4Runner: the return of country 4 part harmony

Jul 21, 2003 (Updated Aug 6, 2003)

The Bottom Line Harmony driven bands always will get my attention and 4Runner is a band that meets and exceeds any possible expectations I had for their new CD Getaway Car.

4Runner came together on their own and in 1995 they signed a label deal with Polydor Records Nashville. The premise was simple; recapture the 4 part harmonies of the Oak Ridge Boys in a refreshing contemporary package.

The results were a Top 10 single (Cain's Blood) and a self-titled album but sadly by 1996 the band went their separate ways when the label went belly-up.

Fast-forward to 2002 and three of the four original 4runner members (lead vocalist Craig Morris, Bass vocalist Jim Chapman and tenor Lee Hilliard) were ready to rejoin forces along with their new member, baritone Michael Lusk. The foursome gathered some resources, and enlisted a slew of the top studio musicians (including Garth Brooks' fiddle player Jimmy Mattingly) to record their proper second album, 2003's Getaway Car. While the CD is a tad short with only 9 tracks, it is a consistent 9 tracks that flow seamlessly together.

The CD leads off the Kevin Fisher & Kent Blazy penned Ragged Angel. It's a song about being able to accept things as they come no matter which way they may come at you. The message is delivered via a "ragged angel."

Fans of James Taylor surely remember his classic Shower The People. 4Runner covers the song this track and brings a quality to the song that reminds me of the Eagles. Lee Hilliard's tenor voice even reminds me of Don Henley on the ending chorus when he "ad-libs" some lines. This is a quality effort.

I first heard Getaway Car on Susan Ashton's 2001 CD. I liked the song then but love it more now. 4Runner's sound is so much fuller and reminds me why I love a lot of harmony in my songs. The opening a Capella chorus is just stunning. Even though the band is on an independent label, Fresh Records I hope radio will embrace this quality single.

Craig Morris wrote God, Family & Country with fellow Nashville recording artist Craig Morgan (Almost Home) and Craig recorded it for his 2003 CD I Love It. 4Runner appeared on Morgan's CD for the song and the records their quality version of the song. In a twist from the band's normal style, Morris shares the lead vocals with other band members.

Forrest County Line is a barn-burner of a song. It is the perfect song to drive along to. It's about a guy who realizes that he needs to get out of the position he's in so he gets in his car and goes. This song sounds like it is right out of Delbert McClinton's song book. I hope this groove filled track gets to see the light of day as a single.

Love Survivors starts off sounding like a Pentecostal gospel song and basically is a traditional country music love song about a couple who has survived hard times to be the only couple out of four to make it to the following New Year’s Eve.

Tidal Wave is a traditional ballad. It tells a story of a man who finds love in an unexpected place. Until the second verse, one could think the song is about finding God's love but it really is about realizing a special love.

Diamond Rio fans will recognize Love A Little Stronger. This isn't an actual cover but a fully produced demo of the song from 1994. One of the writers of the song, Billy Crittenden was originally in 4Runner when the group cut this demo.

The last track on this CD is a nice demo version of A House At The End Of The Road. The song was on 4Runner's debut CD and is given a sparse arrangement here that showcases the quality vocals of 4Runner.

After their first record label closed the band spent some time living their lives with their families (Chapman went back to school as a Teacher). Thankfully, 4Runner is back in the spotlight and they are a wonderful band that's filling a niche in country music that was missing. Sure the Oak Ridge Boys are still recording but they aren't a presence at radio. This record showcases a band that should be on the radio and with more records like Getaway Car; I think that they will be once again. Fans of harmony driven music (any genre) will enjoy this record.

To buy it goto their website www.4runnerfans.com (linked at my profile page)

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