Yet I don’t think I’ve met anyone else
here who’s even heard of Southern Gospel music, let alone is a fan. My
church, like numerous Australian Baptist churches, is pretty heavy on the
praise and worship songs that come out of
Hillsong Church in Sydney (particularly since ours used to be the home
church of one of their top songwriters,
Reuben Morgan). Mention Southern Gospel and they think you mean When
the Saints Go Marching In.
It was through Gaither Gospel Hour
programmes on local cable TV that I discovered Southern Gospel. The first
time I watched I assumed I was viewing a church service. “That’s the church
I want to join,” I told my wife. Later I realised the programmes were made
in theatres or studios.
A part of the travelling Gaither
extravaganza hits Australia in November. But they’re stopping over for
one night only at the Sydney Opera House – a concert and video recording
– ignoring their fans here in Melbourne and elsewhere in the country. Maybe
there aren’t that many of us, after all.
What’s the appeal of Southern Gospel?
At first it was the music: bouncy New
Orleans jazz fused with country, often spiced with Barbershop Quartet-style
But then it was the lyrics. None of the
warm-milk, koala-like fluffiness of contemporary praise and worship. This is
bourbon and rattlesnake – songs from the gut that stab our hearts with
messages of sin and fall and redemption and of crossing over to our eternal
reward. Rockers like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis were weaned on these
lyrics. They’re songs about the difference that Jesus makes in our lives.
Does anything else matter?
After I discovered Southern Gospel I
began listening via streaming audio on the web. I bookmarked two sites,
Solid Gospel radio and the
Gospel Lighters radio programme. The latter is a real find. It’s a
30-minute weekly show from Duane Smith of the Clinton Free Will Baptist
Church in Indiana. I’ve no idea what Free Will Baptists are, but if they
have Duane Smith as their pastor they have to be on fire. He confesses that
sometimes the spirit takes him over, and you can hear it on some of his
shows - impassioned, hellfire preaching mixed with raw and gutsy music.
Duane hadn’t updated his website for
quite a while. Then last month he added a new show, and some bad news. His
mother had died – the show was dedicated to her. And he was running out of
money to maintain his programme. He might have to close it down.
For all I know he has closed it already.
I hope not. He needs prayer and donations. Please support him.
September 24th, 2002
Both Solid Gospel and Gospel Lighters no longer provide their programmes
January 25th, 2003
I have an
up-to-date list of online Southern Gospel radio stations at my new website,
October 3rd, 2005
My favourite Southern Gospel online radio stations.
January 26th, 2003
Did the music of Johnny Cash make me a Christian?
January 6th, 2003
The Gaither Vocal Band crowd have returned home safely after Saturday
night’s Sydney Opera House concert. Praise God that they avoided getting
eaten by all the crocodiles.
November 5th, 2002