Whiter than Snow

Via Adam Edwards, a clip of Triumphant covering “Whiter than Snow.” Take a look and listen: Some thoughts in no particular order.

1. David Sutton, I see from a recent press release, just celebrated 20 years in gospel music. The version of the release I read in the ShowPrep was pretty boilerplate stuff, listing every group Sutton ever sang with blah blah blah … except of course that there could be no mention of those wascally Kingdom Heirs by name. This phase of his career – perhaps the thing that put him on the map in a big way – is described as the time Sutton spent “performing with the resident gospel group at Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge.” You’d think allegedly grown men would get over this stuff after a while.

2. I’ve given Sutton a lot of grief over the years for overdarkening his pitches and covering his tones so heavily, and to my ear his voice still often strikes me as what Johnny Cook would have sounded like as a second tenor. But Sutton’s not a screamer, not in this clip anyway. And in an industry peopled with cut-rate tenor singers masking their vocal ineptitude with falsetto ascents to the rafters, exceptions ought to be noted. At times here Sutton seems to be having trouble deciding if he wants to make an effect mainly by melodramatically singing  way behind the pitch or ornamenting the end of his phrases with attempts at dazzling acrobatic vocal filigrees. By trying to have it both ways, his phrasing ends up rushed and his musical thoughts are truncated, the sound thin and whiny in several places. Still and for the most part, it’s a solid, full sound for a tenor, at its best in places echoing a little of Steve Ladd before he left GC, only warmer in his lower registers.

3. Finally, and surprisingly, this song seems largely to have been spared the hymnodic bridge we were discussing a while back. It seems like a no brainer for some formulaic arranger to splice in a few bars of the chorus from the old hymn by the same name as this song … “Whiter than snow, yes whiter than snow, now wash me I shall be whiter than snow … [big orchestral fanfare] … now my heart is filled with gladness and my life is all aglow …” And so on. I don’t know how or why this flawlessly banal move has never been inflicted upon us with this song, but thank Gawd for small miracles in this case.

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  1. Charlie wrote:

    After listening to that I think Davis Sutton sounds like a second(possibly third)rate version of Arthur Rice.He is nowhere near Steve Ladd unless you go back to Steve’s early “lets be a terrible Brian Free impersonator” days and even then Steve was nowhere near this whiny or annoying.

  2. Aaron Swain wrote:

    Glad I’m not the only one who thinks Sutton sounds like Johnny Cook.

    I’ve heard him in concert many times, be it NQC or otherwise, and I’ll say this: when he has a bad night, those pitches are destroyed, but when he’s on, he is ON. His tenor isn’t cut from the same cloth as other tenors in the industry; when it’s Triumphant singing, you can tell just by the tenor, which I appreciate. He’s got a very full sound, which I would compare to Steve Ladd’s final GC days as well.

  3. Janet B wrote:

    Actually, I think I’d prefer the hymn. Sung by someone else.

  4. oldtimer wrote:

    I think there should be some mention of Eric Bennett in this discussion - masterful job of the first verse from one of three three or four best basses in the business. I thought this was typcial Sutton - if you like him ( and I do) you were apt to come away from here thinking it was good (though it was far from his best performance and I will have to admit if I was not already familiar with the song there are lyrics in Sutton’s verse I would not have understood.) On the other hand - if you were not a Sutton fan before this clip, likely there is nothing here to change your mind.

    One other thought - I am not against piano players playing with a track when you need it. But a song like “Whiter than Snow” would be absolutely beautiful with just the piano work of Jeff Stice. I think that was there chance to make us forget the orginial. As it is, we just hearken back fondly to the Funderburke/Parker Singing Americans who had the definitive cut on this song. Nice job - but just seems like a tribute to the original. Next time - cut the trak and let Stice and the guys make it theirs.

  5. Samuel wrote:

    I know I’m usually the guy who complains about your negative articles, but I have to complain that it’s not the same without the post being overall negative. I’m sorry about that.

  6. Bryce wrote:

    I really did enjoy the ornamentation Stice added to the song, mainly because I’m so accustomed to hearing him play barn burners. And no, still not a fan of Sutton, though he does seem less shrill than he was before. Some of his placement here sounds as though it’s focused directly behind his tonsils, which may be his trademark. Inman still has the vibrato that made it possible for Won By One to sing in multiple keys at once.

  7. tommy wrote:

    I would agree that he sounds a lot like a lower Cook but somehow its lost in translation. I really like Cooks singing but Im not a big sutton fan. Ive always thought he was the weak link. This video brings me to the question, why do groups harken back to other groups hits? Is Gospel music so void of good writers that we have to copy others songs. While other genres do this ie Josh Turner doing Silver Wings, it seems to be the common thing in SG. If I wanted to hear this song, Id pull out my Singing Americans album.

  8. Blackstone wrote:

    There surely are alot of experts in SG listening. There is no group with four perfect singers. The singers are all humans with imperfections. Those of you who think you can do better, start a group and do it.

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