Valor reveals the personal stories behind the music of What It Took.

My Hope Is Built

Paul David: When we initially began compiling songs for this project, we thought “Lead Me to the Rock” would be the obvious choice for the opener. Then one day, Paul Sr. mentioned the idea of a verse of “Rock of Ages” to open and take us into “Lead Me to the Rock.”

We liked the connection of the message between the two songs, as well as the idea of bringing an old hymn back with a little different feel. So we discussed with Kelly about having her play a very classical version of “Rock of Ages” on the piano and we would throw some vocals on the chorus (kind of a high church sound) to lead us into the beginning of the “Lead Me” track. Kelly said she’d try to work up some ideas.

A few weeks later we got back together and, at that point, Kelly was very apologetic in telling us she had simply just had no great thoughts on what to do with “Rock of Ages,” but she had an idea for “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”. We were in the studio at the time, and I just remember her being very nervous, and saying, “Please overlook my singing on this, but I hope you can get the idea.”

Needless to say, we were blown away by her creation, and we hope it blesses you in the same way Kelly blessed us.

John: I'm weird.  A lot of people can hear a great song even in rough demo form and it hits them right away.
For me, though, most of the time I can hear a good demo, go through the entire recording process, get through most of the mix down process, and the song's full impact STILL won't hit me until the last stage when everything comes together.
This is one of those songs.
I guess it was the combination of Kelly's poignant arranging and playing coupled with PD and Ben's soothing rendition of a beautiful melody and message of reassurance that brought to me a sense of peace and joy like few songs I can recall. I felt compelled to let the three of them know how their gorgeous work had affected me.
If I were ever to burn a CD of the favorite things I've ever worked on this song would definitely be on it. It might even be the opener.

Ben: "The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock."  Matthew 7:25-26
Like shelter during a storm, we hope this project won’t be just another CD to listen to; but an experience to change lives.

Lead Me To the Rock

Paul David: We had the opportunity of meeting Mencer, White, and Cheney in September, 2004. Until that time, we hadn’t known very much about MWC except for Steve and Sheldon's notable gift of writing and Jonathan's amazing voice. Thankfully for us, our relationship with them would evolve quickly.

We listened to several of their songs and realized that these guys were our new best friends. You will see their names on several of the songs on this and future projects. Thanks John, Steve, and Sheldon for sharing God's gifts with us.

John, Ben, and I are all big fans of Gaither Vocal Band so when we heard “Lead Me to the Rock,” we thought GVB. With a high-energy track and great message, we thought this could be something special. So we jumped into the recording process of this song first. When John was done with the mix, we loved it. We trust the song contains a combination of message and music to make it past your ears and into your heart.

Over the Moon

Paul David: Music has been a constant thread throughout my life. As a child, I remember going to my grandparents’ house for "singings.” They might have 50 to 75 people over just to sit around with hymnals and sing gospel music - and my grandfathers’ quartet might sing a few songs, too.

Henry Kennamer used to teach singing schools and was recruited by the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Texas. The Suwannee River Boys also approached him as a bass singer when Merle Abner was called into service during WWII. His voice always made me think of a pipe organ. He and my grandmother Irene loved to sing gospel music. They built this into all their children and, in turn, into me. It was not uncommon for my family to listen to 8-track tapes of his group while traveling, but, even more fascinating to me, were those old LP recordings of his earlier quartets.

In remembrance of those recordings, I thought we could try to re-create the special sound that I, and maybe some of you, grew up hearing. The first time I remember hearing this particular song was on an LP my dad owned - recorded in the early seventies - of a group called the Alabamians Quartet. I know the song pre-dates that recording by several years, but this is where I learned it. I can remember singing along with that album - it would have been around 1979-80. I loved the traditional quartet sound.

When it came to this song, we changed our vocal recording approach from the rest of the project. Everyone in the recording industry has different methods of recording vocals, but typically we choose to lay down a tenor line on one track, then come back on another track and lay the same part down again--making it as tight as possible to the first track. This creates a bigger sound and a lot of people call it “stacking.”

But on this song, we went with single track, no stacking, which simply means that each singer laid down the part on one track only. We hope this creates a little different sound for us, but fits the nature of the old quartet style. I also should add that Milton and Wes put together a great new track perfectly in line with the nostalgic feel we wanted to create.

It’s another one of those great old songs that we love to remember.

What It Took

Paul David: We went to our first NQC, as a group, in 2004. A bit nervous and none of us knowing exactly what to expect, we'd been told that our music was a little edgy for the market.
Within that week we saw the Crabb Family perform two or three times on the "BIG STAGE", which was one of our first opportunities to see them live. Wow! They were incredible and very non-traditional for the market (as we saw it).
Still wondering how the industry would embrace us, it was a highlight to have a Daywind representative stop by our booth and pitch us some material, one of the songs being "What it Took." The first time we heard the song we were hooked.
Marty Funderburk told us it was his first time to work with Reba Rambo McGuire. For us, it’s an incredible honor to be allowed to release their first song.
The words tell again, in a beautiful, simple way, the story of the cross. I think one of the ways Satan tries to keep us from being close to God is to make us so conditioned to hearing about grace that it doesn’t affect us anymore. We hear it, we know it, but it doesn’t really touch us or change our hearts. Although I’ve been like that in the past, I hope that I never again slip so far from the One who brought me here that I can no longer connect to the message of this song:  A true story about my best Friend, who, without saying a word, gave His life to protect me, shelter me, and let me live.

Temporary Home

John: Nearly everyone agrees that this song was most popularized when it was sung by Michael English as a member of the Gaither Vocal Band. Wow, what a magnificently gifted singer!
When we decided to do this song I pretty much knew that I wasn't going to be bringing anything to it... especially to Gaither fans... my apologies.
To me, though, the song is a good reminder of where we are going and why we are here.
In one form or another, my dad frequently said to me: "Do the right thing, no matter how tough it is."
Even if everyone around you thinks you're foolish, just do the right thing. Even if all the truth about your decision doesn't become known to everyone in this life, forget about it.
It'll be known to everyone in the next one.
The next life is reality. This one is just physical and temporary.

20 Months Old / How Great Thou Art

John: Time and how it works is amazing to me. But to God, it's less than nothing. It's just one more of His creations - presented to us as a gift.
On New Year's Eve 1968, I was seven years old and living in Downey, CA. I had never heard of the Kennamer family from Grant, AL. But on that particular evening, a recording was being made of 20-month-old Paul David singing "How Great Thou Art."
Thirty-seven years later, I wish I could describe to you the fascination that comes while sitting in my living room and hearing this recording of a little toddler with an amazing voice and incredible pitch control. Combine that with the fascination of hearing that SAME voice shake that SAME living room by landing four octaves below middle C in that very SAME song.
We hope you'll marvel at the God who gives the human race these awesome gifts - gifts like time and like a one-of-a-kind voice.

Water Came Walkin'

Paul David: Jonathon White sent us this song. When we first listened to it, I remember thinking that we might be able to do some fun vocal stuff with it but, over all, I had mixed thoughts.  We went ahead and messed with some arrangement ideas and that’s when I really began taking in what the song was pouring out.

As a child I had always heard the story about Jesus at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5), but I’d never really given thought to it the way the writer of this song illustrated. On our first project we did a song by Gary Paxton called “He Was There All the Time” which seems to speak to a similar thought.

The idea that, every minute of our lives, He is right there. In the valleys--and, maybe even more difficult times--the mountain tops, where I can lose focus and forget that He brought me here. He is the Living Water walking up to us saying, “I will give you everything you don't even know you want, and don't even know you need, because I love you to death. So no matter whether you are sick in a bed or while standing in a pulpit, the Water can come walking to you--and to me.

Beulah Land

Paul David: We began learning this song as a group several years ago when we were booked into a small church named Solitude Baptist in Albertville, AL. We were asked to learn the song especially for their program because it was very special to one of the members of the congregation.

He was a former pastor of over fifty years and his name was L. A. Traylor. I knew it was best that I set up the song during the program that evening, even though talking from the stage is not really a comfortable thing for me to do. However, I did my best, and Mr. Traylor seemed to appreciate the comments.

Shortly after that time, his heath began to decline, so we visited him in the hospital a few times and would sing for him each time. He passed away in September, 2001. I seldom sing the song now without remembering him.

He spoke warmly of people giving their lives to ministry. He was very much a fan of Squire Parsons, and because of the gift God gave to Squire in this song, I was brought into a deeper bonding with Mr. Traylor, my grandfather.

When He Calls My Name

Paul David: When we first heard this song, we were actually looking for up-tempo material. So this one went into the “This-is-an-incredible-song-but-we-don't-really-have-a-place-for-it”file. However, as the recording developed, we reconsidered. This wound up being the third song we recorded for the project and I fell in love with the message.

I've always been a big fan of "The King is Coming,” (by a writing team named Bill and Gloria Gaither, for those uninformed that the world is now round), but we'd not had opportunity to record a song quite like that. This song impacted me in a similar way.

I believe that, as a Christian, the desire to go home is at least one selfish desire that is pleasing to God. I think that Christians who truly understand the struggles in this life, know that trouble actually comes when we begin to focus in on the issues of this world instead of remembering that our time here is not to be about this life, but about the life that will come when He calls us home.

Thanks Steve and Sheldon, for letting us use your gifts.

Lead Me To the Rock - Reprise

Paul David: John, Ben, and I come from different backgrounds, however, each of our lives have been heavily impacted by a cappella music. This includes a cappella music of all kinds from southern (Cathedral-style) to Jazz (Take 6, Manhattan Transfer) to Contemporary (A Cappella) to Barbershop (Boston Common), and everything in between. So when we finished “Lead Me,” we began thinking of what we could do beyond the style of the track. We wanted something southern, but also to draw on some of our other influences. This is the result we created.

Jesus He Will Fix It

John: I've worked with Paul David for a lot of years and I'm constantly reminded of what a gift God created in PD's voice. His range as a bass singer is incredible but what I find most impressive is simply his ability to sing.
Paul David would be the first to tell you how dramatically influenced he is by the work of legendary bass singer, J. D. Sumner. I can remember sitting with PD and his dad on J.D.'s bus, listening to him speak of PD's talent. I was so proud for my friend and for this confirmation from one of his biggest influences of the blessing God gave him.
I like what a rich low voice brings to the mood of a traditional old spiritual like this - then comes the contrast of hope being driven home by Ben's gutsy tenor reminding us of the power existing in the source of all solutions to every problem.

It's Almost Over

Paul David: The Cathedral Quartet released this song on their project titled “The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet.” I know this because I purchased the cassette during my senior year of high school. I sang along with it unendingly. My dad use to joke that I may be the only person who sang with George Younce more often than Glen Payne did. For those who may be reading this, and are somehow unaware of these two names, George was the bass singer and Glen was the lead singer.

These guys sang full-time together, for well over fifty years. Needless to say I was, and still am, a HUGE fan. So for me, this was a great opportunity to record a great song, originally done by some big influences in my life.

We had actually recorded this song for Valor’s first project, but ended up not using it because of some track issues. So this time, I was personally very anxious about this cut. And I had an idea I hoped would work out.

A few years back, a friend of ours, Martin Butler, introduced us to Larry Ford. Of course we, as many, were aware of Larry's amazing tenor voice, but had never had the honor of working with him.

Now, for anyone who knows Martin, his is a special servant’s heart, and when he sees a way that he can be of help, he'll put himself out to make things happen. In this situation, he began lining up some joint concerts for Larry and us, providing an opportunity for us to get to know each other.

Since that wonderful beginning, we've done several programs with Larry. He and Cheryl, his wife, have been great to us, including putting us on the "Big Stage" at NQC.

So when we began work on this song, we asked Larry if he would be willing to do a lead vocal, and he agreed. I might add, there nothing quite like hearing Larry hit a C in a 10' x 10' room. That’s a true gift from God.

Thanks Martin, Larry, and Cheryl.

It's Almost Over (Inspirational)

Paul David: In my note on the other version of “It’s Almost Over,” I wrote about how much I love this song – both the message and the music. I also mentioned my following of the Cathedrals, and that also goes for J. D. Sumner & the Stamps, Gold City, Masters Five, etc.

However, I'm also heavily influenced, as many people have been, by Michael English, Bebe Winans, Smokie Norful, and so on. Music is like beauty - it’s in the eye (or ear) of the beholder. In addition, I'm still very much like a kid, when I hear a great singer having a great performance - I'm in awe.

This would definitely be the case for me on this song. The beauty, power and finesse that Ben pours into this song speak again to God's amazing gifts.