Prime Cuts: The Evidence I Need, The Cost of the Cross, Legacy
Overall Score: 4/5
With their previous album "Battle Cry," the Kingsmen have built for themselves a formidable fortress. Upheld by critics and fans as one of their strongest effort, they have shielded themselves from any darts of negativity from critics and naysayers. Now, almost three years later, they are back with "They Don't Know." On this new record, all cylinders are open as far as their passionate harmonies are concerned. With new tenor Joshua Horrell replacing the much missed Chris Jenkins, the Kingsmen would not miss a note without giving in their vocal best. Listening to the countless times they have soared in unison on the high and lengthy notes on this record is itself worth the price of this album download. Again, they are also armed with some of the best writers in the genre, including Kenna West, Regina Walden, Tony Wood, Jason Cox, and country artist Barbara Fairchild.
Their tight four-part abstemious harmonies, their Scripture-soaked Cross-centered lyrics, and the way they approach ever song with verve and panache are some of the ingredients that make this quartet a national icon. Since 1956, from the western mountains of North Carolina, the Kingsmen has had been making music for the Lord. Countless renowned artists have been a part of this great lineage, including Eldridge Fox, "Big" Jim Hamill, Ray Dean Reese, Squire Parsons, Johnny Parrack, Anthony Burger, Ernie Phillips, Gary Sheppard, and a host of others. The momentum has not stopped as the Kingsmen continue to help define the Southern Gospel genre for a whole new generation of music lovers.
Like "Battle Cry," this album is divided into two cluster of songs. The first bunch consists of songs that feature softer and country-leaning backings. This is best represented by the pensive "The Cost of the Cross." Written by Kristi Fitzwater and Jerald Hill, this Cross-centered ballad has the word "classic" imprinted on it: the song is elegant, heartfelt, and a treasure trove of great theology. If you ever doubt the presence of God, take a listen to how baritone Randy Crawford warmly assures us with "The Evidence I Need." Never judgmental but thoughtful, sincere, and heart-warming, this country-styled ballad is a top-notched apologetic set to music.
If you like a jazzy country touch (a la Legacy Five), "I'll Sail Away Yonder" is pure bliss. Barbara Fairchild, who had a string of country hits in the 70s and 80s, shows up as the co-writer of "Legacy." Bearing all the strengths of country music in its prime, the ballad "Legacy" is a touching reminder that we need to live for the things that are eternal.
The second cluster of the album is frankly the weaker counterpart. They are the songs that feature heavy brass horns that you have come to expect from say Brian Free & Assurance. Relative to the first cluster, these songs sound more angular, louder and much busier. They have a tendency to strip away the warmth of the vocals and replace them with volume. "They Don't Know," "Keep the Lions Hungry," and the dreadful "Let Go and Hold Fast" all belong to this camp. Fortunately, they only comprise of a minority, overall, "They Don't Know" is still a worthy follow-up to "Battle Cry."