STYLE: Southern Gospel RATING OUR PRODUCT CODE: 8957-8692 LABEL: Gaither Music Group SHD2516R FORMAT: CD Album ITEMS: 1 RELEASE DATE: 2003-11-07 RRP: £5.99
Reviewed by Tony Cummings
Southern gospel music emerged from the Deep South Singing Schools of the early 20th century to be coloured by the family group singing tradition which was the forerunner of country music. In recent years, of course, Bill Gaither's Homecoming Friends have brought other musical elements into what constitutes Southern gospel, not least large, theatrical orchestrations. So it's timely, if a little ironic, that Bill Gaither's side project should return to acapella roots on this set (released in 2003) and in the process show off all the rich male voice harmonies which were the original appeal of the genre. The tracks featuring Russ Taff's lead are particularly outstanding though David Phelps shows himself to be every bit his vocal equal. The songs here are largely from the hymnal though I'd have preferred them to have left Irving Berlin's "God Bless America" alone. But when the Gaither Vocal Band do something more authentic, like an impressive recreation of the Jordinaires' "Low Down The Chariot" the effect is timeless.
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Their first-ever a cappella release is a showcase of rich-melodic songs from four exquisite voices. No embellishments, no distractions, just the pure beauty of four distinct voices converging into a seamless blend where the songs and harmonies take centre stage. Includes: 'Gentle shepherd, When I survey, Heaven's joy awaits.'