The New LordSong
Since the real world will be intruding for a few days on the blogging side of life, I’m posting a longish reaction from a friend who recently heard the new LordSong. Thus RC:
I was very fortunate to catch what appeared to be a last-minute advertisement by a local church for a LordSong concert this Sunday night and somewhat hesitantly made my way to the church which has provided an excellent venue and crowd recently for concerts by the Perrys, Greater Vision, and Allison Durham Speer. So even though I’d only heard a handful of LordSong tunes on the radio, I was hopeful for a good evening. And boy was I well rewarded!
First of all, the crowd was markedly smaller for this concert than shows in the past, perhaps due to bad weather about an hour before the concert began. Nevertheless, I didn’t sense any dip in the group’s energy. The newly revamped group does include the three Ruppe sisters and Michael Lord, who lamented that he never planned to be on stage with three women. My inward response to that was “Buddy, you better count your blessings!” They began with a round of some of their most recently released radio hits including “Lord of the Dance” and “Let the Rocks Keep Silent”. I was pleased to hear the familiar and amazing harmonies of the Ruppes given kind of an update in these songs. I’m not sure if it’s just me but I LOVE the sound of these voices which meld in a way that I haven’t heard with any other group maybe save the Martins. I know there’s an urban music legend that bounces around about how nobody achieves a blend like family members but in this case I think it’s definitely on spot with these women. There also seemed to be a very pleasant amount of sincerity in their presentation that is sometimes lacking in other groups’ performances. That is, they all appeared to be genuinely enjoying singing and interacting with each other and with the audience. Even though Michael said that they were tired from a multi-day stint at a youth camp, that wasn’t apparent in their demeanor or their voices.
Early in the concert Kim announced that Heather’s husband Greg, who normally runs sound for the group, was unable to make the performance and that they had a guest sound engineer. I’m not sure if that was the reason or something else accounted for the off mix of tracks and vocals. Although the vocals were strong there were several times when the volume of the tracks was on the verge of overpowering the vocals completely. This was my only complaint and really I was willing to put up with the need to strain to hear some of the words just because the vocals were so lovely.
While I enjoyed almost all of the songs presented equally, the absolute treat of the night was when Kim announced that the church’s minister of music had insisted they sing “Under His Wings”. She noted that this wasn’t a LordSong song but that they made a concession for the minister of music, got a track of the song, and they were going to do it. Now my major issue with the Ruppes disbanding was that I NEVER got to hear this song performed live. I had heard it on the radio, had the CD, had heard people tell stories about “Mama” Ruppe’s delivery of the song live, all of that. But I just missed out on the real thing and I was very upset. But then Kim introduced the song in this way and before the first note of track played I was on the edge of my seat very excited but also scared that it just wouldn’t measure up. I can say that Kim’s delivery of the verses is much smoother and slightly more melodic than Mama Ruppe’s. Of course in some ways I’ve always thought of Mama’s singing of the verses as a way of building the song and then with the culmination of the song coming in the contrast of that incredible burst of angelic harmonies on the chorus. But nevertheless, Kim sang the verses quite convincingly and then there was that same beautiful burst of harmony. And perhaps the minister of music and I were the only ones in the sanctuary who were on the verge of levitation but I can’t imagine anyone there wouldn’t have said that it was pretty awesome.
After that song, it was hard to focus simply because that was for me the absolute peak of performance for them. But they kept going, delivering a few more goodies including a really cool arrangement of the two versions of “O Happy Day” (the convention song version and the more familiar black gospel-sounding version made popular by the Staples Family and in “Sister Act”) to a very nice piano-only track played by Stan Whitmire. At the end Michael moved to the piano and played as Kim led the congregation in a prayer which evolved into an invitation that got fairly significant response from the congregation. This was actually something I hadn’t witnessed in a long time but I liked that it didn’t appear to be forced with over the top emotionalism and other stage tricks by the group but rather kind of a natural direction for the concert to take. The pastor then returned to the stage, extended the invitation a bit as there was more response, and then had the group sing a final song during which the love offering was collected.
Overall, I would have to say that this was one of the best concerts I have attended in recent months. I really enjoyed kind of the laidback presentation style of the group. Maybe it’s the traveling with Mark Lowry that has affected this style but there were no extreme attempts at humor, no real cheap emotional tricks. The dissolution of the Ruppes was mentioned but presented as “Mom really wanted to slow down and has done so by doing solo work and it’s been really hard for her going out by herself but she’s getting used to it.” And the only Ruppes song that I recognized was “Under His Wings,” which I think they could sing any day any time and that would be just fine.
So I hope to see them again soon, especially with Greg running sound, which will hopefully make a difference. Of course it would be nice to have a break at some point where Michael plays piano for a song or two or someone plays piano and gives the tracks a small rest. Even if they can’t have live music for all of the show just a little in the middle would be nice.
In the interest of hearing more than one voice on this, Reader Michael’s take on the same concert is worth placing alongside RC’s view.
It’s amazing how that different people can see totally different things out of a show. Before I touch on my assessment of LordSong, let me note that I was pleased that I made time to catch LordSong on Sunday evening, even though I wasn’t as impressed with LordSong as I anticipated being.
I can’t recall having ever seen LordSong in a church setting. I have seen them in multiple-group events many times.
They do have a very laid-back demeanor on stage. I kind of like it. I can see how somebody who’s not a big fan of their style of music could wander from an attention standpoint during their show though.
Vocally, they have great voices.
There are some issues there though, largely due to the fact that Val is singing at the top of her range in trying to hit the high harmony. She hits her note the vast majority of the time. However, you can tell that she’s really having to push to do so. And though she may have the best lead voice of the sisters, she does not do a very good job of stage presence (with eyes often closed, especially when trying to hit her part). If you have to concentrate to hit your note, then close your eyes or do whatever it is you need to do. But you can’t do that over and over, because if you do, you lose your connection with the audience. Thus, it’s far more difficult to communicate the message of the lyric in the song.
And how do you go through a whole set and never let one member of the group lead a song (Heather)? She may have the lowest female voice in all of gospel music. It’s very good though. She’s quite solid singing the lower harmony part. But she was never featured. I can understand not featuring her much, but not at all. I don’t even recall her leading a chorus of a song.
Kim has a tremendous ear and is a great singer. She has a very nice voice as well. Put it all together and you have quite possibly the best alto in the Southern Gospel industry (if you consider LordSong Southern Gospel that is). She did a lot of emcee work, which I was pleased to see. It wasn’t necessarily good emcee work though…too much needless talking. I like feeling like I am getting to know the artist during the course of a show. Good emcees give you a glimpse of his/her personality. Kim just talked. She seems genuine though. It’s refreshing to see an artist step down to pray with people around the alter.
Michael does a great job on stuff that fits his voice. He’s adequate on stuff that doesn’t.
He did a good job at times with his emcee work, but there was just too much talking in the show, rambling conversation instead of creative lead-ins for the upcoming song. I like LordSong so much that it didn’t work my last nerve, but it was not good emcee work (and I’m sure there were some who didn’t like it). Of course, they don’t do a lot of church gigs. They’re usually with Lowry, so they don’t have to do a lot of emcee work.
They all seem supremely nice though. I look forward to seeing them again once they start doing more stuff that fits them, instead stuff that LordSong performed with Amber.
They have a project slated for release later this summer with just vocals and piano. That’s out of the box for LordSong, who has a progressive sound all its own. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.
Under His Wings was fine. I’ve heard it before. Kim did do a nice job of leading it. I didn’t see it as that big of a deal though.
I’d love to hear some more opinion on the new LordSong, something a little more objective. The post on this site was very pro-LordSong. I guess I was a little disappointed in some ways with what I saw. I just expected them to be much more polished based on having seen them with Lowry. Honestly though, maybe my expectations were a little too high.
I wish them the best. I’m sure they’ll only improve. Michael and Kim won’t stand for anything less.
This church, Grace Church of the Nazarene (located in North Nashville), is having this concert series and is doing it the right way. I’m guessing they’re getting artists to come without having to pay flats a lot of times. All of the concerts that I’ve been to there (Greater Vision, Perrys, LordSong) have been Sunday night gigs. The Perrys live 30 minutes up the street. Greater Vision lives only a few hours down I-40, and I wouldn’t doubt that LordSong was in town to work on their new project, which is being recorded in Nashville. So, with artists passing through or heading home, they’re seemingly just taking advantage of it. That’s smart. More churches should try to do it that way. If they did, they would be able to have a concert series just like this great one that Grace Church of the Nazarene has going on, and it wouldn’t cost them an arm and a leg.
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