The most amazing musical instrument is the human voice.
It requires no string, no reed, no mouthpiece, no electricity, no wood or brass and no cartage.
It is the one instrument made by the Creator of all things…not fashioned or formed by human hands, but by the hand of God.
When four human voices join in song, it is a sound like no other.
4Runner is proud and thankful to carry forward the tradition of 4-part, quartet harmony with an edgy twist.
It sure is good to be, “Back Runnin’”!
To everything there is a season. We’ve heard it in an iconic song by the Byrds and read it in the Bible, but few people understand the significance of that statement better than the members of 4 Runner.
After a flurry of success in the ’90s fueled by harmony-laden hit singles such as “Cain’s Blood,” 4Runner’s momentum came to a halt when their label suddenly shuttered. Lead vocalist Craig Morris and compadres Billy Crittenden, Lee Hilliard and Jim Chapman each moved on to other productive careers, but always kept in touch.
“Now we’re back,” Morris says as 4Runner launches an exciting new chapter with Back Runnin,’ an 11-song album featuring founding members Hilliard, Chapman and Morris as well as Morris’ son Sam, who completes the new line up. “Sam is certainly more talented than I was at that age.” Morris notes proudly. “He’s an amazing piano player, terrific songwriter and singer. He’s a great addition, plus that’s my boy!”
The lead single, “Ragged Angel,” heralds the veteran band’s return. Produced by Kent Wells and Tony Smith, the song was initially released in 2004, it has always felt like there was still more life in it and more people waiting to be touched. The reimagined track signals the newest chapter in 4Runner’s career and is the cornerstone of a vibrant collection steeped in the band’s signature harmonies while adding a fresh energy to the sound fans have long loved.
“We needed to pick something that would stand out on radio right now and not be like anybody else,” Morris says of releasing “Ragged Angel.” “The way that song was put together and remastered, the vocals are in your face. That’s what we are and what we need to represent. I like how it starts in the beginning with just the vocals. It’s kind of like four guys getting in your face going ‘Hey, we’re back! We’re back!’ It grabs you right off the top.”
Morris credits Hilliard for initiating the current reunion. “The spark was Lee,” Morris shares. “We just kind of disappeared and nobody knew where we went back in the 90’s. Our label was shaky and we didn’t know it.”
4Runner’s debut album released in May 1995 and “Cain’s Blood” started attracting attention, buoyed by cool video the guys filmed in Hawaii. Three additional singles— “A Heart with 4 Wheel Drive,” “Home Alone” and "Ripples"— helped the band build its fan base and the future looked bright as they completed their sophomore album. Then the label closed up shop and the project never released.
“We had to get back to making a living and raising our kids, who were very young at that time. We got to be dads full-time dads, and it was okay with us,” Morris says. “Jim has been at Brentwood Academy for well over 17 years as an art teacher and a swim coach. And he’s raised eight kids.
“Lee and I traveled with Loretta. He longer than I did, but I was her last piano player and sang harmony as well. Lee had been with Loretta off and on since the early 80’s. All through the years, Lee has been the one to keep the 4Runner spark alive.”
Now as 4Runner relaunches, there’s a major difference in what they have to offer the world. Time has provided a wealth of experience and a depth of emotion that just isn’t available to a band of young musicians. “We’ve been gone for 20 years. Now we’re back, and boy, we’ve got some stories to tell,” Morris says. “We’ve done a lot of living, so we know what we’re talking about. We talk about love and life and all those things. We’ve lived and so when we sing these songs, everybody has a lifetime of experience now.”
On Back Runnin’ the group delivers updated versions of fan favorites such as “Cain’s Blood” and “House At The End Of The Road” as well as offering up powerful new songs that resonate with life experience such as the gospel flavored “Gritted Teeth,” a song penned by Morris as a tribute to his late mother’s strength and resiliency. Though it came from a deeply personal well of emotion, the song delivers a universal message for everyone in these troubled times. “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” Morris says. “Hang in there. It’s going to get better. Just grit your teeth, smile and push on through. That’s what we need to do as individuals and as a country right now.”
4Runner explores the complexities of relationships on “Love Survivors,” an intriguing story song that follows four couples struggling to make their marriages survive. “That song has a little Muscle Shoals in it and I love the combination of rhythm and blues and country,” says Morris, noting that lyrically the song was inspired by a game night he and a former girlfriend used to share with other couples. “There may have been five couples around that table and I think only two survived.”
Back Runnin’ is rich with stories about life, love and the challenges inherent in navigating the world today, but the common thread that solidifies the project is the powerful vocals that have long been a hallmark of the 4Runner sound. “When we got together at my house back in 1993, we got around the piano and sang through some familiar songs together just to see what we sounded like,” Morris recalls. “We realized very quickly that the combination of voices was something special, and it’s the combination of those voices together that is 4Runner. When we all sing together, that’s our stamp right there, and Sam fits right in. It doesn’t hurt to have a youngster in his age group because it expands the potential of people his age also giving our music a chance.”
This new chance to take 4Runner’s music to the fans is something Morris and the other group members don’t take for granted. “I never expected to have another go at it, not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that I never expected to, so this comes as a bit of a surprise to all of us,” Morris admits. “It’s a dream come true. It’s like a dream you didn’t know you had, but when it starts happening you’re going, ‘Man, this IS a dream come true because I’m singing with guys I already love.’
“I’ve got my son in the group who is an adult now and is incredibly talented. It’s like passing the torch. We get to make all these memories and all this music together and we were never more prepared to do this than we are right now. We are seasoned, experienced, world wise. We have deeper faith and strong families. We know what love is now. We know what’s important in life. For this to happen right now is a big ’ol tanker truck full of gravy on a life that is already been full. All of our lives have been good and very gratifying—way over what we deserve,” Morris continues with a smile. “So here we are and this shower of blessings has happened. We are truly thankful!”
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