Sure, it’s a new year, and with a new year comes endless possibilities. Here’s a few things that you may want to keep an eye on [in Gospel music] as we journey through 2018 …
The Hoppers have faced a series of challenges over the last couple of years, but it took many by surprise when Dean Hopper had two strokes in December of 2016. Then, when it appeared that he had recovered and was almost back to normal, Hopper suffered three more strokes in August. Hopefully, those medical hurdles are over, and the Hoppers can continue to produce great music, such as “Jesus the One,” “Song of Moses,” “If We Ever Gotta Look” and the title track off of their “Life Is Good” project … though one of the hidden gems from the project is the yet-to-be-released track No. 4, “Walk Two.”
I’m looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for the LeFevre Quartet now that those fellas have joined the Daywind Music family. Already possessing a commercial sound, it will be interesting to see if being a part one of the elite record companies in the Southern gospel industry leads to even greater success at radio and in other avenues as well.
Cana’s Voice burst on to the scene two years ago, featuring three dynamic vocalists in Doug Anderson (formerly of Ernie Haase and Signature Sound), TaRanda Beene (the Greenes) and Jody McBrayer (Avalon). Their debut project – “This Changes Everything” – contains hit songs “Heavenly Father” and “Jesus Never Fails.” My only complaint … I didn’t see Cana’s Voice in concert in 2017, due in part to a limited touring schedule as a result of all three group members having their own solo ministries. However, the group has started off 2018 along with David Phelps on the Big Voice Tour. What am I hoping for in 2018 … for my ears and their voices to spend more quality time together in live concert settings.
Group changes are never easy. However, as we all know, they’re inevitable. What a soulful asset that Ricky Braddy brought to the sound of Karen Peck and New River. I look forward to hearing the next male vocalist who comes on board with the uber-popular, award-winning trio, and I also look forward to seeing if the group can come close to producing a project that I dig as much as the Wayne Haun-produced “Hope For All Nations” (“Victory is Mine” and “I Know I’ll Be There” are simply top-notch).
There’s so many “good guys” in the Southern gospel industry, including Brian Lester, Susan Whisnant and Karen Peck Gooch to name just a few. Count Gary Casto among that contingent. Tribute Quartet’s manager and lead singer seems to be one of the hardest-working individuals in Southern gospel music as he’s involved in many different facets of the industry. With hard work comes reward, such as the group’s 2017 Dove Award nominations for Album of the Year (“Here for You,” produced by Haun) and Southern Gospel Recorded Song of the Year (“Never Forsaken”). What type of blessings does 2018 hold in store for a group that has risen to a point of being considered one of the top male quartet’s in Southern gospel music? I can’t wait to find out.
Speaking of personnel changes, I was listening to a Southern gospel radio station earlier in 2017 and heard a ballad that featured a voice that I was certain I recognized. It had to be Chris Jenkins. Well, it was. The Anchormen’s “I Heard About a Man” had recently been released to radio and has since been spun many more times on the airwaves. Well, Jenkins recently returned to the Kingsmen. His strong, consistent tenor vocals are an asset to any group. It’s sure to be a nice reunion for a group that has experienced significant success at radio with “Here I Stand Amazed” and “They Don’t Know.” Lot of fans will be looking forward to hearing Jenkins reunited with the rest of the Kingsmen.
Joseph Habedank has the ball rolling. After winning a Dove Award for Best Southern Gospel Album (“Resurrection,” also produced by Haun) in October, Habedank has now been nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Gospel Roots Album. He’s performed with Country Music icon Reba McEntire at the Dove Awards and is one of the few soloists selected to appear on the main stage at the National Quartet Convention. “Here He Comes” and “Just When You Thought” have been well-received releases from “Resurrection,” following hit songs such as “Welcome Home,” “Never No Never” and “Beauty of the Blood” off of his “Welcome Home” project. Can Habedank’s impressive ascension continue at the same pace in 2018? (Side note … Who knows what Haun – who is up for three GRAMMY Awards – will produce this year).
The Nelons continue to see doors open for their ministry, recently being invited to perform in front of the Supreme Court of the United States at the live nativity and then attending the White House Christmas Party in Washington, D.C. Two months earlier, the group won a 2017 Dove Award for Bluegrass/Country/Roots Recorded Song of the Year (“When Grandpa Sang Amazing Grace”). They’ve recently released an Americana project, “The Americana Sessions”. I look forward to seeing how another year affects Autumn Nelon Clark, who has recently blossomed vocally and enhanced the Nelons’ overall sound.
Can anybody deliver a ballad quite like the Collingsworth Family? They’re class personified, and it just seems to be one hit after another … “When He Carries Me Away,” “Gotta Get to Jesus,” “You’re About to Climb,” “It Matters to the Master,” “At Calvary,” “Fear Not Tomorrow” … and a couple of my personal favorites in “Tell the Mountain” and “I Found It All.” What’s the next big showstopper?
Jason Crabb has a huge fan base. He also has a huge talent, being an elite vocalist and having developed into a great communicator of a lyric. Now, he’s deeply delving into songwriting. Given Gerald Crabb’s immense success as a writer, does the apple fall far from the tree? We’ll get a glimpse over the next few months as some of his efforts will likely be unveiled.
The Guardians are a picture of consistency with Dean Hickman and Neil Uhrig, who were original members when the group formed in 1988. John Darin Rowsey joined the group in 2012, and now, the group has experienced great success in recent years, on the radio charts and on stages that the male trio has been invited to perform upon. I first heard their latest radio hit – “Present in the Presence of the King” – at Jackson Sings the Gospel last July in Jackson, Tenn., and immediately fell in love with it. It’s no surprise that it was released to radio and has rapidly climbed up the charts. “Packin’ Up,” “It Ain’t Gonna Worry Me Long,” “Somebody Prays,” “Shoutin’ Sounds” and “Let the Healing Begin” are all popular requests for the Guardians. What’s next for those guys? Stay tuned.
Southern gospel music fans adore the Mark Trammell Quartet, Greater Vision and Pat Barker. How then could they not love it when Greater Vision’s Gerald Wolfe, Rodney Griffin and Chris Allman teamed up with Trammell and Barker to form the Second Half Quartet. The response they receive is always overwhelming. Surely, there has to be something new – well, possibly a new version of something old – coming from that ensemble soon, right? I won’t be the only one looking forward to seeing what it will be.
And there’s lots of groups that we’re all constantly keeping an eye on. I’ll look forward to seeing what Legacy Five, Goodman Revival, the Jim Brady Trio, Gold City, the Booth Brothers, Triumphant, Jeff and Sheri Easter, the Whisnants, Greater Vision, the Mark Trammell Trio and many others have in store this year. They’re some of your favorites … and mine too. Here’s to lots of great music and many memorable moments over these last 10 months of 2018.
By Craig Harris, writer and copy editor of SGNScoops Magazine
First published by SGNScoops Magazine in February 2018