New Music Reviews: Mid-May 2020 Releases

New Music Reviews: Mid-May 2020 Releases

Click HERE to listen all three of these albums and more May 2020 releases on YouTube Music.

The LeFevre Quartet made several changes in 2019. Jordan and Mike LeFevre continue to handle lead and baritone duties, but for everyone else, Hope marks their first time recording and appearing on the cover of a LeFevre Quartet album. Newcomers Jay Parrack (tenor), Will Lane (bass), and Bryan Elliott (piano) are all established names in the industry.

With such a major overhaul of the group and fans anxious to hear how they sound, wouldn’t you think Daywind would spring for a full 10-song release? If so, you’d be wrong. They’ve limited Hope to eight songs. It’s a “leave us wanting more” type of deal.

With a driving beat and four-part harmony from start to finish, “Practice What You’re Preaching” is an ideal song to kick off a recording. Jay Parrack is featured on the 12/8 meter “Between The Prayer And The Answer,” showing he is still very capable in the tenor spot. “Bigger Boat” kicks the energy level back up a notch and then “The 99” settles down to a smooth mid-tempo feel.

Like the cowbell, the washboard is really under-utilized in music these days, but the LeFevre Quartet puts it to good use on the quirky “Whosoever Will.” Will Lane steps into the spotlight for “Dry Bones” to showcase his booming lower vocal register. “He’ll Come Through For You” is a light-hearted mid-tempo arrangement with a good message. The only slow track on Hope is “O My Soul Will Rest In Jesus” which is also the final song on this collection. The arrangement is dressed up with orchestration and a bridge section, but at the core, “O My Soul Will Rest In Jesus” is really a hymn that any church congregation could sing if they were taught.

Is this lineup of the LeFevre Quartet better than the previous lineup? No, but the dynamic of the group is different. Jeremy Peace and Keith Plott certainly hold the edge on solos, but the Parrack/Lane combo generates a pleasingly powerful wall of sound on 4-part harmony passages. Hope sounds like an album that was recorded by guys who had been together for a few years rather than a few months.

Label: Daywind Records
Song Titles: Practice What You’re Preaching; Between The Prayer And The Answer; Bigger Boat; The 99; Whosoever Will; Dry Bones; He’ll Come Through For You; O My Soul Will Rest In Jesus
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars


The Down East Boys set the standard high in 2018 with their CD One Day In The Past, producing three number one songs on the Singing News radio airplay chart (“Beat Up Bible,” “Testimony Time,” and “I’d Like To Tell It Again”). The same lineup of Doug Pittman, Ricky Carden, Daryl Paschal, and Zac Barham is back with a brand new 11-song CD titled Faithful Still.

The opening track “Amazing Amounts Of Amazing Grace” is the first single sent to radio and could very well be a hit. It repeats the title/hook a bit too much for me. Doug Pittman delivers an excellent performance on the ballad “What Love.” “John Saw And Wrote About It” is an up-tempo track in the same vein as many songs recorded in the past by The Kingdom Heirs. “Those Hands” includes a great line that resonates with current events: “when life gets hard, they’re still stronger.”

Just looking at the song title, I expected “Fall Like Jericho” to be a bass feature for Zac Barham, and guess what? I was correct. “I Hear” recounts the events of Christ’s crucifixion with a shift to a minor key for one verse and then back to major for the resurrection. “Bottom Of The Basket” is a remake of a 2011 Dixie Melody Boys song and one of the most enjoyable cuts on the CD. The best lyric on Faithful Still is “A Story That Began At The Cross.”

Enjoying a CD should be a lot like attending a concert in terms of how it flows. Faithful Still spreads out the solos among the four singers and alternates slower-paced songs with quicker tracks to avoid bogging down. And just like a good concert, when you feel you’ve already got your money’s worth with ten songs, the Down East Boys give us an extra feel-good song to send us on our way in “Sweet Journey.”

Producer: Jeff Collins
Label: Sonlite Records
Song Titles: Amazing Amounts Of Amazing Grace; What Love; John Saw And Wrote About It; Those Hands; Fall Like Jericho; I Hear; Church Of The Living God; God Will Yes He Will; Bottom Of The Basket; A Story That Began At The Cross; Sweet Journey.
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Version Reviewed: CD
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars


The Steeles were one of Southern Gospel radio’s favorites during the mid-1990s with four number one songs to their credit between 1994 and 1997. They are now traveling as an all-family trio consisting of Jeff & Sherry Steele joined by their son Brad. A Song To Remind You is the family’s first release for a major record label in 20 years.

“Glory” is an exciting song that progresses through a series of key changes and gives each singer a shot at the melody. An interesting chord progression on the intro of “The Journey” sets up a simple but effective lyric featuring Brad. Sherry’s soulful take on “This Is The Church” with a few solo lines by Jeff is one of this CD’s highlights.

Brad steps back into the spotlight to deliver another strong lyric titled “What If Jesus.” Brad is featured again on “Faithful Once Again” and then again for most of “A Song To Remind You.” Sherry steps over to take the melody after a key change. The CD concludes with “The God I Know,” which also features Brad.

These are all well-written songs with good production value, but it’s disappointing the solos aren’t spread more evenly among all three vocalists. The lack of balance combined with the fact that we’re only offered seven songs lessens the appeal of an otherwise excellent recording.

Label: StowTown Records
Song Titles: Glory; The Journey; This Is The Church; What If Jesus; Faithful Once Again; A Song To Remind You; The God I Know
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Version Reviewed: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

LeFevre Quartet
4 out of 5
Down East Boys
4.5 out of 5
The Steeles
3.5 out of 5
Overall

Average rating of all three CDs...

4

Good
4 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.

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