This album is a declaration…the Hinsons are a group that God built, and presented on this album are the songs they sing! 1977 was a milestone year for the group, as it marked 10 years that they had been singing together as a group. The album’s title was reflective on those 10 fruitful years of dedicated hard work, faithful prayers and devotion to their craft. The first half was filled with lots of growing pains and learning the ropes, while the last half (though still filled with many growth opportunities) saw the beautiful and luscious fruits of their labor…proof that God had built the Hinsons from the ground up, and they were abundantly blessed with a deep well of songs from which to sing.
It’s evident that special care was taken to ensure this was their best album they’d ever made. At this point, the Hinsons were doing things bigger and better, and this album is their best sounding album to date and their strongest crop of songs. Along with Dr. Nelson Parkerson, the legendary Jimmy Capps (an A-list studio musician in his own right) was on board as producer and a slew of musicians including “Pig” Robbins, Gary Prim (the Hinsons piano player at the time), Sonny Garrish, Kenny Malone, DJ Fontana, Jimmy Capps, Duke Dumas, Steve Chapman, Johnny Gimble, Terry McMillan and others, as well as a string section, that was arranged and conducted by another legend, Joe Huffman. The Hinsons were an A-List group now and their music reflected that, as they were putting out some of their best music during this time period.
Albeit ever so slight, this album marked the beginning of an expansive creative explosion the Hinsons would embark on in the coming years, as they would stretch themselves musically in the late 70s and into the 80s, before landing back on a more true, country gospel sound. But as I stated earlier, I feel that this was their best sounding album so far…both musically and vocally. Much like the Goodmans “99 44/100%” album that was released in 1976, this record had a depth and meatiness to the overall quality of the music and vocals, and it sounded superb! The cover art, a brainchild of Ronny’s, featured the Hinsons’ likeness on their own mountain…much like their own Mount Rushmore. It’s not my favorite cover, but it’s pretty ingenious, and was a different look than most albums at that time.
The recording starts off with the driving, “There’s Gonna Be Some Changes Made”, which was one of two songs from this recording to chart in the Top 20, peaking at #7 in July and September 1978. Featuring guitar, steel and fiddle flourishes as well as some nice piano accents, it’s an energetic and invigorating number that is completely contrasted by the following song, “Too Many Times”, which features a stellar performance by Kenny. This remains one of my all-time favorite Hinson tunes and I distinctly remember watching them sing this song on the Gospel Singing Jubilee back in the late 70s and falling in love with it way back then as a kid. It’s the first time that live strings are used on a Hinson album, which was a slight departure for the group. While not a chart topper (it never rose above #30 on the charts), it was a concert favorite for the next few years.
With a nice steel guitar intro, Ronny sings the verses while Kenny takes the lead on the chorus, for the medium tempo, “Go On Thru”. I alluded to this on their last album, so let me expound a bit on something…if you notice, Ronny rarely carried the melody all the way through a song, and quite often Ronny would sing the verses and Kenny would take the lead on the chorus. They’d already shown how well this arrangement works with such popular songs as “Jesus Found Me” and “He Can”, and this song is another wonderful example and is one of my personal favorites.
The pace picks up quite a bit for the Dixieland Band feel of “I Like the Promise”, featuring Chris. Though the song never broke the Top 30, it was a popular song for the group, and there’s been numerous covers of the song including the Perrys back in the late 90s and 11th Hour back in 2012. It’s a great up-tempo song that has a thrilling convention feel to it, much like those songs from the Red Back Hymnal, before things slow back down a bit as Kenny croons out the country feel of “There’s No Doubt”, which closes out side one.
“Blessings on Me” picks up where side one left off and features outstanding performances by Kenny and Chris on the verses. It’s one of my personal favorites from this album and I love the overall feel of the song with the steel guitar, harmonica, and fiddles, before the tempo picks up for “Heaven is Mine”, which has that classic Hinson campmeeting feel to it. It’s one of those songs that doesn’t feature anyone but has everyone singing together all the way through, until Larry wails out “Heaven is mine!” at the end.
Kenny steps up once again to take the lead on one of his most popular country gospel tunes, “Desperation”. The harmonica, fiddles, steel and dobro, along with Kenny’s unmistakable country vocals, just make this song a classic and one his best remembered songs. It’s true what I’ve heard Ronny say about his younger brother…Kenny was country when country wasn’t cool! Personal memory here…our little church choir used to sing this song back in the late 80s. We weren’t quite as country (or as good) as the Hinsons, but we made a solid effort of it!
Larry penned the medium tempo, “Come to the Water” and he does a great job on the song. Though it wasn’t a huge charting song for the Hinsons (peaking at # 19), it was a concert favorite for the group, as was the closing number, “Who is on the Lord’s Side”, written by Ray J. Smith. This was another song I have distinct memories of the group singing on the Gospel Singing Jubilee and it was a sure-fire concert opener and perfectly set the stage for an evening with the Hinsons! The steel guitar and fiddles playing in tangent with one another is ear candy for me. This is one of those rare times the Hinsons recorded a song that wasn’t written by one of them or a PD song, but the Hinsons sang it like they owned it!
Though the album boasts some of their strongest material to date, it didn’t yield any major hit songs. Though “There’s Gonna Be Some Changes Made” peaked in the top 10, it’s not one of those songs that you immediately pop off with when naming some of their best-known songs from their career or from this album. There were several concert favorites and important songs on this album such as “Who is on the Lord’s Side”, “Too Many Times”, “Heaven is Mine”, “I Like the Promise” and “Desperation” to name a few, which were truly the songs that made this album such a great one for me, as well as a favorite for so many of their fans. I feel this album was a true representation of who they were at the time…a dynamic group that God built…singing the songs that God gave them!
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With this remarkable album, the Hemphills really hit their stride. Candy found her signature song and there was just no stopping the Hemphills now! They were truly basking “In God’s Sunshine”!