Kyle’s Kommentary: “That sounds like a bus payment, boys!”

Kyle’s Kommentary: “That sounds like a bus payment, boys!”

Gospel music is unique in that many artists will record two basic types of albums: “frontline” label releases and table projects.

Label releases (or “mass market” or “A-projects”) are often funded by a record label, recorded on a larger budget, and released to market nationally in stores. These projects are most often made up of original material in an effort to not only further the career of the artists, but also for the label to get a return on their investment (and any profits on top of it). They also involve more creative input from more sources; if a record company is investing in an album, you can bet they will have a say in what is recorded and how. It’s very much a group effort to release the best album possible to maximize the return. At the end of the day, the label owns and controls the master recording, and the artist can purchase product from the label at a discount (or simply have a set amount made available to them, which is deducted from any royalties).

Table projects, on the other hand, are typically recorded on a lower budget and usually funded by the artist themselves. They are smaller-scale productions, and in many cases, consist of previously-released material (“cover songs”). They’re intended primarily to provide extra income while on tour, or perhaps to quickly introduce a new group member. While some of these projects can be of high quality, most are done quickly, with less attention to detail, and more focus on simply giving concert attendees something else to purchase. And since there is no middle man (other than paying royalties), once the investment is recouped, the rest goes straight into the artists’ pockets. At the end of the day, the artist owns the master recording, with which they can do as they wish.

With the advent of digital distribution through independent sources such as SoundCloud or CDBaby, even these table projects can get international distribution (at least digitally), so there’s more incentive to record as high-quality of a project as possible, but throughout the 70’s in particular, the only folks who would hear these albums would be those who came to a concert and purchased it directly from the artist. With relatively smaller audience (who is already sold on your group, since they’re at your concert and paying extra for an album), the incentive for polished recordings (let alone perfection) was arguably lower. That doesn’t mean there weren’t some good table projects from this time, but the majority of them were done in one or two takes with limited musicians simply to get something else to sell.

In fact, some artists didn’t make much of an effort to hide the purpose of these albums. According to Bryan Hutson, former lead singer for the Kingsmen, when the group was recording these albums in the 70’s, Eldridge Fox would often joke, “That sounds like a bus payment, boys!” I’m sure had he known that these albums would one day wind up on iTunes or Spotify worldwide, he might have shot for some gas money and a couple sets of tires while in the studio. Similarly, Gold City often recorded 2-3 table projects a year, again in the same rushed, unpolished fashion, and sell them at concerts as part of their “blue light special” packages (although this practice was mostly abandoned once pianist/producer Garry Jones left the group).

Other albums, despite the lower level of expectations, came out fairly strong. The Cathedrals put out some decent table projects in the early 80’s with Kirk Talley and Mark Trammell (which were reissued back around 2002 by Todd Payne) that resulted in some stage staples for a while. The Singing Americans also had some higher-quality table releases, which included Michael English’s take on “We Shall See Jesus.” Today, with digital recording and editing, even a small-budget table project can have the same high-quality sound as a label release while being recorded entirely outside a traditional studio (although whether that’s a good thing or not is another topic of discussion).

What say you? Are there any independent table projects (past or present) that you really enjoy? Are there any that you think probably could’ve just been left in the can?

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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. Reply October 18, 11:19 #1 Brandon

    Would the GVB’s New Edition project count as independent? You can only get it at concerts. If so that one was a good way to introduce Todd and Adam but wished they would have chosen different less popular GVB songs. Gold City’s Authentic is a really good project. Doug Anderson has a table project called Back Porch Sessions that’s really well produced and has a ton of guest singers on it.

  2. Reply October 18, 17:11 #2 scottysearan

    As mentioned the Cathedrals did some quality table projects. One if my favorites by them goes back into 1973 “Town & Country.”
    I liked all the Gold City table projects. It didn’t matter that they were cover songs. There were a lot of groups covering songs back in the late 50’s and 60’s.
    The Kingsmen, Florida Boys and the Blue Ridge Quartet table projects back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80s was not what you would expect prom a professional group.
    It just goes to show what these groups thought of their fans by selling them inferior projects..
    They definitely had the ability to give a better vocal performance than they did.
    Even now. I like

  3. Reply October 18, 18:13 #3 Keith Waggoner

    One of my favorite Legacy Five projects is one I’m assuming was a table project: Know So Salvation.

  4. Reply October 18, 20:25 #4 Tad Kirkland

    The Hoppers did several table projects in their early days with Kim. They were usually hymns, classics or hits from other groups. They did one that was more country. They were obviously table in quality, but great because they had such a fresh sound and at the peak of their creativity in those days before the big budget overly orchestrated wave of projects came around. Kim, Shannon and Connie created fresh arrangements that made you sit up and take notice. Their Count Me In was the closest they’ve come to those sounds in years.

  5. Reply October 19, 12:26 #5 Chris Loy

    Loved the Kingsmen Classic CDs with Bryan/Chris and Bryan/Jerry in the mid/late 90’s. Also loved the 3 EHSS table projects that were done during their first 2 years. Some great songs that were staged for a few years. But I think the best of the more recent table projects were the GV Church Hymnal Series CDs. I think that was GV at their vocal best.

  6. Reply November 17, 15:49 #6 Bryan

    Yes, I was around for those “table projects.” Those table projects (we called “3 For 10’s” – 3 cassettes/CDs for $10.00) would normally be packaged with the current label project.

    I was told that “Folks coming to a concert will usually spend $20.00 on music.” So on the multi-group concerts, the mindset was to “have a better deal than the next table.”

    Yes, recording those budget projects was vocally taxing, but I actually enjoyed DOING them. Why? Because most were “cover tunes” and I had been a Kingsmen fan for years, so singing those songs was fun. Plus, I submitted SOME of my faves, and we cut them.

    “God’s In The Business”
    “Say A Prayer”
    “Nearing The Shore”

    -and non-Kingsmen covers
    “Over There” (Singing Americans)
    “Jesus Pilots My Ship” (Hinsons)
    “Do Right and Come Smiling Through)

    “Here Comes The Bride” (The Sound) was originally going to be on a budget record. It turned out SO good, they added some stuff to it and it ended up on a label project; “You’re Not Alone.”


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