NQC Day 3: Comments and Correspondence

I will lead off my Wednesday post with my correspondent Rich, who took in some showcases, as well as the exhibit hall.

We arrived at the Expo Center about Noon for the Bluegrass Pickin’ Jamboree. The first group out was Canan’s Crossing, last year’s new artist of the year. Their harmonies were great and my wife was so taken with their rendition of “Dying to Live Again,” it cost me fifteen bucks for the CD! I’m sure it will be worth it. Look for great things from Canan’s Crossing.

The second group was the Rochesters — very sweet voices, which were especially beautiful on “My Father’s Eyes.” The Primitives were on this show also, and I figure it was simply because they use accoustic accompaniment, rather than electric guitars. That aside, they didn’t sound like a bluegrass band. Their sound reminds me of the 1950s Grand Ole’ Opry radio show, which back then was considered “hillbilly music.” They were just missing the jug and washboard! They did the same songs they did on the main stage Tue. night.

The closing group for the Bluegrass Pickin’ Jamboree was the Isaacs, who opened with a gorgeous a cappella number. They have strong, accurate, and beautiful voices and their “I Have a Father Who Can,’ and “Mama’s Teaching Angels How to Sing,” were great. They really had no peer on this aftenoon show.

Next stop in the afternoon was the Crabb Family Reunion. They were on their game and Jason Crabb finished with his now famous “Through the Fire.” He had his jazz band with him again, however, so this number, which I love so much was not quite the same. The family was harmonizing to the old arrangement and their vocals against some of the jazz chords didn’t exactly line up. The audience didn’t seem to mind. Must be my background in jazz and music theory made me more critical.

The exhibit hall had over 400 exhibitors, which included quartets, trios, soloists, and vendors with product samples for recording equipment, hymn books, radio ministries, art, jewelry, clothing, a minibus, AND a full sized, $850,000 touring bus with six sleeping bunks, two living rooms, and a large bath!

My comments on the evening concert will be much briefer than yesterday’s. Part of it is that my post last night took me about an hour to put together since i went group by group, but I also just didn’t feel the same energy as in the first two nights, which was disappointing for me. I’m probably be to blame for that, since I had just woken up from a nap. Unfortunately, that nap made me miss the showcase winners, including the group I was probably most interested in hearing, Union Street. Sounds like they nailed their performance too! But enough about me.

One of the things I’ve noticed this year is the fresh new talent coming up into Southern Gospel, and I thought tonight it was especially noticeable. A couple names that especially stood out tonight were Paul Harkey of The LeFevre Quartet, Jordan James of the Dixie Echoes, Matt Fouch of Legacy Five, and Chris Jenkins of the Kingsmen Quartet. Interesting that three of the four are bass singers… Of those four, I’d easily say that the best performance of the night goes to Chris Jenkins, followed closely by Jordan James. All have bright futures in this genre. I’d also throw Union Street into the category of fresh new talent. Even though most have been in the industry for a while, they’re still individually on the younger side, and have not been together as a group for long.

There were some solid sets sprinkled throughout the evening. I thought Mark Trammell Quartet was solid overall, even though at least one of their songs felt over-orchestrated. I was glad to hear “I Want To Know,” which was the song that first introduced me to Mark Trammell Quartet. It also provided one of the funnier moments of the evening, as Mark was introducing it.

I also enjoyed listening to sets by the Kingsmen, the LeFevre Quartet, the Dixie Echoes, and the Kingdom Heirs. To close, here are some thoughts from my correspondent

Dixie Echoes used two ribbon mics for their more “old-fashioned” approach to quartetting. These mics are excellent for the kind of work they were doing and the blend was wonderful. Their 23-year old bass has a very cultured sound and sings with vibrato – unusual for SG. They did a new song, which they called 4-part harmony, but was really what most would call 1950s modern harmony ala the Hilos, with lots of tight 6th chords. Beautiful stuff.

Kingsmen did “Oh What a Savior” and the tenor hit a note that had to be a half octave to the right of what Ernie Haase could sing! Brought down the house.

Mark Trammell Quartet started with a slow paced “Gentle Shepherd” that was some of the most sensitive, rich, and sophisticated singing I’ve heard so far. They won this Minnesotan’s heart!

The Kingdom Heirs quartet wins my “most inspiring” song award for “We Will Stand Our Ground.”

Solid sets were given by Brian Free & Assurance, Gold City, Legacy Five, and Triumphant. Triumphant has won the audience’s favorite quartet award three years running. In my humble opinion, but as a long time quartet singer, I do not think they are the best singing quartet, but there’s no doubt they win the audience with sheer entertainment and energy! E.g. “White Flag of Surrender.”

It’s amazing these shows can hold the audience for five hours each night. What great and inspiring entertainment!

Great and inspiring entertainment indeed! Can’t wait for more of it Thursday night. I’m especially excited to hear Tribute Quartet for the first time this week!

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