CD Review: Easier to Live (Voices Won)

Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Average Song Rating: 3.9 (of 5)

Producer: Jeff Collins.

Song List: Sweetest Sound; Fishing Trip; Happy; I Will Praise Him Forever; He Lived to Love the Lord; Inside of Me; Know That You Have Faith; Easier to Live; God’s Big Hand; Same God; New Start.

Available from: Label, Amazon, Christianbook.com.

***

Voices Won is a trio of brothers based in Dalton, Georgia. Jaron Falknor, the oldest brother, sings tenor and writes most of the group’s songs. Shantell Falknor, the second oldest, sings baritone, and youngest brother Staclynn sings lead. Voices Won started in 2000; Staclynn is the only one with previous Southern Gospel touring experience, having sung with Malachi and Jericho (according to his bio here. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link appears to be down, and has been removed.])

The projects starts with a cover of CCM artist Russ Lee’s “Sweetest Sound.” (For comparision, a clip of the original is here.) The next two songs, “Fishing Trip” and “Happy,” are up-tempo songs penned by Jaron.

Shantell wrote and is probably featured on “I Will Praise Him Forever,” a slower song but one of the project’s highlights. The tenor’s and lead singer’s voices are similar enough that it can be hard to tell them apart on solos. But the voice featured on this song is mellow, a perfect fit for the song. The tight harmonies on this song bring the Booth Brothers to mind; in fact, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the Booth Brothers themselves doing the song.

“He Lived to Love the Lord” is the only song on the project (other than the opening track) not written by one of the brothers. This ballad, penned by Doug Little and Marty Funderburk, is well phrased and also a good pick for the group’s sound.

“Inside of Me” was written by Staclynn and is a testimony story about his conversion. It probably features him, as there is a harmony part above him on the chorus, but honestly even though he sings lead he could as easily sing tenor.

The final five songs on the project—”Know that You Have Faith,” “Easier to Live,” “God’s Big Hand,” “Same God,” and “New Start”—are all written by Jaron. Most are mid-tempo or up-temp, though the closing track, “New Start,” is a slower track that provides a nice, mellow close.

While many groups have too few uptempo songs, Voices Won comes closer to suffering from an overabundance. With so many uptempo songs, they stand out less than if there were just a few. By contrast, “I Will Praise Him Forever” stands out where it might not otherwise, because it is one of the few slow songs on the project and really gives the group’s harmonies a chance to shine.

Brothers Jaron and Shantell both cite the Bishops as one of their greatest influences, and the influence shows on this project. They achieve the smooth, tight harmonies distinctive to family blends and have the talent to make a mark.

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2008 in Review: News Stories

What were the highlights of 2008 in Southern Gospel? We’ve looked at the year’s best albums and songs; now let’s look at the year’s biggest news stories.

I’ll treat a group personnel change (one member leaves, another joins) as a single story.

Here’s my top ten list

  1. Dottie Rambo passes away in bus crash. If she had died of natural causes, I might not have ranked it as the year’s top story. But the suddenness of the crash sent shock waves through the SG community.
  2. Jacob Kitson replaces Jason Waldroup as Greater Vision tenor.
  3. Bruce Taliaferro replaces Jonathan Wilburn as Gold City lead singer.
  4. Guy Penrod takes sabbatical from Gaither Vocal Band. This would be higher on the list if the story was complete. But the bigger half of the story—whether Penrod will return—belongs to 2009.
  5. Shane Dunlap brings N’Harmony back.
  6. Greg & Charlotte Ritchie leave Jeff & Sheri Easter. Charlotte had been with the group for twelve years and Greg had been with them about fourteen years.
  7. Bryan Elliott replaces Matthew Holt as Perrys pianist.
  8. Wesley Smith (formerly of Palmetto State Quartet) replaces Dallas Rogers as Dixie Echoes tenor.
  9. Matt Dibler leaves the Inspirations. The only reason I didn’t rank this higher is that his replacement has not yet been named, so half the story belongs to next year.
  10. Former Florida Boys / Dixie Echoes bass Billy Todd passes away.
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Sony’s Thoughts: Counting Down the Days

Wow. Can you believe it is already 2009? Seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the new millennium and now almost a decade has past! It reminds me of the verse which says “Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22) I realize this is taken slightly out of context but I do wonder if God is somehow shortening the days for us. Maybe the seconds are somehow going faster and what we used to think of as 60 minutes is really closer to 45. I’m sure this is not really the case but it has made me wonder at times.

As we enter the new year, it is a perfect time to draw near to the Lord and to strive to learn more of His heart. David prayed, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) As I realize how fast the past 30+ years have gone, I also understand that it will be no time at all until I am called Home. Whether it’s tomorrow or 50 years from now, I truly want every moment to count for Him. “So what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) The older I get, the more I understand that concept.

Lord, let our lives be lived solely for You. Purge us of all selfishness and let 2009 be a year of fruit. May we ever be reminded that only what’s done for You will last.

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2008 in review: Top Radio Singles

What were the year’s best radio singles?

This list is limited to songs on the Singing News top 80 between January and December 2008.

  1. What We Needed (Kingdom Heirs)—#1 in July
  2. Reason Enough (Signature Sound)—#2 in December (#1 Jan ’09)I can’t believe I omitted this one on my initial draft.
  3. I’ve Been Changed (Legacy Five)—#5 in January
  4. When God Ran (Kingsmen)—#3 in December (#2 Jan. ’09)
  5. The Potter Knows the Clay (Perrys)—#8 in December (#7 Jan. ’09)
  6. It Means Just what it Says (Greater Vision)—#2 in April and May
  7. I’m Gonna Make It (Dove Brothers)—#7 in February
  8. Won’t it Be Wonderful There (Mark Trammell Trio)—#16 in June
  9. Eternity Has Two (Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver)—#29 in December (#15 Jan ’09)
  10. Holy Shore (Perrys)—#8 in April

Since the best songs often don’t get singled, here’s a separate list of the ten best songs from the year that didn’t get singled (yet):

  1. Grace Will Always Be Greater than Sin (Hoppers). With their next album out, I guess it’s probably pretty official that this song won’t be going to radio.
  2. Blessed Be the Lamb (Collingsworth Family). They sent three other songs to radio from We Still Believe this year, and it’s a little hard to believe this one hasn’t been one of them.
  3. Realms of Glory Bright (Talley Trio).
  4. Coming Out and Moving In (Mark Trammell Trio)
  5. Call it What it Is (Liberty Quartet)
  6. Save Me a Seat at the Table (Brian Free & Assurance)
  7. There is Always a Place at the Table (Gaither Vocal Band)
  8. Beulah (Tribute Quartet)
  9. If Only Just a Few (Mark Trammell Trio)
  10. I’ll Be Ready (Dixie Echoes)
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