A few more words on Jason Crabb

My passing comment about Jason Crabb’s showmanship seems to have been taken as primarily an endorsement of his singing. Curious. So let me clarify that when I wrote about his superiority as a “singing showman,” the intention was to emphasize that he excels as a showman who sings - not as a great singer who is also a showman. I don’t mind his voice as much as some readers seem to. But it’s definitely not Crabb’s strongest dimension as a performer (vocally I’d put him in Bob Seger/Joe Cocker/Rufus Wainwright camp of purposefully idiosyncratic vocal stylists whose style is as striking in its singularity as it is necessary to take in small doses).

Nor was my point (stated or implied) to endorse Crabb’s serially bad judgment in aligning himself with, and lending his name and reputation to, the rolling calamity of charlatanry and fraud suffusing the entangled worlds of prosperity gospel and faith healing anchored by Our Lord and Lady of the Perpetual Televised Plate Passing, Jan and Paul Crouch, over at Trinity Broadcasting (though they’re not the only perpetrators, of course). And here’s a good time to ask (again): can any gospel performer really, in anything approaching good faith and conscience, defend any continued appearances on or affiliation with TBN after this most recently concluded scandal? Seriously.

Rather, my point about Crabb was - perhaps too obliquely - to gesture toward the ongoing conversations we’ve been having about the long slow death of authentically (a)live music in southern gospel. Where Crabb is strongest is in his self-possession on stage - taking command of the musical enterprise with an impeccable sense of timing, bringing a generous, openhearted sensibility in the pacing of songs and sets, and forging a powerfully warmhearted bond with his audiences with that smile and that sweet-tea southern twang that he lavishes on his crowds. 

It seemed to me yesterday and still seems to me now worth expressing a certain amount of ungrudging appreciation for these gifts, and for Crabb’s desire, ability and willingness to put together and put on a first rate live show, surrounding himself with gifted players and singers and arrangers whose work coheres into that increasingly rarest of gospel gifts: a concert with a warmblooded, beating heart at its center. 

Now, for real this time: that is all. For now.

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  1. LightkeepersJournal wrote:

    I agree that Jason Crabb has a way with audiences and is very effective in his song delivery. His rugged sound does mind me of Joe Cocker! It’s the same reason that I always enjoyed listening to Kenny Rogers, because his vocal style was completely different from anyone else. The same holds true for George Jones.

    What bothers me about the SG artists are the constant appearances on the charlatan networks like Daystar, TBN, etc. Anyone who claims to live a Christian life according to the Bible is terribly deceived if they support or appear on these networks. How folks cannot see through the con artistry of these networks is beyond me.

    Because we have a blog, we are on social media quite a bit, such as Twitter. We have made some general observations about the Gospel Music Community.

    1. They are a VERY closed group, seemingly only comfortable with embracing others just like them.

    2. Most do not interact with the “fans” on Twitter. They may have 12,000 - 30,000 followers, but they only follow 150, 200 or 300. They follow other Gospel singers or celebrities. This is not modern, open-minded thinking….NOR…..is it a good way to continue to build a fan base.

    3. The secular community seems to be far more open to interaction with their audience, more so than many in the Gospel Music industry.

    There has been a lot of discussion about the decline of Southern Gospel Music in today’s arena. A lot of them need to rethink their marketing strategies. The time-worn mindset that a SG group will walk into a church, and fans will fall at their feet to purchase five of the Limited Supply CD collections is over.

    With the exception of Gaither himself, who is an excellent PR and marketing genius, the others need to take notice. What will happen when Gaither truly retires?

  2. Robert wrote:

    Yes, SG is and will always be a closed group. Watch the awards, it will always give you an insight. The same ones who own stock in; The Singing News, NQC and organizations give themselves awards, pat themselves on the back and promote everything about themselves.

    As far as TBN and the Baker show, I am sorry to say I have walked the “Holy Ground” of both. From the mirrored halls and bathrooms of backstage at TBN to the fake gold spray painted sets of The baker show. Each had me wishing for a shower.

    The fans are the best thing about SG. However, they’ve been had. And now they are realizing it. So, go ahead, explain it away. The economy, less live music, less quality or whatever else you smart ones can think of. The fans are getting smarter and realizing they’ve been had.

    Give me the calm porch and the love and presence of my wife and family. Anyone of you wannabes reading this post and wishing you were on the road and in every concert, on every chart and in every magazine, please reconsider.

  3. LightkeepersJournal wrote:

    #2 - Robert - WOW! You’re exactly right, and as the old saying goes, “You’ve hit the nail on the head!”

    In the past, we’ve helped some SG folks get bookings, wrote newspaper articles for them, etc. And the result? Another order, another request. No thank you’s! We finally stopped it.

    The Lord knows that I love helping people, but there comes a point when a relationship becomes 100% take and no give, something has to happen.

    Plus, when you factor in scandal after scandal, and the tiresome excuses of “Well, we’re all sinners…….” Give me a break. If someone doesn’t have control of their behaviors before they decide to develop a huge fan base, they need to stay home, pray and maybe get counseling until they get control of themselves.

    At some point, people need to realize what bad behavior does to the SG community as a whole. It does not help a genre of music already in decline.

    The same thing that has happened to the church has happened in SG music. It became all about “SELF” and not about “Jesus”. Of course, we all know that there are many groups who never made it about Gospel or ministry. They couldn’t make it in Country Music, so where’s the next natural place to go.

    Personally, I have done a 180. As a former group tour business owner who planned and escorted church groups to Gaither Homecomings and Promise Keepers, as someone who grew up going to SG concerts here, there and everywhere…….currently…….I almost dread the thought of going to a concert. Why?

    Because of the unprofessional and sappy way they handle and attempt to con the audience. They sale product to folks as though we’re uneducated country hicks. I’m sorry, but someone needs to say it.

    I’m no longer using an anonymous username. If I’m going to say it out loud, I might as well own it. It’s time that the fans and those who have hosted SG groups, made bookings, given in the offerings, bought the CD’s, t-shirts, songbooks, etc. stood up in boldness and say, “Enough is enough!” Either be professional or sit down.

    Very few of them seem to take a lesson from Bill Gaither and his Homecoming Concerts. Yes, they sell product, but it’s done in a fun and entertaining way. Gaither has definitely brought an element of sophistication and performance integrity to Southern Gospel, and for that, I’m really appreciative.

    I was born and raised Pentecostal and am married to a Southern Baptist minister and writer. It’s a shame that, as much as I LOVE Gospel music, that I have grown to feel this way about many (not all) of the groups.

    By the way, how many Country Groups use canned music to perform? In addition, I truly believe that the lack of live musical performances has hurt the industry as a whole. I no longer want to pay money to hear someone sing with a track - I might as well purchase a CD that I can play in the car.

  4. Mike S wrote:

    Doug, you are absolutely correct and on target about Jason Crabb. With all the complaining about the demise of spontaneous concert experiences and live bands, Jason is the exception. How he gets the talented musicians he does and manages to pay them is something a lot of people should study. He has also grown into just what Doug said, a masterful showman and powerful singer, whether you particularly like his style or not. Who else in southern gospel is doing what he is doing?
    Perhaps its because he is a solo act and so with his band, he has about the same amount of people as a singing group with a pianist and tracks. I don’t know.
    Many years ago Kenny Hinson and I discussed his going solo and he had concluded that the southern gospel audience (at that time– early 80’s) would “pay to hear it done right”

    And so I wondered: if a singer as gifted as Kenny Hinson was at that point in his career couldn’t make a go of a solo career how is Jason doing it? Would Jason have been able to 30 years ago? Has the internet provided more revenue streams than someone like Kenny would have had in 1982?
    I told Jason about my conversation with Kenny and asked him that question at one of his concerts about 8 or 9 months ago and essentially Jason said “I don’t know for sure, but I think you can’t confine yourself to just one style”
    Either way, while many are complaining Jason is about doing something very unique. Whether it can be duplicated remains to be seen.

  5. Mike S wrote:

    Sorry, I should have read my post more carefully, Kenny Hinson said the southern gospel audience “WOULD NOT” pay to hear it done right.

  6. LightkeepersJournal wrote:

    #4: Mike, that’s interesting information. To expand on what I’ve said about proper marketing and interacting with fans…….

    Curtis and I have participated in hosting events, holding fundraisers, being involved in ministry, etc. One VALUABLE lesson that we have learned is that for an event/concert/fundraiser/ministry to be successful, you MUST interact with PEOPLE and FANS. and develop a core group who will help spread the word about your concerts or events. (kinda like a President of a Fan Club)

    Fan interaction in SG music is CRITICAL. SG folks……please so not think that you can only surround yourselves with other SG singers, groups or celebrities. It does not work. Unless you’re Gaither or on tour with Gaither, SG music is dependent upon church bookings, small concert halls and fairs and festivals, and several events per year.

    In today’s world, social media is critical (and I’m not referring to buying into an internet marketing machine where you purchase Twitter followers). A lot of groups are on Facebook, but don’t interact on Twitter. If they want to reach the young folks, they really need to get active on a Twitter account.

    People would love to see tweets about SG groups/artists and their adventures on the road, changing a flat tire, where you performed tonight, how the Lord blessed in the service, etc.

    We have participated in both Facebook and Twitter and found Twitter to be a lot more effective for us personally. Of course, if your audience is predominantly over 50, then Facebook may be the better option because we have found more senior citizens to be on Facebook.

    Jason Crabb seems to be rather active on Twitter, but many SG groups ARE NOT. He’s smart, and he obviously understands the importance of social media. Of course, he also seems to have a spirit of sincerity as well, which is a major plus in any performance medium.

    So…..my two cents worth again……not trying to be critical…..just trying to offer some personal observation.

  7. Ode wrote:

    1, Your maiden name is Blackw.Philosopher, LKJ? (Waving):) Well, there are more interesting music pieces coming out than just Gaither’s though, at least to my taste. But I hear you- instead of capitalizing on the uniqueness of the 4(5) part harmony and selling the updated , modern version of it, best SG groups  are becoming rather close to Christian  pop, if of decent quality, no complaints, but that is not quite  the same..

    2,”"”"”"The Singing News, NQC and organizations give themselves awards, pat themselves on the back and promote everything about themselves”"”"”"”"”"”".
    Like homemade porn, its mostly fun for its participants.

  8. LightkeepersJournal wrote:

    Hi Ode! You guessed it! You win a limited supply of……..LOL (Couldn’t resist)

    I was listening to a You Tube video of “Through the Fire” (which is one of my favorites) and Doug’s first paragraph about him being a “singing showman” is absolutely correct.

    But, it goes even deeper than being a charismatic showman. There are some folks who are just natural performers and they have a natural-born charisma.

    It’s as though they were meant to sing. I’ve heard some musicians say that they couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

    In the Pentecostal church, it is also referred to as “the anointing”. And, I believe that Jason Crabb has that “anointing”.

    Now, I don’t care for the TBN network for obvious reasons, but as far as his singing ability, if you were paying for a concert, there’s no doubt that he’ll give you your money’s worth.

    For example……this video:


  9. SteveK wrote:

    I’m assuming that “sweAt tea” was a typo…but who knows…maybe tea would be better with that ingredient!

  10. up north guy wrote:

    While I can agree with the comments about TBN and Baker the comments about SG music miss one important point. The message is in the song not the singer. We can find fault with entertainers of all kinds of music, ministers, politicians, etc. They have weaknesses, they sin just like we do. I find comfort in the message the songwriters are able to write about. If a group can take a song with a good message and make it speak to me, I appreciate it.

  11. Robert wrote:

    They should never broadcast a live southern gospel concert on satellite radio. Just sayin. The subject of artist refusing to allow broadcast of their set came up on another site. These artists are smart. They know a feed from the live board will sound like crap. But really no one cares anymore. Came across so bad and amateur. I would say I felt sorry for them. But there needs to be a cleansing. 75% of SG artists need to just quit. Go home to your families and take care of responsibilities at home and give up on tryin to be Gospel Music Superstars. It Ain’t Working!

  12. Trevor Haley wrote:

    JC also makes “Who Am I” interesting again. Great song that’s been overdone by too many middling male singers (I include myself in that category). And the band’s playing the right chords too.

    GREAT clip. Everything looks and sounds just right.

  13. Shirley wrote:

    Why are Christians always running down other Christians, I don,t get it.

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