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?

Top 10 Songs Of 2008

I’ve taken the opportunity to revisit the albums that I’ve personally heard and/or reviewed this year, and compiled a list of the top 10 songs that were released on albums this year.  This list has NOTHING to do with chart action, or albums recorded in 2007 or earlier, but is solely a list of the 10 best songs I’ve heard on albums this year.  I’d dare say this list makes a pretty decent compilation.

  1. “When God Ran” – Kingsmen
  2. “Glorious” – Mike Lefevre Quartet
  3. “Holy Of Holies” – The Dills
  4. “Hallelujah Praise The Lamb” – Talley Trio
  5. “He Loves Me” – N’Harmony
  6. “Welcome To Heaven” – Triumphant
  7. “I Cast My Bread Upon The Water” – Gold City
  8. “The Blood On My Hands” – Skyline Boys
  9. “I Will Sing Of My Redeemer” – Talley Trio
  10. “Love Like The Sun” – Prophets

It’s hard to narrow down these songs, but these 10 have all stood out to me as songs that have knocked my socks off when I heard them.  I could very easily come up with another 5-6 that are probably just as deserving to be in this list, but this is my personal top 10 at this point in time.

Review: The Dills – Story Of A Lifetime

This is the latest release from The Dills.  It is currently available on pre-order, and should be shipped by the end of the month.  I was able to listen to a mixed, but unmastered, copy of the disc to review it.

Tracks:

  1. Amazing You – Uptempo number that is very progressive in style.  Bridget Dill sings the verses and does a really good job.  Very smooth harmonies highlight the chorus.  Good solid lyrics, a great track, and spot-on vocals make for a very enjoyable cut.  This style really is The Dills at their best.  A great start to the CD.  8.5/10
  2. Holy Of Holies – This is the standout song on the disc.  Shawn Dill has the lead on this song and knocks it out of the park.  This is a cover of an old Truth tune, but the group really makes it their own.  I was blown away by this song when they rehearsed it during their soundcheck at the church a couple weeks ago, and they brought the house down when they performed it during the concert.  This should definitely be a radio release.  Great lyrics, a great arrangement, wonderful vocals, and a stratospherically high ending (with Shawn showing some incredible range) make this one of the single best tracks I’ve heard yet this year.  10/10
  3. I See A Mountain – Country tinged uptempo number.  Tim does a good job on this song, as this style fits his voice well.  Nothing flashy or particularly notable here, just a good solid song.  There is some nice guitar work on the track.  6.5/10
  4. I Quit – This is the second of several very strong inspirational ballads on this disc.  This particular song features LeeAnn Dill, and this is the best feature I’ve heard from her.  She really sells this song well.  The harmony in the chorus is very tight and smooth.  The group really continues to progress well with their sound.  Very nice cut.  8.5/10
  5. Tired Of Running –  This is a uptempo progressive song that features Shawn Dill and includes some nice bass vocals from Tim Dill.  Jeff Chapman and Aaron McCune are pretty safe on their low range, but Tim fills in the part nicely, and really shows an impressive range to handle the lead lines on some songs then be able to drop to the bass part.  This is absolutely a pick of the CD, and would make a great first single to radio.  The chorus has some really nice staggered entrances on each line that really make the song musically interesting.  A nice key change picks the intesity up to finish out the song.  Great cut.  9.5/10
  6. Worth It – This is a nice ballad featuring Bridget Dill.  This is a really beautiful song with a tremendous lyric.  Bridget’s interpretation is dead on.  Nice smooth harmonies bring the mood down to a very worshipful atmosphere.  Nice performance, nice arrangement. 9/10
  7. He Got Up – This track fools you with a piano introduction that makes you believe this will be a power ballad, then the vocals come in and you find out the song is actually a traditional mid to uptempo number.  This song is fairly reminiscent of something the Nelons would have done, and it really reminds me of “He Called Me Out.”  Tim Dill gets some solo lines on the second verse interspersed with some trio lines.  After the second chorus, the key changes and LeeAnn Dill takes the lead.  A false ending leads to another chorus.  Good cut.  8/10
  8. Yesterday’s News – Progressive inspirational ballad that features Bridget.  This song is basically a solo for Bridget with just some sparse background vocals from the group until the last chorus.  However, this song really plays to Bridget’s vocal strength and gives her a real chance to shine.  This song would seemingly fit as well on Christian AC or MOR radio as it would on SG.  Great lyrics, another stellar arrangement, and a great performance from Bridget and the rest of the group on the final chorus highlight this track.  Again, the group really does this style well.  9/10
  9. He Promised Me – Uptempo country/bluegrass themed song that actually provides a nice contrast to the inspirational/progressive sound of “Yesterday’s News.”  This is a very strong uptempo number that showcases some nice blend.  A bridge of “Standing On The Promises” leads to a nice key change and a repeat of the chorus.  Good toe-tapper.  8/10
  10. I’m Over What’s Under The Blood – Country flavored ballad featuring Tim Dill.  Tim does a nice job on the song.  This is a solid performance of a solid song to end the disc.  6/10

Overall: 8.5/10 This CD is a nice progression from their last one, Uncommon, and it really plays to their strength as a group of keeping them walking down a line that blends the best of the Progressive/Contemporary and Traditional styles.  Also, thanks to all involved for a full 10 tracks on this disc.  That was the only real complaint I had with Uncommon, it seemed really short with 9 tracks.  There are several really strong songs on the album, which is a testament to the ability of the group and their producer to pick material that plays to the strength of the group.  The Dills’ producer, Kevin Ward, really knows how to get the best from them.  As good as Uncommon was, this CD is definitely a nice step forward from even that disc.  Pick this CD up the first chance you get, it will provide you hours of enjoyment!

Concert Review: The Dills

Last night we had The Dills at my home church.  The crowd was decent, but a bit disappointing, with my guess being about 150-175.  The people that were there were very enthusiastic, however, and a lot of that credit goes to Tim Dill, who has improved as an MC by leaps and bounds from when they were at the church last year.

Here is the setlist (again, I had to guess at one or two song titles):

  • Enjoy Your Day
  • Lord I Lift Your Name On High
  • Days Of Elijah
  • Sheltered In The Arms Of God
  • Thank You Lord, For Your Blessings On Me
  • Who Am I
  • The Prayer
  • Lord I Only Want To Worship You
  • Holy Of Holies
  • Amazing You
  • Oh What A Beautiful City

Intermission

  • UFO
  • End Of The Beginning
  • I’m On Tour
  • The Cross
  • Uncommon
  • Jesus Never Fails
  • Walk Right Outta This Valley

Being the unofficial assistant music director has its perks, as I was able to sit in on their sound check, and they took the opportunity to run through some songs from their new CD, which will be coming out in about 3 weeks.  Be looking for it, as the songs I heard them sing were very strong.

While I enjoyed their concert last year very much, they have really grown tighter as a group over the past year, and Tim Dill is really coming into his own as an MC.  Their performances were wonderful, varied in style and they connected very well with the audience.  Especially impressive was their versatility to go from a worship style with “Lord I Lift” and “Days of Elijah” into a classic SG mode with a medley of “Sheltered” and “Thank You Lord”.  Tim then did a commendable job on “Who Am I.”  To juxtapose two diametrically opposite styles in such close proximity, yet retain a deliberate flow to the service is extremely impressive.  They did perform two songs from the new CD: “Holy of Holies”, which is a big-time ballad that was previously recorded by Truth, and “I Want To Live”, though I’m not 100% sure on that song title.  “Holy of Holies” is a tremendous song, and should become a signature song for the group.  Shawn and Bridget once again nailed “The Prayer”, and Shawn brought the audience to their feet with his great rendition of David Phelps’ hit “End of the Beginning.”  Not to be outdone, Tim also got the audience on their feet and clapping along with “I’m On Tour.”  (Tim, make the check payable to….)  Leeann did her typical solid job, especially with “Lord I Only Want.”  Their vocals were precise, and the blend was magnificent.  These four are very talented vocalists, and take their craft very seriously.  That dedication shows in their performances.

The group actually has several videos that play along with their singing, but they use an especially moving video with “Uncommon”, which allows them to move quickly into “Jesus Never Fails”, which creates a very fitting mood to extend their invitation.  This is one of the best selection of songs to move a service towards an invitation that I’ve seen.  They ended with a break-neck tempo rendition of  “Walk Right Outta This Valley” that left the audience wanting more.

The Dills have really matured in their sound and presentation over the last year.  When you see them in concert, expect a wide variety of styles, smooth vocals, and arrangements that highlight the strengths of each of the vocalists.  From what I heard during soundcheck and in the concert, their new CD is going to be extremely strong.  Go see them when they are in your area, you will really enjoy hearing them.

Since I now have the super duper digital camera, I’m going to start posting a couple of pictures with my concert review, so enjoy these.  Oh, and the last picture is of your friendly neighborhood blogger with the group.

Photos:

Dills Concert Sunday Night

Just a reminder for any of you readers in the Memphis area that my church is hosting The Dills on Sunday night at 6:00PM.  As always, no admission, a love offering will be taken, and come on out and enjoy a nice evening of gospel music.  Go to the church website for more info, and be sure to say hello.

Fan Input Into Artist’s Recordings

A new trend seems to be popping up in the Southern Gospel industry.  Artists are beginning to seek input from their fans when working on a new recording.  The Talley Trio started their Talley Tree-O website for this purpose, and according to their latest e-newsletter, The Dills have started a blog on their site for this same purpose.  I think this is a great idea, because it serves the purpose of reconnecting the artist with their fans.  I recently participated in a conference call with some other bloggers and industry personnel, and this very concept was discussed fairly at length.    It also hearkens back to something that DBM had posted a while back about the concept of 1000 True Fans.  I think this is a great way for artists to develop these “True Fans”, and in turn create music that their fans love, not just music their fans like.  That can’t help but be a good thing for both the artist in question and the industry as a whole.  Be looking for more groups to do something similar.

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