The 1990 Cathedrals – An Alternate Universe

What if the Dove Awards never happened?  First, I think we would have been treated to an incredible album from the Catherals with the following song as the cornerstone:

This could have easily been a chart topper for this lineup of the Cathedrals, and the group’s dominance would have surely continued.  I’ll guess that these two songs could have been included on the album as well…

Honestly, this may be the best performance of the Cathedrals singing “Life Will Be Sweeter” I’ve ever heard.  The blend on this is so incredibly smooth.  I think Young and Trammell especially had a good fit with their voices.  Young’s performance of “At The Cross” is simply stunning, and would likely have become a concert favorite for the group.  Several people have posited recently that had Kurt Young followed Roy Tremble or Kirk Talley, he’d have likely been much more successful as tenor for the Cathedrals, and I tend to agree.  Danny Funderburk was a radical change from the previous tenors the group had, and Young was more like Kirk and Roy than he was Danny.  The problem is that Danny also was (and to a lot of folks, still is) the most popular tenor the group ever had.

In some ways, it seems a bit pointless to play the “what if” game, but to me it can be entertaining from time to time.  The other aspect to this whole alternate universe is the number of groups that could potentially have been affected.  Young’s departure and Haase’s arrival affected groups down the road like Gold City, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Signature Sound, Mercy’s Mark, and the Mark Trammell Quartet.  Who knows how different these groups would be had history run a little differently, or if they would even exist at all.

I still think I’d like to have heard a Cathedrals album with Kurt Young.  I think it would have been great.

“Super High Tenors”: The End Of An Era?

Daniel Mount has an interesting post today that asks the question “Has the era of the super high tenor in SG ended?”  He gives a brief summary of three “eras” of tenor singing philosophy: the early classical trained era (think Bobby Clark, Sherill Nielson, Denver Crumpler, Bill Shaw), the super high era (Ernie Phillips, Brian Free, Jay Parrack are his examples) and the current power, belting style tenor (Danny Funderburk, Ernie Haase, Harold Reed).

It is striking to see the lack of the “super high” tenors today, especially among the younger generation of tenor singers.  I agree with Daniel’s assertion that the super high tenor era has ended, and I’ll go as far to pinpoint when.  Two things occurred that marked the end of this era:

  1. Jay Parrack’s departure from Gold City
  2. Jerry Martin’s departure from the Kingsmen

Parrack and Martin will go down as the last, and arguably the best, of the dominant super high tenors.  Parrack has all but disappeared from SG completely, having served as a minister of music since his Gold City days and only making intermittent appearances since then.  His replacement, Steve Ladd, started out emulating Parrack’s style to an extent, but it wasn’t long before he started employing more of a power style, and less of the ultra high notes.  Subsequent Gold City tenors have followed that same style, notably Josh Cobb and Brent Mitchell.

Martin left the Kingsmen and joined the Dove Brothers, whose songs were keyed much lower than the Kingsmen.  While the jury is still somewhat out on if he returns to that style to a great extent with the Kingdom Heirs, his first CD with them did not feature any “super high” notes from him, and while he will still do it occasionally in concert (a la the second verse of “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet), as Daniel posits, Jerry has been moving toward the power, belting style of tenor singing.

One thing that doesn’t come out in Daniel’s post is that while there have been more prevalent styles of tenor singing, all 3 of these approaches have always seemed to exist in SG music.  Willie Wynn was an ultra high tenor all through his tenure with the Oak Ridge Boys, Lew Garrison was the same with the Prophets.  Bill Baize was a power tenor back in the early to mid 70s with the Stamps.  Today, John Rulapaugh can be considered a throwback to the classically trained sound.  You can tend to find tenors to fit all three categories in any era.  I’d also posit that Wynn was the primary catalyst for the move toward the ultra high tenor sound, long before Ernie Phillips.  A listen to either of the “live” versions of the Oak Ridge Boys singing “Jesus Is Coming Soon” is more than enough to cement his place.  Johnny Parrack also was heavily responsible for the switch, especially due to the huge popularity of the Kingsmen’s “Big and Live” project.

What do you think?  Has this era ended?  Are you glad to see it go, or will you miss the thrill of seeing how far up the tenors can go?  Can you think of any new “super high” tenors in SG today?

Catching Up

A couple of blurbs caught my attention over the past week or so.

  • Nick and Jessica Trammell have folded their trio and are joining forces with Jessica’s family group, The Browns.  With the rest of the family located in Iowa and the Trammells in Alabama, that will make for a challenge meeting the bus!  Plans are already under way for a new recording, so stay tuned.
  • Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun have officially launched Stow Town Records.  First up by the label is a George Younce solo album with EHSS singing backup and a Doug Anderson solo album.  Also notable is that the Collingsworth Family has been signed to the label as well, I’ll be very interested to hear their first release on Stow Town.
  • NewSoGoFan, a frequent commenter here and former contributor at Daniel Mount’s site, has launched out on her own and started a blog: Southern Gospel Yankee.  Welcome to the blog world!
  • Diana caught a performance by Wilburn & Wilburn.  True duos are a bit rare in SG, so it will be interesting to see how they are received.  For what it’s worth, Jordan Wilburn definitely has a nice voice, and his dad’s vocal prowess is well known, so here’s hoping for the best!
  • Finally, here’s the reason for my absence:

Dana Younce Willis Passes Away

As has been reported on several blogs, and now on the Singing News website, Dana Younce Willis, wife of Robbie Willis (formerly of the Nelons), and daughter of the late George Younce, passed away very unexpectedly yesterday.  Please remember the families in your prayers.  Dana was also a sister-in-law to Ernie Haase.

New Blog From Ernie Haase

Ernie Haase has started a blog, and you can find it here.  Interestingly enough, the latest post details a “Cathedrals Tribute” that will be released in January 2010.  There’s a link on the post to a youtube preview of what the group has been working on.  Both the blog and the release promise to be quite interesting.  Hopefully Ernie will post regularly.  (hat tip, AS)

EH & SS Promotion: Free Downloads? Dream On!

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound have an interesting promotion going on right now.  Their new release, Dream On is now available at their website.  Here’s the money quote in the announcement:

Want to hear the new CD before it comes out?  If you “Pre Order” the new CD and DVD “Dream On” from the EHSS website you will be given a FREE DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of two “LIVE” tracks from the Live in Chicago taping. The digital download link will be presented to you right after your credit card is processed. As well you will also receive a follow up email with the same link. Please note that only web orders for the pre-sale will receive the free digital download.

These two songs are EHSS’s first single from the Dream On Project “Reason Enough”
and the soon to be hit classic “The Old Landmark” that follows the same fun and excitement as their #1 song and Dove Award song of the year “Get Away Jordan!”

This is another good idea by Ernie and Gaither, and more of an indication that SG is being dragged, albeit kicking and screaming, into the digital age.

EH&SS Receive Gold Certification

According to the SN Wire, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound just picked up a Gold certification from the RIAA for their Get Away Jordon DVD.  Like it or not, Gaither and EHSS seem to be miles ahead of anyone else in SG in terms of sales numbers, which does wonders for keeping SG relevant in the larger scope of the music industry.

New Signature Sound Recording* – Sound Clips Available

Why the asterisk?  Easy.  This recording, titled Influenced, is only currently available at concerts.  It cannot even be ordered from the group directly from their website.  Click HERE to visit their website and hear clips from the project.  The CD officially has 13 tracks, but beware, 3 of them are an intro, “poetry corner”, and an outro.  There are in actuality only 10 songs on the disc, but those 10 sound good from the clips.  “If You Know The Lord” especially sounds very good.

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