I often travel on business to the west coast and on this particular trip I was able to attend a concert at the Owasso Gospel Opry in Owasso, OK. This was a new venue for me but I was quiet impressed with the way it was organized and the crowd was full which is always good to see at any southern gospel venue. The pairing of these two quartets was interesting as each is on opposite ends of the spectrum but the fact two members of the Florida Boys were original members of Mark209 may have played into that. Some may remember the original lineup from the groups most notable release to date in My Home In Heaven.
The sound of this quartet has evolved from the days of the Mystery Men quartet. This group has predominately been moving more and more towards progressive christian country.
The groups performance brought a high energy show to the venue. In fact, at one point it was almost like watching an exercise DVD although in a very good way. Theres a lot of movement in their performance similar to the style employed by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound.
The group emcee duties was handled by tenor Nathaniel Justice and he does a really nice job. Some of the songs push the boundaries of fitting in with southern gospel but their harmonies are structured in a way that’s true to their southern gospel roots. I was unable to find information for the newest addition on the groups website but he brings a more traditional southern gospel sound to the group as opposed to the country leanings of past vocalists at the position. I’m not sure if this is an indication the group is shifting back towards southern gospel or not but given the traditional style of lead singer Jym Howe and their new addition it may fit them more to adjust a little to a more southern gospel style.
The performance was fun, high energy and filled with harmonies that southern gospel fans love. There’s Always Room At The Table was one of the standout songs in the concert. This one featured tenor Nathaniel Justice and their newcomer at baritone. Justice really does an excellent job on this song. For those of you who prefer a tenor who is full voiced and doesn’t sing from a head voice, he is as good as I have heard. Lead singer Jym Howe delivered nicely on an old song called Say A Prayer For Me. Howe has a retro style throwback vocal to the more traditional sounds of southern gospel.
The group did a rendition of I’m Living In Graceland. Fans of the Bowlings will recognize this tune. Mark209 employs the song to stimulate crowd participation and it works quiet well. O Holy Night was a crowd favorite despite the fact it’s March. It featured Justice and bass singer Ray Woconish. I would rate the performance very good overall. There were the usual issues you can have with a live performance like the bass overpowering the rest early in the program but adjustments were made and the group delivered a very nice performance. They are definitely worth checking out if you haven’t heard them.
For more information on Mark209 you can visit their website: Mark209 Official Website
The Florida Boys-
The Florida Boys headlined the concert and most everyone whose listened to southern gospel knows about the legendary quartet. This current rendition of the group may be their best lineup in ages.
The group opened with some of their classic hits like I Feel Like Traveling On & Love Lifted Me. Bass singer Joe “Todd” Armstrong delivered powerful low vocals on a remake of the classic Florida Boys rendition of Farther Along. Next up to be featured was newcomer Jimmy Reno on baritone. Reno delivered a smooth, high lead vocal on an old Florida Boy tune called Then I Met Jesus. His vocal style along with the tight harmonies gave the group a very modern sound. This was a highlight feature from the concert along with Armstrong’s.
Newcomer on tenor, Nathan Parrish, did a nice job on the song I Know A Man Who Can. While hes not as seasoned as the rest of the quartet, he shows a lot of potential for someone whose only 19 years of age and has a nice higher range.
Emcee duties was handled by lead singer Charles Waller. Few people in gospel music can match the way Waller has the audience hanging on his every word. He infuses comedy into the show and makes it very enjoyable. Waller took the lead on an old classic called Come Go With Me. Although a secular tune, this one fits Waller’s style and the group adds nice harmony.
The Florida Boys feature one of the most talented piano players in the industry. Joshua Pope does an amazing performance that audiences love. Those familiar with the Gaither videos may have seen him on those videos before.
It was an excellent performance all around and the only negative comment I could think of would be the performance could have used more balance. The tenor was featured a little more heavy in the program. While Parrish has a nice voice, hearing the other members, who are very talented, a little more would have made the performance even more enjoyable.
For more information on the Florida Boys visit their website at: The Florida Boys Official Website
If you haven’t had a chance to see either of these groups live, I encourage you to do so as both deliver very good programs. I did purchase the Florida Boys two new releases and you can read the review at: CD Review: The Florida Boys