Ricky Skaggs, Tammy Wynette, Marty Stuart, the Gatlin Brothers, Shenandoah’s Marty Raybon, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, and Sawyer Brown’s Mark Miller and Greg “Hobie” Hubbard are among the country artists participating in a new album and video called “Silent Witness: A Tribute to Country’s Gospel Legacy Volume I.”
Produced and directed by Rainmaker Films President Stan Strickland, the video features country artists in various settings talking about their faith and performing gospel songs.
Strickland and Skaggs serve as executive producers of the 96-minute video. Skaggs also hosts the video and co-produced the album with Mac McAnally. The album is scheduled for release late this month or early April on Columbia. The video is currently available via direct marketing for $29.95, and Strickland says they don’t plan to release it to retail stores until midsummer.
Since the video aired as a special on the Trinity Broadcasting Network Dec. 28, they’ve received more than 200,000 orders, Strickland says. TBN and the Inspiration Network have asked Strickland to develop ongoing TV shows, and numerous other artists have come forth wanting to be part of the second “Silent Witness” video, which will be filmed this month.
Strickland also has been asked to do a “Silent Witness” video for the sports community featuring athletes.
Strickland started Rainmaker Films in 1991 and has produced clips for numerous artists, including Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Patty Loveless and Doug Stone. A minister’s son who wanted to create a project where country artists could talk about their faith, Strickland developed the idea for “Silent Witness” and says it has surpassed his expectations.
“It has shocked me how fast this has taken off,” Strickland says. “The thing we were trying to do was give some of these people a chance to speak out. … My goal was for people to say, ‘This is real.’
“The show is not scripted. We didn’t even ask them to go back and repeat things. That was the deal with the artists when they were giving their testimonies and the stories behind the songs were what we were not going to stop.”
As a result, Strickland captured some very emotional moments on film.
In an extremely powerful segment, Marty Raybon talks about his mother dying of cancer. In fact, Strickland says that was the only time they turned the cameras off, and that was because everyone there, including the camera crew, was crying and couldn’t continue doing their jobs.
Mark Miller discusses becoming a Christian at a youth camp when he was 13. Miller also relays how, after his pastor saw him perform with Sawyer Brown, he commented on Miller’s Pentecostal roots coming out in his performance.
The Rev. Howard Finster, an acclaimed folk artist who has done album covers for R.E.M. and the Talking Heads, did the cover art for the project and also is featured in the video in a stark, moving monologue.
When TBN aired “Silent Witness,” it promoted the show as an evening of country and gospel music. No one expected the response it would receive.
According to Strickland, he was told the channel’s capacity for incoming calls is 500 per hour. It received over 600 calls per hour from people wanting to order “Silent Witness” or to request more information about it. People continued to call for days afterward, and those who couldn’t get through on the phone wrote letters.
Strickland says they had intended the evening to be a test and that it far exceeded their expectations.
“It was not even a true sales attempt,” he says of the TBN launch. “We never held up the product. We never ran a commercial. We only mentioned the price one time.
“We thought a few people would call out of curiosity. We expected a few hundred phone calls. We logged over 7,000 phone calls.”
The buzz over the video is creating a great climate for release of the album. Skaggs says the project is already complete.
Each of the songs recorded for the album is included on the video, along with the artist sharing his or her beliefs in a monologue.
“When people see this, they see the excitement and the realism,” Skaggs says. “These aren’t scholarly people on this videotape. These aren’t people who’ve gone to Bible college.
“These are common, everyday working people who happen to be musicians and singers. They’re telling about something that means everything to them, and they are not ashamed of it.”
The video “Silent Witness: A Tribute to Country’s Gospel Legacy Volume I” can currently be ordered by calling 800-669-3398.
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