…sing the songs of Dianne Wilkinson (The Kingdom Heirs)

No, it’s not a project that they’ve recorded. Yet.

With one notable exception, the concept of a group recording a complete concept album singing the songs of a legendary songwriter has been lost in our genre. (Truth be told, the idea of the concept album has been nearly lost, period, but that’s another post.)

Both now and in the old days, certain groups would find that a certain songwriter’s style simply fit their sound. And from time to time, groups would release a complete album of some of that songwriter’s classic songs.

  • Cathedral Quartet – Sings Albert E. Brumley Classics (1976). This was certainly the Cathedrals’ best table project, and possibly their best project ever. The mid-70s lineup of the group could render better male quartet versions of Brumley’s songs than any other group then or since.
  • Bill Gaither Trio – Sings Inspiring Songs of Stuart Hamblen (1977). Of course, Bill and Gloria Gaither’s songs defined the Bill Gaither Trio’s sound. But if any songwriter came second-closest to fitting the trio’s sound, it was Hamblen.
  • Chuck Wagon Gang – Sings the Songs of Albert E. Brumley – God’s Gentle People (1962). Of course, I said “male quartet” in my comments on the Cathedral post, because the Chuck Wagon Gang defined the Brumley song by introducing several of his best songs (including “I’ll Fly Away.”) So, not surprisingly, this album was one of their best.
  • Chuck Wagon Gang – Sings the Songs of Mosie Lister (1961). While perhaps a less obvious pick than the Brumley album, this also worked well for the group. They picked twelve Lister songs that fit their sound, and knocked them out of the park.

There have also been notable compilations, with tributes to the songs of Bill & Gloria Gaither, Kyla Rowland, and Lee Roy Abernathy. Some of these have just been compilations, but others (such as Command Performance: A Tribute to Lee Roy Abernathy, featuring the original Gold City rendition of “Movin’ Up to Gloryland”) featured original recordings. Multi-group tributes are nice, and I mentioned them because if I didn’t, one of you would surely note the omission in the comments. But the focus of this post is single group tributes.

Both then and now, groups with an in-house songwriter sometimes do a complete recording or compilation of that songwriter’s songs. Slaughter Writes Imperials Sing (1965) is a good classic example, while Greater Vision’s Songs From the Stories highlights Rodney Griffin’s songs (a number of which had only been cut previously by other artists).

But the concept of a full-album tribute of songs by an external songwriter had largely disappeared when the Dove Brothers brought it back in 2004 for their best project to date, A Tribute to Mosie Lister. They were toward the end of their classic-quartet-style era, so the project had the benefit of an eight-year warmup.

Southern Gospel artists and record labels would do well to bring back the concept album, particularly the tribute to a legendary concept. Here are a few, for starters:

We Shall See Jesus: The Kingdom Heirs Sing the Songs of Dianne Wilkinson. They have already cut more of her songs than any other group, so what would another project be? Here are some classics and forgotten tracks that would fit their style well:

  • We Shall See Jesus. There are only two singers on the road that could do the song justice—Arthur Rice and Pat Barker—and the Dixie Echoes aren’t likely to do a Dianne Wilkinson tribute.
  • Saved (Gold City).
  • God’s Grace Reaches Farther (Greater Vision).
  • When Mercy Came Down (Mark Trammell Trio). This is a gem that has been unfortunately forgotten.
  • Of Thee I Sing (Greater Vision, Ball Brothers). This would sound amazing in a quartet setting.

Feelin’ Fine: The Booth Brothers Sing the Songs of Mosie Lister. Anchored by new renditions of “Feelin’ Fine” and its sequel, “Still Feelin’ Fine,” this could include songs like

  • “Where No One Stands Alone”
  • “Till the Storm Passes By”
  • “His Hand In Mine”
  • “Here Comes the King” (done by the Dove Brothers on their tribute)
  • “Land Where Living Waters Flow” (uptempo song done by the Florida Boys and, farther back, the Harvesters)
  • “That Says it All” (done by George Younce on his solo project by the same name). After drafting this, I remembered that Ronnie Booth put it on his solo project, which validates my thesis that it fits the group’s sound. A rendition by the entire group would fit well on such a project, though.

Of course, they could include several of the classics they’ve already cut, but there’s more then enough great Mosie Lister songs they’ve yet to cut that their project could focus on those songs.

God Handled it All: The Perrys sing the songs of Kyla Rowland. It’s no secret that Rowland’s songs fit the Perrys’ style better than a hand in a glove. The Perrys can even take a Rowland song (like “Did I Mention”) that has been a filler track for other groups and make it a showstopper. Here are a few Rowland songs that the Perrys have never cut, but should:

  • God Handled It All.
  • One Scarred Hand. A Troy Peach / Libbi Perry Stuffle feature.
  • There Rose a Lamb. Featuring Joseph. Few lead singers could top the original, but Joseph probably could.
  • Windows of Home.
  • His Response. This Mercy’s Mark track was forgotten way too quickly, since Anthony Facello left the group before their next mainline release and his replacement didn’t sing the song. This could be a bass feature.

A couple of other ideas:

  • The Inspirations sing the songs of Sandy Knight
  • The Isaacs sing the songs of Dottie Rambo
  • The Hoppers sing the songs of Paula Stefanovich