The tenor of your remarks

An angry AGF wrote in to say… well, actually SHOUT IN ALL CAPS to me how Jodi Hosterman’s resignation somehow exonerates David Sutton on the charges I leveled against him during the NQC. Thus AGF:

AFTER THE NQC YOU WERE DOGGING DAVID SUTTON’S VOICE, REALLY PUTTING HIS SINGING ABILITY DOWN ABOUT AS FOR AS IT COULD GO. THERE IS ONE THING YOU’LL HAVE TO SAY HE WAS CONSISTENT DAY AFTER DAY THE FEW YEARS HE WAS WITH THE KINGDOM HEIRS AND FROM WHAT I HEAR HE IS STILL CONSISTENT WITH INTEGRITY DAY AFTER DAY. YOU KNOW AS WELL AS I DO THAT INTEGRITY IS NOT AS BAD AS YOU MADE THEM SOUND. PERSONALLY I THINK THEY ARE ONE OF THE BEST QUARTETS OUT THERE (AND NO I’M NOT READY FOR THE RETIRMENT HOME AS YOU MADE IT SOUND AS IF ALL THEIR FANS WERE). I HAVE BEEN ATTENDING GOSPEL CONCERTS ALL MY LIFE AND CAN TELL QUALITY WHEN I HEAR IT, AND INTEGRITY HAS QUALITY. I GUESS WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY IS THE KINGDOM HEIRS ARE FINDING OUT THEY LOST THE BETTER PART OF THEIR GROUP TWO YEARS AGO AND THEY HAVE NOT AS OF YET BEEN REPLACED. I COULDN’T RESIST MAKING THESE COMENTS AFTER HEARING THAT STEVE’S NEW TENOR HAD ALREADY PLAYED-OUT AND TO THINK YOU SAID THE THINGS YOU SAID ABOUT DAVID’S VOICE.

Well, AGF has it half right. Sutton was consistently solid and often quite good with the KH; that part AGF GETS RIGHT. But something happened in the last year with Sutton because the voice I heard with Integrity this year was NOT the same voice that I heard with the KH for years before. Where Sutton’s was once a high and clear voice, regularly tight and sweet, now it’s warbly and heavily colored with too many covered tones and a lazily wide vibrato, which in turn causes regular intonation problems. I don’t know what brought this about. Maybe it was the demands of two or three or four shows a day at the Mandrell Theater with Integrity, but that seems unlikely, since Sutton worked a very similar schedule with the KH in Dollywood for years and didn’t obviously struggle. No matter, Sutton’s stunning vocal regression is emblematic of the wider difficulty Integrity has had solidifying its sound. Though Eric Bennett holds down the bass with confidence and skill, and though Scott Inman’s is a fine voice that shows every indication of becoming first-class, and while of course his father’s voice has always been a Cadillac, and though Sutton brought great skill and experience to the quartet, Integrity is much weaker right now than the sum of its considerable parts. “I Bring You Forgiveness” captures this enigmatic failure of the group to cohere: it’s a choppy, herky-jerky affair that, like AGF’s email, feels as thought it’s being shouted, or barked maybe, from start to finish. I suspect this is mostly a product of the song itself, which is technically flaccid so the group ends up trying to overcompensate for the shallow material by over-emoting vocally. But that’s part of the prevailing problem, which breaks into three parts: Sutton’s new and drastically unimproved voice, the lack of quality new material, and the stale arranging (epitomized by Jeff Stice’s insistence on trotting out “Joshua Fit the Battle” after all these years … I don’t know which is worse, the fact that Stice hasn’t gotten a new centerpiece solo or the fact that the KH band still plays the same song as its centerpiece solo, even though the song was popularized on the basis of Stice’s piano work, which of course is no longer part of the KH). So clearly, I don’t think Integrity is quite yet among “one of the best out there.” That could all change, of course, and probably will, since it’s only been a year or so and the group’s still finding its sea legs, so to speak.

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