Bluegrass goes No. 1

So, if David Bruce Murray’s little bird is right that a bluegrass song will be the next No. 1 song on the SN chart, and given that Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver were sitting at No. 4 last month (same position on Billboard’s report, too), doth my powers of deduction fail me to conclude that DL&Q’s “Help is On the Way” will top the southern gospel chart?

DBM wonders about an uproar. I dunno. I’m sure among the classic quartet set there may be some wailing and gnashing of teeth, but hard to imagine more than a shortlived squall.  The fact of the matter is, mo matter how much people claim to love the good ole gospel quartet way, they’ve been voting quite differently with their billfolds and butts for some time, buying product and filling seats at concerts featuring all manner of styles and formations of gospel.

Plus, let’s be honest: the classic quartets aren’t the center of creative energy in the industry anymore. The most innovative and interesting music and personalities are coming from everywhere but the classic quartet: The Booths, the Perrys, Austins Bridge, EHSSQ (a quartet but hardly classic, despite their throwbacks to the days of Jake and Hovie), Lauren Talley (my list is not exhaustive). Gold City may be an exception, but it’s the kind that proves the rule.

It’s not that the traditional quartet is irrelevant, but its function is increasingly to be a nostalgic piece of furniture in the room that evokes fond memories and warm associations from the past. As long as the new styles and groups ascending in popularity derived from the quartet, as trios and mixed groups did, their success could be spun as a kind of indirect reaffirmation of the quartet’s preeminence despite its decline, practically speaking. But DL&Q really comes from a largely separate musical and folk culture, one that overlaps with southern gospel for sure, but has its own history and stylistic conventions.

Which leaves traditional quartets even further out in the cold, so long as the tradition continues define itself as an antique. Or, as the announcement for Vaughan Quartet Festival puts it:

Live drums and loud sound is [sic] forbidden.

Alrighty then (h/t to whomever brought this to my attention; I can’t find the original email but I’m grateful all the same).

DLQ at No. 1, taken together with the Oaks’ return to the SN chart not too long, would not only suggest that the SN’s charting system is becoming a more accurate reflection of the music gospel audiences are actually listening to. It also ought to remind quartet traditionalists that theirs isn’t the only tradition that matters.

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  1. CD Review: Help is On the Way (Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver) | on 06 Nov 2010 at 8:38 pm

    […] mixture of new and classic Gospel songs performed in a Bluegrass style. Despite posts like these two, I see no reason why fans of traditional convention-song quartet singing would dislike Quicksilver. […]


  1. eddie crook wrote:

    Since DL&Q had a number one song,”We Shall Inherit” on the SN chart for April 2007 with no uproar, it is unlikely that many but the artist/label and radio promoter of “Help Is On The Way” care about them having another #1 on the SN chart.

  2. Jim Stover wrote:

    With all due respect Mr. Eddie, “We Shall Inherit” never inherited the # 1 spot on the SN chart. I believe it peaked somewhere around the Top 30. If my cell-depleted promoter’s brain serves me correctly, in April 2007 The Inpirations’ “I Have Not Forgotten” was # 1.
    Jim Stover

  3. Trent wrote:

    I think it’s great that DL&Q are going #1 with their song. On top of it being a great song, “Help Is On The Way” doing so well should send a message to everybody else in SG. DL&Q work on the craft of singing great harmonies…a lot. Basically, they are smoking about 90% of SG groups with their singing, plainly put. The SG male quartet purists could see this as a downer (they probably will), or they could see that people are hungry for something a little different than one more tired rendition of “Oh, What A Saviour” or “When He Reached Down His Hand For Me”.

  4. observant boy wrote:

    #30…….#1 ehhh ……who’s counting. That is how ALL the radio promoters tabulate chart positions.

  5. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    In terms of harmonizing, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver do very well.

    In terms of “smoking” 90% of SG groups, it’s largely a matter of style preference. I don’t think they’re blowing any SG “power groups” away, nor are they blowing away too many groups within SG that really concentrate on a fine blend and/or complex harmonies. They blow away all the mediocre SG groups who don’t focus on singing quality, sure…and there are perhaps enough of those to account for the 90% you mentioned.

    I WOULD say DL&Q’s attention to vocal precision combined with their skills as musicians sure sets them apart from the majority of other bluegrass groups I’ve heard. It’s that combination, I believe, that draws the group more fans than many of their counterparts in bluegrass…plus, the fact that they record about 80% gospel music endears them to SG fans who might otherwise like a Del McCoury Band if they were to do the same thing.

  6. Ben Harris wrote:

    Doug you should take a survey of your readers to see what style music they prefer. I would imagine you would find a similar result as did Singing News, SoGospelnews, and SoGospellovers. As to charts, when we start having charts based on sales and/or actual air play, then maybe a number one will actually have meaning. Till then it is little more than a vanity rating.

  7. Irishlad wrote:

    DL&Q and the Oaks are as sg as the Martins or Crabbs were when they first hit #1’s,no one had a problem then. The Oaks have their traditional quartet sound plus rich sg heritage going for them and DL@Q have their harmonies and 1st class musicianship.If DL&Q are as far removed from sg as say The Lewis family,then, that’s not what i would call far away at all. On a parting note:how can #1 be so wrong and #2 so right?(just curious)

  8. Alan wrote:

    My exposure to DL&Q has basically been what I’ve heard on XM34. Up until now I’ve never bought one of their CD’s, but that will likely change. Like all great bluegrass, their minimalist instrumentals are tight, and their harmonies are superb. “Help Is On The Way” is a wonderful song, and if it indeed goes to #1, I sure won’t be surprised.

    I guess I hadn’t thought things through to the conclusion that Doug reached, but he’s right…much of the great music being released today is from other than the traditional male quartet. Into Doug’s non-exhaustive list, a few more notable examples would be LordSong, The Talley Trio, Ivan Parker, GV, The Whisnants, Hoppers, etc. (Again, nowhere near an exhaustive list) Years ago, there were the Goodmans, Nelons, The Bill Gaither Trio, and other non-traditional groups that had huge popularity in a field that was dominated by male quartets. I may be wrong, but I think that great music is just great music, and we celebrate it as such.

    Hat tip to Eddie Crook! Great to see you on a post here, Eddie!

  9. ecrook wrote:

    Thanks Jim.. And congrats.. You are the best radio promoter in the business right now. IMO…

  10. LW wrote:

    I agree with #8, Great music is Great music no matter is singing. I see that a really stellar group of SG/BG has been left for the list, The Isaacs. You should check them out in person. You won’t be sorry.

  11. Trent wrote:

    One thing that needs to be said in regards to the fans’ hunger for something unusual stylistically….I notice that in this year’s SN Fan Award nominations, nary a mixed group was nominated for the top artist award….it was all male trios & male quartets. Mind you, this particular category is the top award and any artist is eligible, whether it be a female or male, soloist or group.

    The top 5 nominees for SG Artist of the Year are:

    Booth Brothers
    Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
    Greater Vision
    Triumphant Qt

  12. Tim wrote:

    DL&Q’s tight harmonies and precision musicianship definetly make for a good performance. They sound live just as they do on recording which makes you wonder if part of their success on SG radio and venues is due in part to the live instrumentation at their concerts versus the many tracks and stacks being used by many of the major SG groups.

  13. music lover wrote:

    is this the first group to have a #1 in singing news that doesn’t do just gospel???
    could this be history making for singing news???

  14. Sissey wrote:

    Doye Lawson has a wonderful group. I miss Barry Scott in his group. Best Wishes to Doyle and his group.

  15. Ron F wrote:

    Wow How about it we got Eddie Crook and Jim Stover. Both of you guys are awesome. Thanks for both of youchecking in.

  16. Tim wrote:

    If this song hits #1, I hope that it opens the eyes of radio programmers that they don’t have to play mediocre SG songs to fill the airwave.

    Its possible to broaden your scope and include top notch bluegrass AND still hold the SG crowd.

  17. Ben Harris wrote:

    Tim, that would be a wonderful thought except that the fans do not have one thing to do with the charts. It is possible to sell a million CD’s and not break into the charts, and it is possible to not sell a 1000 total and be number one. For instance we had a song that Solid Gospel reported for three months in a row as number one, but in Singing News it barely made it into the top 80. It di not matter that all the reporting stations in the nation combined, did not have the listeners of Solid Gospel. The charts have no bearing whatsoever on sales, or actual air play as a total. They have to do with a handful of reporting stations and what those handful report.

  18. Tim wrote:

    I’d be curious as to the number of listeners that Solid Gospel has. Do you have any numbers for them?

    The song that you mentioned as a #1 at Solid Gospel - how did it fair with SoundScan? Did it sell “millions” and still not chart?

    My point goes beyond charting - I think that quality BG has a place in the SG format. It is one way to broaden listenership. This is a win - win for everyone involved.

    It was interesting to see Les B write about a BG group in his column in Singing News. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new relationship. The stepchild has returned home and is being welcomed in.

  19. Ben Harris wrote:

    Hi Tim, I do not have the total numbers of listeners for Solid Gospel, but I do know they have as many if not more stations than are reporting stations for Singing News. For instance, Singing News has some 120-130 stations that report to the charts. (This is a changing number as stations come and go) and Solid Gospel has at least that many throughout the nation, although, back then, their vote only counted as one reporting station. As to Sound Scan, our single was not even on Sound Scan’s radar, and even if it had been, it would not have made a bit of difference in the charts. As to sales, no nowhere close to millions, in fact several thousand might be a better number. My point is that the charts, sales and airplay have nothing to do with each other in SGM. It is a very interesting way to come up with a chart, that is for sure.

  20. cdguy wrote:

    SoundScan is not a valid representation of s/g music sales, as the majority of s/g (even the biggest names) sales are done at the product tables. Retail stores do a minor percentage of the total s/g sales.

    And SoundScan cannot track concert product table sales. If labels reported sales (which they don’t/won’t, except for royalty purposed — and some not even then accurately or timely), we might have a better tracking of sales.

    So, don’t hold your breath.

  21. Trent wrote:

    Actually Ben, the last time I checked, which was about 6 months ago, the reporting stations for the Singing News charts total 72.

  22. Norm Graham wrote:

    #20: Soundscan does have a way of tracking sales at product tables.

    Billboard Magazine referred to it recently in an article about its new bluegrass music album charts as bluegrass artists sell a lot of product directly to fans.

    Of course, I doubt SGM artists would go to the trouble of setting up the process (sounds complicated) considering there are no SGM charts based on sales.

  23. cdguy wrote:

    Norm, No SGM charts based on sales? Check out New Day’s ad on pg 81 of the August SN (or pg 113 of the July issue, if you haven’t received August yet). It may not be all-encompassing sales list we desire, but it’s a pretty good representation of what’s happening at retail.

  24. Trent wrote:

    Well, it’s official now. The September SN chart is out (see SN website) and the DL&Q song is #1.

    Karen Peck & New River’s song “Whispered Prayers” is roaring up the charts, jumping from #40 to #15.

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