CD Review: Dixie Echoes – Can’t Hardly Wait

Since 1995, the Dixie Echoes have featured a number of bass and tenor singers, but the baritone and lead singers have remained constant. It was 1995 when Randy “Scoot” Shelnut, Jr. first joined the group to provide baritone vocals beside his lead singer father, Randy Shelnut, Sr. Tenor singer Stephen Adair joined the group in 2015, and bass singer Mark Cates came on board last year. Long noted for smooth traditional harmonies, the Dixie Echoes offer more of the same with Can’t Hardly Wait but with an added twist.

Rather than walking through the CD and writing a description of each song, I will just provide a general overview of what you can expect to hear if you purchase a copy of Can’t Hardly Wait.

I’m very happy to report that the Shelnuts not only sing, they also provide most of the music for Can’t Hardly Wait. Aside from some fiddle and steel guitar parts by David Johnson and some string arrangements by Milton Smith, everything you hear, both vocals and instruments, is performed by the same group you’ll see on the concert stage. The senior Shelnut plays piano and guitar while the junior Shelnut plays bass guitar, drums, and ukulele.

Close harmony is often mentioned when discussing male quartet music, but most modern quartet harmonies aren’t all that close. In recent years, the Dixie Echoes have included more ninth, eleventh, and thirteenth chords in their vocals. At times, they sing intervals of just a whole step, which is about as close as you ever want to go in Southern Gospel.

It’s with those truly close harmonies that the Dixie Echoes are most impressive. When Adair sails up in the rafters or Cates drops into the cellar, their unique sound is temporarily lost. For the most part on Can’t Hardly Wait, the Dixie Echoes stay closer to the center of the male vocal range with clear vocal tones, blend, and diction.

You will recognize some of these songs, but you may not have heard them quite this way. For example, “Get Away Jordan” is the same song popularized by the Statesmen (and later by the Dove Brothers), but the Dixie Echoes don’t go for the expected “hang on to your hat” approach. It’s almost a Texas swing, with some nice jazz guitar work.

I’m disappointed to report that songwriter information and publishers are not listed on the simple cardboard sleeve. Obviously, space is very limited when a CD is packaged like the LPs of old with no insert. Still, I would like to see proper credit given to songwriters even if it’s only in very small print. The back cover does include a list of the group member and musician names along with the list of song titles.

In terms of style, Can’t Hardly Wait is similar to other Dixie Echoes CDs that have been released over the past decade, but the added complex harmonies elevate it to a higher level. This complexity should increase the interest of fans who have a keen ear for music. That being said, the Dixie Echoes have wisely keep these closer harmonies at an accessible level. Fans who might be described as less musically attuned should still find plenty to enjoy on Can’t Hardly Wait.

PRODUCERS: Randy & Scoot Shelnut
SONG TITLES: We’ll Understand It Better; Can’t Hardly Wait; He Is The Only One; Dig A Well; Get Away Jordan; I Know; I’d Rather Have Jesus; I Am The Man; Over The Moon; Walkin’ On
RATING: 4 Stars (scale of 1 to 5)

Overall rating
4 out of 5

4

Good
4 out of 5
Category CD Reviews, Reviews

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.

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2 Comments

  1. Brad
    Reply October 10, 19:08 #1 Brad

    I agree that this is a very good album by the Dixie Echoes! One thing that is a little different on this album is that while most Dixie Echoes albums contain all older songs, this album actually has a new song. Randy mentioned at a recent concert I attended that Scoot actually cowrote “He Is The Only One”, and I think it is one of the highlights of this album.




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  2. Darrell
    Reply October 17, 10:21 #2 Darrell

    Nice review. I always appreciate the Dixie Echoes, both because of their great harmony and also the simple, yet effective, accompaniment they used during their concerts (keyboard and bass, and the occasional guitar). Speaking of which, if they only use those 3 instruments in their concerts, and don’t run any tracks, I wonder why they chose to include other instruments on their albums. You mentioned drums, steel guitar, fiddle and ukulele. I guess one upside is that you don’t get the same experience at as concert as you would listening to an album. In this case, that’s a good thing.




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