CD/DVD Review: Hymns from Home (Collingsworth Family)

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Hymns From Home

The opening has a cinematic elegance: Footage of candles and other scenes from the Collingsworth Family home lies underneath a brief narration from Phil Collingsworth Sr. about the importance and impact of hymns. Then the scene shifts outside, where soprano and oldest sister Brooklyn Collingworth Blair sings the first verse of Amazing Grace solo, against a lush backdrop of rural Ohio scenery. Phil Jr. joins for the second verse. Then the camera’s focus pulls back a little farther, and the other two siblings (Courtney Collingsworth Metz and Olivia Collingsworth) join in. For the final verse, parents Phil Sr. and Kim join the now-complete family ensemble.

Hymns From Home is a CD/DVD combination; the CD contains eighteen songs, while the DVD contains an extra opening song. The CD is not a separate studio recording; it is the audio from the live program, minus the opening song.

The remaining eighteen songs are as diverse a collection of performances as you will hear any Southern Gospel group pull off: Solos, duets, trios, quartets, full family ensembles; acapella, piano-and-vocals, songs with full orchestration; piano solos, violin solos, and violin duets. It would be challenging to find any other six people in our genre who could pull off a program of this diversity and caliber, let alone six members of a single family.

Other genres certainly have talented vocalists and instrumentalists. But many other genres rely on their productions—ten piece bands, hundred piece orchestras, light shows, or smoke shows. Southern Gospel, though, has been blessed with generation after generation of singers who need nothing but three or four vocalists and a piano player to absolutely command the spotlight. Make no mistake, the Collingsworth Family can do that, but they have been blessed with an even rarer and more remarkable talent: They can stand in the spotlight and deflect its focus to the message of the songs.

Nowhere, perhaps, is this more apparent than on this projects’ centerpiece, “Burdens Are Lifted at Calvary.” Its subtle brilliance leaves the spotlight clearly on the message.

Many of the hymns have appeared on the family’s previous projects, but since these are live renditions, there are a number of arrangement variations; also, the children’s voices have matured since the original renditions, leaving these superior in a number of cases. These factors, plus the new songs (including “Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary,” “The Love of God,” and “My Wonderful Lord”) make the project a must-buy for Collingsworth Family fans. It would also make an excellent Christmas present for family and friends who love the great hymns of the faith but are new to this genre.

Traditional or Progressive: Traditional with several orchestrated songs.

Group Members: Phil Collingsworth Sr., Kim Collingsworth, Brooklyn Collingsworth Blair, Courtney Collingsworth Metz, Phil Collingsworth Jr., Olivia Collingsworth.

Credits: Produced by Kim Ryan White. Tracks recorded by Melissa Mattey. Assistant engineer: Steve Blackman. Musicians: Kim Collingsworth (on-site piano), Jason Webb (studio piano, keys, Hammond B3); Dave Cleveland (guitars), John Hammond (percussion); Craig Nelson (upright and electric bass). Vocal and instrumental arrangements by Kim Collingsworth. Orchestrations arranged by Wayne Haun and performed by The Nashville String Machine, contracted by Carl Gorodetzky. Mixed by Melissa Mattey and Tommy Cooper. Mastered by Alan Silverman. Film edited by Jacob Ryan. Filming director: Russell Hall. Lighting director: Jeff Hockman. Behind the scenes and interview footage: Tim Antkowiak, Jacob Ryan. Review copy provided.

Song List: Amazing Grace (DVD only); Brethren We Have Met To Worship; Holy, Holy, Holy; Come Thou Fount; The Lord’s Prayer; Take Time To Be Holy; My Wonderful Lord; And Can It Be; When We All Get To Heaven; Covered By The Blood; Since Jesus Came Into My Heart; Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary; The Love of God; In The Garden; I Need Thee Every Hour; Unclouded Day; At Calvary; My Jesus I Love Thee; Amazing Grace.

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DVD Review: Live in Louisville (Mark Trammell Quartet)

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Live in Louisville features footage from the Mark Trammell Quartet’s three sets at the 2012 National Quartet Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. The SouthernGospelBlog.com staff live-blogged the event, covering their sets here, here, and here. Here’s one excerpt:

The Mark Trammell Quartet’s set was perfectly paced. They started with the peaceful, relaxed “Gentle Shepherd.” They picked up the pace with “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” sung as a tribute to the Couriers (whom Mark saw at his first National Quartet Convention, 35 years ago). Then Mark introduced Pat Barker. It’s clear that the NQC audience loves him; he just had to say Pat’s name, and the audience let out a cheer.

Now, we’re talking about a song that’s a recent #1 hit. It’s the most successful radio single the group has to date. It’s also huge for them live. Pat conveyed the song with passion and confidence, and the audience responded in such a big way that two encores seemed like too little, not too much.

You might think that would be the highlight of their set. But you would be wrong.

“The King is Coming” was the moment of the night.

I have many versions of the song, including the Speer Family’s landmark live 1972 version on Jesus Sound Explosion—a version so powerful that it got the strongest response of the album in front of a Jesus Music audience, surrounded by the strongest Jesus Music artists at the time. Of course, the Bill Gaither Trio’s rendition was also incredible—and many others have been, too.

Despite all that, I suspected that I would eventually make the following conclusion. After seeing the Mark Trammell Quartet’s version live, I am ready to state that theirs is the strongest version ever recorded.

The video footage is sharp and clear. The editing is smooth; some of Mark’s longer talking sections were cut out, but it serves to enhance the overall flow of the video. From an editing standpoint, the largest distraction is an ad for NQC 2013 included between songs four and five and songs eight and nine. It wouldn’t have seemed as out-of-place at the end, but it did feel like an awkward interruption where it was. An ad for an event coming up in just a few months inherently dates the video—though dating the video is somewhat of a moot point, since tenor Eric Phillips had already left by the time the video released.

As anyone who has watched groups at NQC and in normal concerts knows, the brief NQC sets don’t permit the same flexibility of pacing for slower moments and humor that you will find in a normal concert setting. Each set has to be a four-song highlight reel. Trammell, as emcee, works well within the limitations, including a little humor and testimony.

A few minor quibbles aside, the vocal performances and song selection are both spectacular. Fans of straight-ahead quartet singing will number this among the best quartet DVDs of the year.

Traditional or Progressive: Mixture of traditional and middle-of-the-road/orchestrated.

Group Members: Eric Phillips (tenor), Nick Trammell (lead), Mark Trammell (baritone), Pat Barker (bass), Dustin Sweatman (piano).

Credits: Executive Producer: Mark Trammell. Producer: Kim Ryan White. NQC Program Producer: Phil Brower. Director: Russell Hall. Production Manager: Rob Snyder. Graphic Design: Ben Wolfe. Audio Mix and Mastering: Van Atkins for Crossroads Studios. Editor: Jacob Ryan for Viewfinders, Inc. Review copy provided.

Song List: I Sing the Mighty Power of God; ‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus; Wonderful Time Up There; Statue of Liberty; Gentle Shepherd; Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah; I Want to Know; The King is Coming Medley; Meet Me Over on the Other Side; Too Much to Gain to Lose; Standing on the Rock; Golden City Tour.

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3:1 DVD/CD Review: Discover Your Voice (Steve Hurst)

3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Concept: Steve Hurst is one of Southern Gospel’s most-respected voice teachers. This CD/DVD set contains a live recording of one of his voice workshops. For those who are unable, whether logistically or financially, to attend one of his schools or workshops in person, this recording’s availability is a welcome resource.

2: CD/DVD availability: The case includes three DVDs, and three CDs that contain the same audio. Having an identical audio version also available is incredibly helpful for rehearsal.

3: Scope: There are extensive discussions on voice placement, vocal registers, proper breathing, power, and vocal warm-ups. But the presentation is wide-ranging; Hurst also covers posture, facial expressions, hand gestures, nerves, and the Biblical ministry objectives for speakers and singers. 

:1: Ads: Interspersed with the segments are ads for the Steve Hurst School of Music. Though mildly distracting, these aren’t a huge minus—certainly not enough to avoid purchasing this incredibly valuable resource.

Credits: Produced by Steve & Mary Hurst and John Rowsey. Producer’s Assistant: Damar Noecker. Post-production audio and video: Rodney Underwood. Guests: Gary Casto, Mary Anne Oglesby, John Rowsey, Josh Singletary, Debra Talley, Lauren Talley. Audio: Dave Vance. Recorded at Christ Temple, Huntington, West Virginia.
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DVD Review: The Best of the Booth Brothers (Booth Brothers)

The Best of the Booth Brothers DVD

The Booth Brothers’ rise was so connected to their early appearances on the Gaither videos that this Homecoming compilation DVD is, for all intents and purposes, a greatest-hits collection.

The format of a best-of-Homecoming video is now familiar to most Southern Gospel fans: The video is structured around a narration where Bill Gaither interviews the group members, prompting comments to introduce the songs. The songs aren’t always the complete songs; the intros and encores are often dropped.

Though the conversation is biographical, it’s not exactly chronological. The focus is on the current lineup. Jim Brady has been with the group a decade now—he joined in 2002—so they’re hardly short on strong material. It is, however, slightly odd to see the group’s breakout moment, their Homecoming Appearance of “Still Feelin’ Fine,” not appear until halfway into the program. That song and “Castles in the Sand” are the only two featuring previous baritone singer Joseph Smith.

With footage pulled from over a decade of archives, there is naturally some inconsistency with more recent footage at a higher quality than the two older songs from the Joseph Smith era. Of course, the camera work is consistently strong from beginning to end.

Longtime Homecoming aficionados will already have most of these songs. (“Above the Moon” was filmed around a piano, with Bill Gaither playing piano and adding a bass part. There are also a cappella choruses of “Through it All” and “He Saw it All.”) But this video is an excellent introduction to the group for newcomers, while long-time fans will enjoy the narration and conversations.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road at points, progressive at other points.

Credits: Produced by Bill Gaither. Directed and edited by Doug Stuckey. Script written by Bill Gaither and Emily Sutherland. Audio Remix Engineer/Producer: Chad Evans.

Song List: The River Keeps A-Rollin; Livin’ For the Moment; If We Never Meet Again; Love Was in the Room; Then I Met the Master; He Saw it All; All Over the World; Castles in the Sand; Still Feelin’ Fine; Look For Me at Jesus’ Feet; Thank Him for The Miracle; Without the Lord; Sail On; Above the Moon; Since Jesus Came; Testify; Amazing Grace; Through it All; In Christ Alone.

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3:1 DVD Review: Lari Goss: The Man Behind the Music

Lari Goss: The Man Behind the Music3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1: Song and group lineup: The lineup of groups appearing at this live tribute to legendary producer Lari Goss is basically a who’s who of Gospel Music: The Booth Brothers, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, Babbie Mason, The Hoppers, The Mark Trammell Quartet, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, TaRanda Greene, The Martins, The Nelons, Karen Peck, Charlotte Ritchie, Reggie & Ladye Love Smith, Melissa Brady, Geron Davis, and the Christ Church Choir. 

Imagine each of these groups performing their greatest songs, with a…

2: Live orchestra: Lari Goss’s orchestrations are magnificent, but that magnificence just isn’t fully appreciated when they are delivered by three or four singers on stage with a soundtrack machine. The orchestra here wasn’t just any orchestra—it was the Nashville String Machine, the studio performers who are on so many of the original versions of these songs.

It doesn’t hurt that the house band includes Kevin Williams on guitar, Wesley Pritchard on bass guitar, Mike Hopper on drums, and, on many songs, the man himself, Lari Goss, on piano!

3: Video image quality: Thanks to the filming taking place at TBN’s studios, the cinematography—image quality, lighting, and resolution—is magnificent.  

:1: Nothing: This DVD doesn’t have a single flaw.

Here’s a case in point: Narrations. For those of you who enjoy them, they’re often pleasant, subdued moments. But many of you, on the other hand, skip the narrations. When was the last time you heard a narration get a standing ovation? That’s exactly what happens with Gerald Wolfe’s narration on “Statement of Faith.”

You can give this DVD to someone new to the genre, and comment “This is what Southern Gospel is all about.” If this doesn’t get someone hooked on Southern Gospel, there’s a fairly strong chance nothing will.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road, largely fully orchestrated.

Credits: Produced by Jim Brady, Gerald Wolfe, and Phil Brower. Recorded live at Trinity Music City, Hendersonville, Tennessee. Directed by Kim White and Graham Bustin. Live sound engineer: Robert Dixon. Post Production video editing: Jim Brady, Gerald Wolfe, Phil Brower, Cindy Carter, and Eddy Joyner at TMC Studios, Hendersonville, Tennessee, and Tre’ Corley and Paul Corley at Oak Tree Studios, Hendersonville, Tennessee. Post production audio mix by Bob Williams and Jim Brady.

Song List: Overture of Praise (performed by Lari Goss and the Nashville String Machine, conducted by Mike Casteel); I See Grace (performed by The Booth Brothers); Then I Met the Master (performed by The Booth Brothers); Glory to God in the Highest (performed by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound); Oh What a Savior (performed by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound); He’ll Find a Way (performed by Babbie Mason); Marriage Supper of the Lamb (performed by The Hoppers); Jerusalem (performed by The Hoppers); I Want to Know (performed by The Mark Trammell Quartet); It’s Almost Over (performed by The Mark Trammell Quartet); Champion of Love (performed by Cathedrals Alumni); Faces (performed by Greater Vision); Redeemed Medley (performed by Greater Vision); Thankful for The Change (performed by Legacy Five); I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked (performed by TaRanda Greene); Doxology (performed by The Martins); I Am Bound for The Promised Land (performed by The Martins); We Shall Wear a Crown (performed by The Nelons, Karen Peck Gooch, and Charlotte Ritchie); Oh For a Thousand Tongues (performed by The Nelons, Karen Peck Gooch, and Charlotte Ritchie); All in All (performed by Jim Brady); Statement of Faith (all artists); We Shall Wear a Crown reprise (all artists). Bonus tracks: Midnight Cry (performed by Reggie and Ladye Love Smith, Michael Booth, Julie Goss, and Jim and Melissa Brady); I Am is Enough (performed by Geron Davis, Bradley Knight, and the Christ Church Choir Singers).

Five-star songs: Pretty nearly every song.

DVD rating: Five Stars.

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3:1 DVD Review: A Country Campmeeting (Triumphant Quartet)

A Country Campmeeting (Triumphant Quartet)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1. Audio Quality: The project sounds excellent. Particularly on “Don’t Let the Sandals Fool Ya,” tenor David Sutton and bass Eric Bennett played it safe at points, but it paid off when they nailed the notes they did sing.

2. Great Piano Shots: The cameramen caught Jeff Stice at his best moments, choosing ideal angles. There were even some boom camera close-up shots of the keyboard—which is, evidently, a hard shot, given how rarely it is attempted.

3. “Goodbye World Goodbye” skit: Jeff Stice and David Sutton have done their harmonica/piano duet on this song for years. This is probably the best video version captured yet—the cameramen’s shots captured the energy of the skit well.

4 (bonus). Still Small Voice: This piano-and-vocals ballad, featuring David Sutton, proved that Triumphant doesn’t need tracks to command the stage.

:1. One thing I would change: Dialog. There wasn’t any dialog. Perhaps these ten songs were filmed for individual airing on TBN. But the lack of any dialog—introductions, jokes, testimonies etc.—prevents the project from fully capturing the essence of a Triumphant Quartet concert.

:2 (bonus). Another thing I would change: Song Selection. It would have been nice to see songs from their latest project.

Traditional or Progressive: Middle-of-the-road.

DVD Rating: 3.5 Stars Vocal delivery: 4.5 stars. Average song rating: 3.7 stars. Cinematography: 3 stars. (The interlacing was particularly evident at points. This and the lower resolution took at a half-star off the overall rating, and it would have been a full star if the cameramen hadn’t been as good as they were.)

Credits: Producer: None credited on packaging. • Group members: Not credited on packaging (but we all know that they’re David Sutton, Clayton Inman, Scotty Inman, Eric Bennett, and Jeff Stice!). • Review copy provided. • Song list: Thinking of a Mansion; When the Trumpet Sounds; Don’t Let the Sandals Fool You; Everyday; Goodbye World Goodbye; Wish You Were Here; Gospel Medley; Still Small Voice; Down From His Glory; He Is.

 

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3:1 DVD Review: A Country Campmeeting (Three Bridges)

A Country Campmeeting (Three Bridges)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1. “Satan and Grandma”: Since bringing on two former Imperials members, Elliot McCoy has had the vocal talent to bring the group name back to the forefront. He needed the song. This is that song. Tenor Jeremy Hudson turns in such a strong performance that even theological nitpickers will be willing to look past the line about Grandma getting her wings. With this song, Three Bridges is back.

2. Staging: On “Cooling Water,” Three Bridges sang around a classic quartet-style microphone. It’s not something you expect from a progressive group, yet it worked brilliantly.

3. Live Band: A four-piece live band added welcome energy to an already energetic vocal presentation. The drummer, bass guitarist, and electric guitarist appear to be the same as on Palmetto State Quartet’s companion video.

:1. One thing I would change: Choir outfits. The final four songs were filmed with a choir. Many of the ladies’ necklines were low enough to concern conservative viewers.

Traditional or Progressive: Rather progressive vocally; lean progressive musically.

Credits: Producer: Not credited on packaging. • Group members: None credited on packaging. • Review copy provided. • Song list: David; A Little Song Coming On; Cooling Water; Nothing Like the Presence; In the Valley; Satan & Grandma; In the Sky; Wait on that Mountain; I Just Feel Like Something Good is About to Happen; Amen; Great is Thy Faithfulness; I’m a Soldier (joined by guest vocalists Larry Strickland and an uncredited female vocalist).

 

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3:1 DVD Review: A Country Campmeeting (Palmetto State Quartet)

A Country Campmeeting (Palmetto State Quartet)3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1. Four-piece band: Palmetto State Quartet has a full-time pianist, Casey Martin. For this taping, they were joined by a drummer, bass guitarist, and electric guitarist. The full live band sets the video apart from videos recorded by tracks-only or tracks-dominant groups.

2. Stage presence: While one group member just stood and sang, the others provided welcome on-stage energy.

3. “There’s Something Going On at the Well”: This is a welcome reprise from a far earlier edition of the group, the Brion Carter / Jeff Pearles era. It is a perfect fit for their four-piece live band sound.

:1. One thing I would change: “Walk This Way.” A casual listener could be forgiven for assuming this song promotes a works-based salvation. The baritone singer and emcee introduced the song by saying, “If you want to get to where Jesus is, then you’ve got to walk the way he walked, amen.” The song does mention grace—”Just let God’s Spirit lead you by His amazing grace”—but the message could have been more clear. To his credit, emcee and former pastor David Darst did articulate the Gospel when introducing “No Place Too far from Grace.”

Traditional or Progressive

Middle-of-the-road with a distinct country influence.

A DVD rating factoring in “Walk This Way” wouldn’t be fair to the quality of the remainder of the DVD.

Credits

Producer: None credited on packaging. • Group members: Not credited on packaging (but introduced on the video as tenor Robert Fulton, lead Paul Lancaster, baritone David Darst, bass Larry Strickland, and pianist Casey Martin. Fulton has been replaced by Wesley Smith since the taping.) • Review copy provided.  • Song list: All Hail the Power; Walk This Way; Don’t That Sound like Heaven; There’ll Be No Dying Anymore; Good Morning; Rainbow Avenue; The Debt Has Been Paid; Something’s Going on at the Well; No Place Too Far from Grace; Moment of Grace; Holy Ghost Revival.

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The Old Rugged Cross and Tent Revival Homecoming: How a Taping Became a DVD

You’ve seen reviews of Gaither Homecoming DVDs. You’ve even seen occasional reports from news websites allowed into Gaither Homecoming tapings. But you probably have not seen coverage that starts with reporting from the live concert (found in its original form here) and focuses on the transition from the live event through the final product.

  • Daddy Sang Bass (#15 on Tent Revival Homecoming): The requisite fixes to the live performance were made. The humor in the live skit translated well to DVD.
  • On the Other Side of the Cross (#7 on The Old Rugged Cross): The intro was replaced by a post-production voice-over.
  • Yes, I Know (#1 on Tent Revival Homecoming): Unlike the other opening track, this one did feel like the start of a concert on the DVD. (Dailey & Vincent’s songs were taped ten or fifteen minutes before the main program began, to allow time for instrument set-up and tear -down,
  • When the Saints Go Marching In (#2 on Tent Revival Homecoming).
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3:1 DVD Review: 100 Years: A Celebration of Southern Gospel Music

3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

1. Gold City set: When Brian Free, Ivan Parker, Mike LeFevre, and Tim Riley stepped on stage together for the first time in nineteen years, the atmosphere was electric. And they did not disappoint: They reminded everyone why that lineup of Gold City has been called all-star.

2. The Live Band: This is the way Southern Gospel is supposed to sound. Not only was there a live band, but the live band was in-the-pocket, knew the material, and delivered an all-around solid performance.

3. Groups Appearing: While it would be impossible to assemble an all-star program featuring every classic group with living members, Daywind accomplished more than anyone thought was possible. If you were stranded on a tropical island and could only take one DVD with you, this is the one.

:1. One thing I would change: Interlacing: The video was recorded with a professional camera and lighting crew, and looks excellent. But it would look even better if it wasn’t interlaced. (There were also a few audience shots where the aspect ratio was incorrect, but they went by fast enough that it’s a minor quibble.)

DVD Rating: 5 stars.

Cinematography: 4 stars. Average song rating: 4.5 stars.

Credits

Producer: Norman Holland. •  Review copy provided.  • Song list: This Great Caravan (New Gospel Singing Caravan); I Found a Hiding Place (New Gospel Singing Caravan); The King of Who I Am (Lulu Roman); Medley: Things Are Gonna Get Better / When I Lift Up My Head / New Shoes / Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing / Holy Hills of Heaven / Sheltered in the Arms of God / Remind Me Dear Lord / Too Much to Gain to Lose / He Looked Beyond My Fault (Rambos), Medley: Tears Will Never Stain / Things Are Gonna Get Better (Rambos); O For a Thousand Tongues (Nelons), We Shall Wear a Robe and Crown (Nelons); Operator (Downings); Greater is He that is In Me (Downings); I’m So Glad He Found Me (Hinsons); He Can (Hinsons); Lighthouse (Hinsons); When I Get Carried Away (Gold City); I Think I’ll Read it Again (Gold City); Midnight Cry (Gold City); Keep on the Sunny Side (Lewis Family); Something About That Name (Cathedrals Tribute); Champion of Love (Cathedrals Tribute); Home (Singing Americans); I Bowed On My Knees & Cried Holy (Singing Americans).

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