There’s lots to admire and appreciate about the mild-mannered and likeable Luther Barnes. His fluid vocals and signature sound has stood the test of time, with a rich catalog of music that’s resonated with a multitude of believers. Barnes is also a humble, devoted, second-generation pastor and the founder of The Restoration Worship Center in Eure, North Carolina.
Add to that list of laudable attributes is his current, critically acclaimed album, Favor Of God, and the hit single, God’s Grace, that’s reviving his coveted career as a crooner for Christ. BlackGospel.com had an interesting conversation with Luther Barnes about his unique journey for Jesus.
Christopher Heron: When you think of Gospel music along the Bible belt, you have to mention The Barnes Family. Tell me a little about the influence of your father, the Late FC Barnes and his legacy.
Luther Barnes: I owe him so much just for the opportunity to venture out with my music and to experiment with the Red Budd Church Choir right out of college. I’m sure at times he didn’t know what I was doing. Some songs didn’t deserve to be in the morning service but he allowed me to do so. I just felt I had something to offer. I didn’t have any money, I didn’t have any experience at all, I didn’t know anything about publishing. I’m kind of understanding it now. I can hear a good song now, songs that brought me this far. I just thank God for that opportunity and I thank God for my father that allowed me to do what I did at that time in my life.
Christopher Heron: What is the origin or the connection behind the name the Red Budd Gospel Choir and the Sunset Jubilaires, where did those two names emanate from?
Luther Barnes: Actually The Red Budd Gospel Choir comes from the name of the church. The church my father shepherd was The Red Budd Holy Church in a rural area of North Carolina rule area. It was an old joint and we turned it into a church and my father called the place Red Budd Church, and then we moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. The Sunset Jubilaires are my uncles. They liked the sunset so actually named the group The Sunset Jubilaires until someone told them that ‘lettes’ means ladies so they changed the name from Sunset Jubilaires to Sunset Jubilaires. We wanted to change our names to the Barnes Brothers but we stayed with The Sunset Jubilaires.
Christopher Heron: When you think of the South you think of the Bible belt and Quartet music. Are you more comfortable singing quartet music or choral music?
Luther Barnes: Both are very important to me. I went to college and studied opera music, old hymns, anthems and things of that sort. I love choral music, I love rich vocal choral arrangements but I also come from a Quartet background and so I love both. I was so fortunate that, back then, my label – AIR Gospel – allowed me to work with both groups. Some say we need to choose one or the other, I don’t have to choose I learned both of them. People got a little confused about where I was coming from for a number of years I’m sure but I wouldn’t anything back.
Christopher Heron: It’s been 10 years since your last project. Why were you missing in action for so long?
Luther Barnes: I got burned out selling records, doing so many award shows and conferences, the GMWA. There was so much we were trying to do even as we worked at home, trying to be true to home and being on the road and then I started pastoring my home church and that’s what took the front seat to my music. So now, Restoration Worship Center, is three years old and so I’m a little comfortable now getting back into music. I don’t want you to think of The Barnes Family, as someone who’s just putting out music for the sake of it. I always want to say something. I thank God for the opportunity to record again and that I still have a good voice and that people are still excited about my recordings.
Christopher Heron: Your new album introduces The Restoration Worship Center Choir; tell me how different it is when compared to the Red Budd Gospel choir.
Luther Barnes: Not much difference at all. I love the members of The Red Budd Church Choir. They include my daughter Bonita, my cousin Deborah and a lot of my family members and musicians. I’ve got a thing about borrowing singers, it doesn’t matter to me at all. Whether you’re part of the musical team or the Barnes family, if you don’t mind being called Restoration it’s fine [laughs]. A lot of favor going on and a lot of good people I’m working with.
Christopher Heron: You’re now with a new label, a new team of people supporting your ministry. Does it feel different?
Luther Barnes: There’s not a lot of difference. When we recorded with Air Records in Atlanta, they were very good to us and we haven’t broken ties because I don’t believe in burning bridges. We just get a little bit more special attention since we’re just a few on this label. Don’t tell them I said that [laughs] but we’re feeling real good right about now. The album is out and we’re very fortunate to get airplay. I don’t want good music to go unheard and it’s people like yourself that are giving attention to our music.
Christopher Heron: So when the public hears the album, The Favor of God, and hears the single God’s Grace will they recognize the silky smooth voice of Luther Barnes or is it a radical difference?