CD/DVD Review: Live at Dollywood (Kingdom Heirs)

Kingdom Heirs - Live at DollywoodIt has been at least over three years, five CDs, and several #1 hits since the Kingdom Heirs last recorded a live concert video. One could say it was about time.

The video opens with a behind-the-scenes montage of preparation for the film, with sound check, makeup, banter between group members, and greetings from fans waiting to get in.

When the group takes the stage, it’s mostly singing with very little talking. French seems to be a fan of letting songs speak for themselves—or perhaps of picking songs that can.

The audio quality is excellent, CD-quality. (In fact, the DVD comes packaged with a companion CD, bundled in the same $25 package.) There are a few points where room reverb (or overdubs on top of original vocals as picked up by other singers’ microphones) can be noticed, but those are minor and do not jump out.

Attention to detail is evident in the staging. Just as one example, not only does the stage set include a bright red-and-gold background with the Kingdom Heirs’ logo, but that logo can also be seen elsewhere, such as on the piano right above the keys.

The cinematography (image quality) is top-notch, especially for standard definition. There are at least four cameras, with one and possibly two booms. There are only a few shots placing the featured singer(s) in an odd corner of the screen; in nearly all of the hundreds of shots selected, the advantages of the widescreen format are utilized to full effect. Twelve to fifteen lights help ensure that nearly all shots are well lit. (It’s not clear whether the circular rainbows are an accidental artifact of the lighting or intentional effects.)

The song selection should delight any fan except a fan looking for a recap of their last video’s set list. (If you’re one of those fans, just buy the last one, too.) Songs like “I Want You to Know,” “He Locked the Gates,” and “What We Needed” show off the Kingdom Heirs’ strengths in the convention style.

As well they should, the group makes the most of the talent it has at the lead position. From the bluesy “Jesus Made a Believer Out of Me” to the big ballad “When You Look at Me” to feature lines on convention songs, Arthur Rice proves that he can sing practically anything well.

Tenor Billy Hodges shines on “Fire Away” and “The Empty Tomb Says it All.” Steve French only sings one solo, “As Good as I Can Be.” Besides solo lines on various songs, particularly on convention-style numbers, Jeff Chapman is featured on “Help Me Lord.”

The singing abilities of two band members are also highlighted; pianist Andy Stringfield sings on “When You Look at Me” and “I’ll Meet You By the River,” and drummer Dennis Murphy closes the film with the parody / comedy track “The Video Song.”

The review can’t go without mention of the songwriting team behind the project. Other than “He Locked the Gates” (Rodney Griffin), “The Empty Tomb Says it All” (newcomer Daryl Petersheim), Murphy’s self-penned comedy number, and a couple classic songs, Dianne Wilkinson wrote (or, in one case, co-wrote) the rest of the songs. Most Kingdom Heirs fans are already familiar with a number of these songs, most notably “What We Needed”; of particular note is Arthur Rice’s riveting rendition of “When You Look at Me.” It’s a song he feels is Dianne’s best since “We Shall See Jesus,” and he delivers it with a passion that brings the audience to its feet at the close of the second verse, and up again for a prolonged standing ovation at the close.

The Kingdom Heirs are easily one of the best two or three quartets on the road right now, and this is a video/CD product worthy of a group at its pinnacle.

Rating: 5 stars. ♦ Average song rating: 4.6 stars. ♦ Group members: Billy Hodges, Arthur Rice, Steve French, Jeff Chapman, Andy Stringfield, Dennis Murphy, Kreis French. ♦ Produced by: Jacob Timmons. ♦ Review copy provided. ♦ Song list: On Gloryland Way; I Want You To Know; Fire Away; As Good as I Can Be; Jesus Made a Believer Out of Me; Rock’s Between a Hard Place and You; Help Me Lord; The Empty Tomb Says it All; He Locked the Gates; There is Power in the Blood (Instrumental); When You Look at Me; I’ll Meet You By the River; Beyond the Gates; What We Needed; The Video Song.