By Justin McLeod
The Inspirations from Bryson City, North Carolina are one of the industry’s most storied groups. Southern Gospel legends from Archie Watkins to Mike Holcomb have begun and made their careers in the group’s traditional, four-part quartet style.
While not quite the College that the Dixie Melody Boys have, this group has also seen several groups spurn from its wake. Many on the group’s lengthy list of alumni can be seen in other quartets and mixed groups across the country, many of which have made a sustained impact on Southern Gospel music. One of the newest in this long line is the Georgia-based Saving Grace Trio.
Led by former Inspirations baritone Melton Campbell, this mixed trio has already gained fans thanks to their tight harmonies and, despite their recent beginnings, a sound reminiscent of a group that has been around for years.
The group is made up of Campbell, who sings a lead/baritone hybrid that could be comparable to Soul’d Out Quartet’s Matt Rankin; Blair Campbell, Melton’s 17-year-old daughter, sings the alto part, while Terri Cook sings the soprano line.
Melton Campbell spent an off-and-on 15-year time span on the road with the Inspirations, ultimately coming off the road in 2015 in order to spend more time with his family. During his time on the road with Martin Cook’s bunch, Melton helped make popular songs like the powerful ballad “I’m Not Ashamed.” “[During] the 15 years that I spent with the Inspirations, I enjoyed getting to sing with my lifelong heroes,” Melton shares. “… I made many friends and lifelong connections throughout the 15 years and got to see so many different places and let’s not forget all the wonderful fans that I got to meet, many of which turned into great friends.”
Saving Grace’s inception can be credited, in short, to “a dad and a dream”. When Melton left the full-time traveling schedule of the Inspirations to spend more time at home as a father, Blair gave her dad a “condition” — that they got to sing together, and thus the idea for Saving Grace Trio was born.
“The biggest compliment for a parent is for their children to do something that they [themselves] love to do,” Melton shares. “Blair has been listening to Southern Gospel music since she was a baby… her dream for many years has been to sing. When I came off the road in 2015, I was coming home to be a part of my kid’s life and be around more than I [had been]… At that time, Wilburn and Wilburn had a song out called “Shoulders.” It really ministered to me and let me know that I am right where I need to be. It’s time for me to take the back seat and be ‘shoulders’ for my daughter’s dream to come true.”
Blair, while still just the tender age of 17, has already drawn comparisons to some of the industry’s top young stars, including Lauren Talley, who she also coincidentally calls one of her own ‘inspirations’ in music. She shares, “It is such a blessing to be able to sing with my dad. It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to stand on stage and sing with him. I thank God everyday for giving me the ability to sing and to share His word [along] with people that I love.”
Though Melton shares that he, as a natural baritone, is singing significantly higher than during his days with the Inspirations, the group’s really high notes are anchored by Terri Cook, a family friend and a veteran vocalist. Terri and Melton had previously sung together, and when they needed a high-note-hitter to fill out the trio, she was the first call. “God’s timing is always perfect!” Terri shares. “Little did I know that the trials I was going to face was God preparing me for this ministry.”
Already becoming known for their vocal abilities as well as their tight, family-like harmonies, expect to hear much more from Saving Grace Trio, including from their new CD, which was just recorded and will be released soon.
By Justin McLeod
First published by SGNScoops Magazine, November 2016
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