Prime Cuts: I'm Going Up When I Die, Wonderful Grace of Jesus, Remind Me of Calvary
Singing together in harmony has been the cynosure of Southern Gospel singing ever since the genre's beginnings. Quartet after quartet have tried over the years to gain mastery over such singing with varying successes. Some have been successful in singing each of their sundry parts with great aplomb. Yet, there are others who excel in bringing their voices together to form a seamless thread. Nevertheless, few can sing well both in their various parts as well as together as a team. Second Half Quartet is one of those few exceptions. If you are looking for a disc that is an exemplar of what harmony singing is all about, "Refreshing" is it. The Second Half Quartet are sublime when they sing individually and when their voices cohere.
Second Half Quartet is the latest signing to Daywind Records, an imprint that has serviced us with music from Karen Peck and New River, the Nelons, Brian Free and Assurance, the Hoppers and many others. Nevertheless, the members of Second Half Quartet are by no means novices. This all-star group, comprised of Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, Chris Allman, Rodney Griffin and Pat Barker, has become a beloved collaboration in high demand by audiences across the country. Originating from their impromptu quartet singing in the second half of Greater Vision and Mark Trammell Quartet concerts, the group is familiar to the fans who know and love them individually, however, together bring a fresh, new take on timeless harmonies.
Easily, the song that will win copious favourable votes is "Wonderful Grace of Jesus." If you are thinking, what can one add to such an old familiar hymn? Then take a listen to Second Half's rendition. Without the aid of a single instrument, the boys pile their vocals together to deliver what is a pulverising acapella reading that is so good that it deserves many standing ovations. Showcasing more of their stellar use of their layered voices is the jaunty "Let Us Cheer the Weary Traveller." And utilizing their harmonies to create some breathtaking vocal acrobatics is "I'm Going Up When I Die," which is also to be commended for its lyrical perspicuity about eternity and salvation.
Going for the Southern Gospel chestnuts, the quartet have decided to tackle a few of Cathedrals' standards. Featuring Mark Trammell on lead vocals, the Cathedrals' ballad "Remind Me of Calvary" is delivered with a contagious confidence and affection that draws us in to worship. "Prodigal Son," another Cathedral classic, finds Rodney Griffin taking the lead this time over a country backing. Bright and bubbling is the Biblically-driven narrative song "Standing on Holy Ground" which finds the quartet in a jubilant zest. A little more on the less dramatic (and a tad more predictable) side is the draggy "Rivers of Joy."
"Refreshing," at the end of the day, lives up to its titular. Regardless of whether the Second Half Quartet handles an oldie or a new song, the way they sing individually as well as collectively is a breath of fresh air. Tight, affecting, and highly moving, this record is what gives definition to singing in harmony.
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