Friday News Roundup #215

Worth Knowing

  • Singing News posted the 2014 Fan Awards top ten nominees here.

Worth Reading

This week’s featured Letter to the Editor is from J.E. Butler. Commenting on yesterday’s post, Doing the Little Things, he shared some stories of his own:

My son will soon be 35. When I was probably his age – 26 years ago, I purchased for him one of the green bus/piggy banks from the Cathedrals’ table during a concert. My son wanted to meet the bass singer – and he was carrying the bus/piggy bank when we went to meet George Younce. Seeing the bus, Younce reached in his pocket and came out with a $5 bill and put it in the bus without saying a word about it. I saw him do it – but no one else did. Legacy…which I think makes the name Legacy V so perfect…

On a night that Gus Gaches was traveling with L5 but not yet a member, my sister purchased probably $100+ from the Booth Brothers. After she had made her purchase, she noticed a CD by their dad, Ron Booth. My sister told Ronnie how much she loved to hear his dad sing. He reached over, grabbed his dad’s CD, and dropped it in her bag. Steps to a legacy – and a life-long fan not only of Ron Booth, but Ronnie and Michael.

Worth Watching

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Doing the Little Things

Yesterday, I bought the new Gaither Vocal Band hymns CD at Wal-Mart. As I was checking out, the cashier, to my surprise, commented that she remembered when Larnelle Harris was with the group, and particularly enjoyed that lineup.

Then she told a story. Back in the mid-’90s, she was a security guard at a local mall. The mall didn’t like trucks parking in its lots overnight. So when she saw one, she was supposed to ask them to park somewhere else.

 

One night, she looked out into the parking lot and saw a bus. She went out to see it and saw a little sticker that said that the bus belonged to the Cathedral Quartet. She knocked on the door anyhow, and asked the bus driver if he could go to a nearby hotel instead. He said that he had already been there, and they didn’t have any vacancies.

The cashier told me, “I thought God would be mad with me if I didn’t let The Cathedrals get a good night’s sleep.” So she told the bus driver that she wouldn’t turn them in.

The point of this story isn’t whether or not the security guard made the right decision, and the point isn’t whether or not God would have been upset with a guard who asked them to park the bus somewhere else. The point is in what happened the next morning: The Cathedrals tracked down the security guard, thanked her for letting them get a good night’s sleep, and gave her complimentary tickets to their concert that night. 

Thanks to that little gesture, twenty years later, she is still telling people—even strangers—how gracious the Cathedrals were.

Why do the little things? Why go out of your way to be gracious to people who probably won’t do anything to advance your career? And why does it matter what a cashier at Wal-Mart thinks of you, fifteen years after your retirement?

That’s your legacy. 

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CD Review: Into His Presence (The Perrys)

reviews-cd-journal

perrysThe Perrys’ upcoming April 8th StowTown release, Into His Presence, is one of the year’s most highly-anticipated releases. This was a day that many in the Southern Gospel community feared would never come. Over the last fifteen months, during Tracy Stuffle’s protracted, roller-coaster recovery from a January 2013 stroke, there were many points it seemed doubtful he would survive, let alone return to the stage. But he is back, albeit in a limited capacity as his recovery continues, and appears on this CD.

Into His Presence also features the Perrys debut of two new vocalists, lead singer David Ragan, already a young star in his own right, and rookie bass singer Jared Stuffle. Jared Stuffle is the son of alto Libbi Perry Stuffle and bass singer Tracy Stuffle. Last year, the group announced that he would be filling in on bass until his father was able to fully return. He sings a bass harmony part on most songs on the CD, and does an adequate job. His tone has a baritone warmth and clarity, even on bass notes (and make no mistake, that’s intended as a compliment.) Picture what former Florida Boys baritone Glen Allred would have sounded like filling in on bass (and make no mistake, that’s intended as a second compliment.)

When a group has to replace a superstar, as the Perrys did after Joseph Habedank’s departure, they faced a dilemma many groups face. Should they hire the replacement singer who sounds most like his predecessor, or the overall best singer available? The Perrys chose the latter course.

Into His Presence doesn’t have any anthems as gigantic as “Calvary Answers For Me” or “If You Knew Him,” no shouting songs in the vein of “Did I Mention,” and no hard-driving toe-tappers like “I Wish I Could’ve Been There.” When a group hires the overall best singer available, sometimes they keep picking songs that would have been perfect for their old lineup. The Perrys wisely eschewed that approach in favor of a more straight-ahead and subdued repertoire.

Perhaps the crown jewel of this approach is the opening track, “Into His Presence.” This Cathedrals cover is a peaceful, pretty arrangement anchored by David Ragan. Perhaps it’s understated—understated magnificence. It’s hard to imagine it fitting any previous Perrys lineup, but it is perfect for this one.

In a similar manner, Libbi Perry Stuffle’s strongest feature on the project is “Reminders.” It’s more subdued than many of the Kyla Rowland songs that the group has previously recorded; it doesn’t have the drive of “Until I Start Looking Ahead,” “Did I Mention,” or “I Rest My Case At The Cross.” But it’s a perfect fit both musically and lyrically for where the group is at this point in their career.

“Three Men On a Mountain” features Tracy Stuffle. Granted, his voice may be only around 30% of the way back, but a comeback to even this point was so improbable that few Southern Gospel fans will listen to this track with dry eyes.

Two other highlights are a 6/8 song called “Lord, I’m Thankful” and “Sooner Than Later,” a song featuring baritone Bryan Walker that would have sounded at home on a Steeles record in the late ’90s. 

Don’t approach Into His Presence hoping for a lead singer trying to be the second-best Joseph Habedank in the world and a bass singer trying to be the second-best Tracy Stuffle in the world. This Perrys lineup is comfortable in its own skin. 

Song list (songwriters in parentheses): Into His Presence (Mack Taunton); When He Comes Walking On The Water (Wayne Haun, Jeff Bumgardner); I Can Trust Him (Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey); How Long (Johnny Minick); Reminders (Kyla Rowland, Melissa Dawn Kennedy); Lord, I’m Thankful (Joel Lindsey); Sooner Than Later (Rachel McCutcheon, Adina Bowman); Three Men On A Mountain (Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey); I Owe Him Everything (Lyn Rowell); Just Stand Still (Rodney Birch); Privilege of Prayer (Rachel McCutcheon). Review copy provided.

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Norman Holland passes away

Long-time Southern Gospel executive Norman Holland passed away yesterday of heart failure. In his role as A&R Director with Riversong, Chapel, and Daywind, he guided and helped shape the careers of many of Southern Gospel’s leading artists. 

He entered the Southern Gospel industry in 1980, and rose through the ranks until he reached the position of Vice President and A&R of Daywind Records. He held that position for sixteen years, through his retirement last year.  Though Holland’s impact was behind the scenes, it was massive. Countless colleagues have posted tributes to him, including these:

  • “There may never be another who cares for artists like Norman Holland did. He was an innovative and dedicated employee. This is a heartbreaking loss.” —Ed Leonard, President of Daywind
  • “The wonderful memories of working and sharing life with Norman for 16 years are precious. I will cherish them as I cherished him.” —Dottie Leonard Miller, Founder of Daywind
  • “Norman and I had a great working relationship for 27 years, but more importantly, he was one of my closest friends. His laughter was contagious, and his larger-than-life, magnetic personality always lit up any room he was in. Gospel Music has lost one of its most innovative and influential behind-the-scenes personalities, and I have lost a friend. But not for long. I know where he is.” —Gerald Wolfe
  • “So sad to hear of Norman Holland’s passing. He was such a sweet man. We will miss you, Norman.” —Wes Hampton
  • “Our hearts are broken today to learn of the passing of our great friend, Norman Holland. He was sooo much more than just our A&R director for years, but he was a true friend!” —The Perrys
  • “All of us at the Harper Agency are deeply saddened to hear about the untimely passing of our dear friend Norman Holland. At one time or another over the last 32 years, Norman worked with nearly all of the artists our agency currently represents and those in years past as an A & R director. He loved the music the artists sang and the God they all sang about. He was a true friend to the gospel music community and loved by all of us.” —The Harper Agency
  • “Please pray for his family and friends. He will be greatly missed.” —Mark Lowry

UPDATE, 6:45 P.M.: A Daywind press release offers the following information on funeral arrangements: “Funeral services for Norman will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 15th, 2014, with visitation taking place from 1 p.m. until 2 p.m. that day.  The funeral and visitation will take place at Sorrell’s Funeral Home, 2744 W Magnolia Ave, Geneva, Alabama, 36340, Phone:(334) 684-9999.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Norman Holland Memorial Fund c/o Norman’s sister, Edith Brown, 1209 Glenwood Street, Dothan, Alabama, 36301.  The balance of the fund after funeral expenses will be donated to the Gospel Music Trust Fund. There will be a memorial service in honor of Norman held in Nashville within the next month.”

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Songs from I Samuel: Hannah Prayed

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

I Samuel starts with the story of how the prophet Samuel was born. His mother was barren. One year, she prayed that if God granted her a son, she would dedicate him to His service. God answered this prayer, and her son Samuel would go on to lead the nation. Jeff & Sheri Easter’s song “Hannah Prayed” tells this story:

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Friday News Roundup #214

Worth Knowing

Worth Reading

In this week’s featured Letter to the Editor, reader JSR reflects on the importance of digital availability of projects:

Everybody in SG needs to get their music on iTunes. If nothing else, the ability to hear short clips is a good way to introduce your music. I don’t think the market for SG will ever go away, but a failure to have the abiliity for people like me (who don’t go to concerts and don’t buy a lot of complete albums) to have easy access to your music will jepordize the viability going forward. There are some SG artists that I’ve never bought any of their music in a store, but I have grabbed a song here and there off iTunes, or similar venue, after hearing it on Pandora or YouTube or on a SG blog. It needs to be that Daniel is soon forced to put a link to iTunes or the Google Play Store or Amazon for a digital download for every CD that hits the market.

 

Worth Watching

This has made the rounds, but in case you haven’t watched it yet, it’s worth watching: Kim and Connie Hopper missed a flight, so Chris Allman, Doug Anderson, and Tim Lovelace filled in on “What a Lovely Name.”

Worth Discussing

Were there any significant Southern Gospel news stories this week that we haven’t mentioned yet?

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Singing News Fan Awards to return to NQC

Singing News and the National Quartet Convention announced yesterday afternoon that the Singing News Fan Awards will return to the NQC mainstage this year.

Rick Francis, Singing News’ Operations Manager, explained that the details had been in progress for several weeks, adding, “It just makes sense for the Singing News Fan Awards to take place during the week of NQC, during a time when the entire Southern Gospel music community —fans, artists, and industry—is together in one place. We are very pleased about this agreement.”

NQC Executive Vice President Clarke Beasley added, “The Singing News Fan Awards and the NQC were inseparable institutions for decades, and we are delighted that the Fan Awards will once again call the NQC home.”

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What is news?

What is news?

While this site also features commentary, interviews, and an occasional review, well over half of the 3,505 stories we have posted are news. So it’s rather important to understand what is and isn’t news.

A couple of elements make something “news.” News is recent, relevant to the genre, and, usually, unexpected. 

This element of the unexpected is the most misunderstood element of newsworthiness. There’s a classic saying in newspaper circles: “Dog bites man isn’t news. Man bites dog is.” Applying this to our genre:

  • If the Booth Brothers going out for their usual weekend of concerts, and their members are Michael Booth, Ronnie Booth, and Jim Brady, it’s not news. It’s expected. But if one of the members were different, it would be news.
  • If David Phelps gets approximately thirty-two standing ovations at the next Gaither Vocal Band concert, it’s not news. It’s expected. If he’s ill and cannot sing that night, it would be news.
  • If Tribute Quartet’s bus makes it through the weekend safely, it’s not news. It’s expected. If it burns to the ground, that would be news.

Yet the other day, it struck me that the single most newsworthy thing that ever happens in this genre is something that might strike us as the most expected and least newsworthy.

You see, Southern Gospel is an evangelistic genre of music. Every weekend, several hundred national groups and several thousand local groups are performing concerts and presenting the Gospel. Every weekend, hundreds or thousands of people are coming to saving faith in Christ. From the vantage point of eternity, it’s not that big of a deal if Adam Crabb or David Ragan goes from sharing the Gospel in one group to sharing the Gospel in another group. But sinners coming to saving faith in Jesus Christ is a very big deal.

That, after all, is the most unexpected thing that ever happens in this world. Because Adam and Eve sinned, and because we are their descendants, we are born sinners. That’s normal. The unusual is when God steps into eternity as one of us, lives a sinless life, atones for our sins, and makes a peace with God that we could never make on our own.

The normal is that we are a fast track to Hell. That’s how every human story begins.. The unusual is when God steps into our story and re-writes the ending.

That’s why the good news is the most important news of all.

One closing thought: Stories of temporal significance have their place. Let’s just keep them in perspective.

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Upcoming Southern Gospel Releases: March 2014

This list aims to be inclusive of Daywind, Crossroads, Horizon, Sonlite, Gaither Music Group, Stow Town, New Haven, Difference Media, Song Garden, Mansion, and major independent group releases where known.

March 2014

  • 3/4: Hymns, Gaither Vocal Band (Gaither Music Group / Capitol)
  • 3/18: A New Season, Matthew Hagee (Difference Media / Capitol)
  • 3/25: Great Day, Legacy Five (Daywind / New Day)

April 2014

  • 4/1: Because He Lives: Favorite Easter Songs, Gaither Homecoming Friends (Gaither Music Group / Capitol)
  • 4/8: Into His Presence, The Perrys (Stow Town / Provident)
  • 4/25Unashamed, Brian Free & Assurance (Daywind/New Day)

Is this list missing anything significant, especially among major independent releases? Let us know!

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Songs from Joshua: Monuments

Books-songs

Each week, we will go through the books of the Bible, looking at a song that illustrates a passage from each book.

The story of the Israelites’ journey from Egypt to the Promised Land spans from Exodus to the early chapters of Joshua. In Joshua 3, they finally arrive. As they reach the banks of the river Jordan, God instructs Moses:

This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan (Joshua 3:7b-8, KJV).

Joshua, in turn, instructs the people:

Come hither, and hear the words of the Lord your God. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap (Joshua 3:9b-13).

That is exactly what happened. As verse 17 states: “And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.”

Chapter 4 discuses God’s instructions to Joshua to have the children of Israel construct a memorial commemorating this miracle. The classic Wilburns / Legacy Five song “Monuments” recounts this story:

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