may 2009

Bringing The House Down

Experience the Great Hymns with the Homecoming Friends
Gaither Music Group
Running Time: 90 Minutes, approx.
Executive Producers: Bill Gaither, Barry Jennings, Bill Carter
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Assembling at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Bill and Gloria Gaither and 200 of their invited friends staged a gospel blowout like no other, even when compared to previous Homecoming celebrations released in this series. Many of the familiar, beloved Gaither Vocal Group stars return for this event—Guy Penrod, David Phelps, Mark Lowry, et al.—and there are some new personalities aboard too (new in the sense of not having been in the previous videos, not necessarily as part of the Gaither family). There's nothing new about the performances, though—all are uniformly heartfelt, often transcendent, never less than rousing, whether it be in the exuberance of the foot-stomping, roof shaking concert opener, "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," by Reggie Smith, Charlotte Ritchie, Joy Gardner, Guy Penrod (making a late, dramatic entrance to take the performance to an elevated plateau) and David Phelps, or Jessy Dixon's emotion-laden, delicate balladic probing of "Fill My Cup, Lord" in which he commands the stage with a singular force by dint of his immersion in the moment and preacherly invocations to the congregation. Gaither stalwart Mark Lowry does a fine job subtly caressing the message in a soft, string-enhanced medley of "Does Jesus Care?/God Will Take Care of You," the Martins floor everyone with a majestic a cappella rendition of "All People That On Earth Do Dwell" that in and of itself speaks to the unvarnished power of the human voice to move the spirit, and, to underscore the point, the Collingsworth Family closes the festivities with a beautiful, a cappella benediction of "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You," with the youngest of the girls likely evoking memories of the Lennon Sisters's sweet harmonies in those old enough to remember The Lawrence Welk Show. Alabama's Randy Owen joins in with a gritty, self-penned country gospel story-song, "One Big Heaven," inspired by a visit with a patient at St. Jude's Children's Hospital, and Andrae Crouch, from his seat in the audience, gets everyone standing on the gospel-soul testifying of "Through It All," then, from the stage, takes everyone higher on the shouting, stomping jubilee of "The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power," with a fiece but benevolent authority reminiscent of the younger Andrae ascending to the gospel pantheon in the '80s (it's a special treat when he takes to the piano for a gospel workout on the 88s while Jason Crabb ups the ante with his own scorching vocal). Not least of all are the great gospel quartets adding exquisite harmonies to "More About Jesus"—via the Blackwood Brothers—and the monumental "Stand By Me," which the Florida Boys practically rewrite with their smooth, soulful approach in a stately four-part blend. At nearly 90 minutes, Rock of Ages should satiate anyone needing a good gospel fix, or merely a little balm for a troubled soul. There's a lot of life in these songs, and a good deal of comfort to be taken from their stories. —David McGee

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The Martins make a joyful noise in a stunning a cappella version of the majestic "All People That On Earth Do Dwell," from the Rock of Ages DVD

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
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Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024