CD Review: “Refreshing” – The Second-Half Quartet

CD Review: “Refreshing” – The Second-Half Quartet

Second Half Quartet -RefreshingRefreshing
Produced by Gerald Wolfe & Mark Trammell
Daywind Records OR
Format: CD & Digital

Tune-O-Meter: Low

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

SONG TITLES: Let Us Cheer The Weary Traveler (Roger C. Wilson) – I’m Going Up When I Die (Hurdist Milsap) – Gonna Shout All Over Heaven (Haskell Cooley/Linda Cooley) – Rivers of Joy (Margaret Douroux) – Remind Me Of Calvary (John McKay) – When I Move (Buford Abner) – Wonder Grace Of Jesus (Public Domain) – Standing On Holy Ground (Clettus Miller) – The Prodigal Son (LaVonne Cantrell) – Going Home (William J. Gaither/Gloria Gaither)

Back in 2002, Greater Vision released a highly-anticipated album entitled Quartets, wherein the trio was joined by various bass singers from other groups over an album’s worth of songs. They’ve teased the concept again over the years, but to date, this is the only such album that exists in this concept. That’s not to say that it’s entirely abandoned, as it appears to have been tweaked a bit here with the Second-Half Quartet, wherein Greater Vision is joined not just by a bass singer (Pat Barker), but also Barker’s former boss with Mark Trammell taking over vocal duties from Gerald Wolfe, who moves to behind the piano. The concept came about during joint concerts with GV and the Mark Trammell Quartet; the two groups would do their individual sets, then during the second half of the concert, they would amalgamate into what they had dubbed the “Second-Half Quartet,” where they would perform their favorite songs as a make-shift quartet. This scrap-iron group apparently has gained quite a bit of attention to the point they have signed a deal with Daywind Records and have begun booking dedicated concerts together.

Considering that this group (and their respective source groups) both have strong roots in the Cathedral Quartet, it’s no surprise that the SHQ’s debut album, Refreshing, is a collection of Cathedrals songs. There have been several Cathedrals tribute albums released in recent years, but rather than tackle all of their major hits, Refreshing instead goes for lesser-known album cuts, some coming from table projects. All but two were originally recorded during Trammell’s tenure with the group (with one re-cut during this period), and the arrangements are rather faithful to their original recordings.

Standout tracks include “I’m Going Up When I Die,” which gets a little more laid back than the original take, but is still somehow a bit more bouncy with a slightly-modified chord structure in the chorus, “The Prodigal Son,” which sees Rodney Griffin channelling Glen Payne to great effect, and “Rivers of Joy,” a long time favorite of mine that features Chris Allman’s clear tenor duplicating the original step-out lines from Kirk Talley. Also duplicated is “Wonderful Grace of Jesus,” which doesn’t deviate from the Cathedrals’ arrangement other than to add another chorus. While Griffin seems to take most of Payne’s original leads, it’s Trammell who gives a very strong performance on “Remind Me Of Calvary.” If anyone individual were to be named the “heir apparent” to Payne in terms of leading a group not just vocally, but from a management standpoint and just overall class, I’d say Mark Trammell is it.

I actually can’t find much to gripe about with this album (shocker, I know!). It would’ve been nice to have gotten another feature from Allman and Barker, as the only true features they get are on the same song, “Going Home,” which features Allman on the first verse and Barker on the second, although they do get plenty of step-out lines throughout the album. I also would’ve liked to have heard less brushes and more sticks on the drums, and the modulation on “Wonderful Grace” sounded a bit too perfect from auto-tuning, but again, those are just be nitpicking as usual. Everyone has their own tastes.

This lineup of vocalists is probably the closest I’ve heard any group come to duplicating that classic Cathedral Quartet sound, and rather than going out of their way to say, “Look at us! We’re former Cathedrals members doing a tribute!”, we’re treated to a classy collection of solid material sung straight forward unpretentiously. The production work by Wolfe and Trammell is likewise straight-forward, using just four studio musicians (Wolfe included), giving it a bit of a table-project feel (in fact, I suspect it may have been originally intended as such, with Daywind simply picking up the master, as there is no Daywind labeling on the package at all). Given that this isn’t necessarily a full-time group looking to make a splash, this approach works very well. It’s not overly-produced or orchestrated; it’s just five guys having fun and singing well. I would hope if this group continues to see success enough to record a second album that they might go for a larger budget release with some original material.

If you enjoyed the Cathedrals of the 1980’s and are looking for a straight-forward album of classy recordings and fine singing, then I would definitely recommend Refreshing. It’s a very appropriate title.

4.5 out of 5

Rather than falling into a trap of novelty songs and/or arrangements, we are treated to a very strong selection of songs and singing that simultaneously pays tribute and stands on its own.


4.5 out of 5
Category CD Reviews, Reviews

Kyle Boreing

Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a musician, producer, arranger, and occasional quartet singer, who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with many different artists. He also really likes movies that are "so bad they're good." Visit his website at, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.

MusicScribe Comments

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  1. coomercove
    Reply July 19, 11:59 #1 coomercove

    Yes, this was originally a table project. It was released at the 2015 Memphis Quartet Show.

  2. David Bruce Murray
    Reply July 19, 12:22 #2 David Bruce Murray

    My overall rating is also 4 1/2 stars. Top cuts are “Let Us Cheer The Weary Traveler,” “Rivers Of Joy,” and “The Prodigal Son.” The potential for this group to become a modern day Masters V is made that much stronger by this first CD.

    You might think of The Second Half Quartet as Cathedrals Family Reunion Lite, but it’s not “lite” in terms of quality. As Kyle mentioned, the fact that they avoided choosing hit songs, but still kept that Cathedrals connection is…well…let’s just use the CD title and say it’s “refreshing” compared to the Cathedrals Family Reunion CD.

    If they ever record another CD, I’d like to see them branch out and do some early Greater Vision material from Mark’s time there rather than limiting it to Cathedrals covers; maybe find one or two new songs as well to keep in interesting.

    For the first CD, though, this is exactly the sort of song selection that the situation demanded.

  3. Alan K
    Reply July 20, 12:30 #3 Alan K

    I don’t think that the term “larger budget” even matters here. The Cathedrals, Statesmen, and all of the other originals that SHQ are channeling were groups that kept the studio accompaniment simple yet polished, and the energy and authenticity of the vocals were out front. A good quartet album doesn’t always need a symphony orchestra. Henceforth the reason that SHQ has put out an outstanding album. The whole shtick of this group to begin with was to bring back forgotten crowd pleasers and memories, and they did it with Refreshing. Some folks push the envelope and with good reason, but this formula, like that of the Masters V, will continue working if left alone.

    • Bill Bailey
      Reply July 23, 00:54 Bill Bailey

      Perfectly stated. Bigger isn’t always better. I saw them for the first time at the 2016 Memphis Quartet Show last month, and was blown away. Their 90-minute matinee felt like 15 minutes. The simplicity of the piano and bass, coupled with those strong four vocals, created a musical euphoria that I haven’t witnessed since the glory days of the Cathedrals. I can’t wait to bring this group to Florida this winter.

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