Audio Review: The Hoppers Honor The First Families Of Gospel Music

Audio Review: The Hoppers Honor The First Families Of Gospel Music

The Hoppers Honor The First Families Of Gospel Music is a tip of the hat to the music of the Gaithers, the Speer Family, the Happy Goodmans, the Rambos, and the Chuck Wagon Gang. This recording has been available for several months from the Hoppers, but it just released to retail yesterday along with a live DVD featuring the same songs. The DVD footage, incidentally, was recorded in the same setting as the Gaither/Oaks/Gatlin titles A Few Good Men and Country Roots & Gospel Favorites which released a few weeks ago. Members of those groups are seated behind the Hoppers for this new DVD.

My review focuses on the audio from the studio recordings which may be purchased (CD/MP3) or enjoyed by streaming through a service like Spotify.

This recording begins, curiously enough, with a song that was not made famous by any of the designated “first families.” “Be An Overcomer” is (or was) an almost forgotten public domain song written by Charles W. Naylor and Andrew L. Byers in 1907. While this track doesn’t pay tribute to another group, it fits the concept of the recording in another way. Russell Mauldin’s orchestrations plus the arrangement itself sound just like something long-time Hoppers producer Lari Goss would have done, so you might say it is a tribute (perhaps intentional) to his legacy.

I was disappointed to hear “Lord, Lead Me On” and “I’d Rather Have Jesus” begin with an extended instrumental introduction. I was expecting just a single strummed chord on an acoustic guitar, which was a trademark of the Chuck Wagon Gang. Otherwise, the delivery on both songs is straightforward and mostly by the notes, as you’d expect.

When Kim sings “God Walks The Dark Hills,” it’s not difficult at all to remember Vestal Goodman, even though Kim is not directly mimicking Vestal’s unique style. “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” is less convincing. The nostalgia for the Happy Goodmans eventually kicks in when Kim takes the melody toward the end of the song.

“One More River” doesn’t match the up-tempo delivery that the Rambos typically used. The Hoppers version is set to a modern slow groove. “He Looked Beyond My Fault” is tastefully orchestrated, which is also true of the version by the Rambos on 1967’s The Soul Singing Rambos.

“I Am His And He Is Mine” follows the same path the Speers set in 1965 on A Singing Heritage. The primary difference is the Hoppers version is piano driven where the Speers version used an organ. “Some Glad Day” is also similar to the 1955 version recorded by the Speers on A Speer Family Album, minus Brock Speer’s step out bass lines.

“Gentle Shepherd,” to my ears, is the best song ever written by Bill & Gloria Gaither. The Hoppers treatment of it here is so perfect it may have just become my favorite recording of the song.

It seems odd to have only have one song for the Gaithers when two were included for each of the other groups. There is one other song on the CD, “I’m Longing For Jesus To Come Back,” but like “Be An Overcomer,” it is in the public domain. I was not able to locate a performance of this song by Bill & Gloria, the Gaither Trio, or the Gaither Vocal Band, but I did find one instance where the song at least appeared in a Gaither context (2000’s Good News from the Homecoming Series).

This may be the first tribute recording I’ve seen that honors several groups that share common characteristics, in this case, being trendsetting family groups that sing gospel songs. Despite a couple of detours, The Hoppers Honor The First Families Of Gospel Music delivers on an interesting concept.

Scroll down to sample the recording for yourself via the Spotify player.

Label: Gaither Gospel Series
Producers:
Bill Gaither & Michael Sykes
Song Titles: Be An Overcomer; Lord, Lead Me On; God Walks the Dark Hills; I’m Longing for Jesus to Come Back; One More River; He Is Mine and I Am His; I Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey; I’d Rather Have Jesus; He Looked Beyond My Fault; Some Glad Day; Gentle Shepherd
Release Formats: DVD/CD/MP3/Stream
Rating (based on Spotify stream): 4 Stars (scale of 1 to 5 stars)

Overall Rating
4 out of 5

4

Good
4 out of 5
Category 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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1 Comment

  1. Tad Kirkland
    Reply April 11, 22:31 #1 Tad Kirkland

    Shouldn’t the LeFevres have been included? Connie said on the Gospel Greats this past weekend that I’m Longing For Jesus had been sung by Gaither Trio with whoever sang with them prior to Gloria. I don’t recall if she said they recorded it.




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