Review: Freedom Quartet-Hymns of Faith and Freedom.

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Here before me laid the latest recording of Freedom Quartet that’s entitled ‘Hymns of Faith and Freedom’. A collection of some well-known hymns and convention type songs. There’s one hymn on the entire album I never had heard before, and probably for a good reason, but I’ll get to that later.

Let me walk you through the album, one song at the time.

The first song is a song written by Johnson Oatman Jr. who wrote ‘Count Your Blessings, ‘No Not One’ ‘Higher Ground’ and many more songs. I believe The Kingdom Heirs did this, as did The Inspirations and I’m sure a bunch of others did. Gerald Wolfe, who plays on this entire project, plays in a convention type of style. This song shows the strength of the Quartet they’ve got that high clear tenor, that booming bass, a smooth baritone and a lead with a thick vibrato that most ‘music people’ would frown upon….but I don’t!  I wouldn’t have it any other way! Dale Shipley is what gives this tremendous Quartet that unique sound, like James Blackwood gave the Blackwood Brothers Qt. In my mother tongue Frisian we call that ‘ âljen’. Which freely translates into ‘wailing’. Great song, executed with only piano, as is the case on this entire album. Just the voices of four terrific singers and a piano.

Scott Mullins their new baritone sings the ever beautiful as is the ‘No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus’ written by Charles Weigle in 1932. What can I say about this song? It’s one of my all time favorite songs, and Scott Mullins has a fantastic voice, very smooth and soothing. Great range,  diction and tone! The verses are all his, and he rises to the occasion, and is complemented in the chorus by the rest of the guys…..wow. Again all framed by Gerald Wolfe’s classy playing.

Vep Ellis wrote ‘I Know he Heard My prayer’ which is my favorite Ellis composition.  I heard The Statesmen Quartet sing it on the RCA Victor album ‘The Statesmen Sing with Hovie Lister’ (LPM1605) which was the best Southern Gospel album ever made by anyone! I can not tell you how impressed I am with this cut! Burman Porter kills his bass verses, John is the most convincing authentic Southern Gospel tenor alive today! And that subtle twist at the ending is why I love this kind of music. Dale Shipley is in the blend and sings pretty high up there, and again that gentleman gives this group that signature sound, just like he did with Perfect Heart in the early 90’s. Again a salute to Gerald Wolfe, who like Stan Whitmire knows this music, and plays it well! Fantastic!

Another Vep Ellis convention classic “I’m Free Again”. Burman tears it up once again….this is probably my favorite version today! You got to hear it to believe it! But Burman proves that he’s one of the best bass singers that ever walked! He’s amazing!

First time I ever heard this next song it was on an old album by the Blackwood Brothers Quartet and as often is the case with having that unique experience of hearing a song for the first time, it usually remains your favorite rendition for a long time, if not forever. This arrangement is slighty different from the Blackwood’s cut, in the respect that the Blackwood’s alternated the lead more. James sang leads, as did all the others in the group. Freedom Quartet gave the reigns on this song to Dale Shipley who sounds a lot like James Blackwood on this, while still being unmistakably good old Dale! Dale’s voice with Wolfe’s playing is like heaven  on earth to a Quartet guy like me. The song is ‘In Times Like These’. One of those songs that beg to be sung along with….at least to me it is constantly begging.  I remember being with my good friend Chip Davis a while ago, and we listened to some of his old Gospel records by the Rambo’s and The Blackwood Brothers and others. And although he didn’t play ‘In Times Like These’  I remember thinking of “In Times Like These” when he played the Blackwood’s record which I didn’t mention it to him. A few moments later  we went up to his studio upstairs, Chip sat at his piano and started playing ‘In Times Like These’ talking about kindred spirits! Chip played and sang and I sang the harmony parts, those are moments to cherish and which deepened my love for this song! I love, absolutely love this song! Great job Dale! you did it like it’s supposed to be sung, with great vigor and conviction!

‘He’ll Pilot Me’ by Charles T.Bailey is a John Rulapaugh showcase! You’ll be transported to times of yesteryear instantly. Every Quartet did this one back in the day! Man, what a great Quartet this is.

Frederick Lehman’s ‘The Love of God’ is lyrically the most beautiful song ever written. This rendition is superb…wonderful opening verse by Scott Mullins. Scott Mullins has a fantastic tone, Gerald Wolfe’s playing can be described in many ways….but the best way to say it is that he is a true accompanist! He doesn’t try to showcase his talents with hot licks or other fancy stuff, instead he plays with great finesse and leaves ‘room’ for the singers.

Elisha Hofmann wrote my favorite song on this album. Hofmann wrote ‘Leaning On The Ever Lasting Arms’, I Must Tell Jesus’ and many others. I never heard this song before! It’s entitled ‘Is Your All On The Altar’. This piece of music, and the lyrics moved me literally to tears! When after a brief piano introduction John Rulapaugh sang these opening lines I got an answer directly from God on questions that I had.  Questions why all the difficulties, struggles, and unrest I experienced lately were happening to me. These are the words that slayed me……

“You have longed for sweet peace, and your faith to increase.

And have earnestly, fervently prayed;

But you cannot have rest,

Or  be perfectly blest,

Until all on the altar is laid”

And that’s what I needed to hear, and I knew the truth to those words. I knew there are certain things that stand between me and my Father. This like substance abuse, anger, impatience and general discontent. I suddenly realised that my prayers  were nothing more than rhetorical questions! And God knows a rhetorical question when He hears one! Yet He answered in a gentle manner and used His vessel John Rulapaugh and his God-given talent to deliver it to me! Thank you Lord, and thank you John!

James Rowe (‘Love Lifted Me’) wrote the hymn ‘I’m Going that Way’ with L.B.Register  (‘I’ve Heard of a Land of Joy and Peace and Wonderful Light’). Dale Shipley sings this convention type of song like none other, his solo verse is fantastic! Burman Porter sings some great slurring bass lines on this incredible uplifting tune! Quartet singing in optima forma!

Next is ‘Send The Light’ like the song before an uplifting convention type tune. Written by Charles H.Gabriel in 1890  while Gabriel was music director of the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church in San Francisco, California. I’m lost for words, there’s not enough superlatives to describe the classy solid sound these guys have. Wonderful song!

Stuart Hamblen is one of the finest introspective writers that ever walked! He wrote a lot of songs, songs like ‘These things Shall Pass’, ‘This Ole House’, ‘It is No Secret‘ and many more. Hamblen also wrote this classic gospel song entitled ‘Until Then’. First time I heard this song was 40 years ago on a live bootleg album by Elvis Presley  where the Stamps Quartet sang it. On that album it was listed as “God Calls Me Home”. It was just the chorus they sang, and in very poor audio, but I loved it regardless. I love the lyrics, but the structure of the chorus is what I really dig about this tune! I feel an irresistible urge to sing along! Dale Shipley sings the verse….what can I say? Dale is Southern Gospel personified!

The album closes with ‘America The Beautiful’. This is probably my favorite rendition ever! Though I am not an American citizen, I’ve always felt connected to that great country and it’s people, and I almost stood up with my hand over my heart, but decided against it cause it’s very hard to type that way!

In closing; I know the National Quartet Convention is starting Sept 25th. And all you Southern Gospel lovers are going to hear and see your favorite artists, and have your pictures taken with them. But if you consider yourself a Southern Gospel lover, and you don’t visit these guys product table and pick up a copy of this album you’re a Southern Gospel nut! I expect ‘breaking news’ from the NQC stating that the album is SOLD OUT!!! I expect long lines!  This Quartet along with Southern Sound Quartet are the best on the road today!

If you’re sick of the overly compressed, lifeless recordings, most of the Southern Gospel Quartets crank out these days go and buy this one!  If you’re tired of albums that only deserve the ‘death by production’ label …buy this one!

Auke Bijlsma

 

 

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Review: Gaither Vocal Band-Better Together.

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As always I was highly anticipating the release of a new Gaither Vocal Band album, and I traditionally buy every record they put out since their debut album.  That tradition of ‘sight unseen’ purchases seems to develop into another tradition, a tradition of disappointment.

This release continues that unfortunate tradition. I always expect to be surprised, or moved by a Gaither Vocal Band album, regretfully none of these occurred.

It seems the mastering process has buried the killer harmonies that are on this record. To catch a glimpse of the harmonies  get some high-end headphones. Mastering is supposed to be the gateway between production and consumption according to wikipedia, apparently on this record that gateway was closed. The voices sound too subdued, the lead is turned up, while the rest are indistinguishable singing back up. It’s the vocal equivalent of mashed potatoes. Hard to single out a specific potato, even harder to single out its part. I love to hear the construction of the harmony, the chord structures! The subtle variations in individual melody lines, I’m sucker for that, and I miss that on this album! And on almost every Southern Gospel album put out in the last decade or so.  Todd Suttles is way too heavy in the overall mix, with his airy bass tones he throws a smothering heavy blanket over the entire record. Wes Hampton is drowned out in the mix, this album would have sounded a lot fresher, and better when Wes was turned up in the mix. Wes Hampton to me is the finest singer in the Vocal Band, and every time he had a solo I caught my self sighing in relief. David Phelps his solo singing sounds pseudo nonchalant as if he isn’t really having a good time. I’m not saying he isn’t,  but this is the vibe I get. Adam Crabb is an incredible singer,  but just like his brother Jason  a ‘Michael English lite! Bill Gaither’s contribution as far as vocals go is negligible, it makes one wonder if Gaither sang much at all (except for his solo on “You’ve Got a Friend).

The songs:

  1. “Working on the Building” a traditional spiritual type song. Everyone has done this from Elvis to the Cowboy Junkies. I love dusting off or re-inventing the old standards, but this rendition is really the same old same old.Still these spirituals are a great fit for the Vocal Band.
  2. “Lead Out of Bondage” a classic tune written by Robert L. Prather done by every self-respecting quartet back in the day. Todd Suttles does the narration verses, and does them pretty good. But the track distracts, especially the lush violins, that play parts reminiscent of a brass section and are to dominant in the mix. Would rather have heard a good updated version of Prather’s song “Heading Home” that the Statesmen Quartet did on their Nabisco TV Show back in the 50’s.
  3. Dallas Holm has written so many great tunes, and they pick “Heart of Mine” a simple tune executed in a slow western swing fashion. Again the potential of the tight harmonies are lost in translation (mix). Great fiddle playing in this song. Wes Hampton sings the lead on this mediocre tune and made the most of it. Wish they’d recorded “He Knew me Then”or  “Drifting” that Dallas Holm did with Phil Johnson and Tim Sheppard.
  4. “When He Set Me Free”. A stomping tune, that Russ Taff nailed on his  “Under their Influence” album that won a Grammy back in ’83. A rendition that can not be topped by anyone. Todd Suttles sings all kinds of counterpoint* bass lines, some threw me off, or annoyed me is a better word. It seems as if Bill Gaither is trying to make up for the lack of a real bass singer in one single song….it’s just too much.
  5. George R.Poulton wrote the melody of “Aura Lea” a civil war song about a maiden (Wikipedia). Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” had the same melody. Lovely melody, fantastic orchestrated track,  and amazing harmonies.  Gloria Gaither wrote the words to this song carried by this too familiar melody. The song’s entitled “But I Need You More”, the message would have rung so much clearer had Gloria, Bill or Todd narrated them with the guys in the background humming and doing  ooh’s and aah’s on that classic melody.
  6. “Dig a Little Deeper” apart from the mix is really fantastic! Todd Suttles is superb on this, all the guys rock this one! Honorable mention to Wes Hampton! Spiritual songs and Wes are a match made in heaven.
  7. “Moses Smote The Water” like “Dig a Little Deeper” a great spiritual with a hard-driving track. But again the full potential of the players, and singers isn’t exploited to the max. It’s lacking texture and contrast in the mix.
  8. “We’ll Talk It Over” written by Ira Stanphill is arguably the best version I have ever heard. Fantastic song, with beautiful 40/50’s cinematic sounding strings, and wonderful singing by Phelps who’s lyrical and dramatic tenor voice paint a lush picture of Heaven. A great tribute to Danny Gaither who had that same dramatic quality to his voice and sang this song with great flair. Yet again the mix disappoints. I sound like a broken record…believe me, I know!
  9. “Didn’t It Rain” is my favorite tune on this album. Adam Crabb does exceptionally good on the first verse. Wes Hampton takes the second and sounds awesome! Phelps’ rounds the tune out, with some amazing harmonies by the others.
  10. Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend”…..why????? Bill Gaither sings the opening lines….and i’m sorry to say this, but I made my oldest son listen to this cut. And he said ‘who’s that singing? Sounds like Elmer Fudd! Apart from that, the track has the same arrangement as the original cut James Taylor did complete with the identical acoustic guitar lick. And Bill is feeding them the words on random spots in the song, as if these guys don’t know the words to this milked dry evergreen. If they really wanted to do a James Taylor song why not do “Walk Down That lonesome Road” or ‘Shed a Little Light?  Uninspiring, and unimaginative are words that come to mind as far as this song goes.
  11. The title cut “Better Together” written by Dony and Reba McGuire-Rambo, Gaither and Chip Davis. I’ve heard the early demos of this, and seen it come to develop into full blossom, and although this is a reasonable cut, it lacks the urgency of the message…especially in these trying times where individualism is king this is the message that is needed. The Vocal Band kind of sounds like the Imperials when they had Sherman Andrus in their ranks…..which is a good thing. Yet I miss dynamics, contrast in this rendition, and the addition of strings makes it a “Disney” tune. I would have loved a more raw and gritty approach to this.
  12. “Walk On The Water” opens with the same guitar riff as in “One Good Song” that was on the “I Do Believe” album. It’s a classic Gaither Vocal Band tune, and probably a song that they had shelved from the time Penrod was with them. Here Phelps’s pseudo nonchalance is heard best it irritates the crap out of me. This song lacks creativity, both lyrically and musically…..it’s like they recorded it before…a dime a dozen.

Honesty bids me to say that, would I have written this review after the first time I heard it, I probably would have burned it down to the ground. But listening with intent and great headphones I was able to appreciate some of the songs more than I initially did. Discovering little vocal licks I hadn’t heard. Having said that, it bothers me even more that this is in potential a great record had they paid more attention to the mix of the vocals and tracks.The whole record is blurry as far as harmony goes! I still believe they are the most talented crew out there, and that they can do better! it seems they just lack direction, and obviously a guy with ‘ears’ in the mixing/mastering process.  Hiring outside the A-list musicians could help too, we need different sounds, and licks bad!   And for Heavens sake sing some more obscure old songs, and some great new ones. A group with this name and stature can afford to cross boundaries, and break the mold. You’re not done yet Bill Gaither you hear?! This can’t be your swan song! It just can’t be!

 

*counterpoint is the relationship between voices that are harmonically interdependent (polyphony) yet independent in rhythm and contour. (source Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: “Take Me to the Alley” Gregory Porter.

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(picture courtesy of www.gregoryporter.com)

Let me get on record here! Gregory Porter’s latest album is fantastic! There I said it! If I would use stars to rate music and five was the very best…this album would garner all of those stars with ease. This record is mellow, soothing, soulful, meaningful and all other clichés apply.

Throwing another cliché in for good measure, this guy can sing the phonebook for all I care. Is this album exploring new ground some critics have asked? Does it? No not really, do I care? No I don’t!  Nobody should care really.  This an artist in his element! Leave him be! Never interrupt something so natural, pure and beautiful. This singer’s approach to singing never gets old!  Porter seems to be deepening the niche he already carved with this record. Perfecting his crown! This ‘crooner’  knows how to polish his jewels like none other.

There’s not a bad song on this album, from the single “Holding On” to the gospel tinged  “Don’t Be a Fool” to the timely “Don’t Lose Your Steam” (the other single). Other personal favorites are the title cut “Take Me To The Alley”, “In Fashion” and the haunting “Consequence of Love”.

So this gentleman’s got the voice, writes most of his tunes, and has an awesome band! What can go wrong? Nothing! Considering that Porter joined forces yet again with his mentor  Kamau Kenyatta. With whom he obviously labored in love and appreciation.  Kenyatta is a musician, producer, and a lecturer at the University of California. The band; Chip Crawford-piano,  Aaron James – bass,  Emanuel Harrold-drums,  Yosuke Sato-alto sax , Tivon Pennicott-tenor sax. Alicia Olatuja-vocals, Keyon Harrold-trumpet,  Ondrej Pivec-organ.

I love the tightness of this crew, tight and yet laid back enabling Porter to deliver his signature subdued style of singing. While he has a unique sound, his rare quality reminds me of singers like Lou Rawls, Frank Sinatra, Al Jarreau, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, James Taylor and others. What a range this guy has, his lows and highs are equally pleasant and textured.

If you bought Gregory Porter’s previous albums you will love this one too! If you never heard this guy sing, this album would be the perfect way to get acquainted with Gregory Porter. So if you like jazz,soul,gospel this one should be in your record collection.

Now available on iTunes and other digital outlets (Decca Records)

Tracklist:

1. Holding On (Gregory Porter/James John Napier/Guy William Lawrence/Howard John Lawrence)

2. Don’t Lose Your Steam (Gregory Porter)

3. Take Me To The Alley (Porter)

4. Day Dream (Gregory Porter/Craig Dawson)

5. Consequence of Love (Porter)

6. In Fashion (Porter)

7. More Than A Woman (Porter)

8. In Heaven (Darlene Andrews)

9. Insanity (Porter)

10. Don’t Be A Fool (Porter)

11. Fan The Flames (Porter)

12. French African Queen (Porter)

Produced by Kamau Kenyatta

Raymond ‘Chip’ Davis – Singin’ Rascal

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Raymond ‘Chip’ Davis a West Virginia native who grew up in Baltimore Maryland as a preachers kid. Davis made the move down to Music City U.S.A. in the late 80’s after playing the clubs and bars in and around Baltimore for years.

‘Chip’ as everybody knows him around Nashville nowadays, is a singer/songwriter and producer. Who worked with some of the biggest names in gospel and country music. Chris Cagle recorded Chip’s song “What Kind of Gone” it was the only song in 2009 to get a 2nd Airplay award for staying in the top 50 for two years! Just to name a few more Chip worked with are Dolly Parton, Randy Travis, Don Felder, Mickey Gilley, Michael English, Russ Taff, Kenny Hinson, Gaither Vocal Band, Carman and the list goes on and on. Chip sang in the ‘behind the scenes choir’ on a bunch of Homecoming videos. The Martins performed Chip’s composition “Grace” on the Hawaiian Homecoming video. He currently tours with country music legends Alabama. In fact he wrote the title song of Alabama‘s latest project ‘Southern Drawl’. Chip is a singing machine…..a one man choir. Check your music collection and you’d be surprised on how many other people’s he has worked on. He’s either credited as Ray(mond) Davis or Chip Davis. As we speak he’s probably cramped in a vocal booth somewhere round Nashville…..laying down track by track…delivering only the best, to the ones who hired him! Making everyone around him sound better!

Sounds a little dramatic perhaps, but this guy has a signature sound in background vocal land. When you listen to various projects in the country/gospel field from the 90’s till the present day you understand why he’s the guy who got the call. Like George Younce once said to Chip when he ran into him at the National quartet convention ‘Raymond you singin’ rascal… you…’. Chip sang on two of George’s solo projects, and George loved to hear him sing! Davis a singer’s singer….respected for his ‘ear’ for harmony and his remarkable pleasant voice. He embodies ‘easy on the ears, heavy on the heart’ like no one else. Chip recorded a solo album a couple of years back and it is truly one of the best albums out there! It is titled ‘Standing in my own way’. Vocally, lyrically and musically a top notch project! Yet very few know it’s out there, and that’s a shame. He also recorded a stellar Bluegrass album entitled “Lifetime” with his family. Go seek that one out too, it’s one of the most moving and honest albums you’ll ever hear.

So what is Chip up to these days? Well he’s still doing session work either as producer or background vocalist. Traveling with Alabama as mentioned before, where he’s singing and playing keys. And he is still writing wonderful tunes, tunes that have a common thread…being truth. Love and truth…that’s Chip alright! I had the pleasure of hearing some amazing tunes while visiting with Chip just recently. As soon as I heard some of these demos I texted every SGM artists I knew, that I just heard a song that would be perfect for them. At the moment he’s collaborating with Dony McGuire and Reba Rambo McGuire and it’s amazing what these three have crafted! Wonderful songs with poetry and content. Potent stuff! Every group today that is looking for some new material should stop what they are doing and get a hold of one of these three, because these are real message songs…songs of hope and love!

Mark Lowry recently recorded  one of those songs entitled “Come As You Are”. Lowry also posted a video recently that he’d shot at Chip’s home. In the video, that has had 1.9 million views on Facebook, Chip his talented brother Billy, and sister Amelia sing a song that he and Billy wrote over 25 years ago entitled ‘Lord Remember Me’. A song that is an instant classic from the first time you hear it! People love that song, all the comments you read on Facebook and Youtube are nothing but raving! Here’s a link to the studio cut of this song; https://youtu.be/FrvIZRWoC18

Though it’s available on iTunes, and it has had that many views on social media, you would think that song would do well for Chip and Billy. i’m sad to report that sales are not worth mentioning. I hear people say all the time ‘nobody makes real music anymore’ or ‘aren’t there any good songs anymore? Well I tell you there are! But if these artists don’t get what they deserve, you’ll probably never get to hear them! Making records doesn’t come free! Rare songbirds like Chip Davis need to be heard, and his wonderful poetry has to be shared with the masses, there’s a lot to be learned from his songs. So spent $0.99 on that tune…feed the birds…..ultimately feed your soul!
Chip Davis is besides an artist, also a loving family man with a big big heart. A loyal and hard working individual, with a genuine love for all of God’s creatures….great or small. A guy who not quotes the verse ‘the greatest of these is love’ but lives it in a humble and real way! Like George said, this guy is a singing rascal, well indeed he is, but he’s more than just that!

Go to http://www.chipdavisworld.com and get to know this incredible brother!

Review: Michael English-Worship

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track list:

  1. Blessed Be Your Name
  2. 10.000 reasons
  3. A little more Jesus
  4. My Chains are gone
  5. Everybody clap your hands
  6. O the Blood
  7. Let It Rain
  8. No Weapon
  9. He’s Able
  10. Revelation Song
  11. Hallelujah for the Cross

I never liked ‘praise & worship’ music, and after listening to this album my opinion hasn’t changed.  P&W is too repetitive for my taste, lyrically shallow and musically uninteresting. Thank God for singers like Michael English who are capable to salvage this equivalent to elevator music within the sacred music field to some extent. But not even his remarkable unique talent can fully redeem this gospel for the spiritless.  I will limit myself to mentioning the songs that are ‘okay’.

I kinda like Erica Campbell’s ‘A Little More Jesus’ because it fits more in the black gospel bracket if anything else. And Michael W.Smith’s ‘Let it Rain’ is the highlight on the album which kinda says it all! There’s nothing on the album that did it for me…just two songs..that’s it!

This kind of music leaves absolute no room for real creative interpretation as far as vocal arrangements….most chorusses are done in unison, and the music is generally a wall of sound. Michael exceptional voice sticks out like a sore thumb with a backdrop like this!

Imagine attending a concert of Michael doing this dead stuff ‘live’ with canned music…to me it would be torture. Why? Because this guy is too good a singer to be doing generic stuff like this!

Old man river (the old story)

Why is it that I’ve always loved old stuff? Old cars, old music, old furniture, and old architecture. When I was about 8 or 9 I got interested in music…after a got my first record by The Delta Rhythm Boys I was hooked on jazz, quartet singing and voices in general.

After the smooth and intricate harmonies of ‘The Delta’s’ I got into Bill Haley! Bill Haley and his Comets! I had that live album…that had a version of “Love Letters in the Sand”….that was marvelous!

I also had a gospel album by Jim Reeves entitled “We Thank Thee”. I love Gentleman Jim…still do…his smooth, no frills, nothing fancy approach to singing has a soothing quality to it! My favorite song that he did was “The Nightwatch”.

 I bought a compilation album on a budget label that had all kind of different artists on it. People like Owen Bradley, The Kalin Twins, and Buddy Holly. The latter I loved…one of the few R&R poets! “It’s too late, she is gone” I loved that tune!

I’ve always been a ballad guy, don’t get me wrong, I love uptempo too…but I always sit up when a slow song comes on! If you never heard “Blues Stay Away From Me” by Gene Vincent you haven’t been livin’. Gene Vincent was as rock and roll, as rock and roll could possibly be. That cat had it going…..love Gene!

Of course Elvis came along…I had to see what the fuzz was all about! My first Elvis record was “Elvis Golden Gospel Songs”. First time I heard “He Touched Me”, first I heard the Imperials sing!

Elvis got me into Southern Gospel….into the Quartets! My first gospel album was a Imperials album….it was 1981 by then, and the group had some personnel changes from when they sang with Elvis. I rushed to my room, got the record out, and onto the player…. I almost slammed it on that mother. Those few seconds of scratchy silence before the first song comes on…the anticipation…then suddenly Disco came pounding through the speakers

“Closer Than Ever”…I was shocked! Didn’t like it one bit! Brother! Those guys are total sell outs I thought! Abandoning real quartet singing, why?!  But I played it forever…and kinda wore myself out really, so my narrow-mindedness caved in…and decided I liked it! I own every record by the Imperials from 1964 to 1984! One of the best things to ever come out of gospel music was and is Russ Taff! Loved Russ with the Imperials loved that tune “Whenever Is Speak His Name” 

I love Russ voice and spirit…a real good guy! Russ influenced me greatly…not that it helped much…but he made me reach for the stars! And for that I am grateful. Another guy that influenced my singing was a guy named Tony Hadley! He sang with Spandau Ballet…a british band from the eighties. 

Another group I really digged in the eighties were The Housemartins…who did a cappella stuff..and gospel tinged pop! Their lead singer had a distinct voice…love how he sings “Lean On Me”.

As the years rolled on…I grew to love that ‘modern’ music! It’s not that I don’t like any ‘new’ music…man I do…but it’s all current bands playing new music with that good old feeling! The feeling Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Sam Cooke, Charlie Rich, Jerry Lee Lewis, Larry Norman and Kenny Drew give me! 

It’s funny I hate old people, old food, old coffee, old matresses, and old what have you not! But I love my old car, my old music, and the old, old story! 

Nothing Keeps You From His Love

If we would only remember that we have nothing to bring to Him….we came empty-handed and leave with nothing to show for it! Lately I’ve noticed that Christianity is so often misrepresented…Christianity kinda says it all….the religious name for what is supposed to be a personal relationship and thus a personal thing! A love affair rather than a relationship…because He first loved me! We are all undeserving, yet so arrogant, ignorant and blindsided by politics, religion and other self-serving shameless motivations. The instigators of  self-righteousness politics and religion! Those two combined are the recipe for a rarely seen Christlike outcome. Billy Graham is probably the only one who pulled that off…. probably. I’m often ashamed to admit I am a Christian…because so many in my ranks are trying to run the show! Telling what to do…what is the right thing to do…and actually thinking they are right! There’s no right way! George Younce always said ‘I’ve got my house in order, and I’m ready to go! Remember that,  no matter how tidy your house might be….it’s still a dirty ol’ barn compared to that mansion  that J.C. build with his own hands! So if you live in the White House or the farmhouse, the basement, or the penthouse….it is all crap..…. shabby! But luckily He’s only interested in the occupants of those meager quarters…the tenants!  How fancier the house you leave behind the greater the debt…in the Bible it says that it’s harder for a rich man to enter heaven, and so on. Y’all remember that one, don’t you? Stop following the almighty dollar-ministers, the religious Dr Phill-like clones! Stop thinking Osteen has it down, or even Billy Graham! Stop believing in those prosperity feel good reli-tainment shows. It is all about the money, that’s not even funny! It all about that and not about the Good News! The Good News is lovenot hate! What the hell happened to ‘love your enemies? Some hate cops, some black folks, some jews, muslims, and some even hate gay people! A questions for all my homo-hating brothers and sisters…. when did you consciously choose to be straight? Is it a sin? Yes it is…like everything else we do…there’s no good in any of us…no one was, or ever will be worthy! Except that special one! The one we sing about ( in church)….the only one!

We’re  not working on a building when our own houses are falling apart at the seams….we all have our hands full to keep it all in order…so are we really ready to go? The line ‘ many are called but few will answer’ comes to mind.

I like to believe that the greatest commandment is still the best compass to complete my journey with! Maybe I will hear ‘sorry dude…you took the wrong way..you’re is hell!   But you know…I’ve  read the Bible…and I’ve  read other stuff too. Usually I get the essence of a book in a heartbeat….but the Word is a different story all together in that last respect! A different story…one that no one really ever really gets….let alone being able to live it! Why I believe no one really understands it to the fullest? Because we can’t comprehend that kind of love! Anything we do down here,  is just a bad re-enactment of the real thing! That He so gracefully displayed!

This writing is probably nothing more than adding to the mountain op corrupted opinions…but at least I’m honest about that possibility! And don’t claim to portray Christ…how could I? I hope I sometimes by accident radiate His love….but being in an honest state…I rarely do! I am an elusive, distant, and  often misunderstood guy. Very picky with friends, food and music. Cold to most who he doesn’t want to know. I admit that I exclude people based on their general intellectual  impression. You’ve gotta understand that I find most people boring and dumb!

I do…. which says a lot about me, and less about the others, but there’s a lot of superficial dumb asses out there! And I’m not talking about Christianity alone anymore….that is wishful thinking on the heathens part…the whole world is full of shit!  We pride ourselves in the fact we hold all that shit together.

Well done my good and  faithful servant! See? Absolutely nothing,  nothing keeps you from His love!