The Hemphills – “Louisiana Live” (1983)

by | Mar 13, 2024 | LP Review, Reviews

1983’s “Louisiana Live” was the first album that the Hemphills had released in 2 years. Rather than releasing a new album in 1982, Candy released her first solo album titled, “Candy” instead. I don’t remember where or when I bought “Louisiana Live”, but I do know that it was sometime around 1984, and it was the first album I ever bought of the Hemphills. I keep thinking I already had this album when I saw them for the first time in Raleigh, NC in the summer of 1984, but not completely sure. Either way, up until this time I bought this record, the only music I had of the Hemphills was their first album, “Take Us Home with You” and a handful of songs scattered among a few variety albums I had.

Produced by Jerry Crutchfield, the group came back home to Louisiana (their first live album was recorded in Louisiana as well) and chose Winnsboro, Louisiana to record this third live album. Recorded before an exciting crowd, the Hemphills were in top form and it’s obvious they love their home state of Louisiana and Louisiana loves the Hemphills! It had been 8 years since the Hemphills had recorded a live album, and a lot had changed for the group since “One Live Family” was released in 1975. As the style and sound of the Hemphills evolved, their down-home country sound gave way to a more slicker, mainstream feel, but yet, it still had a very down to earth vibe to it. Also, the band was on fire, and for this album, the band consists of Trent Hemphill on piano, Craig Ham playing bass guitar, Rick Wilson on drums and lead and rhythm guitar played by Roger Daniels and Jerry Burnside, respectively. The Hemphills always had a top-notch band, and they were spot on that night!

I can’t let this opportunity go by without giving props for the cover artwork. I’ve never been a fan of album or CD covers that doesn’t have a shot of the group on the front, but this was a very cool cover and completely embodies the Louisiana lifestyle…complete with an “I’m Not Perfect, Just Forgiven” bumper sticker on the back of the truck!

After a brief introduction, the group hits the stage and kicks it off with a peppy rendition of their former #1 song, “I’m in this Church” and they do a fantastic job before they slow the tempo slightly as LaBreeska sings the testimonial, “He’s Really Done a Work in my Life”, which is her only feature on this album. One of only 2 new songs Joel wrote for the recording, with Joey playing the harmonica, it’s a rather unassuming song, but it’s one of my personal favorite LaBreeska features. In fact, the LaVerne Tripp Family recorded it around this same time on their “Go Out-Bring Them In” album and did a great job with their version of the song.

As Joel takes a moment to share his thoughts and memories of growing up and living in Louisiana as well as meeting and marrying LaBreeska, he then introduces Candy as she sings, “Consider the Lilies”. I absolutely love the acoustic guitar work at the beginning of the song, and Candy does a phenomenal job as she tenderly delivers each line of this poetic masterpiece.

I love Joel’s intro as he sets up the next song and shares how he was inspired to write, “I’m Not Perfect (Just Forgiven)”. As the band kicks off the intro, Joey does a fantastic job on the song, and I actually prefer this live version over the studio cut from their “Good Things” album, as I feel it has a bit more “umph” to it. This was the first single from this live album, and the song peaked at #3 in December 1983 in the Singing News chart and became Joey’s signature song.

Joel is a pro at telling stories, and the story he shares here about his dad (who had passed away about a year and a half before they recorded this live album) is one of my favorite monologues. Though it’s a rather comical story, it’s also quite heartwarming and in telling the story, Joel does a fantastic job paralleling the love of his dad with the love of our Heavenly Father. It’s a wonderful set-up for the song “He’s Still Workin’ on Me”, and the group does a great job with the song, which also includes the audience in a brief sing along.

As this side comes to a close, the group turns in a rousing performance on another former #1 song, “Good Things”. The band does a phenomenal job and it’s an exciting performance by the Hemphills. Weird story of the day…back when I was in middle school (mid-80’s), I had a dream with this particular performance of the song. I dreamed that I was walking the halls of my school carrying a boom box with this song blasting and we were all dancing to the song, similar to a flash mob. I have no clue why I so vividly recall this dream close to 40 years later, but there it is! I never listen to this performance of the song without thinking about that dream.

Kicking off side 2 is the second newly penned song by Joel entitled, “Well of Grace”, which features Joel, as well as some call backs by Candy on the final chorus. This fun song was the second single from this recording, peaking at #7 in June 1984 in the Singing News chart. The Greenes did an excellent job covering this song on Tony Greene’s final recording, “Hallelujah”, back in 2010, which included Tim Riley of Gold City plowing through some awesome bass notes.

After LaBreeska testifies for a moment, Candy steps up to sing one of my favorites from the recording, “Blow Ye the Trumpet” before they churn out an exciting performance on the song, “When the Clouds Roll Back”, which was done a good bit faster than what was on their “Good Things” album. As a side note, I noticed this on a few songs from this album, but I heard a rumor that some members of the group felt the studio versions of some songs were a bit too slow, so they sped them up a bit. This is also a trick some artists use to quickly get through songs, thus allowing the artist to get more songs in their set list and appeasing the fans who want to hear their favorite songs. It’s one of the benefits of having a band, which is a lost art these days, sadly. But I digress…

Slowing the pace down, Joel takes a moment to introduce Candy before she takes centerstage as she belts out one of my all-time favorite Candy performances on the song, “I’m Yours Now”. Naturally, she does a phenomenal job on the song before Joel shares the story of how he and LaBreeska came to write the next song, “I Cast My Bread Upon the Water”. Candy enthusiastically delivers the goods on the verses and the group churns out an exciting performance of the song.

Joel takes the lead as the group tackles the bouncy ¾ time of the song, “Carry on Church”, which also follows a quicker tempo than the original version from their “Workin’” album. It’s an exciting performance and the audience enthusiastically gives their approval before the group winds things down as Joel shares his heart for a few minutes before leading the audience into a few choruses of “He’s Still Workin’ on Me”. And with that, the live recording comes to an end.

Candy really shines on this live album, showing why she was such a favorite of so many people. During the 70’s several young ladies hit the scene making their mark, such as Sue Chenault (Dodge), Joy Dyson (Gardner), Kelly Nelon, Janet Paschal, Chris Hawkins (Freeman) and others. As the 70’s gave way to the 80’s, we find such bright and talented ladies as Tanya Goodman (Sykes), Karen Peck and Debra Talley making their mark…and at the forefront of that list was Candy Hemphill, who was the idol of many aspiring young female singers back in the day.

This was a very upbeat live recording, which was a hallmark of the Hemphills, as they tended to focus on singing upbeat and happy songs, rather than singing a lot of slower tunes. That was one of the things that made the Hemphills so exciting to me. On one hand, you had the Nelons who were known for singing those amazing power ballads and worship songs, then you had the Hinsons who had their “get on your mule and ride” Pentecostal sugar sticks as well as those amazing country gospel tunes, but then you had the Hemphills who sang a lot of up-tempo tunes that were exciting and made you feel good. In fact, if you look at their list of hit songs, you’ll find most of them were up-tempo, happy songs, with a few exceptions here and there. You get a sense of their philosophy in a lot of the things Joel says throughout this live album…“We’re not frustrated country singers or rock singers, we sing gospel music because we love it”…“When the Lord gives a song it uplifts, it blesses, it encourages, it inspires…and it can still be felt 100 years from now”…“It’s fun being saved and we’re excited about His coming” and “It’s a good day to live for Jesus and let your light shine for Him”. Statements like the above are scattered throughout the album and sheds a little light on their upbeat and joyful outlook, as it overflows into the types of songs they sing as well.

The Hemphills were a force within the industry and were one of the hottest groups on the circuit. When I saw them for the first time in concert in Raleigh, NC during the summer of 1984, as a 12-year-old kid, I was enamored by the group, the songs they sang and the excitement they brought to the stage. They would continue to play a huge role in my life and would be one of my favorite groups during the remainder of the 80’s. I guess for the remainder of the 80’s, it would be the Rex Nelon Singers, Hinsons and Hemphills who would shape my musical tastes (as far as mixed groups go…for male quartets, it would be the Kingsmen), as they were all so very different from each other and offered this kid something truly unique, exciting, and spiritually uplifting. “Louisiana Live” was a great live album and it was this particular album by the Hemphills that put them at the forefront of my list of favorites, and the remaining albums they would release over the forthcoming years would keep them there!

Please check out my music page on Facebook for more content related to Southern Gospel Music including more discography reviews on other groups, we well as other thoughts and discussions related to Southern Gospel Music.  Please like and follow my page at https://www.facebook.com/James-Music-Page-102612571620560.

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James Hales

James Hales

James is a lifelong fan of Southern Gospel Music. Being exposed to the music through his dad's record collection as a 7 or 8 year old boy in the late 70's, James grew to love the music of the Happy Goodmans, Kingsmen, Inspirations, Rambos, Florida Boys and others. James has been a staff writer for Absolutely Gospel since 2000 writing music reviews and various articles, and he has contributed to Musicscribe and SGHistory.com for several years as well. James also writes for his own music page on Facebook as well, via James' Music Page (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100063484056683).

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