Goodbye, Ryan; Hello (again) Devin, Roy, and Josh (and Gus, too!)

So I guess I ought to have an opinion about all the personnel changes that happened while I was away for the holidays. They were, evidently, very exciting (”!!!” according to the Singing News release about Gold City’s most recent upheaval). Fortunately, most of what can be said about these changes already has been thoroughly hashed out here.

Until we hear more from these groups in their new configurations, there’s not a lot to say about the soundness of these decisions from a musical perspective. As for the extra-musical stuff, the changes themselves and the reactions to them are nothing so much as a reminder of how powerful personality is in southern gospel. If these two groups - SSQ and Gold City - are (as we are so often encouraged to believe) representative of the “next generation” of talent, their recent choices suggest it’s back to future.

Gold City is, by all available evidence, a mess, and they’re about one more personnel change away from jumping the shark. In this most recent set of changes, one assumes that in bringing on Roy Webb, with the veneer of hipsterism he seems to possess for many people in sg, and bringing back Josh Cobb from … wherever he’s been for the past decade since he left L5, the Rileys were attempting to not just create some short-term (and, for a change, positive) buzz, but also assemble something of an instant Super Group reminiscent of the Free-Parker-LeFevre configuration that the group’s prolonged dysfunction  has made many fans publicly pine for. Because there are basically two ways to do supergroupdom: work at it for years and prove yourself, as per GC in 1990s, or jumble together an oddball mix of guys and hope the voices interact catalytically and fuse into a lasting style with a memorable sound (the Old Friends quartet operated on this principle, as do many of the pick-up ensembles featured on the Homecoming series).

The jury’s still out on this, shall we say, Cobb-Webb strategy, but the clips that have been making the rounds on youtube are … just ok, even allowing for the crummy recording quality of the videos. Cobb will, I assume, reacclimate himself to ensemble singing sooner or later (not surprisingly, for a guy who’s basically been doing his own thing musically for the past ten years, his solo work on “Satisfied with Jesus” is the strongest of his GC clips I’ve seen so far), and perhaps Webb - who’s proven himself to be a pretty funny and charismatic guy  - can help the rest of the group get … you know, maybe a personality transplant for their on-stage personae. I have no idea what one is to do about the tone and blend issues this new line-up faces (as Kyle said over at musicscribe, the real test of the group’s sonic viability will be whether the “character of their sound” coheres with Cobb in the mix), but that’s the beauty of personality-driven personnel decisions, isn’t it? The sound succeeds with fans as a function of how much they (want to) like the people doing the singing, and not the sound itself (see, for instance, these clips, and then this comment).

As for SSQ, anyone who has been a regular reader here knows I’ve long thought Devin McGlamery underrated, so it’s impossible to say he isn’t qualified for the job (and too, he’s been cultivating a look and style for himself very similar to SSQ’s for quite some time). But it’s striking that SSQ, for all the conventional wisdom about the group making its name and coming to fame by being (or appearing to be) post-gospel, Haase stayed so safely within the southern gospel mainstream for this hire. Choosing McGlamery won’t disrupt SSQ’s crossover mystique, and there’s probably plenty smart about the choice in its own right. We’ll see. But the fact the group was so quick to draw from the traditional sg talent pool does suggest that SSQ’s image as herald of a progressive gospel sound that appeals to all sorts of folks who wouldn’t otherwise cross the street to hear sg is primarily valuable within southern gospel, as a way to differentiate the group’s brand.

Now, if we just get some better bootlegs of these groups to see how they progress in the coming months …

Later: A reader quite rightly takes me to task for failing to mention Gus Gaches’ arrival at L5. Just so. Welcome, Gus! He joined before my holiday hiatus but after the last roundup post of the year, and I see a note now that I look for it on my desk that was to remind me to mention it. Boo on me my slatternly interns. I did see some shaky handheld video clips of the group with Gaches, shot from the balcony of a church with a giant Christmas tree looking thing at the back of the stage and a living room rug where the singers were standing, and the sound seemed solid and well enough put together, but then Gaches is no stranger to quartet work, and L5 is reliably drama free in its personnel changes. Which, I think, probably accounts both for why I overlooked it and for why the move hasn’t generated nearly the kind of chatter that the GC stuff has. Anyway, for L5, the issue is less one of blend and vocal fit, which seems to have been established in the audition (a novel idea!) and more a question of consistently finding the right material. So yeah … we’ll see.

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Comments

  1. QwertyJuan wrote:

    Agree 100% on the GC thing…. I am not finding the blend good at all with Josh Cobb…. him and Bruce will be clashing for months to come.

  2. burt wrote:

    I think the “blend” that we are missing is the absence of stacks.

    In the 1990’s Gold City relied heavily on backing tracks.

  3. 2miles wrote:

    Take this for what it’s worth. With complete ignorance of any personality issues of its members, past feelings, ill-will or blatant sin that may exist and observing from a perspective of 3 decades of experience listening to southern gospel music with an untrained ear I would like to say that I thoroughly enjoyed Gold City last night in concert. I knew Riley and Webb would steal the show. My question was Cobb. He more than proved himself adequate for the job. It was simply wonderful to hear and see. I remember the All-star trio of Parker-Free-Levere…while this group has a ways to go before they rival that group…the excitement was certainly there. Not only that, but as a listener with no training but years of experience…It just sounded like Gold City is supposed to sound. Power, Classy, Smooth…

    There was some type of ovation after nearly every song. Albeit sometimes it was 20% that’s still WAY more than the other 3 groups got (Kingsmen, Brian Free, McKameys). The excitement was just there and Gold City owned the night. Now, granted, if you are huge fans of one of the other groups, your take may differ, but one can’t deny the ovations, hooping, hollering that surrounded every song that Gold City sang. You can argue the ministry vs entertainment aspect of the music and if Cobb can keep it up or if Riley and/or Webb will stay but on one night in Vidalia, Georgia I was honored to attend a concert where I felt (and said) for the first time in a long time “Now that’s Gold City”….

  4. NonInsider wrote:

    Hmmm I agree GC is kind of a mess right now… Lets give them some time, who knows they might turn things around in a positive direction… EHSS Blah… You know Doug I have yet to see you properly welcome Gus Gaches to L5… Yet you mention GC… and EHSS personnel changes … To me Gus is a better vocalist than anyone in either, GC or EHSS…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1w5JNXvfDs&feature=player_embedded
    And he had Bronchitis on that video… I think it is time you gave credit where credit is due…

  5. NonInsider wrote:

    Thank you Doug… :) I figured it might have been something you simply overlooked… And I agree other than Cobb leaving L5, their personnel changes have always been rather smooth and drama free… So it is rather easy to overlook… I also agree that if they can consistently find the right material they will really open some peoples eyes… I do believe their latest album is a very good step in the right direction… I would love to see a review of that one here… But you are a very busy busy man!

  6. RF wrote:

    Gold City is taking steps in the right direction. Bringing Tim back (even though I still think Aaron McCune is a very talented–maybe the most talented–bass in sg music) and hiring Josh are good moves. Now, with Tim in charge the right material must be chosen and they have to release more than one album in two years. I like the sound even if Bruce is a poor choice. That will be taken care of post haste.

    As for L5, they have never excited me (as I’ve mentioned before). The problem is their material (see above). These two groups along with EHSSQ are the class organizations in sg, and we have to hope they do well.

  7. QwertyJuan wrote:

    “I like the sound even if Bruce is a poor choice.”

    I agree… Bruce is a good singer, but just not the right style for this group IMO… WAY too harsh…. Ivan Parker was sooo smooth, and was IMO, the best lead singer that GC ever had.

  8. Brett wrote:

    Ivan definetly the best lead GC ever had and my opinion I wish Ivan would return to a gospel quartet then being solo.

  9. NonInsider wrote:

    8. Totally agree! To me Ivan has run his course as a soloist… He would truly benefit from joining a quartet… I am torn between him or Jonathan being the best GC lead… The Jonathan towards the end of his GC days, was NOT the Jonathan we loved in the early part of the first decade…

  10. Wade wrote:

    8 & 9 et al… Ivan TRULY cares about the quality of what he puts out and if you listen closely you will hear some of THE BEST singers doing his back ground vocals.

    The Trio dates where really good. It is tough to be just ONE person and carry 45-60 minutes and I even get tired of Ivan after about 20-30 minutes.

    I was lucky enough, I GUESS to promote and produce an event where we put together several solo artist and then after they did their solo sets they came back as a Scrap Iron Quartet.

    That night it was Ivan, Mike LeFevre, Ernie Haase and a then unknown Bill Lawrence. They ROCKED the house.

    The crowd came alive like they had not for any of them singularly. I thought of Bill Gaither’s comment about there was something spiritual about 4 part male harmony.

    You would think that some of these solo artist would get together and do some package shows like these.

    I do not feel like straining enough to think of who those ppl could be… but y’all feel free to come up with some.

    Hope everybody had a Great Weekend!!!

    Oh…PS… Ivan will always be the BEST Lead Singer Gold City has ever had CAUSE… WHO is every one else compared too??? Those boys caught lightning in bottle and rode the lightning bolt for a few years.

    To bad the ego’s could not coexist.

  11. QwertyJuan wrote:

    Come back Ivan??

  12. j.d. wrote:

    I noticed Gaither’s add in Jan SN didn’t has Signature sound listed,have they split ways?

  13. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #12: Yes, EH&SS is on a solo tour and they are no longer part of the Homecoming tour. As far as I know, they are still on the Gaither Music Group label, though.

  14. QwertyJuan wrote:

    “EH&SS is on a solo tour and they are no longer part of the Homecoming tour.”

    Yippeeee!?!?! :)

  15. Maestro wrote:

    I’d venture to guess that GC’s live sound will magically come together when they can get Josh recorded for their “ghost/stack” tracks in the background. Stacks are like an elixir of smoothness poured over an otherwise rough and non-together live sound. Not saying stacks are good or bad. Just is.

    Secondly, Josh does not have the same “tone” that all the former GC tenor’s had. Not saying that’s good or bad. Just is.

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