to my ears it sounded like Olivia was doubling Courtney, not Brooklyn. Mark Lowry was hilarious, and Paul Harkey was impressive with EHSS. The Oak Ridge Boys also sang with only piano accompaniment as well, and they were very genuine in their love and support for Tracy and Libbi.

More important and significant than all of this, though, came with The Perrys set, and the surprise appearance by Libbi, who sang a heart wrenching performance of “ThroughThe Night.”. After the set, Dr. Phil Hoskins took the stage and had a time of anointing and prayer for Libbi and Tracy. Seeing all of the artists in attendance gathered at the altar with their arms outstretched toward Libbi in prayer was the single most powerful moment I’ve witnessed at a concert. After several minutes of prayer, Libbi began singing “‘Tis So Sweet” from the midst of the group, and the rest of the artists and congregation joined in singing acappella. It was an incredibly sweet moment.

I have no idea how much money was raised last night, but judging from the crowd it had to have been a significant amount. Even,ore important though, 25 or so people rededicated their livestock Christ, and 8 or 9 were saved when Dr. Hoskins gave an altar call. This is what Southern Gospel is all about, and it made me proud to be even peripherally involved with this industry. All in all, a great night, and I was thankful to be able to watch the online stream.

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The Booth Brothers Quartet?

You read that right.  According to a press release from the Memphis Quartet Show yesterday afternoon, the Booth Brothers are going to be present for a Thursday afternoon matinee with Gene McDonald filling in the bass part.  From the press release:

The Memphis Quartet Show is excited to present an incredible matinee featuring one of Southern Gospel Music’s favorite trio performing a one-time-only full concert as a quartet. The Booth Brothers will be joined by bass vocalist Gene McDonald to create an this exceptional quartet!
Michael Booth shares, “For those of you who have wondered what we’d sound like as a quartet, we’re about to find out at the same time! This is gonna be fun!”
This combination will only happen once, and it will be at the Memphis Quartet Show on Thursday, June 20, 2013, in Memphis, Tennessee. Visit www.quartetshow.com to purchase tickets.
Now THIS is something to see!  Stewart Varnado and his supporters have really been ambitious in what they are wanting to pull off during this multi-day event, so make plans to come to my home city for the concerts!

NQC Final Round Ballot

Here are my votes for the final round, with necessary changes listed.  I had a hard time choosing a soprano last round, so I switched votes on that category so that I have voted for each of my choices once.  I know the results don’t work that way, but it eases my troubled mind.  I honestly couldn’t just choose one or the other, I think both are deserving. 🙂

  • Bass – Tim Riley
  • Baritone – Mark Trammell
  • Lead – Joseph Habedank (Bill Shivers not in the list)
  • Tenor – Brian Free (Gus Gaches not in the list)
  • Soprano – Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair
  • Alto – Libbi Stuffle (Courtney C. Metz not in the list)
  • Soloist – TaRanda Greene (Steve Ladd not in the list)
  • Male Group – Booth Brothers (Gold City not in the list)
  • Mixed Group – Collingsworth Family
  • Musician – Jeff Stice
  • Album – Let It Be Known, Booth Brothers
  • Song – “Blue Skies Coming”, Perrys (“On The Banks… not in the list)

There you have it!  Mileage may vary….

NQC Awards Ballot: First Round

Since several others have posted their ballots in the first round of the NQC awards voting, I will do the same.

  • Bass: Tim Riley
  • Baritone: Mark Trammell
  • Lead: Bill Shivers
  • Tenor: Gus Gaches
  • Soprano: Karen Peck Gooch
  • Alto: Courtney Collingsworth Metz
  • Soloist: Steve Ladd
  • Male Group: Gold City
  • Mixed Group: Collingsworth Family
  • Musician: Jeff Stice
  • Album: Let It Be Known – Booth Brothers
  • Song: “On The Banks Of The Promised Land” – Karen Peck and New River

YouTube Killed The XM Star

An intriguing phenomenon has been slowly materializing recently in Southern Gospel: concept videos.  The Ball Brothers did one for “About The Cross”, the Booth Brothers just released one for “She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name”, the Dills had “God Is In Control”, and Red Roots also released one fairly recently for “Double Wide Church.”  There are probably more than this floating around on YouTube, these are just the ones I could think of in a pinch.

Those of you who are of my generation will probably recognize the title of this post as a play on the rock song “Video Killed The Radio Star”, which came out shortly after the rise of MTV.  It seems there is truly nothing new under the sun, as the YouTube concept video phenomenon is seemingly a return of the music video, just on the net instead of over the cable “airwaves”.  Of course, this is also not an entirely new phenomenon, YouTube has been creating celebrities for a while now.  Justin Bieber, Rebecca Black, and the entire premise of the Nickelodeon show iCarly (which my 6 and 4 year olds LOVE) have gotten their notoriety due to the influence that YouTube has had on our culture, among others.

During the music video TV heyday, the phenomenon really never took off in Southern Gospel.  I remember watching GMTV on my cousin’s satellite a few times, but it never became readily available, and the quality of videos shown, especially in the early days, left a lot to be desired.  So call me skeptical in the ability of the YouTube concept video to catch on and have any staying power, but you never know.  Maybe the fact that some better known artists are participating this time will create more sticking power.  What do you think?

Thrift Store Finds

I had 45 minutes or so to kill Friday afternoon before I met my wife and kids for a birthday party for one of my son’s friends.  Down the street from where the party was being held, I came across a thrift store that had a name like “Hands of God Thrift Store” or something similar.  I figured I could look around for a while, and I’m glad I did!  I ended up walking out of the store with the following:

  • Booth Brothers – Harmony still sealed CD ($1)
  • Brian Free and Assurance – Requests cassette (the ultra rare original trio project, $0.50)
  • Gold City – Requested Hymns vol 1-3 cassettes (Brian Free/Ivan Parker/Steve Lacey lineup, $0.50 each)
  • Imperials – Now LP ($1)
  • A various artists LP from the early – mid 60s ($1)

The various artists LP is a bit intriguing, it’s a HeartWarming album, but on an early budget label.  It includes songs from Ira Stanphill, Dottie Rambo, The Gospel Echoes (Rambos, I’m guessing), the Imperials, the Plainsmen, and several other well known names.  More on that album when I get a chance to rip it to mp3.  Thrift stores have always been good to me!

Singing News Fan Awards

The Singing News Fan Awards were presented yesterday at Dollywood.  You can watch the ceremony and get a full listing of the awards here.  Not unexpectedly, the Booth Brothers and Triumphant cleaned up, with the Booths taking Favorite Artist and Trio, plus the Tenor, Lead, and Baritone awards.  Triumphant took home Quartet, Album, Song, Bass, and Musician of the Year awards.  There were a couple of pleasant surprises as well.  The Gaither band took home Favorite Band, and the Ball Brothers won Horizon Artist.  Good to see the Ball Brothers get that kind of recognition.  I really feel they are the future of SG music.  Congratulations guys!  Courtney Collingsworth Metz also made Fan Award history yesterday, becoming the first person to win both Horizon Individual and Young Artist awards in the same year.  I can’t think of anyone more deserving, but I guess this means I can’t call her underrated or an “unsung hero” anymore.  Libbi Stuffle once again took home Favorite Alto, and in a mild surprise, the Hoppers took home Mixed Group.  I had somewhat expected the Perrys to take home that award, but the Hoppers really aren’t an upset to win.  Congratulations to all the winners!

Review: Booth Brothers – Let It Be Known

This is the latest Daywind release from the Booth Brothers.  Michael Booth, Ronnie Booth, and Jim Brady combined their talents with producer Lari Goss once again, as they did on their previous release, Declaration.

Tracks:

  1. First John –  This Lari Goss penned tune opens the project acappella.  It’s very reminiscent of “The Gospel Song” from Declaration and just as thrilling.  If there’s one thing the Booth Brothers know, it’s harmony and this song is Exhibit A. 10/10
  2. See What A Morning – Contributed by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, this song is given a mid to uptempo celtic feel.  Once again, this tune would have sounded right at home on Declaration.  Northern Ireland’s trio Revelation also recently recorded this song, but the Booth Brothers’ version is significantly faster paced and a bit more fully developed.  It’s a tremendous performance and arrangement that really brings some high energy in a concert setting.  10/10
  3. She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name – Melody Goodman wrote this tender ballad that Ronnie Booth sings to perfection.  The chorus to the song features the trademark smooth Booth Brothers harmonies.  Anyone who has had a loved one suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s will easily identify with the lyrics of this song.  It is the first single from the CD, and while I am a bit surprised at the choice, the subject matter will probably resonate with more than enough radio listeners to make it very successful.  9/10
  4. He’s So Good To Me – Another Lari Goss penned tune, this song was originally recorded by the Goss Brothers, and more recently has been done by the Talley Trio.  It’s an upbeat number to get toes tapping and makes for a great concert opener.  8.5/10
  5. When You Bow At Jesus’ Feet – Track 5 gives us the first Jim Brady penned tune on the disc.  It’s a soft, inspirational ballad featuring Jim.  I’ve always said there is something special about a writer singing his own song, especially when the writer is a vocalist the caliber of Brady.  Lyrically, the song is an encouragement to Christians to lay their guilt of past mistakes at the feet of Christ.  “Defined no longer by your failures, you’ll find strength in letting go.”  What a thought.  Love this song.  10/10
  6. Since Jesus Came – Jim Brady also contributed this song, which is done in the style of the Mills Brothers.  Michael and Ronnie Booth cite the Mills Brothers as big influences on them, so they asked Jim to write a song in that style to allow them to pay tribute to the group.  This is a really enjoyable song that is even better live, as they do it around 2 mics.  The name of this game is SMOOTH.  9/10
  7. Masterpiece of Mercy – Rodney Griffin and Jim Brady teamed up to write this tune.  It’s a slower, acoustic driven song that features Ronnie Booth.  Ronnie really excels at this style, with a country/mountain ballad feel.  His voice just oozes emotion when he sings.  This is a really pretty song.  8.5/10
  8. Let It Be Known – This is a flowing, 6/8 tune from Jim Brady, Sue Smith, and Barry Weeks.  The song talks about the call on our lives to let Christ’s gospel be known to everyone we come in contact with daily.  There are some interesting chord progressions in the chorus, and they come to a total stop at the end of the bridge.  They come back in with a new key.  It’s a neat effect.  There’s some really nice swirling harmonies on the tag.  Solid song. 8.5/10
  9. The Master’s Table – Rebecca Peck sent this midtempo that has a bit of a minor feel to it.  The trio is featured on the first verse, with Ronnie Booth taking a couple of solo lines in the second verse.  The song has a similar feel and tempo as the GVB’s classic “Yes I Know.”  The emphasis here is on the lyric about the sufficiency of Christ and on the incredibly smooth blend.  It’s an easy, laid back type of song.  8.5/10
  10. Bread On The Water – From easy and laid back to Southern Gospel Ska.  This is a cover of the Imperials hit from 1977 written by Bill and Jan Grein.  If you’re familiar with the classic rock tune, “Walkin’ On Sunshine”, this arrangement borrows quite heavily from that tune.  Brass, heavy percussion, and electric guitars rule this track.  It’s big time energy and is a GREAT cover of the Imperials classic.  The Booth Brothers are well known for pushing the envelope from time to time.  This one knocks the envelope off the desk and I love it!  10/10
  11. What About Now – This song was written by Jim Brady, Barry Weeks, and Tony Wood.  It features a long, acoustic guitar intro with some strings added toward the end.  Michael Booth takes the slow, flowing acoustic ballad.  Michael’s voice lends the genuineness that this lyric demands.  I’ve alluded to this lyric before, and it is quite possibly the most in your face, challenging lyric I’ve ever heard.  As Michael sings, “I’m not here to judge, or to cause any doubt,  just want you to look at the faith you live out.”  That’s immediately followed by “It’s not about a prayer you repeated one time, joining a church or tears that you’ve cried.”  The message of the song is to challenge the listener to evaluate their spiritual journey.  Are you the listener growing in your walk with God, or are you totally depending on something that happened years ago.  As the last line says “Not just somewhere in your past somehow, what about now?”  This is a song and a message that the church needs to hear, as it seems that we as a body of believers seem too content to rest on our initial salvation experience, with no desire to grow in our spiritual walk or to be conformed to the image of Christ.  We are called to become perfect, just as Christ is perfect.  We will never get there completely, but we are to strive for that goal every day.  This song expresses that perfectly, and is truly a sermon set to music.  The disc then concludes with a wordless acappella reprise of the theme from “First John” that lends a fitting closure to the disc.  Possibly the easiest 10 I’ve ever rated for a song.  10/10

Overall:  10.  We all have learned by now what to expect from the Booth Brothers.  Great song selection, terrific smooth harmonies, and timely messages lyrically.  This CD sonically is a step back from the epic sounds of Declaration, but in doing so it creates a CD that is a much easier listen.  However, the scaled back musical arrangements in no way take away from the strength of the messages contained therein.  Michael Booth warned me before I listened to this CD for the first time that it was “all over the map” stylistically.  He was right, there’s a huge variety in styles: from country to Celtic, to whatever you want to call “Bread Upon The Water”, and everything in between.  To this reviewer anyways, I find this to be more an asset than a distraction.  Much like I’ve stated before with the Crist Family’s recordings, the variety of styles that can be performed at an expert quality by the Booth Brothers is one of the group’s greatest strengths.  Virtually anyone can find something they like on a Booth Brothers CD.

I debated about whether this CD should get only the second overall 10 I’ve ever given or not, but the strength of “What About Now” makes it more than deserving of the highest rating that I can give.  Producer Lari Goss and the Booth Brothers have produced a CD that features great messages, incredibly tight vocal performances, the Booths’ trademark smooth blend, and a CD that should lend itself to repeated listens.  The CD officially releases tomorrow, and you’ll definitely want to add this to your short list of CDs to pick up!

Concert Review: The Booth Brothers

Saturday night, my wife and I were privileged to attend a concert by the Booth Brothers at Second Baptist Church in Union City, TN.  The venue was an absolutely beautiful facility that had plenty of seating.  I would estimate the crowd at somewhere in the 350-400 range.  After the church’s music minister led the congregation in a medley of some familiar hymns, they wasted no time in bringing out the Booth Brothers.  Here is their set list for the night:

  • He’s So Good To Me
  • I See Grace
  • Masterpiece of Mercy
  • I’ve Never Been Out of His Care
  • Welcome To The Family
  • In Christ Alone
  • Hymn Medley: Wonderful Peace/Old Rugged Cross/How Great Thou Art
  • Bread Upon The Water
  • Don’t Hang Your Head and Cry
  • I’m The Lamb
  • All Over The World
  • She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name
  • When You Bow At Jesus’ Feet
  • See What A Morning

Intermission

  • Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet
  • He Saw It All
  • Since Jesus Came
  • I’m Feelin’ Fine
  • What About Now?
  • We Believe
  • Truth Is Marching On

“He’s So Good To Me” is a great upbeat concert starter, and following it up with the tremendous “I See Grace” makes for a great 1-2 punch.  When we did our mega-review of Declaration, we all pointed to that song as a highlight, and it continues to be so in concert.  Jim Brady really delivers the song’s powerful message well.  Michael Booth does an incredible job singing “I’ve Never Been Out Of His Care”, which is an old Stamps Quartet song featuring Bill Baize from 1973’s Leaning On The Arms Of Jesus.  A funny thing about this song though, is that until my wife looked at my set list on my iPad, she thought they were singing “I’ve never been out of His hair…”  Talk about misheard lyrics!

The group paces the concert well, with Michael handling the large majority of the emcee work.  After the upbeat “Welcome To The Family”, they slowed things down with an acappella hymn medley.  Of course, the minute they finish the last note of “How Great Thou Art”, the brass and guitars kick in on their new version of the classic by the Imperials, “Bread Upon The Water.”  I’ll say more about this song when I do the review coming up soon, but only the Booths can pull off such a wide transition between styles.  Michael Booth has referred to their recordings, especially the new one as schizophrenic with all the different styles, but it’s a testament to them that they pull all the disparate styles off expertly.  Adding to the psychosis, shall we say, is their popular Southern Gospel Samba (I’m taking credit for this one, I coined this phrase on the mega-review of Declaration.  You’re welcome, Michael!), “All Over The World.”  This one exudes high energy, and the crowd was on its feet by the end.

“She Still Remembers Jesus’ Name” is a sweet, tender song, and it comes across even more so in concert when Michael shares about his and Ronnie’s grandmother who suffered from dementia and the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s before she passed away.  The point is made that they typically try to choose songs that are universal in application, but this song makes such a strong statement about the issue of dementia, and hit so close to home for them, that they made an exception with this song.  Ronnie really has the voice to convey a powerful message, and he does a great job with this song.  “See What A Morning” concluded the first half with the crowd again on their feet.

After a short intermission, the group (eventually) made their way back on stage.  Michael proceeded to wow the audience with “Look For Me”, Ronnie got them standing again with “He Saw It All”, and then the group did a bit of a tribute to the Mills Brothers with their new song “Since Jesus Came.”  They performed the song with two mics, the way the Mills Brothers used to perform.  It all added up to a great concert highlight, and then ratcheted the intensity way up with the classic “I’m Feelin’ Fine.”

“What About Now” is a ballad on their new release, and there will be plenty to say about it in the review.  I’m sure I will say it again then, but this song has some of the most in your face, challenging lyrics that may have ever been recorded in Southern Gospel.  After this song, with the mood turned quietly introspective, Michael shares a 10 minute or so “sermonette” that clearly presents a complete synopsis of the Gospel and salvation.  To counter the crowd that says they didn’t pay to hear preaching, Michael glibly replies “This part is FREE!”  At this point, Ronnie and Jim left the stage.

When Michael finished, the track kicked off to “We Believe”, and the order of solos that we discussed in the mega review began to make more sense.  Michael sang the first verse.  Jim then entered the stage singing his verse, and Ronnie did the same for the third.  After this song, they tried to dismiss the concert, but the promoter asked that they sing “Truth Is Marching On.”  Even though they didn’t record the song, they perform it extremely well and really ended the concert strongly.

The Booth Brothers have been riding atop the SG industry for several years now, and I learned why with this concert.  Michael does a great job as the emcee, balancing his zany sense of humor with an unexpected depth when the time calls for it.  I’ve been a big fan of Jim Brady’s writing and singing for a while now, and had that reinforced Saturday night.  His songwriting is top notch, and he’s a fine singer as well.  Oh, and thanks for the anniversary gift, Jim!  We did enjoy it!  Ronnie Booth has an incredibly smooth, pleasing lead voice that just simply oozes pathos and raw emotion.  He also plays the straight man to his brother’s comedy very well.  You’d think they’d been doing it all their lives or something!  I really enjoyed getting a chance to talk with both Michael and Jim for a while after the concert, and along those lines be looking for a surprise in the near future.

The bottom line is this: the Booth Brothers are the cream of the crop in Southern Gospel today, and their concert experience just simply provides more evidence to that fact.  They’ve been named Artist of the Year the last two years, I believe, in the Singing News Fan Awards, and it’s an honor that is well deserved.  I fully expect them to win it again this year, and for good reason.  Do not miss them if they are in your area, you just won’t find a concert experience any greater than the Booth Brothers!

Photos:

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