|Oh, What A Quartet! | Posted February 03, 2014
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound is one of the premiere quartets of today's Southern Gospel scene. The beloved group has seen several roster changes, but the current lineup— tenor Haase, lead Devin McGlamery, baritone Doug Anderson, and bass Paul Harkey— seems to have gelled.
EHSS has scaled back their touring a bit, giving Devin, Doug, and musical director/pianist Wayne Haun a chance to purse solo careers and other endeavors. Still, the quartet plays over 100 tour dates a year. On August 17, 2013, EHSS performed at the Carson Center in Paducah, Kentucky. This concert was recorded for their latest music release, available February 4th, Oh, What a Savior.
Of the 17 tracks on Oh, What a Savior, ten are from their two most recent studio releases, Here We Are Again and Glorious Day. As such, the project serves as both a great introduction to the current group as well as a recorded snapshot of what they do on stage.
EHSS was backed by a full band for the show, complete with a brass horns section. This gives extra oomph to their performance, helping the fellas bring the crowd immediately to their feet with opening number "When the Saints Go Marching In." The group also brings a good deal of energy to inspired performances of "Glorious Day" and "Every Time."
Haase got his start singing with legendary group The Cathedrals. Though Ernie has kept EHSS forward-looking and progressive, the quartet always keeps one foot in tradition, regularly singing songs that were Cathedrals favorites. This performance is no exception, as several songs from the Cathedrals song treasury are covered. The first, "Heavenly Parade," is a jaunty number supported by a banjo that gives bass Paul Harkey his own Johnny Cash moment.
You may recognize the second selection, "Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord," as popularized by the Statler Brothers. On "Noah," the group really flourishes. The perfect vehicle for their humor and personality, this number is sure to become an Ernie Haase & Signature Sound live staple. Additionally, "Climbing Higher and Higher" gives the guys a chance to show what they can do with minimal musical support, while on finale "Oh, What a Savior" Ernie proves that the ol' man can still deliver!
Despite his own considerable skill, Haase is careful to make certain that each member has ample opportunity to shine in his own right. With an award winning writer and producer (Haun) and two members whose solo work has earned Dove Awards (Anderson and McGlamery), it is no wonder Haase is happy to share the spotlight.
Newest member Harkey shows his mettle with his audition song, "Scars in the Hands of Jesus," while Doug Anderson takes a commanding lead on the moving "Sometimes I Wonder." Here the group pauses to briefly visit the hymn "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be" before Doug, who excels at letting his feelings come through, wraps the song up alone. The recording captures a tell-tale catch in his voice that, to me, is a Doug Anderson hallmark. Devin McGlamery's golden moment comes on the beautiful "That's Why," which McGlamery recorded (with the help of the rest of EHSS) on his Dove Award-winning solo album Love is a Verb. Finally, pianist and musical director Wayne Haun takes his turn with Duke Ellington song "Blue Again" from his record Old Soul.
As further evidence that Haase is a team player, two highlights on the disc are courtesy of special guests. Friend and former Signature Sound member Wesley Pritchard shares in the joy when he joins the group on stage for "Up Above My Head (I Hear Music in the Air)," another song from McGlamery's Love Is a Verb. You'll not want to miss Broadway performer J. Mark McVey, backed by EHSS, on a showstopping rendition of classic "Climb Every Mountain" fromThe Sound of Music. If you love it, rejoice, for there will be more to come! You'll see further collaboration, on stage and on record, between McVey and EHSS in the near future.
As I mentioned earlier, EHSS has scaled back their touring. Not only does this allow for solo dates and side projects, but it helps veteran Haase preserve both the range and power of his distinctive tenor voice. His tenderness is evident when he sings one of Elvis Presley's gospel songs, the pretty "Walk With Me." And since Ernie's days with The Cathedrals, "Oh, What a Savior" has been his trademark song. When Haase closes the show with this piece, he brings the house down!
Oh, What a Savior is a top-notch live recording that captures the infectious energy and remarkable talent of Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. From opening number "When the Saints Go Marching In" to the concluding song "Oh, What a Savior," the quartet ensures that their listeners will have a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts.
Part of what sets EHSS apart is their dynamic stage performance. With their camaraderie, charm, humor, and occasional choreographed dance moves, Ernie, Devin, Doug, and Paul are just plain fun to watch! Happily, the CD release, presented as part of the Gaither Gospel Series, is only half the fun. A DVD recording of the same name, available separately or sold alongside the CD in a bundle, also releases February 4th.
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