February 19, 2013 2 Comments
- A Song To Sing – The CD gets off to a nice start with this Kenna West/Paula Stefanovich tune that has a mid to uptempo pop flavored sound. The verses are done primarily in unison, but there are some nice 4 part harmony chords on the end phrases of alternating lines that are very nice. Immediately you are served notice that The Dills have stepped up the vocal arrangements. The group splits into full harmony mode for the chorus that features a nice descending chord pattern. LeeAnn Dill handles the melody line very well throughout the chorus. I love the bridge that features step out lines from LeeAnn, Bridget, and Shawn with nice harmonies behind them before the key changes and the chorus is repeated. This is really nice, catchy song that would make a good choice as a radio single. 9/10
- Before The Rain – The title track was written by the team of Lee Black, Gina Boe, and Lisa Qualsett and it’s a mellow acoustic ballad that features Tim Dill. What a fantastic lyric that reminds us that when we’re in the midst of trials, we should praise God for the blessings he has provided before and will provide in the future. The chorus features some simple but pretty harmonies behind Tim’s lead vocal. This is the most expressive and tender vocal that Tim has committed to record. I have to think that this song will touch a lot of people and really hit them where they live. It’s easily the best, most powerful lyric on an album that is full of good lyrics. It may be a bit too mellow for radio, but it’s likely the strongest song on the album. 9.5/10
- I Still Trust You – James McFall wrote this power ballad that was originally recorded by the McFalls, and later covered by the Dunaways. Bridget Dill takes the melody on this song, and does a great job with it. I’ve heard at least one of the previous versions of this song, if not both, but I think the Dills have the most polished version I’ve heard. Bridget’s lead vocal is spot on, and there’s a nice little duet section in the chorus with LeeAnn. After the key changes toward the end of the song, there’s a neat little 2nd suspension that LeeAnn sings in the harmony stack on the phrase “When I don’t know…” that is a perfect example of the nice vocal touches that are present on this CD that have been missing from The Dills’ previous recordings. It’s just one example of the work the group put into this recording. 8.5/10
- Something To Say – This is another pop style ballad from the pens of Marty Funderburk and Scott Godsey, this time featuring Shawn Dill. The verses almost have a similar feel to the 80s Police classic “Every Step You Take.” The lyric is a great message of encouragement to share the Gospel with those we come into contact with daily, and the reminder that God will give you “something to say.” The chorus features some incredibly smooth harmony. I love the sliding harmonies on the tag as well. This is another great potential radio song, even if it is a little progressive for SG. A highlight of the CD. 10/10
- I Wouldn’t Change It – Written by Marty Funderburk and Steve Marshall, LeeAnn Dill steps to the plate on this tender ballad. LeeAnn sings this pretty ballad beautifully and expressively. The chorus features an interesting chord progression on the phrase “but I wouldn’t change it.” It’s another great message of encouragement when times are tough, and knowing that God knows what is best for us, no matter the circumstances. Very pretty song and one of LeeAnn’s best vocal performances, rating alongside of “I Quit” from Story Of A Lifetime. 8/10
- As For Me And My House – Tim Sheppard contributes this midtempo song that features a bit of a Praise and Worship feel. The song starts with the first verse sung almost entirely in unison, with the last line being done in 2 parts. The chorus features some nice 4 part harmonies before a round like bridge of “We will serve Him/For He is worthy” that builds up into some nice chords. Again, the 4 part harmony features some nice “out of the ordinary” vocal parts that are new to the group, but it sounds fantastic. After the group tags the song in unison, the piano comes back in and Tim and Bridget’s twin daughters sing a nice reprise of the “We will serve Him” bridge. Another solid song. 8.5/10
- A King And A Pauper – This is a very progressive midtempo tune featuring Shawn Dill that was written by Brian Arnold. It’s a brand new song, but sounds like something you’d find on a David Phelps solo album with a pop ballad feel. The group provides some gorgeous background harmonies to Shawn’s powerful lead vocal. The lyric is a bit of a story feel not too unlike “End Of The Beginning.” Shawn gets a chance to showcase his range toward the end of the song and nails this challenging song. Again, it may be a little too progressive for SG radio, but it’s definitely radio quality. 9.5/10
- This Is How We Know – Kenna West, Lee Black, and Cliff Duren contributed this midtempo number that returns to a Praise and Worship feel that starts in unison before splitting into two parts for the last line of the verse then into four parts for the chorus. Bridget Dill carries the melody line through the chorus. Shawn takes the first line of the second verse, then LeeAnn comes in for the second line, and Bridget on the third. There’s a nice section where Tim, Shawn, and LeeAnn sing some background parts with Bridget stepping out for some ad-lib melody. That trend continues through the following chorus and key change. This is another very solid song that gets your head nodding and foot tapping. 9/10
- Oh What A Beautiful City – This is a re-recording of one of the group’s more popular songs. Written by Marcy Kelsey Beckett, this version is a half-step lower from the original recording by the group, which tends to give the song a bit of a fuller sound, without sacrificing much power. Shawn, LeeAnn, and Tim take the first verse, then Shawn sings the second verse solo. The trio from the first verse take the first chorus. The key goes up a half step and Shawn takes the last verse. Bridget joins for the chorus and takes the melody. Other than the song being keyed a bit lower, it’s pretty similar otherwise to the original version. Still a great song. 9/10
- The Lord’s Prayer – Matthew Holt arranged this version of the classic song, and it’s a fantastic arrangement. The group starts off in unison until the word “Heaven” which splits into some beautiful 4 part harmony. The group has done this song in concert before, but this is the first time they’ve recorded it. The 3 and 4 part harmony on the song is simply shimmering, and it is easily the most complex vocal arrangement the group has put to record. The ending is powerful and it’s a great conclusion to the CD. 10/10
Overall: 9 The past few CDs from The Dills have taken a bit of a scaled back approach, going back to their Hymns album from several years ago. The last mainline CD, God Is In Control, was a bit of a step forward from that CD, but still scaled back from the likes of Uncommon or Story Of A Lifetime. With Before The Rain, the group has taken a gigantic leap forward. The group took more time in working on vocal arrangements, and the increased time and work has paid big dividends. The Dills have a bit of a unique vocal lineup in that they have 4 voices, but not a true bass vocal. They’ve worked hard on this CD to make sure that all 4 voices have a part, with quite a few spots of true 4 part harmony. Other spots, Tim typically doubles the top line above him, most often that is Bridget. However, one thing they have done in several spots is allowed the featured vocalist to step out from the background harmonies and take more of a solo approach with block harmonies behind the soloist. Those spots, as well as the true 4 part spots, work out extremely well for the group, and give us a solid indication of the direction that the group is taking vocally.
I would have said prior to this release that Story Of A Lifetime was the group’s best project, but I think Before The Rain exceeds even that CD. The primary reason is that the song selection here is very strong, with a consistent theme of real life messages in the lyrics that will meet listeners where they are in the daily lives. I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the vocal arrangements, and they are definitely several notches above what the group has done previously, but more than just for complexity’s sake, the arrangements have served to highlight already strong lyrics, and this is the first CD that firmly cements a unique sound for The Dills and begins to more fully realize the potential that the group possesses. Much like Declaration by the Crist Family, this is the CD that will serve notice to the SG world that The Dills are ready to make some noise in the genre. I think the group has found their musical direction. Tim, Bridget, Shawn, LeeAnn, Matthew, and Donna, congratulations on a job very well done!