The Hinsons – Generations (1987)

by James Hales | October 19, 2022 9:51 AM

After the success of the “old school” feel on the “The Legacy Goes On” album, the group pretty much kept the same approach for “Generations”, but with a few tunes that were a little more outside of the box for the group. Produced by Kenny, this would be the last album the group would record before disbanding the following year in 1988.

Outside of 3 up-tempo songs, the whole album has a very mellow feel to it, as the remainder of the songs fall more into the slow to medium tempo range. As previously stated, a few songs are a little out of the box, musically, but they fit very well into the overall vibe of the album, making it a very nice album to listen to. I love the cover shot and artwork as well…I thought it was a vibrant and creative cover, both front and back. I originally bought this on cassette when I was in high school back in the late 80s. This was during the time when LPs were being phased out, and fewer recordings were being released on vinyl. I never realized it was released on vinyl until just a few years ago and ever since then, I’ve been on a hunt for my own vinyl copy, which I was finally able to obtain about a year ago. This is one of the hardest vinyl records to find, and if you do find it, be prepared to pay a pretty penny for it!

The recording starts off with the upbeat, “Living Up on this Mountain”, and it’s my favorite song from this recording. With Ronny taking the first verse and Kenny taking the second, the doghouse bass gives the song an old-time country feel to it and it’s just a delightful tune. I wish they had released this to radio, as I think it would have done very well for the group.

Next, Kenny slows the pace down with his own song, “’Til You’ve Been There”. Featuring the steel guitar, the song has that classic Hinson feel, before Kenny also takes the lead on the medium tempo, “Living in His Word”, which was written by Ronny. With the feel of a sermon in song, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this song was inspired by some sermon Ronny had heard.

The tempo really picks up for the driving country feel of “Holy Ghost Hotline”, which features Bo and Kenny. This song is a fun tune and is right up the Hinsons’ alley with its Pentecostal undertones and mix of country and black gospel styles. It’s amazing how similar Kenny and Bo sound on this song and I don’t doubt that it was a fun song to do in concert as well.

Rounding out this side is what would be the Hinsons final #1 song, “Mercy Built a Bridge”. This song was totally different than anything they’d ever done, and the song caught on fast and became a big hit for the Hinsons, holding the #1 spot for 3 months in August, September, and October 1988. I’ll admit, when I first heard the song as a teenager, I wasn’t completely sold on it; but over time, the song has really grown on me. In a rare move with Ronny tackling both verses alone, and Kenny jumping in and taking the lead on the chorus, it’s truly a fantastic song and has a great message as well. In fact, about 7 years ago, the Dunaways did a cover of the song where they changed the melody of the song slightly and brought Ronny in to sing the first verse. It was an excellent cover of the song and was a wonderful tribute to the Hinsons.

As side two begins, Kenny turns in a spectacular performance on “He’s Having the Time of My Life”. Filled with fiddles, steel guitars and a bit of a Texas Swing, Kenny turns up the country charm on the song and it’s one of his best vocal performances ever. Written by Ronny, it features that familiar Hinson trademark play on words and it’s a lyrical stroke of genius!

A slight musical departure for the group, Kenny and his wife Debbie penned the poignant, “The Unsung Heroes” as a tribute to those unknown angels who step in to save the lives of others…”body, mind and soul”, as the song states. The two also wrote the next song, “Lord, Help Me When I Aim”, which is one of my all-time favorite Hinson songs. Featuring Bo on the first verse and Kenny on the second verse, I think the song could have done exceptionally well in the charts, had it been released to radio. This is a song that I’d love to hear someone bring back today.

Yvonne is featured next on “A Still Small Voice”, before things ramp up for the last song entitled, “I’m One of That Crowd”, which features Bo on the verses and Kenny taking the lead on the chorus. It’s kind of ironic that on the last album before the group disbands, the album closes with a song that could have been the Hinsons’ mantra. They were known for being a pretty radical Pentecostal group, and they were proud of that fact; even bringing it up and preaching about it in their concerts…almost taunting their nay-sayers; but it worked for them and their fans loved them for it. It’s a highly enjoyable and invigorating tune and it’s one of my favorites from the album.

The Hinsons went out with a bang, as this was a pretty fantastic album, and it would have been really great to see what they would have released during the ensuing years, had they stayed together. Sadly though, in June 1988, the Hinsons would disband. I was shocked when I received my August 1988 issue of the Singing News with the headline at the top of the front cover stating that the Hinsons had disbanded. In an open letter from Kenny that was posted in the magazine, he felt the call to preach, and June 19, 1988 was their last date. Most groups retire or disband with some type of notice, but it appears no notice was given and then all of a sudden, the Hinsons, one of gospel music’s greatest groups, ceased to be. It was the end of an era, but they left us with a lasting legacy that would be enjoyed for generations to come. Young people today, who were born years after the Hinsons disbanded, are enjoying their music…which is living proof of the lasting impact the Hinsons made.

Luckily, we all got a second chance with the Hinsons, as eventually, they did make a comeback and the original group (Ronny, Kenny, Larry and Yvonne) would unite together for one final recording and tour; and it was magical. Next week, as we close out this series on the Hinsons, we’ll talk about that one final tour and their “One More Hallelujah” recording!

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