Best Southern Gospel Music Albums of 2018

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2018 saw a barrage of album releases.  Here we have compiled our favorite Southern Gospel music albums released this year with a nod towards a couple of newer names to boot.

10. TaRanda Greene "The Healing" 

TaRanda Greene calls to mind the golden era of the 90s when Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey ruled the airwaves.  These divas do not just sing. Rather, they take us on a ride, roller coasting through the extreme lows and the highs of notes.  And when they crescendo right to the pinnacle, they hold us breathless as they linger for the longest time on those sky scraping notes.  To be able to be transported to such an Everest is itself worthy of every cent we spent on the CD.  Moreover, the array of variegated of emotions that such singers packed into each note are enough to leave us in absolute awe.  Just when you think such an era is over, we meet TaRanda Greene. Greene may be a petite lady, but she sure has a big and booming voice.  And like the aforementioned divas, she takes us on such rides. 

9. Sally Quick "A Tribute to Dottie Rambo" 

On what is her debut recording, Sally Quick has decided to tip her hat to this prolific songwriter by offering her renditions of 10 of Rambo's better known compositions.  True be told, Quick is neither the first artist nor the last to deliver a tribute album to the late Rambo, so what sets this album apart?  Most striking is Quick's vocals.  Blessed with a pensive alto that is able to express an array of emotions from the plaintive to the jubilant, Quick's vocals calls to mind Karen Carpenter and to a lesser extent Janet Paschal. 

8. LeFevre Quartet "Ascending" 

Size doesn't really matter when it comes to LeFevre Quartet's new record "Ascending."  Fans who feel duped that this new New Day/Daywind product only contains 8 songs will feel compensated as soon as the first note starts. Despite the album coming down on the shorter side in terms of playing time and the number of cuts, there are virtually no fillers here.  Every song is a winner.  In fact, each of these 8 contributions is worthy to be a stand alone single.  You won't find a sluggish same-ness rearing its head as the album rolls along.  Each track, in fact, is imbued with its own individuality packed with its own message and its own memorable arches.

7. The Taylors "Faithful Again"

The Taylors are iconoclastic.  They have a way of smashing stereotypes often associated with Southern Gospel music. "Faithful Again" is the trio's third album for StowTown Records, following on the heels of two solid predecessors.  "Faithful Again" picks up where their previous album "Hope and Healing" left off.  While the former album dealt with hurts and healing as one walks through the valleys and hills of life, "Faithful Again" is a celebratory record. The project tells of God's faithfulness throughout the journey. And it gives articulation to the joy that comes with the dawning as darkness recedes. 

6. Greater Vision "Life is a Song" 

It's a challenge to say anything depreciative about a Greater Vision album.  Over the last 28 years, the trio but now a quartet has perfected their signature sound.  Not only are they seamless in their harmonies, they also exude individuality when they each tackle their parts.  Heightening the strength of their sound are also their well-chosen songs. Often strong in their melodic structures, they are always lyrically rich in their treatments of the salient truths of the Gospel. Such glorious attributes are in full display with Greater Vision's brand new album for Daywind Records. "Life is a Song," may have been quietly released without much fanfare, but it would be a crime if the album would go unnoticed.  This record ranks loftily as far as the hierarchy of great Southern Gospel albums are concerned.

5. Johnny Minick & the Stewart Brothers "Johnny Minick & the Stewart Brothers" 

Johnny Minick & the Stewart Brothers' debut album for Gaither Music is an important record.  These are songs that put the adjective "western" back into music.  These songs resurrect a music genre that was once a vital fabric of American music. Back in the 1940s right into the 60s, western or cowboy music was a piece of American culture and history.  Singing songs that give animations to the Old West where the open ranges or cattle drives have been romanticized, western music was a genre that gives perspective to a way of life that was reality to many in rural America.  However, with country music's penchant for the synths, guitars, and strings utilized by its musical pop cousin, slowly the adjective "western" has been erased from country music.  

4. Gordon Mote "Love Love Love"

There's only one foolproof way to inoculate against an unfavourable review: good songs.   It doesn't really matter how luminous the songwriters are or how prominent the duet partners are, it still comes down to the songs.  Gordon Mote knows this.  Instead of bulking up the record with fluff, the 13 tracks here are above the bar of excellence.  These songs demonstrate both breadth and depth.  Instead of just restricting himself to a particular genre or tempo, the breadth of diversity here is stunning.  Not only are there the standard fares of ballads and beat-driven burners, but there's even a rap piece ("Love Crusade")!  Tastefully done without any faux pas, this album really shows Mote can colour beyond the boundaries.  But the album also shows depth.  Though "love" is a theme not novel to music, Mote still has ways of presenting both the love of God and our love for others in ways that cathartic and meaningful. 

3. Endless Highway "East to West" 

Two factors work to accentuate Endless Highway's new album to greatness.  First, kudos are in order to producer Jeff Collins. Never resorting to package each song with a factory-made wrapping, Collins has had spent time to ruminate and understand each track before dressing each of them in its unique tailor-fitted sound.  This means you won't hear a "same-ness" across the record.  But working in concert with the flawless voices of Endless Highway, the songs sound fresh, exquisite and simply gorgeous.  Second, the credit of any album is always dependent on the song choices.  Happy to say, the majority of the songs demonstrate a great mix of memorable tunes and thought provoking lyrics.

2. Sunday Drive "A Million Miles" 

The success of an album ultimately rests on the song choices.  Albums can temporarily surge in popularity with the hype artists can build around it or with the star power of artists guesting on the tracks. But at the end of the day, the longevity of an album still resides in the songs.  Whether an album makes it or not still has to be judged by whether the songs have something to say and whether they are said in a memorable and engaging way.  Sunday Drive understands this point well.  In making this record, their followup to 2016's "Special Edition," the trio have searched far and wide for these 10 new songs.  And proud to say, all the 10 songs are superb.  Essentially, there are no sub-par fillers here; each of these 10 songs has a voice that needs to be heard.

1. The Collingsworth Family "Mercy & Love"

If you only have money to purchase one Southern Gospel music album this year, get this one.  The excellence of the Collingsworth Family (CWF)'s brand new StowTown records release Mercy and Love is storied.  On one level, the sound is elegant, visceral, majestic and down right heavenly.  Produced by industry veterans Wayne Haun (Celine Dion, Jason Crabb) and David Clydesdale (Aretha Franklin, Sandi Patty), these songs were recorded in Prague with the city's Philharmonic orchestra.  On another level, the songs are thoughtfully selected.  Here you won't find over-recycled fluff or hymns that have appeared on every other quartet's canon.  Rather, with a balanced of well-chosen covers and carefully crafted new tunes, there's not a dud in the offering.  Yet, on another level, the members of CWF are vocally in tip top condition.  Giving exposition to affairs of sublime theological truths, this sextet demonstrate confidence and believability.



Tags : Best Southern Gospel Music Albums of 2018 sally quick Taranda Greene collingsworth family endless highway lefevre quartet The Taylors Gordon Mote sunday drive Johnny Minick & the Stewart Brothers Johnny Minick & the Stewart Brothers ALBUM REVIEW Sunday Drive news Greater Vision

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