Welcome to the annual feature where we at AbsolutelyGospel.com list our favorite recordings of the year. The recordings here may not have been rated in our album reviews as the best of the year – but they were definitely among our favorite. Perennial favorites like Jason Crabb, The Isaacs, and The Martins show up again, as well as new faces like Griffith Family and The Williamsons.
|Chris D. Unthank
Jason’s blend of country, progressive Southern Gospel and inspirational sounds have made this a favorite in the Unthank household. “Expect the Unexpected” can start a little boy dance party on the spot, while “Short Are the Years” is a tear-jerker sure to make every parent in the building shed a few tears. This is far and away his best effort as a solo artist.
When you’ve got a group as talented as The Martins, there’s no reason why it should take us three or more years to get new material from you. Like Crabb, the Martins manage to meld together a sound that is uniquely their own, mixing country, Southern Gospel, and pop to grand efforts. I still can’t get “Smell of Smoke” out of my head, and “Mercy Come In” is a triumph in Church music.
The third and final release from the group known as the Jim Brady Trio (they are rebranding themselves as Jim & Melissa Brady this year), is a fantastic blend of styles and topics. Melissa remains the most underrated vocalist and songwriter in the business. This is a must-own from 2018. I absolutely love their covers of “What a Beautiful Name” and “I Got Out.” “Follow Me to the Cross” is a #1 hit waiting to happen.
Much like The Martins, it takes entirely way too much time to get new music from this phenomenal quartet. No matter their turnover or change in vocal line-up, Gold City remains one of the best of in the business, and Hope For the Journey is proof of that. Their cover of Crowder’s “All My Hope” is a showstopper, “Alabama Mud” is a fun country tune, and Daniel Riley’s vocal performance on “Those Same Hands” is fantastic.
It’s obvious by now that I’m drawn to recordings that are a blending of styles. Gordon Mote’s Love Love Love is a great release that covers country and inspirational sounds. His bluesy take on “People Get Ready” is an album highlight, “Let the Ordinary Make You Happy” recalls the likes of Scott Krippayne or Mark Schultz, and “Set Your House In Order” could make SG radio programmers very happy.
Joseph Habedank – Hymns with Friends (Daywind Records)
Steve Ladd – Come Clean (Sonlite Records)
Three Bridges – Our Story (Sonlite Records)
LeFevre Quartet – Ascending (New Day Records)
The Talleys – Finest Hour (Horizon Records)
This 2018 release by the LeFevre Quartet is the best recording they’ve ever done and I can’t stop listening to it! There is not a bad song on this recording. Every song could be a single and would be met with great approval in concerts across the country. Everything from song selection, arrangements, vocals and overall production is outstanding. This is a career recording that every artist longs for, but few manage to attain.
I haven’t been following this group since they came on the scene a few years ago, but this recording introduced me to their music and it ranks as one of my favorite releases for 2018. Great song selection, kickin’ arrangements and power harmonies are the hallmark of this recording. The first time I heard this recording…it was like a wall of sound and I liked what I heard! So glad my ears and this recording crossed paths!
This recording has been a lifetime in the making and TaRanda delivers each lyric flawlessly and meticulously; thus creating an elegant masterpiece that lingers in your heart and soul long after the music stops! TaRanda has always been such an amazing singer but this tops anything she has ever done! In 20-30 years from now, we’ll still be listening to this recording and saying “WOW!”
I love the smooth sounds of this recording from the Jim Brady Trio. It’s takes things up a notch from their previous recordings, but they stay true to who they are. Another example of excellent song selection matched with tremendous arrangements. A definite favorite for 2018!
Ready For Revival
This recording is definitely one of the best releases of 2018 and features some killer songs and arrangements. Hat tip to Wayne Haun and John Darin Rowsey for a job well done as Producers! The song selection is superb throughout the entire recording and the arrangements and production quality are classy and very well done; a massive sound, almost epic-like feel. I find myself listening to this recording over and over again, a sure sign of a great recording.
Perry Sisters – Tellin’ the Story (Indepedent)
The Isaacs – Favorites: Revisited by Request (Gaither Music Group)
Various Artists – Fanny Crosby: Newly Discovered Hymns & Songs (StowTown Records)
Oak Ridge Boys – 17th Avenue Revival (Lightening Rod Records)
Down East Boys – One Day in the Past (Sonlite Records)
CT & Becky Townsend – Hymns & Classics (Independent)
New Speer Family – A Singing Heritage (Independent)
Dailey & Vincent – The Sounds of Christmas
New Day RecordsFor over 13 years, the LeFevre Quartet has worked to establish a hold in Southern Gospel Music. Signing with New Day Records, a division of Daywind Records, proved a move in the right direction. With the variety of styles arranged at their strengths, the LeFevre Quartet offers their finest album to date. Personal picks are “Revival,” “Rugged Old Cross,” “Sailing Away,” “Sun’s Gonna Come Up,” and “Only Jesus.”
As TaRanda (Greene) Beene continues to explore her musical identity, listeners are treated to a deep, moving experience. Her latest offering, ‘The Healing,’ offers the reality of struggles and difficult times while delivering a message of hope and peace. Some of my personal favorites include: “When the Healing Comes,” “The Stone Is Rolled Away”, “New Kingdom Rising”, “Hallelujah Praise the Lamb”, and “Uphill Climb.”
The refreshing style of the Erwins keeps Southern Gospel headed in the right direction. Their respect for the past, yet unashamed modern sound is quite commendable as Southern Gospel continues. ‘Watch and See’ gives a glimpse into the faithfulness of God with references to His healing and resurrection power. Some of my favorites are: “Watch and See,” “After the Storm,” “Hallelujahs Never End,” “The Power of an Empty Tomb,” and “In the House of the Lord.”
While the Erwins continue the progressive style of Southern Gospel, the Mylon Hayes Family marches forward in the traditional style that founded the genre. This family IS the modern definition of a traditional, Southern Gospel Mixed Group. As their sound continues to mature, the family becomes a stronger force in the industry. Highlights from Enjoy the Journey’ are: “Ain’t It Good,” “Resurrection Power,” “Give It to Jesus,” “Joy on the Journey,” “God Can Still Turn It Around,” “What Manner of Love,” and “I Praise You Now.”
It’s been 7 years since the last release of new music for the Martins. What a wait! However, it was well worth the wait. Jonathan, Judy, and Joyce prove that their history-making style of progressive Southern Gospel is still relevant with ‘Still Standing.’ The trio never ceases to release strong lyrics with fresh arrangements. My personal picks are: “Running,” “Still Standing,” “Smell of Smoke,” “Beautiful”, “Heal the Wound”, and “Mercy Come In.”
This album is the first one in years that really felt like the true Jason was showing. It brought you back to his country roots, which is what made him what he is today.
The Isaacs have had some pretty amazing hits over the years, and this album brings all the old favorites back with a new twist. It’s a great project!
Joseph Habedank is, in my opinion, the best male vocalist in Southern Gospel music right now. This project features some of the other very talented artists in the industry and is well done.
This project is great and was worked on very hard. To see how God is using the Griffith Family and advancing them for the kingdom is awesome!
This album has some really cool song selections. The Martins have always been one of the best groups in Southern Gospel music, with some of the tightest Family harmony that you’ll hear. This project is no different.
It is always fun to watch groups develop over the years — how their talents are refined, how their style is elaborated. But one thing is for sure with this group, no matter what changes The Mylon Hayes Family may undergo, or where their journey may take them, their music is always incredible and just keeps getting better. And this fact is no different with their newest CD. Their increasing talents and love for the Lord are displayed in their every note. You can’t help but feel the excitement heighten as you listen, especially to my favorite, “He is Alive.”
It just wouldn’t be right to not include this family’s music in my list of favorites. With their unmistakable sound and incredible vocals, it seems that they could get no better, but they have shown otherwise. This CD not only contains an unlimited amount of musical ability, but it holds songs that instill inspiration, encouragement, tears, and joy, like some of my favorites — “Mercy and Love” and “Your Ways are Higher Than Mine.”
This old, well-known quartet holds new members who turn these old classics into a new experience. It truly is a joy to hear these timeless tunes with their simple yet musically-full sound. Their message will never grow old, and neither will the sweet sound that carries them on this recording.
Although he is a new name in the gospel world, he is certainly not a novice in music. His simple, soothing melodies are an easy listen and delight. His wide range and country style make this album stand out, and one thing is for sure: gospel music fits him well. This album includes many favorite classics as well as his original, “Long Black Train,” and one of my favorites on which his whole family joins him, “The River (Of Happiness).”
You get a little of everything. That is what I love about this album. Every song provides a new experience of traveling back in history and moving to the present. You can’t help but put yourself in the shoes of Fanny and the other writers, listening while these beautiful tunes simultaneously bring to life new and ancient words. It also has so many great styles from some of the best in gospel music. Some of my favorites are, “Beside the Cross,” “In Another Hour of Song,” and “A Crown of Life.” It’s hard not to love all of them!