The Hinsons – He Pilots My Ship (1972)

The Hinsons – He Pilots My Ship (1972)

After the success of their last album, the Hinsons and Calvary Records went to work to duplicate that success, using a very similar formula. If it worked once, it should work a second time, right? Like their previous album, it was produced by Rusty Goodman and Nelson Parkerson and recorded at Goodman Sound Studios in Madisonville, Kentucky. While no musicians are credited on the album, it has that distinctive Goodman band sound, so my assumption is they played on the album and probably also included a few other professional musicians as well.

Whereas their last album only featured 1 Hinson song (granted, one of the biggest songs in gospel music…ever!), this album features 3 songs penned by Ronny and 1 written by Kenny. The rest of the album features songs written by Joel Hemphill (3), a couple of popular cover tunes and a remake of an old Dad Speer tune (which would be a big part of their stage shows for years to come). Though the album has a similar sound and feel as their last recording, you do hear some growth on this album, as the Hinsons are continuing to hone their style, their sound, and their songs.

Kenny starts off with an up-tempo rendition of “He Pilots My Ship”, which was written by Ronny. Starkly different from the Goodmans rendition, it’s unmistakably “Hinson” and showed a real glimpse into what gospel music was in store for in a few short years! Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of this particular version of the song, as by the time I obtained this album in the mid-90s and I finally heard the Hinsons version, I was already “sold” on the Goodman’s more dramatic rendition of the song. The Goodmans took this song to #1, but unlike “The Lighthouse”, the Hinsons never charted “He Pilots my Ship” in the Top 20. Ironically, the Hinsons did not chart any songs from this particular album in the Singing News Top 20 charts. Aside from their first 2 albums from 1970, this would be the only other album not to have any songs in the Top 20 chart.

Larry and Yvonne step up next to sing “Love will Roll the Clouds Away”, which was a popular song that several groups were running with at the time. I think it fit the Hinsons style perfectly and felt that they did a really good job covering the song.

With a nice steel guitar intro, Yvonne and Ronny sing the Joel Hemphill penned, “Sing Me a Song (That Blesses My Soul)”, before the tempo kicks into high gear for the Dad Speer classic, “I Never Shall Forget the Day”, a song that remained part of the Hinsons repertoire until the end. Though the Hinsons never charted the song in the Top 20, the Speers had a very successful run in the charts with this song during the same time. Though the Speers’ version was extremely popular and very well done, no one could sing this song with as much excitement and unbridled fervor than the Hinsons. God bless any group that had to follow the Hinsons after they tore the place apart with this song! This studio version pales in comparison with any live version I’ve ever heard of the Hinsons singing this song. We’ll talk more about just how exciting this song is, when the Hinsons performed it live, in another review in a few weeks.

Rounding out side one, Ronny sings the first verse (Yvonne takes the second verse) of his own composition, “Some Good of Me”, which is one of my all-time favorite Ronny Hinson tunes. I grew up hearing the Kingsmen version of the song and already loved the song before I was able to get my hands on this album. I love the vulnerability of the lyric; it’s honest and sincere, and the Hinsons did an impeccable job on the song.

Side two begins with Kenny stepping up to sing his own song, “For the Love of Me”, and you can hear how he was evolving into a true stylist on the song, before the tempo picks up as Ronny sings another Joel Hemphill penned song, “Old Brush Arbor Days”, which was a perfect fit for the Hinsons. Though not a Hinson penned song, it touches on a subject that a few of their most popular self-penned tunes were written about, recalling times of great spiritual services. Immediately songs like “Campmeeting Days”, “That Old Time Feeling” and “Let’s Do it Again” come to my mind.

“Goodbye to Tears”, written by Ronny, slows things down quite a bit, but soon the tempo picks up to a nice medium tempo. Before the song is over though, it’s gets kicked into high gear as a happy, up-tempo song that will have your hands clapping and feet tapping. I just wish they had done at least one more chorus at that tempo! The song was pretty popular for the Hinsons during this time, but it never broke into the Top 20.

Kenny steps up once more to sing the Aaron Wilburn classic, “Show Me the Way to Calvary”, and he does a really good job on the song. The Goodmans recorded the song around the same time as well, and you can hear some of the same guitar licks on both versions, though the Hinsons rendition is a bit more faster paced than Rusty’s more somber rendition. Assuming the Goodman band is playing on both versions would probably account for that.

In their early years, the Hinsons obviously liked Joel Hemphill’s songwriting, as they did quite a few on these first few records (at least 6 songs on their first 4 recordings) and the album closes out with a classic up-tempo Hemphill tune, “I’ll Soon Be Gone”. If my info is correct, this would be the last Hemphill tune the group would record.

As I stated earlier, while the general “feel” of this recording is very similar to their previous album, there definitely is some marked growth heard here. Even though they’d been together for about 5 years at this point, they were starting to gel and create a more cohesive sound. You really start to hear it more on their next album as they are really coming into their own and creating their own niche in the industry by that time.

At this point, the group’s popularity was increasing; they were doing more of the major concerts in the eastern part of the country, making guest appearances on the Gospel Singing Jubilee TV show, and their fan base was increasing as more and more were latching on to their country gospel sound and charismatic delivery. It was a time of tremendous growth that I’m sure was both scary and exciting for these young’uns. By the next album, the foundation for their sound was pretty solid and there was nowhere to go but up for the Hinsons!


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Category LP Review, Reviews

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1 Comment

  1. Reply July 05, 11:45 #1 Michael Mcilwain

    A neighbor let me borrow this album when I was a teenager. I recorded it onto an 8-track tape and played it often. It rocked my world. It is still one of my favorite gospel music albums.


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