Southern gospel music lovers all over the country are singing along to a catchy, upbeat song with a light rock feel on the airwaves called “If My Friends Could See Me Now.”

It was written by Jim “JW” Williams, tenor of the Woodsmen Quartet. The traditional all-male group was formed a year ago by owner Tim Woods, Batesville, and his nephew, Jim Hutson.

The song speaks of the dramatic transformation in the life of a man who has found forgiveness in Christ at an older age. The cut could be a theme song for Woods, the 46-year-old father of six and grandfather of four.

“By growing up here in town, I know everybody pretty much … people that I run into are amazed at seeing my life now versus what I was doing a few years ago. My life has totally changed. We’ve had people actually come to our concerts, just to see if it was me,” Woods jokes.

Forming a gospel quartet came naturally to the owner of Woods Express trucking company. He sang with his three sisters in the Woods Family gospel group for years, but wanted to “get away from traveling with a bunch of women,” he grins.

Actually Woods, who occasionally sings with the group, is very serious about the ministry the Woodsmen Quartet provides its audience. He says in the begining, some members were “gung-ho about making a career out of singing, but then you started seeing the people ... (and the) changes in them and how it makes a difference in their lives. We’ve seen a lot of things happen since we’ve been singing and it’s really rewarding.”

Starting out, Woods knew he had a willing and able baritone in Hutson, who sang with his brother and cousin in New Generation for several years. He lives in Columbus with his wife and ready-made quartet – four sons. The 37-year-old is a dispatcher for his uncle’s company and is in charge of the quartet’s booking.

The next to join was Williams, 33, Austin, an avid fisherman and single father. The high tenor “jumps on the (tour) bus with his fishing pole” hoping to find someplace to cast in between weekend gigs.

After a lengthy search, the men chose their important lead singer – Josh Arnett, 31, Elwood. The husband and father of four encourages the group to drop in at nursing homes while on the road to entertain residents.

“We tried out several men for that part and just couldn’t find what we wanted,” recalls Hutson. A good lead “has to be able to sing underneath the tenor ... have a very pretty voice to do the solos ... and have a way of absolutely capturing the crowd’s attention.” Arnett is also a songwriter, which is a big bonus.

Even though they’ve only been singing together for a year, the Woodsmen are already into their fourth bass. Cody Jones, Milan, replaced Brandon Tiek, Carmel, whose low voice can be heard on their latest CD, “If My Friends Could See Me Now.”

Jones, a Milan High School senior, is just 19, but the newcomer already has a lot of experience under his belt, having sung in the Emmaus Road Quartet in Dalton, Ga. Woods and Hutson hope he will be a permanent member.

The quartet does a mixture of original songs and covers, with selections made to provide both fast and slow numbers. They want their group to have its own sound. Songs on their latest CD vary widely from an arrangement of “The Old Rugged Cross,” the foot-stomping title track and the next cut, “I’ll Just Praise You,” which could be classified as a contemporary worship hymn.

Hutson attempts to describe their music: “We try to reach people’s ears first before we reach their heart. We sing a lot of up tempo. We make people laugh. Then we hit them with a song that really ministers to them.”

Currently the men do between 13 and 15 concerts a month, chiefly at churches on Saturdays and Sundays, once doing as many as six in one weekend. They’ve sung to crowds of over 700 and fewer than 30 in seven states, doing freewill offering concerts up to two hours in length.

“As a group just getting started like we are, no one knows the name yet,” says Hutson. He and Woods are optimistic that the current release will generate interest. They’ve already had calls for bookings from as far away as Florida and had orders from a dozen states come in for their CDs. (Their first was entitled “Favorites”).

Hutson says his playful crew has a growing number of fans who follow them to gigs and tells audiences, “You’ve got to show people that it’s fun being a Christian .... If you’re in a church ... looking like your mother-in-law moved in for the summer, people won’t want what you have. If you have Jesus Christ in your heart and you have that joy, it’s contagious.”

Contact Debbie McIntyre at (812) 934-4343, Ext. 114.

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