The Hinsons – On the Road (1978)

by James Hales | August 17, 2022 10:54 AM

Two years after the release of their first live recording, the time was right to unleash the Hinsons on another one! Comparing the two live albums is like comparing apples to oranges; both are sweet, but they have a very different taste! The Hinsons are no longer wet behind the ears and green, but by this time, they have weathered a few storms and been around the block a few times. Their stage presentation had reached a certain level of professionalism, and it shines through loud and clear on this live recording. Ronny has also grown as an emcee and does a great job keeping things moving along and does very well balancing comedy and seriousness throughout the recording.

I love the cover shot, as they are literally, “On the Road”! I heard Ronny Hinson share a story about the cover and that piano one time. The story goes…the photo shoot was in the middle of an unfinished portion of a highway around Nashville. It was in the afternoon and a helicopter pilot was doing the traffic report for a local radio station and is flying over the area. As he is giving the traffic report, he remarks about a piano sitting in the middle of the highway. But it gets better…once the photo shoot was over, the piano movers were moving the piano to take it back to where it came from. As they were lifting the piano to put it on the truck, they accidentally dropped the piano, and it broke in two. Luckily, the live recording turned out much better than that piano did!

The recording starts off like no other live recording I’ve ever heard…it appears to be some backstage conversation between the Hinsons and the emcee of the concert, Sid Hughes. After a few moments, we’re quickly ushered center stage as Hughes delivers one of the most enthusiastic introductions I’ve ever heard, and to thunderous applause the Hinsons hit the stage as the band kicks off, “Who is on the Lord’s Side”. That moment is absolutely epic to me. You can tell the Hinsons are in perfect form and the crowd is eating it up and buying everything the Hinsons are selling!

After a brief intro by Ronny, the band jumps into high gear with their recent hit, “He Can”. Contrary to the slightly slower, bouncy rendition from their “High Voltage” album, they kicked it up a few notches, creating a cool and exciting arrangement that is a true highlight of the recording.

After some lighthearted banter (the banter between Ronny and Kenny is hilarious), Ronny introduces Larry as he steps forward to deliver a rousing performance on his own song, “Come to the Water”. The band is totally in the grove on this song, and you can tell the crowd is drinking in the energy in that song.

Before the first side is over, Ronny takes a few moments to introduce the Hinson’s band, which consists of Gary Prim on piano, Greg Taylor playing bass, Tracy Richardson on drums, Ira Johnson playing the steel guitar, and of course, Kenny Hinson on guitar.

After a brief intro by Ronny, side 2 starts with one of my favorite Hinson tunes, “Too Many Times”. Delivering an emotionally charged performance, Kenny takes a moment to testify before he finishes out the song in grand style. If you read my intro to this series, this was one of the 7 records I bought from Yvonne back in 1986, and this song was the reason I chose this album, and I was not disappointed in the performance on this recording. It’s a powerful performance and it was deeply impactful to me personally.

The tempo picks up as the group tears into one of two new songs on this recording, “I Begin to Feel the Fire”. Using the familiar formula with Ronny singing the first verse and Kenny taking the second verse, it’s an exciting story song that was a decent hit for the group, peaking at #16 in October 1979, before the first half closes out with an invigorating performance of their current hit at the time, “There’s Gonna Be Some Changes Made”.

Side 3 is what legendary live recordings are made of. Much like the third side of the Kingsmen’s “Live Naturally” album, the 2 songs presented by the Hinsons on this side are classic. As he sets the mood for “Burdens Are Lifted Away”, Ronny testifies and paints a beautiful illustration for the Christian (I believe this is where Mike Payne got his inspiration for his popular song “How Great It Is”) before Chris steps up to deliver a powerful performance of her signature song. After Chris delivers a commanding encore, Ronny leads everyone in an extended time of worship and singing before the mood quickly shifts to a more jubilant feel as they jump into “Campmeeting Days”. Before the encore, Ronny goes into “preacher mode”, and with the band in the groove right behind him, we’re treated to 8 and a half minutes of church. I absolutely love how during the “preaching portion” of the song, the band keeps changing the feel of the music to match what Ronny is doing. Whether rehearsed or on the spot, it’s still ear candy to me. The Paynes often took this exact same approach when Mike Payne would preach in the middle of a song. I always loved it when the Hinsons or Paynes would do this, as it’s something that is truly spiritual to me! I remember when I first listened to this, I was all over myself with these two songs. It was the most wonderful thing I’d ever heard, and though I was raised Baptist, I just knew there was some Pentecostal blood in me!

After 3 sides filled with very exciting, power packed songs, side 4 has a totally different feel to it, and by contrast, has a very subdued feel to it as it starts off with one of my all-time favorite Hinson songs, “To Know He’s Real”. This is the second new song included on this album, and it features Ronny, Larry and Chris on the verses, with Kenny taking the lead on the chorus. With the band kicking in a little two-step action on the last chorus, it’s a gem of a song!

“Desperation” is next and it’s such a cool song where Kenny treats us to one of his best country gospel performances ever, before Ronny introduces, and the group sings, “Blessings On Me”, which feature both Kenny and Chris.

For the finale, the band kicks off “Heaven is Mine” and it features that classic and exciting Hinson sound before Ronny leads the crowd in one final moment of singing, “I’ll Never Be the Same Again”. Before fading to silence, we are interrupted by an announcer letting us know who recorded the concert for our listening enjoyment and that without the expressed written consent from the record company, it is unlawful to reproduce this recording. Usually, those details are printed somewhere near the bottom of the cover on the back; I have never actually heard that verbally expressed on a live album before, but it completely kills the mood. For clarification, the announcement was overdubbed in the studio, and not during the actual concert.

The Hinsons never made a bad live recording, and that was usually the best way to experience them, as seeing them in concert was truly an experience! Everything was perfectly caught on record…exceptional and exciting vocals, great songs performed with an exciting and exceptional band, and a crowd that you can tell absolutely loved the Hinsons; it all came together to make another wonderful live concert experience. The momentum and wave of success over the last couple of years brought the Hinsons a few more awards to add to their mantle…in 1978 Kenny won Lead Singer of the Year again (an award he won once more in 1980) and in 1979 the Hinsons walked away with Favorite Group and Favorite Band (the Band won this award again in 1980).

The Hinsons were seemingly on top of the world at this point, and this live recording truly captured the essence of the Hinsons at the time. Change was coming though, as within the next couple of years, this exciting era of the group would come to a close as we’re ushered into a new era, with a slightly different sound and feel. This would be the last album that really showcased that old fashioned Hinson sound all the way through. Yes, there would be several songs they’d record that would remind us of their former selves, but as the 70s waned and the 80s dawned, new sounds and styles would be incorporated into their music, and the group would take on a more slick country/pop feel. The Hinsons would continue to have excellent success and they would continue to create some truly exciting and remarkable music…but with a bit of a different hue than what most Hinson fans thus far may have been used to.

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