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.

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!”

‘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!’”

Life is good for Steve Ladd

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Steve Ladd is all smiles as he sings with The Old Paths Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church on Dec. 31.

First year with The Old Paths Quartet has been a time of recharging

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

When we last talked with Steve Ladd, he was taking a definitive step in his career path. It was back on Dec. 31, 2018, following what had become somewhat of a traditional solo concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church, near Lawrenceburg, Ky. He’d appeared at Sand Spring several times for the church’s New Year’s Eve celebration of bringing in the new year with gospel music.

In 2018, Ladd had shared the stage with Jim and Melissa Brady, but that night marked a major shift for Ladd. After 10 years as a traveling soloist, Ladd was shifting to full-time travel with The Old Paths quartet.

We caught up with Ladd again on New Year’s Eve for the same event a year later. Continue reading “Life is good for Steve Ladd”

Noblemen still singing to serve

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The Noblemen. They are, from left, David Martin, Tracy Bertram, Garry Polston and Chris Daniel.

 

Quartet named best at Kentucky State Fair, but only seeks to lift the name of Christ

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

When The Noblemen take the stage at Graefenburg Christian Church on Dec. 29, it will be a sort of a full circle homecoming for long-time bass singer David Martin.

“The first church I ever sang in, outside of our (home) church, was Graefenburg Christian,” Martin smiles. “That was 51 years ago, in 1968. It was in the old building, but that was the first place I sang.”

Martin remembers that he sang the Gaither classic, “Born to Serve the Lord” that night.

Continue reading “Noblemen still singing to serve”

No tears, just worship

 

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The McKameys perform during their concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church, Nov. 14, 2019. From left are Roger Fortner, Peg McKamey Bean, Eli Fortner, Sheryl Farris, Connie Fortner and Ruben Bean.

In final concerts of illustrious career, McKameys remain focused on praising God

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

I expected to shed a few tears when I went to see The McKameys Thursday night.

Unless you have been totally cut off from the gospel music world, you know that The McKameys, one of the most popular groups to ever share the gospel in song, will be retiring after a concert in Knoxville, Tenn., on Nov. 23. (Ticket information for that final concert can be found at https://paulbelcherconcerts.com.) Continue reading “No tears, just worship”

Bridging a path between the gospel and his roots

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Elliott McCoy (right), of Three Bridges, and John Herndon, of KentuckySings.com, pose for a photo during the 2019 National Quartet Convention.

Three Bridges founder Elliott McCoy’s famous family roots will take him back home for gospel celebration in 2020

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

I was walking the exhibits at the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., a few weeks ago when my friend, Larry Briscoe, got my attention.

“Let me introduce you to Elliott McCoy,” he said of the founding member of the gospel trio Three Bridges. “He’s from Kentucky and has a story you might be interested in.”

We made it over to the Three Bridges booth where we exchanged pleasantries and I was told that McCoy was a native of Pike County, deep in the Appalachian Mountains and the place where much of the world famous Hatfield and McCoy feud took place from 1863-1891. Continue reading “Bridging a path between the gospel and his roots”

Big moments for a Great God

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The McKameys perform at the National Quartet Convention Spring Break Concert in Sevierville, Tenn., in April. From left are Peg McKamey Bean, Eli Fortner, Sheryl Farris, Connie Fortner and Ruben Bean.

McKameys still giving God the Glory for His goodness as retirement nears

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

The question posed to Peg McKamey Bean was simple. The answer, however, was far more complex than expected.

Yet, that answer explained why her legendary family is one of the most beloved in gospel music history.

“Are there any songs you recorded that really stand out in your mind,” we asked Mrs. Bean during a phone interview on Oct. 7. She thought for a moment, then started talking about “Who put the Tears in the Eyes of the Lamb” from September, 1984 and didn’t stop for several minutes. Continue reading “Big moments for a Great God”

Coffmania Promises a Night of Celebration and Worship

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The Coffmans will be hosting Coffmania on Oct. 26 at Danville Church of God. From left are Tamra, Louis and Canaan Coffman. (Photo furnished)

Family groups highlight annual homecoming

By John Herndon, Kentucky Sings.com

As he was pulling things together for the third annual Coffmania celebration, Louis Coffman noticed something was happening as he was lining up singers for what is his group’s homecoming celebration.

“Every one of the groups is a father, mother, and a daughter,” Coffman smiled as we talked at the National Quartet Convention. “I don’t know if it was by design or coincidence. We have The Bakers, The Shireys, The Hinsons and, of course, the Coffmans will be there.”

That’s four groups, four dads, four moms, and four daughters. And it figures to be one great night of praise and worship on October 26. Continue reading “Coffmania Promises a Night of Celebration and Worship”

Unexpected blessings

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The Master’s Trio, from left, Kevin Willis, Steve Black and Mike Chatterton, formed in 2017 with the current alignment coming together last year. The group was named Best in Show at the Kentucky State Fair last month. (Photo furnished)

Master’s Trio reflects on Kentucky State Fair honor, emphasizes ministry above all else

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

MOUNT STERLING, Ky. — The Master’s Trio really didn’t know what it was getting into when the southern gospel group agreed to perform in the Gospel Music Showcase at the Kentucky State Fair.

“There was a gentleman at a church in Bath County, which is near here,” remembers Trio tenor Kevin Willis, a resident of Mt. Sterling. “He was really pushing for us to be a part of that. He had been talking with the guys at (Bath County) Farm Bureau and was actively involved in it.”

So, The Master’s Trio, a group that has only been around since 2017 but is constructed with gospel veterans, agreed for a chance to sing and share the ministry on a larger stage. Continue reading “Unexpected blessings”