One of my annual concert "must-dos" every year is the week long series of concerts which are part of the SoGospelNews.com Fan Festival at River of Life Church in Smyrna. If I could, I would have gone to each one. But with having just moved and getting settled (and yeah, gas price consideration, as I'm a little further now from the Smyrna locale), I had to choose just one evening this year. I went with Thursday's lineup, which for me held three "get me in the door" artists: Beyond the Ashes, Sunday Edition and Johnny Minick and Friends (Alison Durham Speer, Aaron Minick, Mike Allen); and those I hadn't heard before, Eighth Day and Brothers Forever.
Before the concert, I was talking with Chris Unthank of Sunday Edition and also one of the event organizers, about the diversity and style of all the acts on the evening lineup. Indeed, each one was effective and unique in how they ministered musically.
Trio Eighth Day, consisting of husband and wife Scott and Joni Robinson and Dave Mann(who did a standout solo on Dottie Rambo's "Sheltered In the Arms Of God")did well with upbeat gospel songs.
You can't go wrong with perennial crowd favorites Pastor Johnny Minick, son Aaron Minick, Alison Durham Speer and Mike Allen (also joined on one tune by Johnny's wife Sherry). This popular combination earned several standing ovations.
Beyond the Ashes is a fairly new trio that I first heard at their showcase a few months back at Edgehill Cafe. Emotional and passionate in expressing their faith in song, these guys continue to grow and get stronger. Group leader Anthony Facello is a powerful tenor who reached out and engaged the audience. They will have a new CD release very soon.
After hearing Sunday Edition for the first time at last year's fan festival, I went to their product table and bought everything they had. Chris, Amy Marie and Deon Unthank were smoking red hot this evening as well. Chris and Amy Marie are two powerhouse singers who when tying in with Deon for family harmonies brought it with a soulful stir. This group is the best kept secret in contemporary Southern Gospel as far as I'm concerned.
Brothers Forever were up to the task of following Sunday Edition's strong performance with a contemporary progressive gospel flair and original material with great hooks ("I Feel A Blessing Coming On").
The evening even had a little comic relief by Al Mahan as a chubby Elvis impersonator with parodies of Elvis songs relating to food...but with the message at the end that God looks at the inside and there is really only one "King".
I'm not a fan of long night drives, but there was no way I could bail out early...there was just too much good stuff going on this evening. Doesn't matter to me how it's being packaged these days--traditional, progressive, contemporary or modern--I love Southern Gospel. I love being here.