Wednesday, September 24, 2008


This has been a whirlwind of a year for Liberty. This sounds is crazy...but we are getting ready for the release of our eighth album in 2008. "Amazed" features brand new songs written for Liberty by Rodney Griffin, Phil Cross, Rebecca Peck, Twila LaBar, Doran Ritchey, and others. Dan and I were laughing last week about the fact that this isn't the traditional Southern Gospel album that most people expect from Liberty. Not that it's a bad thing. This has a new, fresh sound (for us, anyway) featuring a variety of styles. I'm looking forward to singing these songs in concert. My early favorites are Into the Water, Why Wouldn't I, and That's What Love Does. "Amazed" will be available Saturday at Family Fest.08.

Monday, September 22, 2008

National Quartet Convention

I am such a pathetic excuse for a blogger. I have the best intentions of updating on a regular basis and then...well, something always comes up. Anyway, more than a week after the fact, here's the inside scoop on NQC.

We got to Louisville about 1:30 AM Tuesday after a long drive in from Casper, WY. We stopped just long enough to grab some Kansas City barbeque. Incidentally, it was worth the stop. Anyway, the next morning when we woke up we were feeling a little cruddy due to our lack of bathing. So, Doran and I headed off to the RV shower facilities, which were about 1/2 a mile away. Literally. On the way back, the skies opened with a deluge of water and we got soaked to the bone. Fortunately, a security guard took pity on the two drowned rats and drove us back to the bus. By the way, I didn't know it was possible to smoke two Marlboros in the span of 200 yards while traveling approximately 30 mph. Well, Doran did it. No, I mean the security guard pulled off this amazing feat. So, by the time we stumbled onto the bus we reeked of soggy cigarettes. Nice.

After getting the booth set up, we wandered around the exhibition hall looking for freebies. For those of you familiar with this, it's a lot like IHC. You know, free candy, pens, and pads of paper. We eventually headed over to the Featured Artist Showcase to hear some new groups (to us anyway). Doran and I also spent some time at the Regional Artist Showcase. By the time the exhibition hall opened, we were stationed at our booth. Seven people came by to make our day. No, I'm just kidding. There were at least nine. We took turns going into Freedom Hall to listen to the evening performances. About 10:45 PM we checked out. We were tired and the night caught up with us.

Wednesday was our big day. We were scheduled to sing in the Artist Spotlight showcase at noon. Every morning, the showcase directors and Phil Cross meet with the artists to let them know what to expect. At that time, we also give the sound crew our soundtrack. For those uninitiated, let me explain that we use a 360 which is a machine with hot buttons that can be pressed to quickly bring up a song. Well, they only accepted CDs (which we weren't aware of). So, Doran and Dan raced out to the bus to figure out how to burn a couple of songs onto a CD. They got back in just in time and away we went.

Dan, getting his groove on, ripping "Glory Train" and "I'm His" from the 360.

Unfortunately, our showcase was was up against another concert going on in another part of the building featuring Brian Free & Assurance, the Kingdom Heirs, the Dove Brothers, among others. But, I will say that the 39 people who showed up for our showcase had a great time (including my esteemed family, Uncle Ray and Aunt Pansy McCrary). Hey, at least we weren't going up against the GVB/EHSS showcase. Anyway, our performance went very well (in fact, Scott Fowler told Doran as we were leaving that he wants Legacy Five to record "I'm His"). After we had finished, I wandered to the back of the room to listen to the other groups. While I was standing in the back, Dennis Sparks, the co-director of the regional showcases, came up and told me that he would like to put us in one of two empty slots on the main stage on Saturday night. He said that he wouldn't be able to let me know for sure until Friday, but that it was a good possibility. Well, on Friday somebody from the regional artist committee told us that they wanted to have us sing at another afternoon showcase so the entire team could hear us. They also specifically requested that we sing "I'm His". We sang, this time remembering to have a CD ready to go. To make a long story short, they offered us a slot for Saturday evening. And, that's how we were honored to sing on the main stage at NQC. Go figure! It was definitely one of those cool, surreal moments that can only be understood if you've followed Southern Gospel music all of your life. There's no doubt that God gave us that opportunity. It's pretty cool what happens when you let Him open the doors and don't try to force them open with your own strength.

See that bald dude up there? Yep, that's me. I actually started off on the other side of the stage and realized that I was singing to all of the Southern Gospel royalty. I mean all of the groups were assembled down there due to the Awards Show that followed our performance. I made sure that we eventually made it to the other side of the stage.

You can tell Bill Gaither has been to town. Look at all those little lights that everyone is holding up.

This was the first time that I had been able to be at NQC for most of the week. So, in a nutshell, here are some thoughts:

First of all, if you want to witness some great performances, head over to the regional artist showcases. Full disclosure here: Liberty did sing at the RAC on Wednesday and Saturday. But, that’s not why I showed up every afternoon for at least part of the performances. Every group or soloist who has a booth and isn’t slotted for another showcase or main stage performance is given a slot in the regional artist showcase. Most groups are given the opportunity to sing one song and you have that one chance to make your mark. Over 90% of the groups involved, travel on a part-time basis. Some of the most inspired performances of the week weren’t delivered on the main stage of Freedom Hall, but rather in the boxy confines of the South Wing Conference Center. Some of the deliveries were admittedly poor, there were pitchy notes from time to time, and some of those suits should have been left on the bus (I wish I would have had a camera, folks), but, overall, there was a sweet presence in that room each afternoon. And, I want to point out, some incredible groups that are just coming to people’s attention including Old Paths Quartet (they remind me of the 1970s-1980s Kingsmen), Father’s Daughter (a fantastic vocal group from Canada who happen to be the sweetest girls you'll ever meet anywhere), the Needhams (an energetic, big sound reminiscent of the early Greenes), McMillan & Life (featuring my good friend Josh Arnett) , among others. These are just a few that I caught throughout the week. My hat is off to the RAC crew and the other artists who make it a point to encourage and give a platform to many groups who otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity.

Of course, I enjoyed the other showcases. Dino and Kim Collingsworth just tore it up (though, I'm thinking that they just need to give Kim her own showcase), the Crabb Family still has it, and the Gaither Vocal Band and Signature Sound concert was a hit. I was also able to slip into a few of the featured artist showcases and enjoyed hearing several groups for the first time.

Speaking of the Crabb Family Reunion, I have to give props to the band mates of Jason Crabb and Crabb Revival. They were incredible! I've heard a lot of bands live: country, Christian rock, Southern Gospel, you name it. I've never had a band wow me like the Crabb band. Doran and I spent the whole showcase grinning. Justin Ellis, the pianist for Jason Crabb, is quite possibly the best pianist I've heard live. I didn't think that was possible after hearing Gordon Mote. That kid is unreal! It was one of the week's highlights.

My personal favorite, though, was the Song of a Lifetime showcase that featured Southern Gospel's most beloved songwriters. Despite the technical glitches (of which there were way too many), the audience was able to catch a glimpse into the heart of the writer and view the journey from initial inspiration to finished masterpiece. And, I'm glad that Phil Cross (showcase emcee) didn't just feature the performer/songwriters such as Rodney Griffin and Jim Brady, but also recognized the contributions of Diane Wilkinson, Rebecca Peck, Joel Lindsay, Kyla Rowland, and others. We were able to put a face to names that have just been size 9 font in album credits. These gifted lyricists have penned many of today’s classics with little or no recognition. It was nice to hear their stories. Mom and Dad, along with Sharilyn and her friend Beth were able to come down for a couple of days of NQC. I was pretty sure Dad was going to take off shouting when the Greenes sang "There's a Miracle in Me". WOW! The tears were flowin'.

Anyway, I could go on for quite awhile so let me tie it up neatly with some pithy observations:
  • The north wing exhibition hall oddly resembles a flea market during NQC week. Do people really go to NQC to buy gaudy clothes or jewelry? It's almost embarrassing.
  • The Booth Brothers need at least 10 more booth spaces to accommodate all of the fans who are trying to buy product. Seriously.
  • It was good move to have the Gaither Vocal Band back at the convention. Freedom Hall was almost packed on Friday night.
  • Les Beasley is still one of the funniest guys you’ll run into at the convention. He reminds me of Walter Matthau. Actually, he and Claude Hopper together remind me of the Odd Couple. Everyone needs to be privileged to talk to both of them at the same time. They're like a married couple.
  • I would not want to run sound in Freedom Hall. Props go to Greg Shockley for providing us with a great monitor mix on the stage.
  • As I've already noted, NQC really reminds me of IHC. The only thing missing is Bro. Sankey saying "if we could please shut down the booths and make our way into the service..."
  • The fried biscuit with apple butter sold in the north wing is quite possible the most delicious concoction I have ever tasted. Fortunately, NQC only lasts for a week or I’d be riding around the exhibition hall in one of those oversized go-carts with baskets in the front.
  • Speaking of which, there are many SG fans who could stand to walk away from the buffet.
  • Wear dress shoes with rubber soles if you’re going to be walking around a lot. Those concrete floors will kill your feet!
  • Michael Booth doesn’t even know what he’s going to say next.

All in all, a great week! We'll see what happens next year.

Women Pastors

I came across this interesting article today. What's your take?