THANK GOD FOR SUBTITLES:
AN INTRODUCTION TO LAUREN TALLEY
By Ken CoxOn Southern Gospel station WSTS-FM out of Fairmont, North Carolina, I first heard the voice of Lauren Talley featured on "I'm Free" - a song she sings with dad Roger and mom Debra as part of The Talley Trio (how's that for alliteration?). Lauren's voice was clearly a voice that I had not heard before: a sandy, soulful, and soaring approach in her singing. However, I did not know what she looked like any more than I could identify Adam's (Eve's hubby) housecat in a cat lineup at a dog precinct.
Then, several months later, at the church which I pastor, a Bill Gaither video was being shown with a group - Kim Hopper, a golden-haired girl, and a guy whose name I can't remember - singing some song about Israelite victory by the hand of God. In some of Bill Gaither's Southern Gospel videos, names of certain performers appear at the bottom of the screen when the performers are taking a solo part (Gaither's not consistent with this usage but it does help). As this young lady with straight but somewhat curly at the ends blonde hair sang her solo in the performance, Voila! A name appeared: Lauren Talley.
The revelation of her identity was not a Joycean epiphany but it certainly called for the powers of longer-term memory as the voice on the radio and the body of the singer came together: an example of the incarnate word, as it were. From that point on, my interest in Lauren Talley as a Gospel singer grew. Now that a name and a face and a voice were as one, I could go to record stores and give up my money in return for the wonderful, soul-stirring sound of this woman's voice.
What Lauren Talley brings to The Talley Trio and her own solo work (she has just released a self-titled solo project available through www.talleytrio.com) is the power of soul - a point her parents and uncle Kirk bring out in the video The Talley Family Reunion Live After Eight Years. Even in pre-solo work by this Trio, Lauren's soulful sound reverberates: a mixture of Mariah Carey and CeCe Winans. The product of home schooling by her parents who discontinued their earlier trio called The Talleys so the golden-haired one could have a "normal" lifestyle, Lauren's call to sing like her parents has developed into quite a following of over 200-plus venues a year for the threesome.
Lauren's music is not politically correct: that is, she very quickly will come to the name of Jesus or a clear reference to Him in solos or group songs. There does not appear for Lauren the option of crossover and contaminate the Gospel. She is, to coin a phrase from a Gospel group called The Paynes, "a Jesus fan." In the project Life Story by The Talley Trio, Lauren's solo takes on the persona of the prostitute saved by her Lord in "By Grace I'm Changed" - a very mature take considering she was about seventeen when she recorded that song. Her more recent work (with Mom and Dad) on the Southern Gospel Music Association's number one album of the year 2000-2001, Testament, contains Lauren at her Gospel-rocking best in "I Want It All," a quest to get every type of blessing God provides because the Bible says so. Then there's "Searchin'," sharing the spotlight with Gospel chart burner Jason Crabb of The Crabb Family - a song about the soul's travels ala St. Augustine to find Christ. There's also "Testify," a Dottie Peoples' spiritual jazzed up by the Trio in which Lauren's voice takes off with a Wynonna Judd-like growl as she recounts the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego story from the Book of Daniel's apocalyptic literature.
When "Testify" is performed live by The Talleys, even nuns (says dad Roger in an interview with Paul Heil, creator of The Gospel Greats syndicated national weekly radio program) "boogie."
Careers of young Southern Gospel artists rocketing into stardom are not new in the genre. However, at a time when radio music soloists all tend to sound alike - with the same vocal inflections, intonations, and catchphrases, it is refreshing to hear someone of Lauren's caliber - a soulful singer whose love for Christ is quite evident in the songs she sings as well as her stage presence. As she humbly performs night after night with or without parents, Lauren shares her heart and soul with her audience. Thank God for subtitles - and for Lauren Talley.
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