New Music Reviews: April Releases

New Music Reviews: April Releases

The Talleys are calling it quits after 25 years traveling as a husband-wife-daughter trio. (I’m not counting the two earlier iterations of the group from the 1960s and 1983-1993.) After 2020, Roger Talley plans to keep working as a music producer after 2020, Debra Talley will continue speaking at women’s conferences, and Lauren Talley will shift her solo career from part-time to full-time. Before they stop touring full-time, though, The Talleys have recorded a final CD appropriately titled The Music Goes On.

There are eight tracks here which makes sense given the limited time The Talleys will have to present these songs in concert (even less than thought when this was recorded, given the concert cancellations due to COVID-19).

Lauren co-wrote the opening track, “The Healer In The Grave,” with Lee Black and Kenna Turner West. It also features Lauren and is a great combination of lyric and performance. Roger takes the lead next for the upbeat “This Day.” If you choose to experience this album on YouTube Music, you’ll see the concept video for “Looks Like Jesus To Me” which was shot on location in Nashville at The Bridge where a lot of hands-on charitable ministry takes place. It sounds like a potential hit song in the vein of “The Broken Ones.”

Up next is a cover of a classic Talleys song from 1986, “Triumphantly The Church Will Rise” written by Kirk Talley. Debra then steps to the mic for her first feature song on the album, “He Has.” Roger returns for “Never Been A Time” which kicks the tempo back up a few notches. “Jesus Loves You” is a slow, soulful, and effective lyric. The album closes with another heartfelt song featuring Debra titled “My Heart Is There With You.” I initially thought the album should have closed with “Triumphantly The Church Will Rise,” given that it’s a big anthem and a classic remake, but after hearing the message and Debra’s delivery on “My Heart Is There With You,” I realized that was the right choice for the closing track.

My only gripe is the pacing. On a trio recording, we should not wait until the fifth track to hear one of the singers featured. By that point, we’re wondering if she’s only going to sing one song or none at all. That very minor complaint aside, The Music Goes On is an album that Talleys fans should treasure for years to come. We will certainly miss them on the concert circuit in the years to come.

RATING:

Label: Horizon Records
Song Titles: The Healer In The Grave; This Day; Looks Like Jesus To Me; Triumphantly The Church Will Rise; He Has; Never Been A Time; Jesus Loves You; My Heart Is There With You.
Release Date: April 24, 2020
Version Reviewed: CD
Rating: 5 Stars (scale of 1 to 5)

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube Music.


Ever Old, Ever New is the third CD released by The Inspirations since the group was reconfigured in 2017 with Archie Watkins as manager. The lineup remains the same as their 2019 CD, Right Where He Is, with Watkins joined by Roland Kesterson (lead), Eddie Dietz (baritone), Marlin Shubert (bass), Luke Vaught (piano), and Wyatt Austin (bass guitar and occasional bass vocals).

Watkins is featured on the first song “He Turned When I Touched Him” which is a story song told from the perspective of the woman who touched the hem of Christ’s garment. Kesterson steps up next for “Home Is Sounding Sweeter.” Shubert sings a bass lead on “Show Them Love,” then everyone jumps in for the up-tempo “Enter In” with step-out lines for Wyatt Austin singing bass and Watkins on tenor.

“Then What” is another story song featuring Watkins that Inspirations fans should enjoy. “Forever Settled” is another toe-tapper, this time featuring Kesterson on the verses and Shubert on the choruses. Dietz steps to the mic for “Knowing You’re There,” then it’s back to Watkins for the mid-tempo “1945.”

Austin’s guitar work is not heard on the album, but Vaught can be heard playing eight instruments on “I’ll Fly Away.” This is the album’s highlight. A Luke Vaught instrumental solo CD is overdue. The album closes with “I Like The Songs That Mama Sang The Best” featuring Kesterson and “On The Right Side” featuring Dietz.

RATING:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Label: Horizon Records
Song Titles: He Turned When I Touched Him; Home Is Sounding Sweeter; Show Them Love; Enter In; Then What; Forever Settled; Knowing You’re There; 1945; I’ll Fly Away; I Like The Songs That Mama Sang The Best; On The Right Side
Release Date: April 10, 2020
Version Reviewed: CD
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars (scale of 1 to 5)

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube Music.


Something Beautiful features Ernie Haase & Signature Sound singing the songs of Bill & Gloria Gaither. Some 17 songs are included, plus a snippet from a Stuart Hamblen lyric. Of course, some of these are arranged in medleys including one 7+ minutes beast with five songs, so there are just 12 tracks total on this album.

I’ve heard songs start off with a distorted, old radio effect before, but “He Touched Me” first offers a clear intro, then kicks to the effect for most of the first verse. The accordion in the background once the arrangement settles down is an interesting choice. Bill Gaither narrates a verse of “It’s Beginning To Rain” which is set over a western-influenced track. “Then Came The Morning” on the YouTube version is a concept video. The current group appears in the video, but it sounds like the voices of the 2005 group (with some slight variations in the solos) to my ear. The vocals may be different on the CD version.

“Something Beautiful” has a calypso rhythm. “Not By Might, Not By Power” has a driving disco rhythm. “Feeling At Home In The Presence” features a whistler in the intro. The five-song medley halfway through the album is more straight-laced with standard orchestration. Gloria Gaither appears for a narration during “Jesus, We Just Want To Thank You.” “I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen” has a nice country-rock rhythm, but I was disappointed Harkey was only given one step out “yeah” toward the end.

As with “Then Came The Morning,” I’m not sure what version you will hear if you purchase the CD. On YouTube Music, you will see a video of the Ryan Seaton, Doug Anderson, Tim Duncan lineup performing the song in Jerusalem, Israel from one of the old Gaither Videos. I hope the album cut is the current group pictured on the cover, but with no copy of the CD provided from Gaither Music for this review, it’s impossible for me to say.

“I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief” features fairly standard orchestrations, but it’s still one of the standout tracks due to Paul Harkey’s excellent performance. “Get All Excited” features a driving beat. I wanted to like it, but it takes some rather odd detours that include Ernie rapping and some of the lyrics spit out in double-time. “Because He Lives” is in a classic setting to close the album.

I admire the effort Ernie & Co. made to explore some unexpected musical settings. All of these songs have been recorded many times, so it was necessary to push the boundaries a little more than usual to keep them from sounding stale. I picture them in the planning stages saying things like, “Wouldn’t it be hysterical if we made parts of ‘He Touched Me’ sound like it came from the soundtrack for The Godfather?

And then they decided they really had nothing to lose by going for it.

RATING:

Label: Gaither Gospel Series
Song Titles: He Touched Me; It’s Beginning To Rain; Then Came The Morning; Something Beautiful; Not By Might, Not By Power; Feeling At Home In The Presence; Gaither Medley-Loving God, Loving Each Other/The Family Of God/I Am Loved/Jesus, We Just Want To Thank You/
Let’s Just Praise The Lord (featuring Gloria Gaither); I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen; This Could Be The Dawning Of That Day/Until Then; I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief; Get All Excited/I’m His Witness; Because He Lives
Release Date: April 17, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1 to 5)

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube Music.


Green Hill has re-issued two concept recordings branded “Mountain Frontier” in recent months. Mountain Frontier Christmas came out in October 2019 followed by Mountain Frontier in February 2020. Mountain Frontier Hymns is just about what you would expect if you’ve heard the Christmas release. It sorely lacks the energy of the February release. Like the February release (and unlike the October release) Scott Miller is joined by Jim Wood on this recording.

I usually enjoy “concept albums,” but I’m generally not a fan when it comes to “concept music.” I will explain. A concept “album” is what we get when an artist explores a particular subject or musical theme in deep and creative ways. Concept “music” merely means a formula has been applied across an entire album of songs, with little variation.

Wood and Miller make concept music. They play the melody on a dulcimer, then a harp, then a fiddle or perhaps a flute works through the melody, then the dulcimer takes a final pass, and the song ends. Once they apply this to 12 hymns or so and an art department slaps a generic image of a country church on the cover, they have another CD to add to their series. Both men are skilled musicians. It’s sad they are content to play mindless static arrangements.

RATING:

Label: Green Hill
Song Titles: Be Thou My Vision; Old 100th (Doxology); What A Friend We Have In Jesus; A Mighty Fortress Is Our God; Amazing Grace; When I Survey The Wondrous Cross; Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing; I’m Going Home; Savior, Like A Shepherd Lead Us; Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise; Let Us Break Bread Together; Rock Of Ages; Old 100th (Doxology)
Rating: 2 Stars (scale of 1-5 stars)
Release Date: April 3, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube Music.


Charles Billingsley’s name may not be one all Southern Gospel fans will immediately recognize despite the fact that he now records for the StowTown label. He first came to my attention when he was traveling with the group NewSong in the 1990s. After that, he embarked on a solo career and ultimately became a worship leader at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia.

(Also, this has nothing to do with his CD, but Billingsley is a COVID-19 survivor who says he feels blessed to still be alive. He spent three days in the hospital but his symptoms weren’t so severe that he required a ventilator.)

If you choose to experience this album on YouTube Music, you’ll be treated to an excellent lyric video on the exciting opening song which shares the album’s title “I Was Made For This.” Even after seeing the title, I wasn’t expecting “Kyrie” to be a cover of the 1985 Mr. Mister song. I flashed back to my college years there for a moment. “Rise Up” keeps the energy levels up for the third song in a row, then “Center Of It All” dials it down. The latter is a song Billingsley co-wrote with Keith Everette Smith, Krissy Nordhoff, and Michael Sanchez that runs rather long given the lyrics, which of course means it gets rather repetitive before it’s done.

Highlights from the remaining eight songs include the dramatic “Play The Man,” the Latin flavored “Fragile,” and a cover of Todd Dulaney’s “King Of Glory.” An epic quality runs through I Was Made For This from beginning to end. I would enjoy hearing music produced like this a little more frequently.

RATING:

Label: StowTown Records
Song Titles: I Was Made For This; Kyrie; Rise Up; Center Of It All; Sing For My Soul; Play The Man; Fragile; Painted Skies; King Of Glory; Where You’re Supposed To Be; Spirit Of God; We Believe
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 stars)
Release Date: April 10, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music

Click HERE to hear the entire album on YouTube Music.

Talleys
5 out of 5
Inspirations
3.5 out of 5
EH&SS
4 out of 5
Billingsley
4.5 out of 5
Miller & Wood
2 out of 5
Overall

Average rating of all five albums.

3.8

Good
3.8 out of 5

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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.

MusicScribe Comments

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2 Comments

  1. Reply April 27, 15:39 #1 Ravenn

    I have the new Ernie Haase & Signature Sound album, and I have listened to it several times. Personally, I think the album is amazing, but I’m pretty biased because EHSS is my favorite band anyway. :) As for the “Then Came the Morning” video, I find it interesting that it sounds similar to the 2005 version for you. The CD version sounds exactly like the video sounds. It does sounds similar to the 2005 version, but i can hear the voices in the current lineup, so I know (or at least I’m 99% sure) they went back and rerecorded it. As far as YouTube goes (not YouTube music…I don’t use that), most of the time I like their playlists and use them to listen to albums, but I don’t like how this time they put in a video of EHSS singing in Jerusalem in 2006 for “This Could Be the Dawning of That Day”. I personally went through and made my own playlist of the audio versions of every song on the new album (and made sure it was recorded by the current lineup). And one more thing, I find it funny that you were not a fan of “Get All Excited” because that just happens to be my favorite song on the album lol. I just find it to be a fun, upbeat song to sing along to. Thanks for reading this (and sorry it was so long)! :)

  2. Reply April 28, 00:14 #2 scottysearan

    The Inspirations Album was fabulous to me and I would rate it a 5 star.
    Because it is staying true to their roots and the roots of Southern Gospel Music.
    Much of Southern Gospel is too progressive.
    If you judged Southern Gospel to the Glory Days of the 60s and early 60’s, much of it would would not be classify as Southern Gospel.
    No I am not trying to expand my likes and dislikes.
    We need more pure Southern Gospel music without so much orchestration and over production.
    Do I sound disgruntled. Yes
    I hate to see a good thing go bad.

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