CD Review: “They Don’t Know” – The Kingsmen
They Don’t Know
Produced by Jeff Collins
Format: CD & Digital
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
SONG TITLES: They Don’t Know (What The Lord Can Do) (Kenna Turner West/Jason Cox/Tony Wood) – Keep The Lions Hungry (Regina Walden) – God Calls It Grace (Logan H. Peck/Megan Sorrell Mulnix) – Hear The Word Of The Lord (Lee Black/Marcia Henry) – The Evidence I Need (Kenna Turner West/Jason Cox/Dave Clark) – I’ll Sail Away Yonder (Ila Knight) – Cost Of The Cross (Kristi Fitzwater/Jerald Hill) – Let Go And Hold Fast (Regina Walden) – Fade to Black (Randy Crawford) – Don’t Underestimate God’s Grace (Sandy Knight) – Legacy (Marty Funderburk/Barbara Fairchild)
Over the last several years, the Kingsmen have been quietly rebuilding as a group. Following several years of frequent turn-over, the group seemed to settle in 2012 with Randy Crawford, Bob Sellers, and Chris Jenkins joining Ray Dean Reese (and his son Brandon Reese) to give some stability to the group. This group spent a year or so gelling before releasing Battle Cry in 2014 to critical acclaim, bringing the group back to the top of the Singing News Top 80 charts. Although Jenkins departed in 2015, the quartet didn’t rush to find a replacement. Instead, they brought in former tenor Ernie Phillips to fill in for nearly a year until a permanent tenor could be found in Josh Horrell. It’s the lineup of Horrell, Sellers, Crawford, and Reese that is featured on their latest studio album, They Don’t Know.
If you are only familiar with the Kingsmen of the 70’s and 80’s (“three chords and a cloud of dust”), you will be surprised with the polished, modern sound of the current group. The album kicks off with a horn-heavy title track, “They Don’t Know (What The Lord Can Do),” that harkens more to the 90’s-era Gold City and super-tight harmony stacking. Randy Crawford gets the lead on this bouncy number, and it serves as a great lead-off track. Don’t be surprised if this is also singled.
Newcomer Josh Horrell gets plenty of lead time on this new project. Horrell has a unique voice that seems to blend the traditional southern gospel tenor with a more contemporary sound. He can hit the high notes, but he doesn’t live in the stratosphere, and his tone is clear and unstrained. At times, he had me mentally comparing him to Jody McBrayer, especially on ballads like “God Calls It Grace” and “Fade To Black.”
Randy Crawford likewise gets plenty of features, primarily on the more country-flavored numbers like “Don’t Underestimate God’s Grace” and “Hear The Word Of The Lord.” Crawford has a nice energy to his vocals both on record and on stage, and it’s captured well here. Bob Sellers is featured on the more tender ballads, most notably “Legacy,” which pays tribute to those who have left a legacy of following Christ. The one who gets the least amount of features is Ray Reese, who is limited to a few step-out lines on the throw-back “I’ll Sail Away Yonder.” Given the recent passing of his wife, however, it’s totally understandable that he may want to lay back a bit.
In terms of material, I was slightly disappointed. To me, the song selection just didn’t feel as strong this time around. A few of the songs felt a bit klunky at times with their phrasing and structure. To their credit, the group and producer Jeff Collins still get the most out of these songs that they can. I just didn’t think there were the kind of “stand out” songs that were so prevelant on Battle Cry. Collins’ production work here is solid, if somewhat over-synthesized at times. It should be noted that former Kingsmen pianist, Cody McVey, was in charge of horn arrangements on this album.
I believe that They Don’t Know is a suitable follow-up for Battle Cry, as it follows the same formula, though it’s more like a logical next step vs a landmark. If you enjoyed Battle Cry, then you’ll enjoy They Don’t Know.
Kyle has been writing for MusicScribe since 2008. He is a gospel music soloist, occasional quartet singer, and church music director who pays way too much attention to recordings. He is an alumni of Stamps-Baxter School of Music and has shared the stage with artists such as Mercy's Mark, the Dove Brothers Band, and The Oak Ridge Boys. Visit his website at www.kyleboreing.com, or follow him on Twitter @kyleboreing.