GMA Week: SGMG Showcase

I write to you, dear readers, from the middle of GMA week in Nashville the morning after the annual Tuesday night Southern Gospel Music Guild showcase of southern gospel talent. If NQC is a chance to hear the range of what southern gospel offers, the showcase is a quick finger on the pulse, a way for industry insiders and professionals – and a few lurkers like me – to assess prospects and survey the field. My fellow southern gospelites, if last night was any indication, the state of the southern gospel union is lousy.

The first thing to say, of course, is that last night’s lineup was, on the whole, decidedly NOT the best southern gospel has to offer. Whoever booked the talent for this affair seemed to have mistaken it for a horizon showcase at NQC punctuated with a few A list artists. Save for the Booth Brothers, Janet Paschal, and Karen Peck and New River, the showcase was dominated by middle-tier acts, relative newcomers to mainstage spotlights, or downroster artists working their way up: Skyline Boys, Three Bridges, Hope’s Call, Crystal River, Tribute, and Mark Bishop.

First the good news: Devon McGlammery is really growing into the unfortunately minimal role he plays in KPNR’s music. There’s a certain auto-pilot quality to KPNR sets – KP sings 9/10s of the lead lines and does all the talking, Sister Susan stands dutifully to one side smiling benignly, and the Male Third gives KP someone else to look at every once awhile as she sings – so it was nice to hear some of the vocal details McGlammery introduced into his part, not least of all because it reminds you this really is a live performance. They staged some songs from their new project (I think; though I’m going from memory here) and there were a coupla of really nice ensemble moments toward the end. It made me want to go back and listen to the new album again now and give it a second chance.

And then there’s the Booth Brothers. The Booths’ uncontrived, fresh humor, their easy stage manner, and above all the pleasant smoothness of their understated self-confidence almost made it worth sitting through what had come before. Indeed, given what I heard last night, I propose we fire all tenors in gospel music except Michael Booth (and Anthony Facello, if he ever makes a real comeback) and let them back in front of a microphone only after they learn how to sing as comfortably and as fully in their range as Booth is and does. After so much shrillness and thin, tinny high notes, so much oversinging and buffoonery, the Booth Brothers were unquestionably the most accomplished ten minutes of the night. Their tracks were underamped and muddy, their house mix stunk (the sound was execrable all night long), and their last big note was way off but who cares. As they have done just about everywhere they’ve gone lately, the Booths left everyone else looking like amateurs and minor planets in the shadow of their sun.

The bad news is that the good news takes up no more space than this. In general the problems could be lumped into three main categories.

1. Crappy songs. Southern gospel is just broke out with hackilious, lyrically derivative, melodically formulaic, creatively impoverished songs full of predictable rhymes and remarkably unimaginative metaphors and imagery. I’m not counting the hymns Janet Paschal sang from her new project (the hymns we heard last night suggest that the project will be beautifully orchestrated, impeccably arranged, and gorgeously sung, but Paschal forgot a lot of her words – though you might not have known it because she can fake her way through lyric lapses about as well as anyone in the bidness … at one point last night I think her heard her sing “he rides on the wind and ascends on the plains/planes,” which sounded marvelous, but I’m pretty sure that’s nowhere to be found in “Oh Worship The King” – and she opened and closed with mid- and slow-tempo songs that let the attention of an already distracted crowd drift). And the Booth Brothers sang a well-balanced mix of old and new, ending with “He Saw it All.” But even this is illustrative: a two-year old song is the most memorable tune from two hours of music.

Sigh. Perhaps no one cares to disturb the inertia of the average southern gospel fan’s tastes with something innovative or unexpected. Tribute, the quartet spawned from the meltdown of the shortlived Monument Quartet, is full of young guys with a lot of energy. Here’s a natural place to look for where gospel music might be going. And from the sound and feel of their set, they seem to think they’re the Kingsmen at the Black River Electric Co-op annual meeting and picnic in Fredricktown, Missouri, 1979. But it’s not 1979, and these guys aren’t the Kingsmen. I get what they’re trying to do. The Kingsmen of that era were irresistible, charging ahead in Jim Hamill’s hard-driving, sweat-ringed, caution-(and pitch)-to-the-wind approach – driven by a kick drum, a bass, and Anthony Burger’s tendency to rush every song headlong into a wild gallop. But someone needs to tell Tribute that those days are over and that you’re not going to recapture them by leeching Hamill’s style of its electrolytes in a bloodless program of canned tracks, business casual, and lyrically forgettable music.

It’s not just the young ones, though. Three Bridges, staffed with guys well in the middle of the middle life, sang a song that has been very successful for them. It’s hook is built around the line: “in the valley there’s a rock. Jesus is the rock.” I spent three long years of my childhood in Old-Testament style labor picking stones, one by one, out of pasture in a valley my family was trying to farm. But even subtracting my personal bias, notice how this lyric lazily explains its own conceit: In the valley there’s a rock … and just to make sure you get the idea here, Jesus is the rock. … Oh, ok. NOW I get it. Cause it wasn’t clear before.

This sort of decidedly unlyrical music typifies so much of the new southern gospel you hear today: if not full of clichés and rhymes out of a dime-store rhyming dictionary (and often they are that too), these songs sound as though they come from a collective imagination besotted with long-ago successes and no originality to sober up their work. In the garden, Peace in the valley, I go to the rock … In the valley there’s a rock! …. This rock is Jesus, the only one … Jesus is the rock! Another Three Bridges song declared with new-agey solipsism that “perception is reality.” Indeed. This might as well be the theme song playing on the deck of the good ship southern gospel as it runs aground on self-delusion and small, silly songs.

At some point it ceases to matter if such songs are source or symptom of the underlying problem. It’s impossible to tell, and no one seems to really care. “In the Valley There’s a Rock” went to #7 “on the national charts,” as Three Bridges noted on their website. And that seems to be what matters. Nationally renown recording artists. One chart-topping tune after another. Perception is reality.

2. Artists who don’t know how sing to other artists and industry insiders. There are two theories about how to stage a set to an audience overwhelmingly made up of professionals, insiders, and other artists. One is to work it as straightforwardly as you would any other date, which means you ask the crowd if they came to have church, you try to get everyone to clap and sing along with you, and you tell the same jokes and do the same schtick that the folks would get at Piska Heights. The thinking here is that your peers want to hear what kind of show you put on night after night. The other approach is to sing for singers, drop the schtickiness and enjoy the rare space to relax in a crowd of people who have already seen what’s behind the curtain and knows what goes on backstage.

Janet Paschal took this latter route (she wonderfully deadpanned about the lyrics she was singing maybe not being exactly the way the final cuts would turn out, and if you didn’t pay attention closely, it might have seemed she was saying things were still fluid in production), though somehow still managing to exude starriness. And the Booth Brothers seemed completely at ease and themselves, though partly this has to do with the fact that their general-admission schtick is pretty smart to begin with and so translates well across a range of audiences. Still, Michael Booth clearly chose to speak peer-to-peer, with a kind of wink and nod knowingness that was refreshing and unschtickily funny: “let’s do that one song we sing about God.”

But mostly these artists came in three piece suits of High Holiness and Piety. My tolerance for Jesusiness is abnormally low as southern gospel fans go, and anyway I want to be clear I’m not suggesting expressions of religious belief or conviction were inappropriate in last night’s setting. But these displays can go too far more quickly with peers than fans.

It’s one thing to open, as Hope’s Call did, with a song stacked to the stratosphere. The stacked vocals matched the microphone power-pumping and great big happy-in-the-lord smiles and the point-to-Jesus gestures. Hope’s Call = high energy. And let me be clear: they do this well and it works. But the acoustical number, with Eddie Harrison at the keyboard, which followed the stacktastic opening asked us to suspend our disbelief to an extent our honest ears simply could not abide.

You can try this at home: sing along with your favorite quartet song cranked up on the stereo. You sound pretty good, don’t you? Then turn it off and keep singing just as loudly by yourself. Hear that? That’s called vocal whiplash, and you might be able to pull it off with a crowd seated safely in a church pew but the auditory dissonance is too much in a hotel ballroom during GMA week. Be all4Jesus, or be the intimate vocal stylists. Either is fine. Really (though if you want to be the latter, work on your accompaniment skills so the song doesn’t slow down to a caterpillar crawl as you look for your chord and find the note you’re supposed to sing). But don’t try to be both in 10 minutes if you’ve not got it down cold and don’t have time to talk for a while between songs so we forget what you sound like with a big stack behind you.

Because this isn’t Piska Heights and as a matter of fact, no, I didn’t come to have church and I doubt many other people in the room did either. They came to hear a showcase of professional southern gospel music at a weeklong event devoted to promoting professional Christian entertainment. That’s why each artists gets 10 minutes and three songs. To sing. Not minister. Not talk. Not introduce our group and tell you about our new album. To sing.

I suppose if I were an artist with no better abilities, judgment, discernment, and song selection than the majority of what I heard last night, I’d want to do all I could to justify myself professionally on some other grounds, too. But the inability to communicate effectively to your peers is not just a question of pulling off a three-song set once a year. It speaks more broadly of artistic development arrested in the mirror stage: when the only persona you can comfortably inhabit is the one you rehearsed in front of your bathroom vanity with the toothbrush for a mike and the exhaust fan for applause.

3. SGMG seems to have become a wholly owned subsidiary of Compassion International, a Christian charity that sells sponsorships for poor children, mostly in the developing world. Now I should say, I’ve always been skeptical of these outfits. Sally Struthers and all that. But for now it’s enough to note that doing something is indeed better than nothing, but by the time Hope’s call got done singing a song of theirs that’s become the soundtrack for a Compassion commercial and then watching the commercial itself, we got the point: some artists have elected to become involved with something that is deeply meaningful to them and they hope you’ll consider participating too. Fine. The compassionate – not to mention tasteful and professional – thing to do would have been to direct people to the table out front and stop talking about it.

Instead we were subjected to an altar-call to Compassion from Eddie Harrison, a windy pitch from Compassion’s president, another personal pitch from one of the Three Bridges, and a long impassioned appeal from SGMG’s Zane King about how Compassion kept him from leaving gospel music entirely. One gets the sense that whatever good Compassion does, it might at times be despite, not because of, its approach to self-promotion.

If I understand it rightly, artists and/or their labels pay $500 and their own expenses for a spot on the Guild showcase. If I were most of those artists, I’d want my money back. For that matter, everyone in the audience ought to send their $12 parking tab to Zane King, head honcho at SGMG this year, in protest (I would say there needs to be more truth in advertising but this thing really wasn’t advertised beyond a press release on the SN website, which might account for why attendance was so far down from recent years).

The point of this event – the reason a label is willing to shell out the equivalent of a month of radio promotion to bring an artist in to do 10 minutes on a Tuesday evening in a small hotel ballroom – is that it’s a chance for the industry to preview new music and/or create a buzz about an artist’s latest work. If you want to make this event one big wet kiss to Compassion International, interrupted occasionally by some mediocre southern gospel music, I guess that’s one way to go about it. But it really ought to be renamed the Compassion Showcase. That way I’d know to stay in my hotel room next time.

Update: Songwriter Sue C. Smith blogs the showcase here.

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Comments

  1. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Lighten up, Doug! :)

    I think you could have communicated the bad points in one five (or fewer)-sentence paragraph if you had wanted. I’m almost persuaded to try condensing it myself!

  2. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    All right, I gave in to my own dare. :) Now I wouldn’t typically say this even if I thought it, but if I was saying what you said above, I’d do it like this:

    “Last night wasn’t the best southern gospel has to offer. An excessive amount of advertising was mixed in with unimaginative and unlyrical songs smothered in stacked vocals. Simply put, the artists didn’t know how to gear their presentation to their peers.

    But on the other hand, the bright points included…”

  3. Tom wrote:

    Nope. Shoot straight with us, and give it both barrels. That’s why I and I suspect many others come here, you just don’t get this kind of straightforwardness (whether you agree with it or not, that’s not the point) anywhere else in SG.

  4. Donna B. wrote:

    Very good point Doug on the stacky to the nonstacky…Kevin’s goal was to make the “Good News Bad” song have an ensemble feel…and thus it was the only “stacky” sounding song on the album…but YES to put them back to back like that…I never thought about it but it is a good point. Thank you! So many times you have some incite that I need to hear…Admittedly, I don’t always agree with you…but sometimes I can draw some knowledge from what you have to say and this is the case here… Have a safe trip back to Florida! Donna (Hope’s Call)

  5. Phil wrote:

    Straightforwardness? Ha! This is drivel from someone that is critical of everything or everyone he comes in contact with. It must be difficult to be so educated that you can’t enjoy anything in life…

  6. Adam Edwards wrote:

    Got to admit that I appreciate your candidness……hope you can recover from this event……

  7. Tony Brown wrote:

    One has to wonder, if this is indeed THE SG showcase, why weren’t the big guns there?

  8. DD wrote:

    I appreciate Dougs shoot from the hip attitude. As a performer I’ve often wondered how my presentation is recieved when singing with my peers and not in a worship setting. What I’m most impressed with is Donna B. She had plenty to say probably about Hopes Call review, but she showed a lot of grace in her response.

  9. Kyle wrote:

    Daniel, sounds to me like you might be exercising the “Singing News” effect….

  10. gc wrote:

    Daniel,
    No way, Tell me what you really think and don’t be afraid to say it. Just like Compassion International, great cause and message needs to be heard but sing…sing…sing…unless they were footing the bill which from Doug’s comments, they most likely financed most of the night.

    I admire Donna…godd groups take constructive criticism and try to move forward..Doug can be wrong but when he is right, use it for your groups good.

  11. CVH wrote:

    I don’t usually make it a practice of taking on the comments made by others here but Phil, your post reveals more about you than it does about our hosts’ educational background or observations.

    Remember, the blog’s byline is “criticism and commentary…” not “mindless adulation and sycophantic nonsense”. And in defense of educated people everywhere I’d suggest that the opposite of your comment is more often true - being educated allows one to enjoy more of life more fully than would otherwise be the case.

    In an industry that is notoriously uncritical of itself - to its own detriment - blogs like this provide a forum for industry people, fans and the great unwashed masses - at least those with internet access - to discuss, comment and critique themselves and each other. Proverbs says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

  12. Mark Forester wrote:

    Doug…….

    I always like your honest (to you!) perspective. I find it funny though that you referred to Michael Booth’s “sing the song about God” as “refreshing and unshtickily”……he says that every night!

    It is funny though and it is HIS! That is what SG emcees are mostly missing……the ability to be funny or moving (take your pick) while being an original. Michael Booth is a master at it.

    The Booth Brothers are in a class all unto themselves……strangely…..they never act like it.

  13. Zane King wrote:

    I had a colleague today that suggested I look over this email blog concerning the SGMG showcase. Thank you for your criticisms and articulate remarks. I look forward to hearing suggestions in the future on how to continually improve our genre. I, too, can also easily define the weaknesses and problems within our industry. However, it takes willing volunteers like myself to try to make a difference. Oh, did you mention that the SGMG is a volunteer organization? I have worked tirelessly for 12 years for the SGMG because I believe in our purpose. Sure, we have made mistakes and at times costly ones. However, the bottom line is we are fighting for the good of the music we love. And the $500 you mention is putting our money where our mouth is. That said, I truly do welcome criticism that is intended to help and encourage. That same criticism should also be delivered with a kind heart and tact. The apostle Paul laid the ground rules for us on that subject. So, in the future, I would love to hear your wonderfully expressed dialogue about the “problems” of our genre followed by a carefully outlined strategy that helps to us overcome the hurdles that we face. I’m sure with your constant use of the dictionary and thesaurus that will be a delightful pleasure to read.

    Blessings to you all,
    Zane King

  14. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    Zane and Donna, I really admire how well you responded to this post.

    gc, I do say what I think. Everything I say on southerngospelblog.com is something that I think. But sometimes I do not say everything I think.

    You might disagree with that…but I can guarantee you that not even Doug posts everything he thinks.

  15. bassman wrote:

    Right on Zane!
    Everyone wants to blame everyone else and talk about how bad our genre of music is, but not one person (including Doug Harrison) has ever had a plan to make it better. I would like Mr. Harrison to explain in an article how he would change this industry. Since he has all the answers, I just wonder why he has never made it in this industry. Since he seems to have the key of how to run every facet of this industry. He can’t that’s why! Instead he hides behind a computer screen like a coward that he is!

    Just calling it like I see it!

  16. Tom wrote:

    bassman says, “Just calling it like I see it!”

    Good point, and may Avery continue to call it as he sees it!

  17. gc wrote:

    Evidently Zane and othes have never read many comments on this site.Many times there have been refreshing and insightful suggestions from Avery on the industry.That is the problem with our industry of SG.Instead of saying, yes the talent was not where it needed to be in the showcase and that was reflected by the crowd and the promotion of the event. Instead we get, we are a non- profit volunteer organization so we have every right to be mediocre and praise Jesus!

    Here is a suggestion, make it a top flight event where SG shines, the room is packed and everyone wants to be there.Get sponsors, raise money, and make the event something that the GMA will pay you to have instead of the other way around. If that is not possible, Don’t have the event. It hurts the industry deeply when events are a disaster. The Booth Brothers, KP, Hope’s Call are a good representation of SG.

  18. Montana Man wrote:

    Whether you incite (that frequently results from your insights) or not, I always look forward to your critiques of events because I know I’m not going to be subjected to a sugary lovefest. Because the Booth Brothers were recently in Montana (and got trapped in a Wyoming snowstorm for nearly four days on their way home) and Crystal River is coming up for a week in June, I looked forward to what you’d have to say about both groups.

    Your comments about the Booths, and Michael, were everything we’d experienced and enjoyed — relaxed mellow rather than blast your ears into your melon.

    I’d hoped to see more about CR, especially in the wake of losing their bass to BFA, and their apparent move into a trio. But they were lumped into that cluster. Comments about Tribute were interesting, too; I remember two of those guys from their Wilburns days.

    What surprised me were two things — one being your explanation that groups were paying to be on the showcase, ,and Sue Smith’s comments about how poorly attended the event was. Just 50 people ten minutes before showtime, and just 150 or so for the show? CR will sing to more people than that in Plains MT. And the card included KP and Janet P? Of course, I guess the audience was limited to the Guild attendees, huh?

    Thanks for the report.

  19. Montana Man wrote:

    PS — I don’t know Donna of Hope’s Call, but I’d say she’s pretty classy to give some reasoned response to your comments about her group.

  20. NG wrote:

    For years I waited for some serious reviews of SGM performances and recordings similar to what I get in other fields of music. You don’t have to agree with such reviews (and often I don’t) but at least it gets you thinking about the quality unlike those who write everything was a blessing.

    Sure there was criticism in Doug’s reviews but he praised the Booth Brothers who impress me more every time I see and hear them.
    He also noted Devin McGlomery’s growth as a singer (wish he was featured more).

    Of course, many in the SGM world don’t like the GMA so to get even they boycott it which results in some second-tier groups preforming at GMA events. The non-SGM fans who attend probably assume the best SGM artists are performing and expect more than some of those newer groups can deliver.

  21. TW wrote:

    When i read these comments that whoever this averyfineline guy is it made me sick….First of all dont the men and women who sing this music do this for christ…Forgive me but singers are just singers without spirit,it is not for a show or to be seen or how good or bad these groups are.give me a break on all these post that are putting gruops down…man if you dont like STAY HOME NEXT YEAR!!!
    I for one support all the groups who were there lastnight..KEEP SINGING NO MATTER WHAT…

  22. RF wrote:

    Good reporting from Avery and spot on in many respects.

    If this genre is to survive (and I really worry about that), quality is the most important product (to quote an ancient commercial I remember). Unfortunately, if the genre is to be represented by these “rookie” artists (with the exception fo the Booths and Bishops, Hope’s Call and Janet Paschal), then a less than accurate picture is created. It’s almost like some of the most professional groups boycotted this event (which they probably have for years). The result was a not so good impression.

    The fact that Avery mentions this gets criticism from many, but I say that every genre and every performance needs that criticism. Why? To get better and maybe improve their performance. Without that, like everything in life, things become stale and quality suffers.

    It’s not all good. And for us to believe that it is makes us liars to ourselves. As Dad Speer himself said, “I’ve heard so much off key singing, i got to where I like it.”

    Heaven forbid that we all get to that tongue-in-cheek comment by Dad Speer. When we get to that point, the genre is dead and it will be just a memory to all of us.

  23. Mike wrote:

    As for the line-up, correct me if I’m wrong but many of the artists that appeared on the showcase live within a 30-minute drive of downtown Nashville (Paschal, Three Bridges, Hope’s Call, Tribute) and Crystal River is out of the Knoxville area I believe. Some of the artists were probably in town for the Doves. I wish they could have hooked Brian Free and Assurance in since they were supposed to be performing. So, why was the best of the best not there…maybe proximity had something to do with it. I’m not sure why the Crabb Family didn’t get asked back for a final hurrah or why that invites weren’t extended to the Mike Bowling Group or Legacy Five or the Perrys. All of those groups live within a 30-minute drive of Nashville as well.

    The Compassion stuff was quite overwhelming. We understand. Enough is enough though. Actually, when enough is bypassed, it tends to turn one off to what is being said at a certain point.

    I hope the event gets better each year instead of just existing from year to year, as it seemed to do this year.

  24. MM wrote:

    My thing with all of this is if the new groups do not get a shot at some exsposer and all the A LIST groups as some call them do then how can this small industry that we call good ole southern gospel grow?
    If you ask me southern gospel needs to learn alot from ccm..The ccm industry to me seem to welcome new artist and support them no matter what.. I understand gruops need to work on sound ans alot other things but i have a crazy idea lets be supportive and pray that god will help them grow in what they are doing for him..I used to be a hugesouhtern gospelfan but itsthings like this that drive people away..As for some of the groups on this showcase i dont really know alot about them but it looks like to me that Zane king is trying to be a servantand help.. So i say Mr Kingthanks for that..

  25. RR wrote:

    Paschal lives in North Carolina.

  26. TonyWatson wrote:

    Keep on keepin’ it real, dawg.

  27. Zane wrote:

    WOW! I love some of the dialogue in the responses. Here are some facts for you all…
    I know who the cream of crop is and I can tell you they were all invited. We try every year at GMA to put our best foot forward. Some years that is harder to accomplish than others. You have to understand that a Tuesday night is family night for most of our artists. Much like a Sunday for those of us who do not travel full time. It is hard to ask them to give that up. So, believe me we try our best to get all of the names you all mention in your comments. Now, as to new artists. I think all of you would agree that my career has been defined by breaking new artists. At times, that requires taking chances and also being patient with artists as they learn the process. And by the way, do any of you have any idea how much pressure can be on some of these “new artists” when they have two maybe three songs to showcase. That’s a difficult place to be. I am proud that we have opportunities like the GMA to showcase our best and our future. Again, I concede that some years that is more difficult than others. However, I am very proud of our results from our involvement in GMA as an industry. The Crabb Family and BF & Assurance both represented Southern Gospel proudly. This inclusion of SG to the GMA Week is a result of years of hard work to repair that separation some of you spoke about. However, I can tell you that there is no boycotting going on. Whoever is boycotting the GMA is simply not in the know. Our industry of SG is proud to be included underneath the GMA umbrella. Now on the Compassion subject. I appreciate your comments. Please understand that our artists including myself who have stood in these filthy slums in third world countries and held these children in our arms have been given a perspective that we all cherish. I am unapologetic for this cause. The message of Southern Gospel has always proudly proclaimed that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is bold and clear in our songs and in our heart. Therefore, if we truly believe this and then do nothing when given the opportunity then we are nothing more than hypocrites. So, I think if you examine the hearts of those that were speaking to you about Compassion you will find upon review that it is a heavy responsibilty and an overwhelming joy to serve these children in the manner by which we have been called to do so. And by the way, none of us are exempt from that calling. One final note, I have read many comments posted on this site almost from it’s beginning. You are correct in that some posts and criticisms are well structured and I think much of the industry is listening. I just caution you to always think before you hit that “enter” button to make sure you have read over your words carefully and asked is this being stated in a loving and Christlike manner.
    Blessings,
    Zane

  28. dkd wrote:

    MM.. Responding to Your comment about New Groups getting a shot @ exposure. If the New groups are talented and can actually sing and have the stage presence that is needed to “Hang” with the “A” list as you call them, then more power to them. It is the New groups or Unknowns, or regional’s or whatever label you want to put on them that can’t sing or have an obvious lack of talent that seems to be the issue here. As you said everyone deserves a chance to be heard and possibly get their Big Break in the industry but not every group should showcase their “inexperience” or lack of talent at one of the Premier Christian Showcases of the year.

  29. Bob wrote:

    So the Gaither Vocal Band took home both Southern Gospel Album of the Year and Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year. This year, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound’s CD debuted in the top spot on both the Contemporary Christian and Southern Gospel charts, and had the 58th spot on the Billboard Top 200. Their DVD opened at #1 on the Billboard Music Video Charts.

    It seems odd that people ignore the fact that the Gaither universe *is* Southern Gospel to the rest of the world. The Gaither tour showcases the best of Southern Gospel Music almost every night.

  30. Rhonda Berry wrote:

    Thank you for the comments on stacking. Stacking is fine if you can hold it up vocally without them. And PLEASE if you are a new group or a local/regional group, make your own stacks. I recently heard a group perform a very well-known SG song using the national group stacks. I thought I was going to throw up. At the same event, I had the opportunity to listen to another “up and coming” group and am still trying to figure out what is so special about them. I saw nothing but imitation and did not hear any impressive vocals. It was clear they were off-key even with the stacks.

    Thank you too for the wonderful assessment of the Booth Brothers. They are truly a class act. If we are available and they are within 100 miles of us, we go to anything they do. Yes, I hear alot of the same things, but Michael’s great tenor voice and their stage presence are a pleasure to watch no matter now many times we see them

  31. Mark Forester wrote:

    Michael Booth IS a great tenor. He never seem sto get that recognition because he is funny. Also, Ronnie is so great and Jim Brady is about as flawless as they come…..so Michael does not get noticed like should. He is unique……nobody sounds like him. He also never screams!

  32. BUICK wrote:

    Sometimes Avery’s diatribes can become tiresome…even when I agree with him (which is not always). But THIS was masterful prose. I don’t even care if I agree with his points. I just appreciate the writing: the vocabulary, the syntax, the style, the rhythm of the words and phrases. Thanks for posting this piece.

  33. Rick Hendrix wrote:

    Ernie Haase was not overlooked at GMA Dove Awards this year- His project was not eligible in this voting year. The # 1 CD/DVD is eligible for this upcoming year 2008. We are looking for a really big year ahead for EHSSQ. Thanks for mentioning them.
    Rick Hendrix

  34. Ryan wrote:

    I’ve gotta believe this is a big ol’ kick in the pants to the SG industry. This blog will no doubt change the industry. How many people read this thing 200-300? Or am I being generous? As I see it, we should make Doug the SG Tsar. This way we could take all reference to Christ out of our programs, never try to show compassion to our fellow man and let the industry die out when all the A-list artists have retired.
    How many GMA events has Doug organized? Obviously he has done a better job of getting groups to agree to come and perform.
    Unless you are Bill Gaither or Signature Sound, you are not going to get sponsorships to run the event. So Doug you don’t get an expense account to run or promote the event either.
    Lets weigh the options - spend time at home with family or pay $500 to sing. Zane is lucky he was able to get some of these up-and-coming groups.
    It would be nice if every artist was perfect every night, but even the best have off nights. I’m sure with a big event like this there was some nervousness with these future A-list artists. I don’t judge a group until I have seen them do their whole concert.
    By the way, who are the A-list artists? Are the Kingsmen, Dixie Melody Boys, Florida Boys, Inspirations still consider A-list artists or is it just the Crabb Family, Greater Vision, Legacy Five. With so many different styles in SG its hard to know who an A-list artist is. What appeals to you may not appeal to me.

  35. Tom wrote:

    Avery’s most recent (though a year old) traffic update is here (unless I missed one) in case Ryan or anyone else is interested.

    How about a traffic update Avery?

  36. gc wrote:

    In my mind, the groups nominated would be on the showcase. I know that did not happen nor were some invited. Ryan needs to understand that Christ is not being taken from this site.This site is encouraging and debating if we are doing our best for Christ in SG music. When I go to a concert and the group has to incite the crowd by a stretched almost true testimony, jumping off stage or losing clothing, it makes me feel that their music is mundane and lackluster.
    Present creative original songs and arrangements, have a message in the song that relates to the people you sing to and enjoy it. The next time I hear a group plead and beg for you to buy product, I am going to listen to 48 hours straight of the wohops live from frog leg creek arkansas…

  37. Felicia wrote:

    I was at the showcase and I’ve got to tell you, Avery was being very kind! As much as I have enjoyed attending this concert through the years, I left (early) thinking “If you don’t have the resources or interest (or money, even) to put on a great show, why bother? Let’s just all stay home.” No one’s career was furthered by Tuesday night’s fiasco.

    Also, I support Compassion. I sponsor two children monthly and I believe in their organization. But that is NOT why I go to concerts. I go because I want to hear music and it’s very upsetting to want to hear music and be subjected to such incessant proselytizing. Set up a booth in the lobby - put your logo on the screens - hand out literature to attendeees…Fine. Just stop taking time away from the music.

  38. Nina McPeake wrote:

    Zane, I read your comment about “breaking or introducing” new artists, and I think that’s admirable. But a full hour of new artists? I was there! I was also there in the past when the place was much fuller (by hundreds.) In all honesty, I was just bored Tuesday night. By the time the bigger names came on the stage, I was so restless, I wanted to go to the hotel. The whole night was just “uncomfortable.” I don’t know how to explain that really. Maybe it’s becasue the sound system was screaming at an audience of about 200 and that can make one feel unsure about responding or dare I say…it was the ememy’s way quenching the spirit. I don’t know. Yes, a lot of the songs were really bad, yet some were really good and I just couldn’t get into it as hard as I tried! Several years ago I went to one of theses concerts held in a cafe. The place was packed, yet intimate. Janet Paschal, Hoppers, Larnelle Harris, The Steeles and a few otherts were there. The evening ended with Vestal Goodman singing and the presdient of the GMA was at the piano, off the cuff. That was a GREAT concert. Maybe it should go back there. I don’t claim to be a concert promoter, but I can say I sure enjoyed that night better than Tuesday. However, the evening ended well for me. On my way out, a sweet lady gave me a free copy of the new Janet Paschal CD. Well, it wasn’t the full CD, but it now has me wanting to purchase it when it comes out in June. SGMG, Zane, and whoever else was involved, we appreciate what you do for the fans and newer artists, but you’ll have to admit,this was really a poor presentation.

  39. te wrote:

    Some excellent points here. I agree with Bob’s assessment in post 29 - Bill Gaither is the center of the SG universe for the rest of the world including the casual listener.

    Three Bridges is one of the best new “A level” groups to emerge in the past three years….2 #1 songs and a couple top twenty’s, they deserved to be there - perhaps they just need to use more Ronnie Hinson lyrics :)

    Mark Bishop is one of the top song writers in SG music and a top notch singer - he makes the grade on both accounts. Agreat ambassador of SG music with roots firmly established in the industry.

    New talent and supporting new talent… come on now! CCM eats their young, and SG music breeds lack luster talent faster than than you can say “snap”.

    As far as the best talent being there this year - are you all forgetting -American Idol is on Tuesday night……..LOL

  40. HHE wrote:

    Quote gc: “When I go to a concert and the group has to incite the crowd by a stretched almost true testimony, jumping off stage or losing clothing, it makes me feel that their music is mundane and lackluster.”

    That is exactly the point I was trying to get across on an earlier blog regarding Gold City. Jon Jon’s dated and dumb stage antics just destroy the program.

    It’s a shame too. Because this line-up of singers are awesome! It’s like Daniel Riley said in his response to my statement, “Jonathon is an idiot!”

  41. Rod wrote:

    Te: I don’t usually reply about my feelings on artists but MARK BISHOP a top-notch singer…Are you deaf? I don’t know Mark Bishop personally and I think he would even agree thats he’s not the caliber of singer that can as Bill Gaither says “Hit a homerun” but this proves a point I have seen on many of these comments this site has to offer. SG music will never be a top notch industry until it learns how make top-notch music. This industry unfortunately is based on…You heard the saying, “PREACHING TO THE CHOIR”? Well this is the same concept with music…You’re singing the same tired ole music to the same ole people and getting the same ole results.

    Also I know a little about Zane and I can bet he DID do his best with what he had and I’m sure he invited many of the “A-Listers” to the party…My bet is he had a hard time convincing the “A-Listers” how important it was to have a good representation at GMA week…Everyone wants their piece of the pie but no one wants to sacrifice for the good of the cause…Main reason I left SG music. Too many selfish, so called stars with egos and no character. Before you crucify me I know there are some good people in this industry but the percentage is very low. did it, done it, left it.

  42. te wrote:

    Rod - Mark may not be able to hit it vocally “out of the park” but he’s a solid hitter and gets on base with most of his music. What he may lack vocally is more than made up for in his writing and delivery. He can sing on my playlist anytime.

    ps…”Son of a Carpenter” , check it out…..

  43. Rod wrote:

    Maybe I need to revisit Mark Bishop again…Maybe.

  44. Angie M wrote:

    Rod: I don’t believe in shelling out gratuitous compliments. But I have to agree with Te who suggested “Son of a Carpenter.” Mark’s voice might not be the greatest, but some singers can get away with that because they have something else to offer. (This is true in other genres as well. And I’m not referring to the idea that I should overlook musical faults because someone is trying to minister to me.) I like some of the concepts in Mark’s songs–they’re different from a lot of what we hear in sG these days.

  45. gc wrote:

    Mark is a creative artist..something SG needs in all it’s styles….

  46. dkd wrote:

    Rod: I hear you loud and clear, been there done that! SG has too many “Narcissistic Stars” There are some very fine people in SG, but I’ve known too many of the Ego’s over the years along with their flawed characters. It can really make a person become Jaded.

  47. Dan Keeton wrote:

    Thanks Doug,

    If I get fired this week. Can I come to you for a job? or at least a loan?

    Dan Keeton
    Tenor - Dixie Melody Boys

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