CD Review: Always Have a Song (Mark Trammell Trio)

Rating: 5 (of 5)

Average Song Rating: 4.5 (of 5)

Producer: Wayne Haun.

Song List: I Know That I know; Loving the Lamb; Called In, Called Up, Called Out; What Good Would a Crown Be; Safe On the Glory Side; If God Said It, I Believe It; At The Whisper of His Name; I Always Have a Song to Sing; If Only Just a Few; Coming Out and Moving In.

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During the years Mark Trammell sang with Gold City, the group had a certain distinctive mix of songs on each project—several big ballads, several convention numbers, and at least one brass-driven number and one Black Gospel-influenced number. The Mark Trammell Trio doesn’t have a Jonathan Wilburn in the group, so the project doesn’t have any Black Gospel songs. But with that exception, this project could pass for a Trammell-era Gold City project sans a bass singer.

The project has three convention songs, “I Always Have a Song to Sing,” “Called In, Called Up, Called Out,” and “Coming Out and Moving In.” The latter two, both penned by Kyla Rowland (though “Called In” was co-written with Dianne Wilkinson), are tenor-led songs in the tradition of Gold City’s “Isn’t He Wonderful” or “More Like Jesus.”

“If God Said It, I Believe It,” co-written by lead singer Dustin Sweatman and Dianne Wilkinson, is given a brass-driven treatment.

The project has three big ballads, “Loving the Lamb,” “What Good Would a Crown Be,” and “If Only Just a Few.” “What Good Would a Crown Be” is Dustin Sweatman’s first big ballad on a Mark Trammell Trio project; the other two feature Mark Trammell. Both of Trammell’s features got strong responses at NQC 2008; while Kyla Rowland’s “Loving the Lamb” is likely to be sent to radio first, the Rodney Griffin-penned “If Only Just a Few” would probably also do well. (It’s the sort of song that makes you wonder why Greater Vision didn’t do it themselves. But it’s lyrically a Biblical-era “Just One More Soul,” and perhaps Griffin just thought it fit Mark Trammell’s voice better.)

“Safe on the Glory Side” is a mid-tempo Dianne Wilkinson song that has been getting a strong response in live concerts. It brings to mind Jay Parrack’s solos even more than Eric Phillips’ earlier solos (“In Time, On Time, Every Time” is the closest comparison I can think of, but that doesn’t quite capture the song’s feel.)

This project could just as easily have been recorded by a quartet. Some groups, like the Booth Brothers, are so much a trio that one could not imagine them with a bass singer. But the Mark Trammell is the best quartet-without-a-bass-singer in Southern Gospel today.

Except for that missing bass part, this project sounds like it could have come straight from Gold City during its Mark Trammell era. But all Gold City comparisions aside, it’s a strong project in its own right and sets the standard by which other Mark Trammell Trio projects are measured for years to come.