David Bruce Murray pulls out all the stops and stars and gives Valor’s new cd FIVE stars. Wow. Even for a reviewer who tends, in my opinion, to be a bit starry eyed in his reviews, this makes me want to go out and get this cd. A year or so ago I caught a few tracks of theirs on a friend’s borrowed cd and jotted a few notes to myself (against some day like this when I’d have reason to use them, I ’spose), which included, I see as I look back in my files, the following:
Either they have some serious stracking and studio dubbing going on, or they have more than three members and, ahem, their publicity agency hasn’t gotten around to updating things. In any event, sure sounds like there are more than three parts being sung on almost all these tracks, which wouldn’t be an issue if they weren’t a trio.
This was all about the time of much hoopla and wowifying over Valor’s bass and his range (see here), who purports to have a 5+ octave range. If you Google this guy, Paul David Kennamer, you’d think he was a cross between a carnival act and J.D. Sumner. I’m not sure he’s all that, but then I haven’t heard that much of him and don’t think much in general of belching, growly low-for-the-sake-of-low bass singing. But still, a 4.5-5.5 octave range? Back on planet earth, I remember his voice being helped along a lot in the tracks I heard by the kind of mixing-board magic similar in spirit if not in type to what Bill Gaither has been getting by on for years. Not that this Valor fellow is a fake bass like Gaither. He sounded to me like the real deal, just not all that. Which accounts for some of the other notes I wrote when I first heard them:
I could personally do with less of the huffing and carrying on in low-low registers from the bass, and the group in general could benefit from a producer/arranger who didn’t let them indulge in so many solo and ensemble arabesques and augmentations and curlyqueing (listen, for instance, to the way they sing one of the IAG’d “Satisfied”s near the end of the song by that name). Evidently, though, this choreographed improvisation is a large part of the marketing plan here (aka their “unique” style, attributed in the group’s online bio to the bass himself, who also arranges a lot of the group’s stuff), as is the too-breathy preciousness of the tenor voice now and then, especially when he seems to be really leaning into a line to force out this or that particular emotion (echoes of First Love’s J. P. Miller’s oh-so-precious Ss when he solos). No matter, all this is just not necessary. These guys sound from what I’ve heard as though they can really sing (of course a live set would have to confirm them, but still … benefit of the doubt and all). And it’s a fun, well-sung sound that’s stylistically pleasant (mostly … though do see above: queing, comma curly). Which is to say, young(ish), evidently talented groups could do worse than try too hard.
Perhaps they’ve improved and refined their sound. Certainly this new project seems worth hearing. Anyone else heard it?Email this Post