Guy Penrod’s Solo Career And How It Could Be Better
I was a Guy Penrod fan from the first time I heard him sing. That first time was in August 1995 in Spartanburg, South Carolina at Christian Supply’s Choral Festival. Each summer, church music leaders gather there to preview new music from an array of choral music publishers. During the Praise Gathering company’s session that year, they presented a new collection of songs titled Sing Of My Redeemer. Penrod was introduced to sing the solo on the song with a slightly longer title than the collection title, “I Will Sing Of My Redeemer.”
As Penrod left the platform, the gentleman leading the choral session said he wasn’t really at liberty to give us any details, but that we’d be hearing a lot more from Penrod in the coming months. I never thought much about it until the following year when the Ryman Gospel Reunion DVD was released. There was Guy singing “When Jesus Says It’s Enough” along with the rest of the Gaither Vocal Band.
Fast forward to 2009, when Penrod released his solo CD titled Breathe Deep. I expected Penrod to pick up where “Jesus And John Wayne” had left off. Breathe Deep wasn’t quite as bold, and the soaring stratospheric vocals I’d come to expect were not there. It did not seem to be a CD that was aimed at the mainstream Country market as we’d been led to believe would be the case. In fact, the GVB’s “Jesus And John Wayne” would have been a more likely candidate for a mainstream Country hit. Still, I liked the CD overall and felt it deserved a rating of 4 Stars on a scale of 1 to 5.
I eagerly awaited the follow-up…and I’m still waiting. Seven plus years later, Penrod has not yet recorded a sequel to Breathe Deep. He has instead given us a series of familiar songs. Hymns landed in 2012 followed by Worship and Christmas in 2014. Penrod has since released a live CD, and in a few weeks, his sixth CD since leaving the GVB will be released.
It is cleverly titled Classics, and will feature songs Penrod used to sing with the GVB. In fact, several of the songs on Classics were released previously in 2005 on The Best Of Guy Penrod. It will be interesting to see if the upcoming Classics release will consist of entirely new recordings, or just reworked vocals over the old GVB tracks.
Keep in mind, I believe it would sound great if Guy Penrod just sang random words from a restaurant menu. Even though he doesn’t sail up into the heavens to emphasize certain phrases as often as he did with the GVB, he still has that distinct intensity in his tone. For that reason, I don’t want to go so far as to say his skill as a singer is being wasted on familiar material. It is fair to say his skill is certainly being limited by the material he chooses, however.
It’s puzzling. Look at the track record of other GVB alumni, and consider the sort of great music we’ve probably missed out on in the past seven years from Penrod. Larnelle Harris went on to record “More Than Wonderful” and “I’ve Just Seen Jesus” with Sandi Patti after his time touring with the GVB. Michael English gave us “In Christ Alone” and many other great new songs. As far back as Steve Green and as recently as Mark Lowry, most former GVB members work familiar hymns and classics including GVB songs into their solo performances, but they also make a continued effort to introduce excellent new songs.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in any genre who has such little desire to discover and establish brand new songs as Penrod apparently does.
That’s the biggest disappointment I’ve had with his solo career to this point.
David Bruce Murray
David Bruce Murray is a church music director in Ellenboro, NC. He is the author of Murray's Encyclopedia Of Southern Gospel Music and the owner of both SGHistory.com and MusicScribe.com. David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.