“Everybody from the bartender at the Moose Lodge to a twenty-something lady with multiple tatoos”
Daniel Mount says EHSSQ will top a few charts that really matter soon with sales of their new release, Get Away Jordan. Good for them. Mount notes that the cd/DVD is “catching some eyes,” which I imagine was just a figure of speech, but it’s apt in this case, perhaps more than he knows. It’d be interesting to uncouple the cd from the dvd - or detach both from the Gaither megaplex - and see what happens to the sales. Another way to say this: is the music on the cd driving sales or is it the dvd – i.e. the doing of the hokey pokey and the shaking of it all about - sprinkled with the Gaither pixie dust that sends product flying off shelves?*
Mount supplies the joyful noisers’ answer to this question, which basically amounts to “anything for Jesus.” And though I’m on record as being skeptical of the (to me, dubious) proposition that gospel music is primarily about conversion and evangelizing, I’m sure for his part Ernie Haase means every word of his statement about sellling “a gospel tract.” But let’s not kid ourselves. Plenty of people like EHSSQ’s brand of gospel music because it comes with a generous helping of strutty, jiggly eye candy wrapped in a postmodern-retro style that manages to both revere and exploit the male quartet tradition. As RF puts it, EHSSQ’s act has something that appeals to just about everyone - “From the bartender at the Moose Lodge to a twenty-something lady with multiple tatoos” - if they’re inclined to stop and listen, or just watch.
For my part, I’ve got the cd in my car (see here for an explanation of why the dvd is still in its shrink wrap and likely to stay that way for a while), and there are a few tracks on it I can’t stop listening to, especially “Until We Fly Away” (which is pure GVB circa Testify, only with a real bass singer and more reliable lead, and more generally the direction I’d like to see them go consistently). It’s a good album with a few great moments on it, but there’s a spastic quality to the song selection that makes it difficult to know what – beyond being a group that sells gobs of records – EHSSQ wants to be musically, artistically (there’s traditional quartet numbers here, contemporary style pieces, a few power ballads, some patriotic stuff, a strange frolicsome thing that reminds me of an Alvin and Chipmunks cut, a live reprised “Get Away” and two covers of old Cats’ standards). Listening to the cd, which is very well sung but stylistically restless and suffering from a kind of artistic ADD, is like trying to look through all three ranges of a tri-focal lens at once.
Whether intentional or just the default position that a charmed life with Gaither has evolved into for EHSSQ, this trifocal vision of themselves works just fine, obviously, so long as the group’s eclecticism carries Bill Gaither’s blessing. Indeed, I’m sure the Homecoming seal of approval – and all the sales it brings – accounts for why EHSSQ is willing to risk being typecast as Gaither’s dancing monkeys.
*Update: Here, a bit more specifically, is what I mean by this remark: EHSSQ’s Gaither connection means their sales are atypical of those generated by other traveling quartets of their stature and type. Units-of-product-delivered for EHSSQ comes not only (and maybe not even primarily, indeed this is the question I have) from direct purchases of their cds/albums but also from Gaither promotions and product bundles tied to popular compilations of Homecoming music: buy the best of George Younce, for example, and get an EHSSQ Get Away Jordan dvd as a bonus (or vice versa). So if EHSSQ is selling, say, 100,000 units of product (and this is just a big round number I’m pulling out of the air for the sake of discussion), the really interesting number to know would be the one disaggregated from Homecoming specials. This number would begin to measure how much of EHSSQ’s sales come from straight-ahead direct purchases of their music as opposed to product sales tied to some kind of Homecoming merchandizing, which as we know creates its own ecnomic weather.