New Music Reviews: Early October 2021 Releases

New Music Reviews: Early October 2021 Releases

Click HERE to listen to all these albums on YouTube Music; then, come back here to leave us a comment letting us know if you agree with our reviews!

Artist: Legacy Five
Album Title: Something New
Label: StowTown Records
Song Titles: Welcome to Your Life; Enough for Me; Testify; Given, Buried, Risen; Jesus Wept; Loves Speaks; Who Better Than Me; Be Alright; I’ve Seen What He Can Do; Believer; Eyes of Faith; Something New
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 5 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

Legacy Five’s 2019 release Pure Love was the first album to feature tenor Lee Black and baritone Bryan Walker, but that material was selected with previous tenor Josh Feemster and Scott Howard in mind. Remarkably, it still produced a number one song in January 2020 (“What Kind Of Man”) and earned a rating of 4 1/2 Stars here at MusicScribe.

As the title implies, Legacy Five truly is offering their fans Something New both in terms of arrangements and attitude. This time around, their song selection maximizes the vocal strengths of Black, Walker, Scott Fowler, and Matt Fouch.

Kyle will be posting an in-depth review of Something New soon, so I won’t get into details on a song-by-song basis here. My rating of 5 Stars speaks for itself.


Artist: LeFevre Quartet
Album Title: My Jesus
Label: New Day Records
Song Titles: God’s Been Good; My Jesus; All The Praise; Empty Throne; It’s Gonna Be Wonderful; A Place Called Hope; Call On Jesus; Devil
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

It’s been nearly two years since Jay Parrack, Will Lane, and Bryan Elliott joined Mike and Jordan LeFevre as members of the LeFevre Quartet. The 8-song My Jesus is the second studio recording by the current lineup.

The opening track, “God’s Been Good” adopts the current popular trend of inserting a string of “oh” or “whoa” syllables in unison for any passages where the songwriters couldn’t come up with a lyric. (I’m joking, of course, but that’s the first thought I have when I hear that sort of thing in an arrangement.) The album’s title track “My Jesus” is a cover version of Anne Wilson’s excellent song. It’s difficult to decide which of the two versions is my favorite; I like Wilson’s unique vocals, but I like the four-part harmony the LeFevre Quartet brings to the song, too. I’ll just enjoy both equally.

“All The Praise” is a cover of a song popularized by Prestonwood Choir on their 2017 project Horizon. “Empty Throne” is a showcase for Will Lane who I consider to be Southern Gospel’s most under-rated bass singer. I like the subtle echo effect on key words in the second verse. “It’s Gonna Be Wonderful” has a pounding rhythm and is the sort of song that quartet purists should enjoy…at least those who enjoyed the 1980s and 1990s. The Florida Boys recorded this song in 1980. The Lesters also cut it.

“A Place Called Hope” is a cover of Michael English’s classic hit from 1993 that never quite rises to the level of the original. “Call On Jesus” is another cover song, released by Nicole C. Mullen in 2001 and featuring Jay Parrack here. This version is pretty good, but again never quite gets to the same level Mullen achieved. “Devil” is, you guessed it, another cover song. This one is actually another Anne Wilson cover. In this case, Will Lane’s voice is more suited to the lyric than Wilson’s and I prefer it over her version.

As you may have gathered, the biggest strike against My Jesus is that it leans too heavily on songs others have already made popular and sometimes commits the second sin of failing to either surpass or reinvent them. The LeFevre Quartet does have excellent taste, though. These are great songs and I respect the variety. Not many groups can easily jump from a Florida Boys song to an Anne Wilson song.

Another other issue is that some fans may feel shortchanged when they realize My Jesus only has eight tracks. That has sadly become a trend with some artists/labels in a time when many other artists/labels continue to find enough money to produce the expected 10 or more songs per album.

Those complaints aside, I really can’t fault the overall quality of My Jesus. The production quality is very good and the vocals are solid from top to bottom. My rating for My Jesus is 4 Stars (on a scale of 1 to 5 Stars).


Artist: Gaither Vocal Band
Album Title: All Heaven And Nature Sing
Label: Gaither Gospel Series
Song Titles: And The Song Goes On; Silver Bells; Hallelujah, O Happy Day; Rest In You Tonight; Away In A Manger; Look Who Just Checked In; The Manger And The Cross; Glory In The Highest; White Christmas; Love Is The Reason Why; He’s Still The King Of Kings; And The Song Goes On (Reprise)
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 5 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

The Gaither Vocal Band offers 11 songs (the 12th track is a short reprise of the 1st) on their brand new Christmas album All Heaven And Nature Sing. The group’s lineup has been consistent since the arrival of Reggie Smith in 2017. Veteran tenor Wes Hampton will soon complete his 16th year with the GVB while Adam Crabb and Todd Suttles both joined in 2014. As is typical with most GVB albums, and especially their past seasonal releases, All Heaven And Nature Sing includes a healthy mix of new, very familiar, and somewhat familiar selections.

There’s a bit of a Beach Boys vibe (pun intended) on the opener “And The Song Goes On.” Gaither sings the opening verse of “Silver Bells” before Suttles takes it home. Suttles then moves over to the bass position for some step-out lines on “Hallelujah, O Happy Day.” Note to self: this would be a great song for a kid’s Christmas musical.

Adam Crabb sings “Rest In You Tonight,” a song written by his father Gerald Crabb and Bill Gaither and recorded by the Oak Ridge Boys on their 2016 CD Celebrate Christmas. This is one of those “somewhat familiar” remakes I alluded to in my opening paragraph. After some nice high harmonies by Crabb, Hampton, and Smith alternating with a verse featuring Suttles on “Away In A Manger,” we are treated to a new version of “Look Who Just Checked In.” The Gaither Vocal Band picks up with Gold City left off on their 2006 CD Revival and adds some of those close high harmonies Crabb, Hampton, & Smith do so well.

The meat of the album comes in the next two songs. Reggie Smith paints a picture focusing on the wood in “The Manger And The Cross.” The lyric patiently walks through the earthly life of Christ. “Glory In The Highest” is similarly reflective, but more hymn-like in structure. Gloria Gaither penned the words in 1983 (with music by Bill Gaither, Bill George, and Billy Smiley), but the song has generally flown under the radar. It was on the 1996 Gaither Gospel Series video Joy To The World, for example, but didn’t make the cut for the audio version. It’s good to see this nice song finally get its due.

“White Christmas” is the third slow-paced song in a row, but the vocal harmonies are exquisite and there’s a solo from an instrument you would not expect to hear on this song. (I won’t spoil it, but six letters of the instrument’s 9-letter name are in the previous sentence.) “Love Is The Reason Why” is a new song that kicks the energy back up a notch and includes a nice piano lick followed by a trumpet flourish at the very end. “He’s Still The King Of Kings” is a Gaither classic that builds to a big finish in traditional GVB fashion. I was expecting a prominent high E-flat on the end that never materialized, but perhaps one of the two tenors will go for it in a future concert setting. The 40-second outro of “And The Song Goes On” to close the album is a nice touch.

I like everything about All Heaven And Nature Sing. Bill Gaither sings one verse and a couple of step out lines to make sure we remember it’s his group, but otherwise showcases his four more than capable hired hands throughout. The balance of old and new material is perfect for a Christmas album with a range of styles that spans an array of musical tastes. When I listen to a new Gaither Vocal Band album for the first time, I expect it to sound excellent and I expect it to occasionally surprise me. All Heaven And Nature Sing delivers on both expectations.


Artist: Kevin Williams and Mark Lowry
Album Title: Sit Up Straight And Sing and Simply Christmas
Song Titles on Sit Up And Sing: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; Amazing Grace; Since Jesus Came Into My Heart; In The Garden; A New Name In Glory; Precious Memories; Victory In Jesus; I Surrender All; Dwelling In Beulah Land; Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus; Mansion Over The Hilltop; The Old Rugged Cross
Song Titles on Simply Christmas: It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas; Winter Wonderland; I’ll Be Home For Christmas; Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem; White Christmas; What Child Is This; Joy To The World; Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas; Jingle Bells; It Came Upon A Midnight Clear; Mary, Did You Know
Version Rated: YouTube Music
Rating: 4 Stars (scale of 1-5 Stars)

During the pandemic in 2020, Mark Lowry, who already had a strong following on social media, began singing songs off-the-cuff to his online social media followers and taking their requests while encouraging them to sing along. From time to time, Lowry had guests join him from wherever he happened to be broadcasting that day. This ultimately led to the idea for two new albums titled Sit Up Straight And Sing and Simply Christmas.

The format is simple with familiar Gaither Vocal Band bandleader Kevin Williams’ acoustic guitar as Lowry’s only accompaniment. There are no surprises here in terms of song selection either. Sit Up Straight And Sing includes ten songs that can be found in practically every traditional Christian hymnal plus “Dwelling In Beulah Land” and “Mansion Over The Hilltop,” which may not appear in every hymnal, but are still about as familiar as the rest.

Simply Christmas offers a standard mix as well, drawing from secular seasonal songs as well as sacred carols. The classic Mark Lowry/Buddy Greene song “Mary Did You Know?” also makes an appearance bringing the total track count to eleven.

Because Lowry always invites his fans to sing along, he and Williams extended that concept to these albums. Regardless of whether you buy the CDs or choose to experience these albums on a streaming service, you’ll get the chance to hear and sing along with instrumental versions of every song after hearing the versions sung by Lowry.

When I first noticed there were instrumental versions included for every song and Williams was credited as the artist, I thought those tracks might feature Williams playing additional melody lines over his original guitar rhythms. They don’t. The tracks marked “instrumental” are essentially accompaniment tracks for your own personal use, so you can invite your friends over and have a sing-along (with or without Mark)!

Ordinarily, my rating for a basically very good, but simply produced (AKA low budget) album with all familiar songs like this would be 3 1/2 Stars. The inclusion of the sing-along tracks is a great bonus, though, elevating my rating to 4 Stars.

It’s good to see an artist promoting participation over merely performing. That’s a mission I can get behind. In fact, after hearing these albums on YouTube, I immediately ordered both CDs for myself from Lowry’s website.

Legacy Five
5 out of 5
LeFevre Quartet
4 out of 5
GVB
5 out of 5
Williams/Lowry
4 out of 5

4.5

Good
4.5 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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3 Comments

  1. Reply October 15, 11:42 #1 Steven

    Quick comment on your review for the L5 album you said its five stars but the rating is 4 1/2 :)

  2. Reply October 15, 18:20 #2 Lee

    Wow! Thanks for the five stars on L5. I’ve read this blog enough to know you don’t just toss those out. Looking forward to reading Kyle’s in-depth review.


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