The golf cart zoomed from the grass lot downhill to the tent. This afternoon, the sun kept its warm rays shining down on us as a cool breeze wafted our way. There was already a line of folks waiting to enter the tent and the concession stand had quite a lengthy line as well. It was obvious that folks were eager for the second night of the Memorial Day Weekend Gospel Singing at Indian Creek. The line-up for the evening was The Dixie Echoes, The Inspirations and Jeff and Sheri Easter. After finding a good spot, people set up lawn chairs and found a snack at the concession stand. It wasn’t long until a few announcements were made and the concert began.
“How many of you thought we were in Anchorage, Alaska last night?” Danny asked the crowd. “Well, I think we’ll be alright tonight.” That day, the sun was shining and keeping everyone pleasantly warm. Bill’s son-in-law, who served in a tour to both Afghanistan and Iraq, opened the sing in prayer and thanked the Lord for the fallen soldiers who followed in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The first group on stage Friday evening was The Dixie Echoes. “If you hear something the quartet does that you like, clap your hands and help us out,” Randy Shelnut said as he came on stage and greeted the crowd. The Dixie Echoes began with The Other Side of Jordan, On That Wonderful Day (when the gates unfold,) All Heaven Will Sing On that Glad Happy Day, and Close to the Master. “Love to sing songs like that,” Randy explained. “Songs with meaning; that song tells us that if we have peace in the midst of the sorrows, that is what it means to be close to the Master.” The group was introduced next: tenor – Jr. Shelton, bass – Chandler Johnson, baritone – Randy Jr. and lead – Randy Sr. “We usually introduce us both at the same time because we have the same name,” Randy teased when he came to his son, “I’ll let you figure out which one is senior and which one is junior.” LOL Two songs that featured true four part harmony came next, If You Know The Lord and Roll On Jordan. Then Randy played a guitar solo, an old Statesmen song, Happy Rhythm. Without missing a beat Randy continued picking into the next song, I’m a Pilgrim and a Stranger. This song also had a brief guitar turn around in it. Crumbs From the Table and Living Deep Within My Heart followed and then they performed their closing song, How Great Thou Art.
“You all appreciate the music of the Dixie Echoes tonight?” asked Danny, then introduced Jeff and Sheri Easter to the crowd. Sheri stepped forward and sang the first song, Smalltown Someone. Over and Over was sung by Jeff and then he introduced the family, encouraging Morgan to sing a song from their new CD and so she sang Someone’s Listening. His Uncle Ed Easter wrote the next song, and every night he went to bed he sang this chorus to his wife… It’s simply titled, I Love You. Then Jeff introduced the band, which played an instrumental beginning with Amazing Grace and merging into The Lighthouse and a rousing rendition of I’ll Fly Away where the audience sang along. When Jeff’s second cousin broke out the banjo, the crowd let out a hoot of approval. “It’s amazing how when we walk through tough times, we need to be encouraged,” Sheri shared. “It really hit me how important these words that we sing are.” Then she read an excerpt from one of her devotional books, Eyes Wide Open. A medium tempo ballad that featured Sheri followed, Jesus Loves You. “I love that song,” said Jeff, then went on to tell about the record he and his dad recorded together, Like Father Like Son. “This is me and my dad – he’ll be singing with me by way of computer,” Jeff explained. The song was also titled Like Father Like Son. Jeff went on to say that he loved working with the Dixie Echoes and the Inspirations and encouraged Sheri to tell a “story” on Randy Shelnut. Sheri said, “He doesn’t like me to tell. When I was 13 I thought he was so handsome and I asked him for his autograph.” According to Jeff, it was signed a popcorn box and Sheri still has it! After a CD pitch, they sang Goin’ Away Party.
When it came time to take the offering, Danny repeated how Pastor Bill would be departing to Brazil for three years this fall. They took the offering while Jeff Easter and the band played Victory in Jesus as the buckets were passed.
“Martin Cook and the legendary Inspirations!” Danny exclaimed. The Inspirations were the last group to appear on stage and sing for us on Friday evening. This quartet from Bryson City, North Carolina keeps their program as true to their heritage as they can. Matching suits and live music, The Inspirations are a group that can sing ten songs straight and deliver a sincere message without saying a word in between. Thus, their set consisted of the classics like: Jesus Is Coming Soon, Touring That City, When I Wake up To Sleep No More/Everybody Will Be Happy over There, Is That Footsteps That I Hear, Beulah Land and If You Only Knew. Their bass singer, Joe, interjected a few words between verses of If You Only Knew. He said, “I think this song will affect every person in the room tonight.” Martin stood up from his keyboard and said hello to the crowd. “Melton Campbell is going to tell us about the True Friend,” Martin announced. Then Melton shared how he came to know the Lord, His Friend, and sang a wonderful tune called Faithful Friend. I Have Not Forgotten followed and I loved hearing Luke play the fiddle live with the song. It was a really nice addition to the live sound. Shouting Time in Heaven closed The Inspirations’ set and Matt shared a devotional thought from Ephesians chapter two.
Before intermission, Danny Jones told Jeff Easter that he would be in charge when the second half began. When everyone came back, Danny explained that the church youth group would be taking a missions trip up to Ohio to work at a camp and they needed to raise some money. So, they had a few T-shirts with dates from years past and they were going to auction these off to the crowd…and Jeff would be the auctioneer! He started at $5 and could not entice anyone to bid for the life of him! He stopped, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Folks! Please! Don’t make me bid against myself!” They did this with three T-shirts and finally, the last shirt went for $35. That little segment had me laughing so hard – Jeff was being so hilarious as he tried to lure people into buying those T-shirts! When all three shirts were gone everyone had gathered on stage and as promised, Jeff Easter led the program. He said, “Randy, let’s start with a song you sing…” Then Jeff began singing the first verse of Which Will It Be? and had Randy sing the second stanza. There was a request for Sheri to sing Roses Will Bloom Again and the Inspirations sang a number after Sheri’s solo. Jeff shared how the Dixie Echoes young bass singer would come and work at their Homecoming before he started singing professionally. When Jeff mentioned that Chandler sang a Josh Turner song at their Homecoming once, the crowd was just begging to hear it! So Chandler sang Long Black Train. It was a hit! Glowing phone screens popped up all over the tent! The topic of bass singers led to a story where Jeff Easter sang bass for the Dixie Echoes one night! It was the time that they were between bass singers and found themselves without one on a particular weekend. Literally, Jeff Easter sang bass for them. Once again, the crowd wanted a sample – and they got it! The night ended with the Inspirations singing Holding Up The Ladder and a heartfelt prayer from Sheri.
Conclusion: Now, I’m going to be completely honest with you… I’ve never seen a program where Jeff and Sheri were paired with the Inspirations and Dixie Echoes. Boy was I missing a treat! They were a hoot together! It had been a while since I laughed that hard at a Gospel Sing. Between the “auction” and stories that were told, it was a genuinely wonderful evening. Friday will be forever etched in my memory! (And we didn’t freeze that night – it was a pleasant cool temperature!)