by VICTORIA HENLEY
Rooted in the religious revivals of the 19th century and dating back as early as the 17th century, Gospel music has long served as not only a form of aesthetic entertainment, but also as a steadfast form of Christian ministry.
Ranging from the soulful church hymnals of the late 1800s to the era of Gospel genre megastars the Gaither Vocal Band, Gospel is more than merely a style of music, but rather a means of connectivity among Christian believers and a tradition which has stood the test of time.
Produced by the visionary President of Outside the Box Ministries, John David (“J.D.”) Thomas, Gospel Music Fest ‘22 was a rousing revival and joyous celebration of The Word and some of the biggest, brightest stars in the music and Christian entertainment industry, held onsite at the massive UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center in Tifton, Ga.
Featuring an all-star lineup of some of the biggest names in the Christian entertainment industry, including The Isaacs, Guy Penrod, The Crabb Family, The Martins and comedian Mickey Bell, Gospel Music Fest ‘22 entertained multitudes of gospel music enthusiasts from across the nation during the span of the two day event, Jan. 7-8.
Reporting for Backstage Pass on iiHeart Radio/FCB radio Network and CTFashionMag.com, I encountered this dynamic festival by chance during a family visit and purchased tickets to “Night 1” of the event to simply attend as a fan.
After connecting with JD, James Ellis, and other hardworking members of the Gospel Music Fest and Outside the Box Entertainment team, I returned for the grand finale shows as official media. I experienced tremendous music, inspirational lyricism, and emotional testimonies that will not be forgotten.
Gospel Music Fest ‘22 kicked off Night 1 with tight harmonies and powerful vocals from The Bowling Sisters (consisting of Kelly Crabb of the iconic Crabb Family and her three daughters: Hope, Katelanne, and Gracie), followed by an inspirational set by Lauren Talley (of the legendary Dove Award winning Gospel group, The Talleys, who has recently embarked on a solo career following her parents’ retirement), as well as a hilarious set by comedian, Mickey Bell, who brought a wildly unique perspective and a wry, self-deprecating style to his comedy to round out the evening’s entertainment.
The evening’s headliners, The Crabb Family, brought the audience to their feet with soulful, stirring performances of their mega-hits including, “Through the Fire,” “Please Forgive Me” and “Please Come Down to Me.” A full band, a breathtaking blend of melodies, and the earth-shaking vocals of lead singer Jason Crabb are just a few of the many reasons why this immensity talented family of musicians have won nearly a dozen GMA Dove Awards and have been nominated for a total of four Grammys.
All of the artists took time to meet and greet with their fans following the evening’s performance, while posing for photos against their backdrops, promoting CDs, books, and other various merchandise, as well as a variety of charitable causes for which the artists are passionate.
Day 2 of Gospel Music Fest ‘22 kicked off early with a matinee show, featuring some of the most electrifying young artists within the gospel genre, including The Jordan Family Band (a family group with a country gospel feel, consisting of Josh and Randa Jordan and their sons Hutch, Alex, Grant, and a friend of the family who is like an adopted son to them, Keenan Atkinson), The Erwins (a fantastic family band consisting of Keith, Kody, Kris, and Katie, who appear over 270 dates per year with their incomparable talent and edifying ministry) as well as The Sound, an awe-inspiring Dove Award-Nominated band comprised of Rob Mills and his two sons: Levi and Jacob.
(Listen to our Backstage Pass exclusive interview with The Sound on IHeart Radio-or wherever you get your podcasts- during the ‘20 Christmas season, on location at the Biblical Times Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.)
The raw enthusiasm and passion exhibited by these tremendously talented groups came together to create an exhilarating matinee experience, setting the stage for the evening’s much anticipated main event. Beginning with Debra Perry and Jaidyn’s Call (a wonderful traditional gospel trio made up of Debra Perry, two-time nominee for Soprano of the Year from the award-winning Gospel troupe, “The Perry’s”, her husband, Christopher, and Dakota Lee), the evening continued to build momentum as The Martins (a Christian trio of Joyce Martin Sanders, Jonathan Martin, and Judy Martin Hess, who infused their set with lots of groundbreaking a cappella numbers, genre fusions, and even a video montage of the three siblings skydiving) took the stage.
Angela Primm, one of the premiere gospel voices of our time, performed a powerful solo set with culturally diverse renditions of old-time spirituals, and her striking talents make clear why she has commanded the attention of the likes of superstars, ranging from Aretha Franklin, Barbara Mandrel, and Brooks and Dunn to Dolly Parton, and the late Gospel great, Vestal Goodman.
Grammy and Dove Award winner, Guy Penrod, who held the prestigious title of lead singer for the Gaither Vocal Band from 1994 to 2008, brought a stimulating testimony and beautiful line up of his treasured and beloved songs, including, “The King is Coming”, “Yes, I Know”, and “Hear My Song, Lord” to the stage for a memorable and inspirational performance.
The evening’s final act, The Isaacs (the newest Grand Ole Opry inductees and recipients of many of the music industry’s highest honors including, most recently, the GMA Dove Award for Bluegrass/Country/Roots Album of the Year) brought down the house with a variety of the boundary-crossing and decidedly distinctive musical styles for which they have become world-renowned. Just a few of the stunningly written original songs for which this group is most famous include “From the Depths of My Heart”, “I Have a Father Who Can” and “The Wilderness.” Meanwhile Sonya, Rebecca, Ben, and their mom, Lilly (daughter of Holocaust survivors who has penned several autobiographical books about her experiences) create an earth-shattering sound with pitch perfect vocals and instrumentals. (Our exclusive press room interview, live from the 2021 GMA Dove Awards in Nashville, Tenn., with The Isaacs can be heard during our Dove Awards special, on iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.)
A stellar line-up of talent, a divinely inspired ministry, and a professionally executed production are all elements that seamlessly coincided to execute the Outside the Box mission statement to “bring Christ -centered events to local communities and encourage, challenge, and inspire people to make a difference for the Lord.”
PHONE NUMBER: (229) 351-4315