As the year comes to a close, let's look back at the Southern Gospel releases this year. Below are our top 10 favorites.
10. Ernie Haase and Signature Sound "Happy People" (StowTown)
Every release Ernie Haase and Signature Sound put out is an event in itself. When you purchase their CD or their download, you know you are getting more than just a collection of songs. What you get is an experience of the Christian life coming to life through top-class showmanship, smart reboots of old classics, rich harmony-layered vocals, and that those Vegas-style flash of jackets minus those rhinestone boots. "Happy People" is no exception. It's classy in its execution, heartfelt in its vocal nuances, and downright gorgeous as far as the songs go
9. Joseph Habedank "Take Time to be Holy" (Daywind)
Hymns albums are tricky. What can an artist do to augment or make vigilant these hymns again when they have been around for hundreds of years? What audacity can we impose upon these sonic antiques and presume that we know how to interpret these tunes better than our forebearers who have had paid to sing these tunes with their lives? Joseph Habedank has taken a more humbling approach when it comes to the crafting of "Take Time to be Holy." Rather than trying to re-invent the wheel or rock the apple cart, Habedank has approached these hymns reverentially.
8. Kathy Karnes "Faithful to the End" (Independent)
When Kathy Karnes sings, you can't help but listen. Especially when Karnes croons a ballad, she has such a soothing low-reaching alto that you can't help but think of the late Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters' fame. It's that kind of torch singing built upon the tiny heart-surging inflections that can make the sappiest of songs sound like she's singing out your heart's deepest desires. It's that kind of a voice that wraps within itself cadences that open up a whole bundle of nostalgia, arousing within us emotions we never ever thought existed. It's that kind of voice Karen Carpenter had, but has been long buried in the grave when the "Top of the World" singer died of anorexia way back in 1983. In short, when Karnes sings, she pulverizes.
7. Ivan Parker "Threads of Mercy" (Horizon)
While the 2012 record was a treasury of Parker's renditions of hymns and classic Gospel songs, "Threads of Mercy" has a larger portion of newer songs. Centering around the theme of seeing God's mercy and love working in our everyday happenstances, these 10 songs takes us on an itinerary of life's variegated moments. Stopping around Kodak-shy moments like sufferings, pain, waiting and even death, Parker like a seasoned pastor traces the presence of God in such circumstances often with care, sensitivity, and wisdom.
6. The Talleys "After All This Time" (Horizon)
Showing no sign of decelerating, the trio have worked extra hard to make sure "After All This Time" not only matches up to their impeccable standard they have had set, but it also demonstrates their ability to stretch themselves for the future. Released on Horizon Records, the album finds some of Southern Gospel's best scribes such as Tony Wood, Kenna West, Lee Black, Dianne Wilkinson, and Rebecca Peck all adding their names onto the songs' credit roll call. And the songs do not disappoint. The title cut "After All This Time" finds the Trio coming out on full force on what is one of this year's catchiest songs. Undergirded by lush orchestrated sounds and some delightful banjo licks, the Talleys fill the next 3:11 with nothing but thanks and praise to God.
5. The Erwins "Ready to Sail" (StowTown)
In a genre where many performing artists are silver-haired baby boomers, the Erwins are a breath of fresh air. Ranging from ages between 14 and 22, the Erwins bring a youthful zest and promise to Southern Gospel Music that is so much needed. Yet, traditionalists have nothing to fear. Working with the deft hands at StowTown Records (The Taylors, Wayne Haun & The Perrys), "Ready to Sail" reverentially puts the right check marks beside everything we have grown to love about Southern Gospel: Christ-centered themes set alight with memorable tunes and rustic-sounding backings.
4. Karen Peck & New River "Pray Now" (Daywind)
Each of Karen Peck and New River (KPNR)'s album titles functions like a succinct spot-on prophetic statement. With previous titulars such as "Revival," "No Worries," "Good to Be Free" and "A Taste of Grace," they work like bite-size truth so appropriate for our daily lives and the daily ministry of the church. And in a cultural milieu of the ISIS massacre, the recent Nepal earthquake, and the Indonesian executions, there's nothing more veracious and apt than to "pray now." On a more personal level, "Pray Now" strikes an even more intimate chord with Karen Peck as her husband is in in the midst of a bout with cancer.
3. Wilburn and Wilburn "Shoulders" (Daywind)
One of the major criticisms of today's Christian music is that it creates a gauze between the songs' messages and the listener. Often many Christian songs are so aloof and trite that they do not connect with the struggles and insecurities of our daily lives. Pad answers, recycled platitudes, and unthoughtful aphorisms are some of the culpable culprits that have blurred the realism of these songs. Wilburn and Wilburn are wise enough to avoid these pitfalls when it comes to the duo's third album for Daywind Records, "Shoulders."
2. Greater Vision "As We Speak" (Daywind)
There is no vision greater than singing about the Cross of Jesus Christ. When the Gospel is central, there is a glowing beauty that you don't need to reinvent the wheel to get attention. This is thus the drawing power of Greater Vision's latest album "As We Speak." If you have been following their music since the trio's formation in 1990, "As We Speak" does not charter new ground. There are no glittering polytechnics utilized to glamorize these cuts. There are no peculiar detours to unfamiliar territories of styles and genres. These 10 cuts warmly rest in what we have come to love about Greater Vision: harmonized melodically-rich Southern Gospel with a strong progressive country tinge. There are no added tinsels of the latest beep or whistle, yet the songs are so alluring.
1. The Collingsworth Family "That Day is Coming" (StowTown)
If there's a word to describe the Collingsworth Family's latest release "That Day is Coming," it is the word immaculate. Never ones to take short-cuts by churning out half-baked pastiche of an album, "That Day is Coming" is almost a two-year labor of love. Featuring soaring strings of deftly assembled orchestrated sound, their patented layered family-led harmonies, and carefully chosen songs that go both deep as well as encompassing, "That Day is Coming" towers as one of the team's best album to date.
Tags : best southern gospel albums 2015 collingsworth family kathy karnes joseph habedank ivan parker Ernie Haase & Signature Sound karn peck and new river THE TALLEYS Greater Vision the erwins wilburn and wilburn