An indescribable night of incredible blessings

Gerald Wolfe leads the congregation in “Blessed Assurance” as the choir of, from left, Rodney Griffin, Wendy Hayes, Melissa Brady, Jim Brady and Stephen Adair also join in praise.

Gerald Wolfe Hymn Sing a night of hearty worship, remembering the past and being challenged to ministry

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

COLD SPRING, Ky. — It’s not often that I can’t describe something I have witnessed or experienced.

More than 30 years sitting behind keyboards and telling stories will do that, you know. There’s not much I haven’t seen, haven’t heard or haven’t written about. That covers just about all ends of the spectrum.

And I can assure you there’s not much that takes my breath away anymore.

Friday night, I attended the Gerald Wolfe Gospel Music Hymn Sing at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring. I’m still breathing, but was almost speechless when things ended a little after 9 p.m.

Continue reading “An indescribable night of incredible blessings”

Putting a smile on your face

From left, Paul, Tallant and March Martin perform during Rockland Road’s concert in Winchester on Sept. 25. (Photos by John Herndon)

Rockland Road continues to bring joy through music whenever it can

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

WINCHESTER, Ky. — It had been far too long since I had seen Rockland Road in person.

So, when the group announced it would be playing in Winchester — a free show at that! — my wife and I circled Sept. 25 on our calendars and made sure nothing would keep us away. Rockland Road played the “Rock the Block” series on the steps of the Clark County Courthouse and, like every other time we have seen this enormously talented family, left no one disappointed.

Continue reading “Putting a smile on your face”

Nelons return to Kentucky Thursday

The Nelons perform at David’s Fork Baptist Church, near Lexington, in July, 2019. From left are Autumn Nelon Clark, Amber Nelon Kistler, Kelly Nelon Clark and Jason Clark.

Cold Spring First Baptist ready for a big night

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

After more than five months — it has seemed like five years! — of almost no gospel concerts by national artists in Kentucky, it looks like things will be picking up drastically over the next few weeks as previously scheduled and rescheduled concerts have filled our calendars.

The Nelons return to Kentucky on Thursday, Sept. 10 at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring. The church has become a popular spot for Southern Gospel artists since reviving its concert series five years ago. Thursday’s concert is the first of three remaining dates on the church’s 2020 concert calendar.

The Nelons were originally scheduled to be at Cold Spring First Baptist in May but COVID-19 concerns and attendance restrictions at the time prompted the rescheduling. 

The Nelons — Jason Clark, his wife Kelly Nelon Clark and daughters Amber Nelon Kistler and Autumn Nelon Clark — bring a distinctive sound that embraces both traditional Southern Gospel and an Americana sound. The concert is free but a love offering will be received.

The Nelons will actually be the church’s second major concert since reopening from the COVID shutdown mandated by the state. Old Paths appeared at the church on July 19. “We had great attendance,” says Janet Watson, the church’s concert coordinator. 

While the First Baptist sanctuary can seat approximately 1,100 people, concert attendance is currently limited to 400 people to allow for social distancing. Other safety precautions will also be practiced. “Masks are recommended but not required,” Watson says. “We recommend you wear a mask until you are safely in your seat. Every other pew has been blocked off and each pew will seat six social distanced.”

Watson says her church has a rich gospel music history, hosting regular concerts until 2005 before resuming the series in 2015. The church is scheduled to host a Gerald Wolfe Hymn Sing on Oct. 23 and The Hoppers on Nov. 5.

Watson is pumped to get back to work with her church’s concerts. “I am so excited to get sort of back to concerts,” she says. “Our church looks at these concerts as a unique service to our community and the concerts have been missed. I am just a Southern Gospel lover who wants to do what I can to allow these wonderful artist to share the love of God with the masses!”

IF YOU GO

The Nelons will be in concert at Cold Spring First Baptist Church, 4410 Alexandria Pike, Cold Spring, Ky. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the concert scheduled to get underway at 7. The concert is free but a love offering will be received. 

The Nelons perform at last year’s National Quartet Convention.

With Jay Parrack, it’s about being real

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Tenor Jay Parrack takes the lead during the LeFevre Quartet concert at Shelbyville’s Highland Baptist Church, August 30. From left are Parrack, lead Jordan LeFevre, baritone Mike LeFevre and bass Will Lane.

Acclaimed tenor glad to be back on the road with LeFevre Quartet, sees challenges facing churches and music industry in sharing deep gospel message

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — The boyish enthusiasm gushing from Jay Parrack can make one forget that his youngest child is now of college age.

He kicks his right leg high to punctuate one song. He often clowns with others on stage and even goes through a leg-crossing routine that could seem more Hee Haw than a gospel concert. And more than once during The LeFevre Quartet’s concert at Shelbyville’s Highland Baptist Church, Parrack cuts loose with a “Whoo!!!”

“What you see up here is what you get all the time,” baritone Mike LeFevre says as he introduces Parrack with a big smile.

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Mike LeFevre, right, introduces Jay Parrack to the crowd at Highland Baptist. In rear is Jordan LeFevre.

Make no mistake, Parrack’s fans love every second of his antics. And there’s no doubt he loves being back on the road after a 15-year break and loves the message he brings every time The LeFevres stand in front of an audience.

About an hour before Sunday’s concert, Parrack and I talked one-on-one. It was a little about life on the road and a lot about messaging. During the interview, he reflected on the role of music in the church from the perspective of an artist, for which he’s been acclaimed both in his role with The LeFevres and more than a decade with Gold City, and that of a music minister, a position he’d held over the last 15 years.

He was contemplative. And deep. And most of all, his desire to glorify God shone brightly.

We’d chatted a bit about 2020 and the COVID pandemic — the LeFevres shut down in March, April and May, but have been busy since.  And I asked his thoughts on the state of music in the church today. It’s a hot topic, whether one is talking about the worship styles offered or even the varying degrees of emphasis placed on worship across the broad spectrum of Christianity.

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Jay Parrack gets excited during a song in Sunday’s concert at Highland Baptist Church in Shelbyville.

“Oh, wow!” he chuckled as if to indicate it could be a loaded question. It wasn’t intended to be, but was a sincere inquiry as to how we can do better both in congregational singing and in the Christian or gospel music industry.

“You are asking for my opinion. Everybody’s got an opinion. They are kind of like armpits, everybody’s got one,” he laughed. “Here is what I have seen: I was a minister of music for the last 15 years before Mike LeFevre called me. We have gone a lot to the praise and worship, contemporary, progressive music in a lot of our churches. And you know what, there’s some good new music out there. There’s a lot of good old songs out there.

“There’s some new stuff that I wouldn’t give you a dollar and a quarter for it but there’s also some old hymns I wouldn’t give you a dollar and a quarter for.

“So, all that being said, here’s what I find: Your hymns, your old songs in most of your books, they were written, the majority of those were written, those authors had been through a severe test or trial and they are nothing more than a testimony of God’s faithfulness, his ability  to rescue, His ability to restore or His attributes of protection or salvation. They are not written because back then there were no charts. There were no royalties and all those kinds of things. The writers just wrote from their heart and experiences they have had with God the Father.”

Just like those hymn writers, Jay Parrack was speaking from the heart. Just as he would be doing on stage about an hour later, Jay Parrack was real. He was trying to find a way to bridge where we are in 2020 with what the Biblical ideal really is.

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Jay Parrack and Mike LeFevre (right) react to a piano solo by the LeFevre Quartet’s Bryan Elliott.

He continued, both praising the popularity of music today but cautioning to not forget the depth of many of the hymns

“Nowadays you have No. 1 songs, you have Billboard charts and there’s nothing wrong with all that….I am not faulting that, but a lot of times your message will get weak if you are not careful and you are focused on achievement instead of writing out of a true experience with the Father,” Parrack said.

“You know, think about this. In your older songs, you can find all kinds of songs about Heaven. You can find all kinds of songs about going to Heaven and what it’s going to be like when we get there and what we are going to see and what it’s going to be like to see Christ. You won’t find a lot of songs like that (from today’s writers).  And I think the reason for that is our writers, this day in time, they don’t have it bad here on earth like those old writers had, back then. Some of those (older) writers dealt with slavery, some of those writers dealt with the Great Depression, some of those writers are from different countries, from war-torn countries, They saw terrible, terrible things. We don’t have it bad here, this day in age.  Now it’s been crazy in recent months, but we don’t have it terrible.”

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Jay Parrack hams it up during a song in Sunday’s concert at Shelbyville’s Highland Baptist Church. (All photos by John Herndon)

The LeFevre Quartet, which carries one of the great names in Southern gospel, presents a decidedly traditional concert. At times, one could almost hear Urias, Eva Mae, or Alphus LeFevre with an offering that could have been at home on the Gospel Singing Caravan. But there were other songs, such as the current hit, “Between Prayer and the Answer,” which gave a nod as to how Southern Gospel has evolved since the original LeFevres retired in 1976.

“‘Between Prayer and the Answer.’ What a great song!” Parrack said with a huge smile.

During Sunday’s concert, Parrack stepped to the edge of the stage and poured his heart to a crowd that had filled the church gym as much as possible under social distancing guidelines. He shared that he sometimes wants answers to prayer on his time, rather than on God’s time.

“I am weak in that area,” he told the audience.

As we had been talking one-on-one, Parrack explained why “Between Prayer and the Answer,” on which he solos, has greatly encouraged him.

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Jay Parrack delivers the solo on “Between Prayer and the Answer” as Bryan Elliott plays the keyboard behind him.

“It’s so realistic because we all find ourselves in this waiting room at times,” he said. “We expect God to answer instantly when we ask Him to do something or provide a need, but it just doesn’t work that way. It can every once in a while, but most of the time, He makes us wait. That’s hard. We get discouraged and we get angry and more to ourselves. So we enjoy singing this because it applies to us. We get impatient and we want to take over the situation, when even though it doesn’t look like it, God is still busy working out things for our good and His glory.”

(To see the official Daywind Music video of “Between Prayer and the Answer,” written by Janice Crow, click here.)

During the concert, Parrack speaks with the fervor of a revival preacher, challenging the audience to have a relationship with Christ more than religion. It underscored what he’d been saying about music and gave more than a glimpse of why he returned to the road after serving as music minister at one of the largest churches in Alabama.

Parrack had left Gold City when his children were young. But last summer, things started coming together for a new season of ministry.

“When Mike called me back in late summer of 2019, he called to ask me if I would be interested (in joining the LeFevre Quartet),” Parrack says. “I told him, ‘Mike, my youngest child, my son, is just beginning his senior year of high school and he plays on the football team. I would be interested in your job and your group but I want to be home every Friday night to watch my son play football.’

“And Mike LeFevre said, ‘OK, we’ll wait.’ I got to go to all of my son’s ball games. I got to see him graduate. Because Mike was willing to wait, I could take the job.”

Southern Gospel fans are glad he did. And Parrack believes those fans keep the LeFevre Quartet and other artists on the road ministering through music.

“A lot of people call them the fans, but I hate to call them fans,” he said. “They are our friends. We talk to them and we try to invest our lives into the people that come to see us. We talk to them and we pray with them. They lift us up and we try to lift them. We have a lot of good friends that pray for us. They donate to our ministry. Every chance they get, they come and see us and support us.

“That’s the people that keep Southern Gospel going. They buy our products. And we couldn’t do this without Southern Gospel DJs. I am very grateful for those who put their effort into this.”

But Parrack also sees the reality that many of those friends are aging. And, like many, he’s concerned that a younger generation of potential friends might not appreciate the rich message Southern Gospel delivers.

“Yes. I worry about it,” he said. “I am going to be very real with you. This goes back again to the generation.  You listen to the message in Southern Gospel music, in most of it, not all of it, it’s a very deep lyrical content in a lot of these southern gospel songs. It’s very deep. They will paint God as a good God. They will paint God as a big God and they will also paint God as a just God.

“A lot of the contemporary style, it’s got a different sound, a different feel. I know. I have two kids. They love all kinds of good Christian music. But nine times out of 10, you listen to the message in those songs. They are all positive. They tell you what a loving God he is, and how great He is and how He will help you. The lyrics are a good message and it’s a true message. But never does it get very deep. We have to remember that when we are lost, we are absolutely nothing, the fact that He can’t stand sin, the fact that He sent his Son to take our sin and what his Son went through.

“To me the message in our songs, go a little bit deeper and will be a little bit more realistic. Today’s younger generation, a lot of them don’t want to hear that. It’s never a comfortable topic that God can get angry. But a lot of Southern Gospel music, our message, our lyrics will talk about even that side.

“Please understand that I love and appreciate ALL kinds of Christian music …these are just my findings over the last several years.”

Knowing that bad news makes the good news even sweeter. And knowing that good news is something Jay Parrack can’t hold back. It’s an old time religion being lived in 2020.

He’s on fire for God.

And Mike LeFevre was right. What you see with Jay Parrack, really is what you get.

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The LeFevre Quartet. From left, Will Lane, Jay Parrack, Jordan LeFevre and Mike LeFevre. Pianist Bryan Elliott is not in the photo.

Noblemen ready to sing, share new CD

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The Noblemen, shown in concert at Christiansburg Baptist Church in 2019, have a new CD project. From left are David Martin, bass; Tracy Bertram, baritone; Garry Polston, lead; and Chris Daniel, tenor.

Lead singer says response to ‘Going Strong’ has been positive, upbeat

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — The Noblemen have some new music to share, but few places to share it.

The popular Southern Gospel quartet, based in Shelbyville, Ky., has unveiled its latest CD project, “Going Strong,” but has had few opportunities to promote a work that took up about a year to put together.

“We had the CD around the first of June,” says Noblemen lead singer Garry Polston. “We just haven’t been able to sing since then.”

Continue reading “Noblemen ready to sing, share new CD”

Pedal down, volume up!

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The Coffmans sing at Sand Spring Baptist Church’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

The Coffmans navigate uncertainty of pandemic with zest for new territory in upcoming album project

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

DANVILLE, Ky. — If you see Tamra Coffman imitating a NASCAR driver this summer, it’s safe to assume she’s listening to some cuts from her upcoming gospel album.

“I told them I want music that makes me want to drive fast,” she says with a laugh. “If it makes me want to drive fast, I know it’s good stuff!”

Tamra, her husband, Louis, and their daughter, Canaan, recorded the vocals to The Coffmans’ newest project recently. And Tamra says the yet-to-be-named CD passes her speedometer test.  “This music makes you want to drive fast,” she laughed, “so if you have a lead foot, you are going to have to turn it down.” Continue reading “Pedal down, volume up!”

Singing to spread the Word

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Joe Land, left, and his sister, Sharon Kramer, have been sharing the gospel in song since 1983. (Photo courtesy The Land Family)

Land Family uses ‘Weekend Warrior’ status to share gospel in Tri-State area and beyond

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

BUTLER, Ky. — It doesn’t take long to understand why The Land Family continues to sing weekend after weekend.

You aren’t likely to hear the veteran duo at a large auditorium or arena. The CD’s at the product table are self-produced but have a high quality sound. There won’t be a huge bus parked outside.

But there will be a lot about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus, just as it has been since the first time the family sang together in 1983. It was about Jesus then and it’s about Jesus now.

And it always will be. Continue reading “Singing to spread the Word”

‘Praise Him anyway!’

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Deanna Boone and her son, Matthew Armstrong, came together to form Beyond Grace last year. The duo is turning heads in Kentucky gospel concerts. (Photo furnished)

Beyond Grace turning heads with simple message of victory through Christ

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

Deanna Boone’s formula for a happy life is very simple: Praise God in everything and have fun doing so.

And when Boone and her son, Matthew Armstrong, take the stage as Beyond Grace, it’s obvious that the duo is having a ball while praising God.

“As my mamaw always said, ‘Praise Him anyway!” Boone says with an enthusiasm that girds every song Beyond Grace sings. “Regardless of what you are going through, praise Him!” Continue reading “‘Praise Him anyway!’”

Staying true to their calling

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The Old Time Preachers Quartet sings at Sand Spring Baptist Church on March 5, 2020.

Old Time Preachers Quartet focused on ministry, regardless of  the situation

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

When we sat down to talk that night in early March, it’s doubtful that Les Butler, Mike Holcomb or I had any inkling of the significance of what was intended to be an interview about the ministry of the Old Time Preachers Quartet.

We met at the group’s product table about 30 minutes before the group was to take the stage at Sand Spring Baptist Church near Lawrenceburg, Ky. A big crowd would be on hand as the Old Time Preachers were opening the 2020 season of the church’s popular concert series.

As we brought the discussion to a close, I mentioned to both that due to some personal business and the fact that I anticipated being quite busy working quite a bit of high school basketball tournament action in the coming days and weeks, it might be a couple of weeks before I posted the interview. Life quickly changed and the interview was a piece that was never published.

A few minutes after we ended the chat, the Old Time Preachers Quartet brought the house down with a concert that included a mix of familiar old songs and new tunes. And true to the group’s name, there was a challenge to make Christ the Lord of one’s life.

Life has sure changed since March 5. The COVID-19 crisis has sent just about everyone home, including the Old Time Preachers Quartet and this writer. In a follow-up, I asked Butler when the quartet’s last performance as a group had been.

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Les Butler sings during a concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church in 2019. (All photos by John Herndon)

“Well, actually, it was at Sand Spring, the night we did your initial interview,” Butler wrote in an email.

But the ministry has not stopped as Butler, Holcomb, Tim Owens and Adam Borden have continued to uplift in any way possible, including social media.

It’s just in the DNA of the Old Time Preachers Quartet. “All four of us preach. All four of us sing,” Butler said when we first talked. “We travel together as a quartet then all four of us have our own evangelistic efforts.”

The group does not have a bus, opting to converge on venues like Sand Spring directly from preaching opportunities and then scattering to spread the gospel again. Butler had been in West Virginia the day before at a church he says was “literally five miles up a little one lane road in a holler….It was full every night. A hundred people every night. They came and wanted to worship.”

Owens and Borden had come from Tennessee while Holcomb had been in Georgia, then drove to central Kentucky and was planning to head south to Florida and Georgia the following week. “It’s just us. It’s what we do and our calling in life,” he said.

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Bass singer Mike Holcomb makes a point during a song in the Old Time Preachers Quartet concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on March 5.

Holcomb did quite a bit of preaching during his 41 years with The Inspirations, a tenure that saw him become one of gospel music’s most beloved bass singers.

“I was 24 years old,” he says of the time he answered a call to preach. “We are called to preach first. We are given an opportunity to sing. The gospel with music added to it puts wheels on it and puts us in places where people would never listen to a preacher but will come to a concert or a place where a group is singing. If you get the opportunity for them to listen to you live, then you’ve got their attention. So this is ministry for us, trying to reach hearts and lives for Him.”

The quartet relishes opportunities to combine music and preaching. “What we really like to do is a church will book us to hold a revival and sing,” Butler said. “I might preach one night and the quartet sings. Then Mike Holcomb might preach the next night and the quartet sings. The next night, Tim might preach and the quartet sings. And the next night, Adam preaches and the quartet sings. It just depends on the situation.”

Butler says that of the group, only Owens, who sings tenor, has any seminary training but, “I think I can speak for the other guys that we wish we had more, but when God called us, we just started hitting it right there.”

Holcomb smiled, saying his training was from “the school of hard knocks” and that most of what he knows has come from “listening and letting God speak to my heart.”
Sharing the gospel from the heart is the group’s mission and has endeared the Old Time Preachers Quartet to gospel fans across the nation. An evening or a week with the OTPQ offers a respite from the pressures of the world and brings one to face the reality of Jesus and salvation through him.

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Tim Owens (left) and Adam Borden put their emotions into a song during the Old Time Preachers Quartet concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on March 5.

“We hope that when they come to us, we give them some refreshment, that we give them some water,” Butler said. “That is one of our goals. Our main goal, of course, is to go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in, sinners and saints alike. When they get there, give them Jesus and then Jesus will take care of the rest. If they need saving, he can save them. If they need uplifting, then He can uplift them.”

When the world started shutting down the following week, the Old Time Preachers Quartet’s mission might have become greater.

“I believe I am speaking for every member of the quartet when I say we are excited to see how God is going to take care of his children,” Butler said in the followup on March 31. “And, based on the authority of God’s Word, He IS going to take care of his children. So we feel strongly that we are going to have a testimony unlike any testimony we’ve had in times past. This is a serious and disconcerting time for sure, but it’s time we put into practice what we sing and preach about every week. Psalm 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread (KJV).”

Like every other musical artist, regardless of genre, the life the OTPQ knew has come to a halt. There are no concerts. There are no preaching engagements. There is nothing happening and that also means little to no income.

“I don’t say this flippantly, but all we can do is pray,” Butler said in his email. “All of our concerts and services have been shut down for the past three weeks and for the next two months or more. Singing and preaching makes up the overwhelming majority of the income for our four group members. Adam has some side things, as do I. However, speaking for myself, 90 percent of my businesses (Butler Music Group and Family Music Group) are shut down. All of the artists I work with are in the same boat as us: Out of business, for now. So I’ve come full circle. I go back to my first comment: We are praying.”

Like many other artists, Butler is also finding out that venues are often hesitant to reschedule, opting for a “wait-and-see” approach to the coronavirus crisis.
But even with no public appearances, the ministry opportunities abound.

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Les Butler on the keyboard at Sand Spring Baptist on March 5. He says all anyone can do during the COVID-19 crisis is pray. 

“We have never seen businesses and churches shut down on a national and international level like this before,” Butler said. “We’ve never been ordered to not leave our homes. This is uncharted territory for sure. However, I see the hand of God at work here on many levels. Ministry continues. I know my home church, Middle Tennessee Baptist, has been doing Facebook Live services with our pastor and a small group of preachers and singers (less than 10). And, there has been great liberty in every single service. We have preached and sung like there’s a thousand people in attendance. This virus hasn’t stopped the hand of God moving on His people! So until we get back together in service again, let’s continue to push social media, using it for good, getting the message of the gospel to a lost and dying world!”

Butler has begun hosting a Facebook Live show from his home on an almost nightly basis, drawing on his 42 years in the gospel music business to share humor, interesting stories, interviews and more. “I have enough Southern Gospel memorabilia to start my own museum,” Butler said. “Sometime during the day or night, I go live with a piece of memorabilia and talk about it. I also play a song from my vast vinyl collection that ties into that piece.

“This has been a ton of fun. I always end each segment by tying in the Word of God with the song I play or the piece of memorabilia. I am trying hard to turn it into a ministry tool. It’s a different bent, but I believe God is going to use it.”

It’s what the Old Time Preachers Quartet is about.

And that connection to what Butler had said as we wrapped up our interview on March 5 can only be described as God at work. “In today’s world, with what we see in the news and what we experience ourselves, it’s easy to get beaten down badly,” Butler had said. “We have to get ourselves up out of the ashes and follow the Lord.”

Music ministry can be fun!

 

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The Waymakers of Lexington. From left are Jon Hurd, Lynn Hall, Rhonda Hancock, Cyndi Vogt and Pam Hurd. Seated at the piano is David Falconbury.

Waymakers of Lexington remain true to roots as they share the gospel

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

LEXINGTON — There’s really no secret to what makes the Waymakers of Lexington popular with gospel music fans in Central Kentucky.

The group just loves to sing.

Whether it’s a rousing cover of The Hoppers’ “Jerusalem” to something a bit slower like “Call on Jesus” to a patriotic classic, The Waymakers’ focus is on the music and the message it presents. Continue reading “Music ministry can be fun!”