Worms, or Jerry Kirksey opens up

Jerry Kirksey’s editorial about “opening up a can of worms” in this month’s SN is worth reading (at least the last half), which is a pleasant surprise given last month’s ridiculous rant about the biblical basis for dietary self-indulgence and other recent editor’s columns. Anyway, this month’s column seems to be (implicitly?) responding to a lot of message-board chatter about trends and developments in southern gospel: 1) moving the NQC from Louisville (discussed a bit ago on the message boards). 2) what does “Southern Gospel” mean (tracking along the same lines as the recent message-board discussion about the changing face and future of the industry and if it will “exist” in 20 years)? And 3) the SN’s favorite horse to flog: on-stage dress-codes and demeanor, a constant hot-potato at the sogospelnews forums and most recently trotted out for another good thrashing over in response to the new PR photos from Signature Sound… er, I mean Ernie Haase and Signature Sound (and if you never tire of such a timeless snoozer of a topic, then you’ll wanna check out this festival of topic-flogging about dance moves on stage). It’ll be interesting to see what comes of Kirksey’s promise/threat to reprint readers’ feelings about these issues. I’ve long thought that the SN exists in (or creates) its own kind of echo-chamber, either by default or by editorial force (I mean, really, when was the last time you read a letter to the SN editor criticizing anything or anyone besides, of course, Roy Pauley - most recently for saying something blandly unflattering about Vestal Goodman?). If my echo-chamber theory is right, then it won’t be a surprise if Kirskey “discovers” that everybody agrees with him, more or less. The reality, though, is that the industry is generally split about in half between traditional suit-and-tie, four-part, I-IV-V quartets (think Inspirations and Dove Brothers) and more progressive groups that actively cultivate a fashionable look (those SSQ photos are a good example) and an updated sound (the GVB, of course, but also Karen Peck or the Hoppers or the Nelons). The success of both kinds of sounds and looks and everything in between clearly indicates there’s no lack of support for either way of doing things. So Kirksey is really proposing a sham debate, since what we’re dealing with is a diversity of perspectives, modes of expressions, and habits of mind - and NOT a series of questions that need to or ever will be decided definitively. That is, it’s a matter of taste being dressed up like a monumental discussion of Big Ideas. In his column, Kirksey does ok as a fairly evenhanded provocateur until the end, when he can’t resist slipping in a jab at the newfangledness of what he calls “gimmicks,” by which he seems to mean “anything I don’t like.” So I’ll be interested to see if the responses he prints are skewed at all by his bias.

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