The Speers, also known as The Speer Family, were founded in 1921 by George Thomas (‘Dad’) Speer, his wife Lena (‘Mom’) Speer, and his sister and brother-in-law Pearl and Logan Claborn. In 1925 Logan and Pearl left the group due to financial need. Five year old Brock Speer and three year old Rosa Nell Speer joined the group. In the 1930’s two more siblings, Mary Tom and Ben, joined. After Mom and Dad Speer died, brothers Ben and Brock kept the group going with various line-ups. The group was inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame in 1998 and were the first group to receive the Gospel Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award. They have also been inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and have won 14 Dove Awards. In 1990 The Speers released the album HALLELUJAH TIME (Homeland). It was produced by Ben Speer. Joining him on vocals are: Brock and Faye Speer, Karen Apple, and Bill Itzel. Hal Rugg plays steel guitar and dobro, while Gary Prim plays piano and keyboards.
Emma Pearl Moore wrote the opening celebratory Southern Gospel title track, ‘Hallelujah Time’. It recalls miraculous stories from the Bible, including this one: “The giant stood up on the hill and laughed at Israel’s God/David sang and praised the Lord as down the hill he trod/Then he threw the stone in Jehovah’s Name/It went right down the line/The giant fell dead/David started to sing and had a Hallelujah time/Come on in, the water’s fine, you’ll receive a blessing/Never fear, the Lord is here/He’ll wash your cares away/Then He’ll take your hand in His/You take hold of mine/Never doubt, just start to shout/And have a Hallelujah time!” ‘Changed by the Power’ is an upbeat Southern Gospel number that speaks of spiritual life transformation through Christ: “The very power that raised up Jesus from the grave/Made me a new creation on the day that I got saved/Those filthy rags I used to wear are spotless robes of white/I just can’t keep it quiet/I’ve got to testify/That I’ve been changed by the power, resurrection power/That conquered death forever and won the victory/I’ve been changed by the power, resurrection power/Even now, it’s working mightily in me”.
Next up is one of three Tim Hill compositions on this album, ‘When life is at its Worst’. This one is a ballad that points us directly to God in times of trouble: “He’s at His best when all the rest have left you all alone/He’ll dry your tears and calm your fears like none you’ve ever known/He holds today, He’ll make a way/Just trust and let Him lead/And when you find He’s all you have, you’ll know He’s all you need/He’s the best I know at caring, drying tears and burden bearing/When others try and fail, He stands the test”. Brock Speer wrote ‘Going Home’. It runs just two minutes in length and has an old school, up tempo quartet feel to it musically. It anticipates eternity in Heaven: “I’m going home to mansions in the sky/I’m going home where people never die/How glad I’ll be, no more in sin to roam/O Praise the Lord!/I’m going home”.
‘Lord, Draw Me Closer to You’ finds the group conversing honestly and earnestly with God: “Life’s disappointments, pain, and agony/Daily pressures are falling on me/In my closet of prayer, down on bended knee/I cry ‘Lord, draw me closer to Thee’/Lord, won’t You draw me closer to Thee/Hide me in Thy Spirit till Thy light I see/And when life’s heartaches seem to conquer me/Won’t you draw me closer to Thee?” J. D. Sumner wrote the peppy Southern Gospel classic ‘I Believe in the Old Time Way’. Fundamentalists will appreciate these lyrics: “Well, I went down to an old camp meeting/I prayed through it the old time way/Oh, it was there at an old time altar/I was saved by amazing grace/I confessed my sinful livin’, I was sorry for my sin/I opened up my heart to Heaven”.
‘My Hope lies in You’ speaks of contentment in Christ: “Since my search has ended Your joy fills my soul/I have perfect rest in You/Now I’ve left all my burdens at the old rugged cross.../So my hope lies in You/My hope lies in You/Whatever I have need of/Lord, You always come through/My hope lies in You”. ‘I Claim this Mountain’ is a gospel anthem that encourages us to be a people of great faith: “Oh, the land lies before you, it’s yours to possess/Go forward in Jesus/Reach out for God’s best/And don’t fear the giant no matter how tall/Long ago someone said it/’The bigger they are, the harder they fall’/Oh, I claim this mountain, I take this land/I am well able through the strength of His hand/To bring down the giant that before me now stands/I claim this mountain, I claim this mountain/I take this land”.
Ken Apple wrote ‘Your Reflection in Me’. It expresses a desire to be sanctified and purified by God: “Lord, I want to be holy in Your sight/You’re coming back for a sanctified bride/I long to be, my sweet Lord, what You want me to be/And if I should pass through the fire/You’ll bring me forth as gold that’s been tried/For this had to be so You more clearly can see Your reflection in me/Lord, if You please/I’m longing to see/Your reflection in me”. ‘Do it God’s Way’ is a happy song about trusting in God: “Now who would think that walkin’ round the mighty wall would bring it down?/But that’s what God told Joshua to do/While some in doubt just scratched their heads and marvelled at what God had said/God moved and proved His power to be true/So do it God’s way and watch what happens/The walls will fall, mountains tall will be cast into the sea/Now some may say when life is tense/Trusting in the Lord doesn’t make much sense/But release your faith today and do it God’s way!”
I’m recommending HALLELUJAH TIME to fans of The Happy Goodmans and The Nations Quartet. Salvation, hope in Christ, and trust in God’s goodness are themes that come through on this record. Southern Gospel is The Speers’ strong suit. It is when the group experiments with inspirational and adult contemporary music here and there, that they are the weakest. All in all though, this is a good album with dandy vocals and harmonies, for the most part. The older crowd will appreciate this album which I’m rating 88%. For more info visit: www.stampsbaxterschool.com.
al Hal Rugg