The Definitives: “If That Isn’t Love”

This is one of Dottie Rambo’s most popular songs, and it has been recorded countless times by numerous artists.  When the song was current, there were several great versions, not the least of which was done by the Rambos themselves.  The Downings also had a great cut of the song on This Is How It Is…Live.  In later years the song has been recut by the Brian/Ivan/Mike era Gold City, and John Rulapaugh recorded a fantastic version with the Dove Brothers.

The definitive version of this song, however, comes from this classic 1970 live album by The Imperials.  Jim Murray, Terry Blackwood, Roger Wiles, Armond Morales, and Joe Moscheo on piano created an arrangement of this song that has not been equaled.  The song starts with a guitar dominated intro before the group enters on the first verse singing the first line or so in two part harmony.  The group splits into full four part harmony on the phrase “lonely hill of Golgotha” and the cascading harmonies just sweep you away.  The key changes and Jim Murray takes the second verse as a solo, with the quartet rejoining him on the last line of the verse.

The arrangement of the chorus is what really sets this version apart.  The first line contains an echo of the first phrase, then the chord progression on the phrase “the ocean is dry” is unlike any version you’ve heard.  Armond walks down the scale repeating that phrase.  Then there is a thrilling cascade downward of harmonies on the word “sky” in the next line.  The second half of the chorus repeats this pattern, before the group tags the song with some beautiful vocal work repeating the phrase “It had to be love” twice.

My suspicion is that Joe Moscheo Terry Blackwood was responsible for this arrangement, and it is the most exquisite, creative arrangement that I’ve heard from him.  If you have this album, listen to this track again and try not to be wowed by it’s splendor.  If you don’t have this album, find someone that does and have them play this song for you.  It’s magnificent, gorgeous, shimmering, and any other term denoting beauty you’d like to use.

Update On The 100 Year Celebration Of SG DVD

On his latest open thread, AVFL asks why there hasn’t been a DVD release of the big 100 Year Celebration showcase from NQC last year that featured reunions of many popular groups (Gold City, Singing Americans, Downings, Nelons, etc.).  I’ve been wondering the same thing myself, so I asked Daywind about it, as they were the label that had rights to release the video.

In response, I have learned that the DVD is due to be released at NQC this year, and will be titled 100 Years: A Celebration of Southern Gospel Music.  So there you have it.  Be looking for the DVD at convention this year, and of course if anything changes, I’ll keep you updated as best I can.

Random Notes Before NQC

Here are a few things to catch up on before NQC starts:

  • The Bowling Family will be appearing for a couple of hours at their booth on Tuesday, 9/14, from 4-6PM and will take the stage later that evening, according to a press release I received yesterday.  Doctors released them to make the trip due to the short travel time (about 2 hours) and the help from family and other caregivers.
  • Ernie Haase and Signature Sound performed the National Anthem and also “I Pledge My Allegiance” at the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Atlanta last weekend.  Their appearance has generated a lot of good publicity, especially interesting are the story and comments on the Atlanta Motor Speedway site here.
  • According to posts on Ann Downings’ Facebook page, I’d be looking for Ann, Joy Gardner, and Dony McGuire to be performing “I Feel So Good About It” and “I’ve Got Confidence” during the 100 Years of SG showcase.  Call it a hunch.  🙂

Thanks as well to Nate and the rest of you for the birthday wishes yesterday.  33 doesn’t really feel much different than 32, but my kids think I’m a whole lot older….

100 Years Of SG At NQC

I’m going to take a break from the top 5 listing for something that is well worth bringing up. I received this press release yesterday from the NQC:

On Saturday afternoon, September 18th during the National Quartet Convention, an event celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Southern Gospel Music will prove to be one of the most historic events ever offered at the National Quartet Convention. The showcase, produced by Norman Holland of Daywind Music Group, will pay tribute to many of the artists that shaped the genre of Southern Gospel Music down through the decades.

Here are just a few of the segments that will be featured during this showcase:

  • Bluegrass segment featuring members of the legendary Lewis Family, Jeff & Sheri Easter, and the newly formed Lewis Tradition
  • A Gospel Caravan segment with the Lefevre Quartet, the Chuckwagon Gang, and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet
  • A Speer Reunion with members Diane Mayes, Ann Downing, Sue Dodge, Jeannie Johnson, Karen Apple, Ben Speer, Faye Speer, the Speer Sisters.
  • A Cathedral Reunion with Legacy Five, Greater Vision, and the Mark Trammell Quartet
  • A Hinson Reunion featuring Ronnie Hinson, Chris Freeman, Larry Hinson, Bo Hinson and many former band members such as Gary Prim
  • A Downings Reunion featuring Ann Downing, Joy Gardner, and Donnie McGuire
  • A Rambos Reunion featuring Reba Rambo McGuire, Buck Rambo and Reba’s daughter Chastity
  • A Singing Americans reunion with Michael English, Ed Hill, Rick Strickland, and Dewayne Burke
  • A reunion of 1980’s version of Gold City featuring: Tim Riley, Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Mike Lefevre, and Garry Jones

The event will take place at 12:00 noon in Freedom Hall and is part of the Saturday afternoon Showcase Spectaculars at the National Quartet Convention. Complete schedule and ticket information can be found at or by calling 800-846-8499. Those unable to attend in person may also watch this historic event live as it happens or on demand through October 31st on the NQC Webcast. Details also available at

Wow. Let that sink in for a minute. The Gold City reunion that was the rave last week was just the tip of the iceberg. A reunited Gospel Caravan? A Downings reunion? I’m not really a fan, but a Hinson reunion? A Speer reunion? The “Evening to Remember” Cathedrals guys? A Singing Americans reunion with Michael English and Rick Strickland? Are you kidding me??

When the SN Fan Awards announced they were leaving the NQC, the natural question was “What is the NQC going to do now?” Well, I think they have answered that question and gone above and beyond any expectations that we had. I do know that they are currently looking into recording this event for an eventual DVD release. They need to do everything humanly possible to make sure this is done, as this is really a rare opportunity indeed, to see a reunion of all these greats.

Hidden Gems: The Downings – “Searchin'”

OK, everyone who though that this song was introduced by the Gaithers and Talley Trio, raise your hands.  I’m ashamed to admit that mine is raised as well.  This song is one of the primary songs that catapulted the Talley Trio into the upper tier of SG artists.  However, I was unpacking a box of CDs from my recent move, and came across my CD copy of the Downings’ 1969 LP Sheltered In The Arms Of God.  This album features Sue Dodge, Ann Downing, Greg Gordon, Dickie Matthews, and Paul Downing.  Buried at track 10, lo and behold I heard this song.  Ann Downing has the melody on the verses while Greg Gordon takes the lead on the first two choruses.  The key changes and Sue Dodge takes the lead for the last chorus and tag.  I was so surprised by the inclusion of this song that I contacted Ann via Facebook.  She told me that they got the song from a then unknown writer named Nancy Harmon (who ended up with a little bit of songwriting success, to say the least), and that the song became a regular entry in their concert set list for about a year.  It’s quite amazing what treasures you sometimes find if you look in the right place.  Pull out your LP and give it a spin!

Hidden Gems: The Downings – “I Find No Fault In Him”

While this song may not be a “hidden” gem, I think this particular version of the song is definitely a “forgotten” gem.  Though I believe JD Sumner and The Stamps are more known for the song, the Downings also had a great live version on their album This Is How It Is…Live.  Personnel were Joy (Dyson) Gardner, Ann Downing, Dony McGuire, Wayne Hilliard, Paul Downing, and Mack Peters playing bass.  Joy is the featured vocalist and she absolutely knocks this song out of the park.  She delivers a very powerful and emotional lead vocal, supported by some really nice harmonies from the rest of the group on the choruses.  The tag is impressive as well, as the intensity is ratcheted way up on the broadening of the line “and that’s how Jesus purchased my salvation”, then drops to a quiet “now I find no fault in him.”  The last word is sustained by Joy while the group sings some wordless moving chords behind her that finally resolve to the I chord.  This performance cements Gardner as one of the most dynamic sopranos this genre has ever seen.  Pull out your LP copy and spin this song up.  If you don’t own this album, Ann Downing has it available on CD here as part of a 3 pack of Downing CDs.  It’s a great album all around!

Hidden Gems: The Downings – “It’s A Good Life”

From 1972’s Neighbors album that features classics like “I’ll Soon Be Gone” and the Downings’ great version of “The Lighthouse” comes this uptempo cut sitting at track 2.   Joy Dyson has the lead on the verses and her vocal practically drips enthusiasm and emotion.  There’s some nice group harmonies on the chorus, then the key changes for the second verse.  On the tag, Ann Downing takes the melody and the harmony is inverted up as the tag is repeated and faded.  Just a great tune from a classic group.  Pull out your LP and give it a listen!

Hidden Gems: Downings – “There’s Something In The Air”

This song made its appearance on 1973’s Love Beyond Compare album.  Lyrically it capitalizes on the extreme interest in the Rapture and end-time events in general during the period (this is roughly the same era as the book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey) by questioning if today is the day of the Rapture, as something seems different about the day.  Musically the song starts and a medium tempo with Ann Downing and Joy (Dyson) Gardner alternating lead lines along with some group harmony interspersed.  Toward the middle of the song, there’s a drum fill and the tempo ratchets up several notches, along with the overall intensity of the song as the harmony is inverted up.  This is just a really good song from a classic album by the Downings.  If you have a copy, pull it out and give this song a listen again.

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