New Music Reviews: May 2021 Releases

New Music Reviews: May 2021 Releases

Click HERE to listen to all of these albums except Just Jesus by The Coffmans.

Artist: Endless Highway
Album Title: Come Home
Song Titles: Resurrection Day; Come Home Kind Of God; He Rescued Me; Good Thing We’ve Got Forever; Take It From Here; Every Valley Has A Promise; Where The Hurt Meets The Healer; About The Business
Release Date: May 7, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Endless Highway is a family group consisting of Jason and Vanessa Griggs and their children, Ally and Jay. Come Home is their third release since they rebranded themselves as Endless Highway. (They were formerly a three-generation/six-member group called The Joylanders.) There are eight songs on Come Home.

Aggressive rhythms blend with compelling vocal harmony and just enough pop production to keep it interesting on the two opening tracks “Resurrection Day” and “Come Home Kind Of God.” The pace slows for “He Rescued Me” to showcase Ally Griggs’ pleasing vocals. The mid-tempo “Good Thing We’ve Got Forever” featuring Vanessa is followed by the light-hearted “Take It From Here.” Ally steps back into the spotlight to sing “Every Valley Has A Promise.” The album concludes with the somber “Where The Hurt Meets The Healer” and the energetic “About The Business.”

After a couple of albums where they seemed to be searching for a precise musical identity, Endless Highway has developed a consistent, high-quality sound. Ally sings the melody on most songs and is equally capable on their fun, upbeat songs as she is on their stirring, slower-paced tracks. They spread the other features around among the other vocalists enough to show they’re not a one-trick pony. My only complaint about Come Home is that it’s too brief with just eight songs clocking in at only 27 minutes.


Artist: Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers
Album Title: Somewhere Beyond The Blue
Label: Billy Blue Records
Song Titles: Hear Jerusalem Calling; Clinging To A Saving Hand; You Gotta Get Down; I’m Never Alone; Living Left To Do; Go Spread The Gospel; With The Spirit Of The Lord Inside; There’s No New Way Home; Untitled Hymn-Come To Jesus; A Song The Angels Cannot Sing; Perfect Healing
Release Date: May 17, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers present bluegrass gospel in a traditional style with familiar instrument licks and tried-and-true vocal harmonies. Somewhere Beyond The Blue features eleven tracks.

One cut that stands out is the a cappella “You Gotta Get Down.” Another is “I’m Never Alone” which keeps you guessing with shifts between a quick 4/4 meter on the verses and a slower 6/8 meter on the choruses. They also have a unique a cappella take on Chris Rice’s 2003 song “Untitled Hymn-Come To Jesus.” The mournful “Perfect Healing” is one of the better-written songs and features a nice fiddle outro that shifts into “Precious Memories” before fading out.

Aside from those four tracks, Somewhere Beyond The Blue is a routine effort; good routine, understand, but still very familiar to fans of traditional bluegrass.


Artist: The Coffmans
Album Title: Just Jesus
Producer: Jeremy Peace
Label: Peace Records
Song Titles: Something Good; More Than Conquerors; Heavy Loads; That’s Why He’s Jesus; Took My Chains; Chisel Your Name; Mercy Of Jesus; That’s What This Altar Is For
Release Date: May 17, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

The Coffmans are a family trio based in Danville, Kentucky. The group members are Louis and Tamra Coffman and their 19-year-old daughter, Canaan. Just Jesus features eight songs and was produced by Jeremy Peace for his label Peace Records.

“Something Good” gets the album off to a fun start with several step-out lines (mostly for Tamra and Canaan, but Louis gets one midway as well). “More Than Conquerors” could have been a routine ballad, but takes a more aggressive approach. The track for “Heavy Loads” is too busy, not leaving enough room in the mix for the expressive vocals. “That’s Why He’s Jesus” is one of the best songs on Just Jesus with an excellent lyric, good vocal delivery on the solo verses, and nice harmonies on the choruses.

Louis takes the lead for the first two-thirds of “He Took My Chains,” a Gerald Crabb song that’s all about the groove. Louis is back a couple of songs later for a contrast on the slower “Mercy Of Jesus.” It’s a good lyric, but a bit tiring, clocking in at just under six minutes in length. In between is “Chisel Your Name,” which, aside from the odd pronunciation of the word “history” (they pronounce it “his-tray”), is right up there with “That’s Why He’s Jesus” as one of the top songs on this album. Just Jesus concludes with “That’s What This Altar Is For.”


Artist: Gary LeVox
Album Title: One On One
Song Titles: A Little Love (featuring Mercy Me); Never Forget (featuring Jonathan McReynolds); While I Wait (featuring Brittany LeVox); All I See (featuring Breland); The Distance
Release Date: May 21, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

One On One is a five-song EP from Gary LeVox, the lead singer of the successful Country group Rascal Flatts. Four songs feature a second artist, so One On One is mostly a collection of duets.

Heavy pitch correction on the lead vocals detracts from an otherwise excellent collection of lyrics. On “Never Forget,” the effects are so intense that LeVox and Jonathan McReynolds sound like they’re singing through a sock.

On a positive note, the tracks feature fresh textures and interesting combinations of tones. I like how the intro for “While I Wait” picks up where “Never Forget” left off and makes a natural transition. Sadly, it’s difficult to appreciate the production quality of the tracks with LeVox overly decorating every phrase. On “The Distance,” the fantastic message in the lyric is an afterthought. His voice is tone-matched to lead into a guitar solo at one point. I guess fans are expected to sit in awe of these technical marvels the studio engineers were able to accomplish.

This is not good music; not for a lack of talent, but due to LeVox over-singing almost every line followed by way too much tinkering with the vocals after they were recorded. It probably sounded a lot better at some point earlier in the process.


Artist: The Craguns
Album Title: Nothing But Good
Song Titles: Glory To His Name; Nobody; Jesus, What A Genius; His Way With Thee; Rise Up (Lazarus); Nothing But Good; I’ve Planted My Flag; He’s Already There (Scarlett’s Song); Day By Day; America Medley: America The Beautiful/God Bless America/Battle Hymn
Release Date: May 21, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

The Craguns are a family group that formed in 2013 after Ray Cragun retired from working as a pastor. Group members include Ray, his daughter Savannah, his son Jordan, and Jordan’s wife Elana.

The fastened button on Jordan’s coat in the cover photo is straining to hang on, forcing his lapels to jut up and forward. You can see the group in a better image from the same photography session in the press kit on their website, so why was this one selected as the winner?

First impressions aside, Nothing But Good offers a variety of styles from the soulful opener “Glory To His Name” to the simple polished “Day By Day.” Jordan and Elana’s young daughter Scarlett is featured on “He’s Already There.” The best track on the album is “I’ve Planted My Flag” which is performed in a style that brings to mind the sound of The Nelons from the mid-1980s. The album concludes with a patriotic medley.

The most appealing aspect of The Craguns is their balance as vocalists. No one is a “superstar” type, but every singer is confident and carries their respective part with a pleasing tone. The selection of songs is a bit random, however, and there is that big swing and a miss on the album cover photo. For those reasons, my rating for this album is 3 Stars.

Endless Highway
4.5 out of 5
Radio Ramblers
3.5 out of 5
Coffmans
3 out of 5
Gary LeVox
2.5 out of 5
The Craguns
3 out of 5
Overall

Average rating for all five albums

3.3

Average
3.3 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 May 31, 17:45 #1 Chuck Peters

    The first thing I do is read the star rating for each album. Thanks for giving the LeVox recordings 2.5 stars. Not that I’m happy he gets a “so, so” rating… But it shows your reviews are honest. You don’t cave and rave just because of Gary’s famous factor.

  2. Reply June 01, 21:37 #2 Darrell

    I listened to “The Distance” just to see what all the fuss was about. :-) If the whole album is that way, I can see what you mean about it being way overproduced. Sadly, a lot of people will probably think this is good music.


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