New Music Reviews: June 2021 Releases

by | Jun 28, 2021 | CD Reviews, Reviews

Click HERE to listen to all of these albums.

Artist: The Oak Ridge Boys
Album Title: Front Porch Singin’
Producer: Dave Cobb
Label: Lightning Rod
Song Titles: Life Is Beautiful; Love, Light, and Healing; Old Ways; Promised Land; Red River Valley; Life’s Railway To Heaven; Rock My Soul; Swing Down Chariot; Till I See You Again; Unclouded Day; When He Calls
Release Date: June 11, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 3 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Front Porch Singin’ is the fourth release by the Oak Ridge Boys with producer Dave Cobb. It’s rather raw. You’ll hear some notes sung out of tune and the arrangements are generally simple. The concept isn’t fully realized in part due to a muddy reverb effect on the vocals that masks their characteristic sound.

“Promised Land” is a Joe Bonsall solo with no supporting vocals aside from some humming on the final bars. This is the album’s highlight. Another cut with potential is “Old Ways” featuring William Lee Golden. It may be difficult for fans of classic Country music to focus on these lyrics, however, due to a melody that is practically identical to Conway Twitty’s 1980 hit “I’d Love To Lay You Down.” The instrumentation is also similar to Twitty’s arrangement.

With an impressive collection of hit songs spanning more than 40 years, the Oak Ridge Boys could tour as long as God gives them health without ever setting foot in a recording studio again. Considering they now range in age from 73 to 82, I must admire the effort they made on Front Porch Singin’ even while acknowledging the album is not up to their usual standard.

Artist: Rory Feek
Album Title: Gentle Man
Song Titles: Me & The Blues (with Vince Gill); Salvation (with Sonya Isaacs and Mike Rogers); Gentleman (with Sonya Isaacs, Ben Isaacs, and Ronnie Bowman); The Times They Are A-Changin’; Small Talk Café (with Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White Skaggs); Satan And Grandma (with Lee Ann Womack); Time Machine (with Sonya Isaacs and Ronnie Bowman); Someone Is Me (with Sonya Isaacs, Ben Isaacs, and Mike Rogers); Met Him In A Motel Room (with Trisha Yearwood); Don’t It Make You Want To Go Home (with Mike Rogers, Donnie Potter, and Mike Johnson); Time Won’t Tell (with Alison Krauss and Ben Isaacs); Out On A Limb (with Heidi Feek and Dillon Hodges); Whatcha Gonna Do With That Broken Heart (with Ben Isaacs and Mike Rogers); One Angel (with Dolly Parton)
Release Date: June 18, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Gentle Man is Rory Feek’s first release as a soloist.

On YouTube, 13 of the 14 songs credit guest vocalists including several combinations with Sonya Isaacs, Ben Isaacs, and Mike Rogers. In most instances the performances aren’t duets; Feek sings the melody while his guests add harmony vocals. This is the case even when the guests sport high profile names like Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Lee Ann Womack, and Allison Krauss.

Two exceptions where the guest singers do share the melody are “Met Him In A Motel Room” with Trisha Yearwood and “One Angel” with Dolly Parton. The latter is a moving biographical song written after the death of Feek’s wife Joey in 2016 by a friend of the family who was angry at the outcome of her illness. The imagery of tequila in the lyric may turn off some fans, but the song is important. The friend who wrote the song was so impressed by the faith of Joey Feek in her last months that she wrote the song to find some peace with her frustration. (Click HERE to read more about the songwriter and further understand why this song was included. Click HERE to read some background on how Dolly Parton became involved.)

While the references to alcohol are understandable in “One Angel,” the same topic as presented in “Time Machine” can’t be so easily justified. Feek’s cover version of Colin Raye’s mid-1990s song weakens an otherwise excellent album, offering neither consequences nor redemption for a main character who routinely gets drunk trying to remember his past. Feek offers this description of the song on his blog, “It’s about a guy in a bar who spends the evenings drinking himself into oblivion, and I can relate to him. Not so much the drinking part, although I have had my moments there too, but I can understand how he wanted—how he needed—to be transported back in time to be with the woman he loves once again.”

Thankfully, the other 13 songs on Gentle Man offer a superb mixture of heartfelt, gripping slice-of-life stories about heartache, faith, and small town life.

Artist: Jason Crabb
Album Title: Just As I Am
Song Titles: Just As I Am; Heart Wide Open; Before; Send Me (The One); Friend In The Fire
Release Date: June 11, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 5 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Jason Crabb’s latest release is a 5-song EP of new material titled Just As I Am.

The title track effectively expresses the same message as the classic altar call hymn that shares the title. “Heart Wide Open” is big worship anthem that is tailor-made to be sung in an arena with a huge audience singing along on the chorus. “Before” is a slightly more restrained track that speaks of the importance of praising God in the midst of a trial rather than waiting until it has passed. “Send Me (The One)” is a fun track with a lyric about being ready and willing to serve. The final track, “Friend In The Fire” returns to a topic that has served Crabb’s career well: going through trials and overcoming. Stylistically, however, it’s a contrast to the similarly themed Crabb Family hit “Through The Fire.”

With creative arrangements, Just As I Am is Crabb’s most pop-oriented release to date and should appeal to a broad spectrum of fans. The production quality is on par with the best in just about any genre and Crabb is doing a few things vocally I haven’t heard from him before…less over-singing, more creative licks and tone control.

That’s all good; in fact, it’s very good, earning 5 Stars.

Artist: Gordon Mote
Album Title: Something Beautiful, Something Good: Songs Of Bill & Gloria Gaither On Piano
Song Titles: Loving God, Loving Each Other; The Family Of God; Get All Excited; He Touched Me; Let’s Just Praise The Lord; Something Beautiful; I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen; I Will Serve Thee; I Am A Promise; There’s Something About That Name; This Is The Time I Must Sing; Because He Lives.
Release Date: June 25, 2021
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Gordon Mote’s latest release sports a long title: Something Beautiful, Something Good: Songs Of Bill & Gloria Gaither On Piano. This 12-song collection is Mote’s first all-instrumental release since 2010’s Jesus Loves Me. As you have probably already deduced from the album’s sub-title, the only instrument is piano and all the songs were written by Bill & Gloria Gaither.

While the general pace of this recording trends slow, there are a few upbeat selections along the way. I would have been disappointed if songs like “Get All Excited” and “I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen” dragged like funeral dirges, but both are precisely the pleasant romps I was hoping to hear. “Let’s Just Praise The Lord” isn’t fast, but there’s a pleasing gospel-swing feel that helps set it apart from the other tracks.

Another highlight is “I Am A Promise” which features happy playful licks over a mid-tempo stride rhythm in the left hand. “This Is The Time I Must Sing” has a cool intro with an interesting chord progression that I’m eager to analyze and try to play on my piano.

So many concept recordings of this sort tend to be depressing. From the generic cover art, you might expect Something Beautiful by Gordon Mote to be from a similar boring place, but there are some real gems here.

Other titles released in June include:
I’m Ready For A Blessing by The Larry DeLawder Family (3 1/2 Stars)
Roundtable by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (4 1/2 Stars) (This album is mostly secular.)

David Bruce Murray

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 and David plays piano for Southern Sounds Quartet and the Foothills Community Choir.

1 Comment

  1. Chuck

    Thanks for reviewing the Front Porch Singing album. I’m a big ORB fan.. love their gospel and secular records. But .. this one left me a bit disappointed. The biggest issue is the un-natural reverb. I think you said “muddy reverb effect”.. I was looking forward to hearing the boys singing like they were on the front porch.. not at the bottom of the well.


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