Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.

Archive for September, 2008

CD Review: The Mike LeFevre Quartet – Nothin’ But Good

September 26, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Mike LeFevre Quartet

Rating: 4.5 stars

Label: Canaan Records
Producer: Jason Webb
Website: www.mikelefevrequartet.com

1. Let Me Tell You ‘Bout Jesus – The album opens up with a throwback to the original LeFevres. The guys reach back in the vault and take this old Alphus LeFevre song from back in their days as the Alphus LeFevre Singers and update it, making it sound like it belongs in modern SG. Great track, and a great tribute to Mike LeFevre’s heritage.

2. Didn’t It Rain – The guys do another old song, this time an old spiritual from 1938 by the Golden Gate Quartet. This is not the Dove Brothers’ “Didn’t It Rain,” rather, it’s another song entirely. The group updates this song as well, and they do a great job pulling off this type of song.

3. Take My Life – The first slow song of the album opens with a string orchestra, then segues into light piano accompaniment. Mike LeFevre’s smooth baritone sings the first verse, then the chorus comes in. After lead singer David Staton’s second verse feature, the song builds to a great finish. This powerful track would do very well as a radio single.

4. Glorious – A Praise & Worship song is generally not well-recieved by the average SG fan, but it’s another style that this group can pull off with great effect. Their previous material has included this type of song (“Days Of Elijah” from their debut release, as well as their entire Total Praise album), and it’s a sound that really fits the vocalists that make up this quartet. One of my personal favorites of the project.

5. Big Mighty God – The group’s current radio single employs a modern country sound. Great harmony is distributed throughout the song, making it a great inclusion to the project.

6. Last One Worthy – Another slow song, this one has the country feel as well, and it is bass singer Stacy Bragg’s only feature of the album. Bragg’s voice is very well-made for a solo feature, and I like this track better the more that I hear it.

7. You Thought Of Us – David Staton is featured once again on another slow, powerful song. This song has been the subject of some discussion lately over at Burke’s Brainwork, because there is some distortion on the chorus. I can’t put it any better than Wes did here:

“On the chorus to “You Thought Of Us”, there is some major distortion going on. I heard it on my car stereo, and also on my headphones here at work…. It almost sounds like the music is overdriving the speakers, like the CD was produced with the input levels turned up way too high. I also hear the distortion on the songs “Take My Life” and “Didn’t It Rain”, but it isn’t quite as bad as what “You Thought Of Us” is distorted….”

While I didn’t hear the distortion on the other two tracks mentioned, I do agree that it shows up here. Very obviously. Which is a shame; this song is great, with powerful lyrics and great accompaniment, but the distortion lessens the power just a bit.

8. Nothin’ But Good – The title track once again leans toward a modern country flavor. This kind of reminds me of something right off of a recent Dove Brothers project.

9. It’s Time To Sing – One of my favorites on this project, this collaboration from the pens of tenor Gus Gaches and lead David Staton has some TIGHT harmony. Bragg produces some rocking low bass throughout most of the song, and the piano break is none too shabby either!

10. You’re Never Too Far Away – Tenor Gus Gaches gets his only feature of the project this time around. Gaches has a voice that is crafted to deliver a beautiful slow tune like this one, and he doesn’t disappoint on this track.

11. Jesus Saves – The project closes with yet another great ballad. The quartet sings in unison throughout the first part of the song, and then a choir backs them up as they break into parts for a great finish. Smart move to include the choir, as it only adds to the great finale that the song provides to close the album.

Final Thoughts: By far, one of my favorite projects of 2008. The Mike LeFevre Quartet has really hit their stride with this release. I’ve heard bits and pieces of their first two projects, but was not really impressed. And when I read the announcement that the group had been picked up by Canaan Records, I hoped that the execs knew what they were doing.

As it turns out, the move is the best thing that could have happened to them. Producer Jason Webb does a great job bringing out the strengths of each vocalist and producing a blend that the other groups out there dream of having. The lineup of tenor Gus Gaches, lead David Staton, baritone Mike LeFevre, and bass Stacy Bragg have super-tight harmony throughout the project, and do a great job of mixing both the old and the new in their material.

Let me stop here to say that I have talked to alot of people that are not fans of Stacy Bragg, saying he does not blend well with the group at all and is the weak link of the group. I implore these people to listen to this project. Like I said, Webb played on the strengths of every vocalist, including Bragg, erasing any skepticism I had of him. Bragg blends great with the other guys, does a great job on his solo, and provides a solid bass foundation for the arrangements. I’m of the opinion after listening to this project that he is one of the most underrated basses in SG today, having improved leaps and bounds since I last heard him on the other two projects.

My only real complaint is the distortion I heard on that one track. That is the only thing holding me back from giving this project a 5-star rating. Distortion killed the sound of “You Thought Of Us,” and I hope the group can avoid letting that creep in to their future releases.

If The Mike LeFevre Quartet continues in the vein of this project, there’s big things in store for them. I urge you to buy this project for yourself.

Next Review: Soul’d Out Quartet – Ain’t Nobody

CD Review: Mark Trammell Trio – Always Have A Song

September 20, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark Trammell Trio, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Label: Daywind Records
Producers: Dottie Leonard Miller & Wayne Haun
Website: www.marktrammellministries.com

1. I Know That I Know – The album opens up a very standard SG-sounding song that, while probably not meaning to be, is an affirmative answer to the opening track of Greater Vision’s new project (a song called “I Want To Know That You Know”.) The track does a great job of displaying MTT’s great three-part harmony.

2. Loving The Lamb – Soft piano and orchestration open up this ballad, a song style that the group showed they are really good at on their last project, Once Upon A Cross. Mark Trammell gets the first solo of the project on the second verse. This track is a long one, clocking in at 5:10, but it does not drag at all; rather, the song builds to a majestic finish. I understand that this is the first single off of the album; this could very well be the next “Once Upon A Cross” for the guys.

3. Called In, Called Up, Called Out – This track’s chorus reminds me of “Moving The Hand Of God” on the group’s previous album, but the tempo is a bit faster. The second verse once again features Trammell.

4. What Good Would A Crown Be – Dustin Sweatman is featured on this song from the pen of Rodney Griffin. I like the perspective of the song; many times, an SG tune speaks of us getting to heaven and wearing a robe and crown, etc. Griffin gives us a different, thought-provoking point, asking the question, “What good would a crown be in the presence of royalty?” Dustin does a great job on the delivery.

5. Safe On The Glory Side – Tenor Eric Phillips sings this song that is one of my favorites of the project (and a hit at concerts nowadays.) A country-style instrumentation drives this toe-tapper, and Eric gets let loose near the end with some high notes. Very catchy, a different sound for the group, and would probably do well on radio.

6. If God Said It, I Believe It – This jazzy tune features the group in unison on the verses, with Dustin Sweatman’s solo lines interspersed. Nice little song, but nothing that sticks out immediately.

7. At The Whisper Of His Name – Eric Phillips steps out front for this slow song. I found myself hitting the skip button halfway through; the tempo dragged just a bit.

8. I Always Have A Song To Sing – The album’s title track is a fast track with some cool piano work at the beginning. Mark Trammell displays some of his higher range on the second verse, and the track sounds like something from Greater Vision’s songbook.

9. If Only Just A Few – This is my absolute favorite song on the album. Mark Trammell delivers one of his finest performances ever on this powerful slow song. I thought that he was displaying his higher range on the previous track, but I was blown away in the final moments of the track. Trammell hits some awesome notes that most other baritones only dream of hitting, getting into the low tenor range! He proves why he’s one of SG History’s best baritone singers.

10. Coming Out And Moving In – The project closes out with another standard SG sounding track. Once again, great harmony. Good choice to close the album.

Final Thoughts: The Mark Trammell Trio hit their stride in 2006 with Once Upon A Cross, and this project continues that trend. Sure, there’s one or two songs I didn’t care for, but that was the opinion I had of the last album as well. Every position in this group is filled with stellar vocalists, and Mark Trammell is only getting better with age! I was very pleased with this effort.

Next Review: The Mike LeFevre Quartet – Nothin’ But Good

Update On N’Harmony

September 18, 2008 By: Aaron Category: N'Harmony, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

This may be old news to some, but I noticed that on N’Harmony’s Myspace site now has complete clips of six songs from their upcoming project.
These guys have a great sound; they could very easily be that “once-in-a-decade-lineup” that Averyfineline says the first Mercy’s Mark had. All the guys blend great in ensemble work, but can also stand their own in solos, something that is essential for a good quartet.
I’m anticipating hearing this new project and the group in a live setting.

CD Review: Greater Vision – Not Alone

September 16, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Greater Vision, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Label: Daywind Records
Producer: Lari Goss
Website: www.greatervisionmusic.com
Buy Here

1. I Want To Know That You Know – The album opens up with a song that quickly proves that this album sheds the stripped-down sound that the preceding album, Everyday People, had. This catchy tune from the pen of Marty Funderburk and Steve Marshall had me humming along in no time. It was a great decision to ship this to radio first.

2. You Were Faithful Yesterday – Unlike the first track, this track does have the stripped down sound, save for a lone fiddle in the background. The song has a standard, mid-tempo SG feel. Newcomer Jacob Kitson gets his first feature on the second verse, and lets the listener know that Greater Vision made a great choice for Jason Waldroup’s replacement.

3. Meet Him At Calvary – This country-sounding song features Gerald Wolfe showcasing his lower range on this slow track. I really like this track; the featured singer’s voice compliments the music track well, and it’s a great song by itself.

4. It Pays To Pray – Rodney Griffin wrote and is featured on this slow song about the power of prayer for your unsaved friends. This song may very well be the next “Faces”; a great message combined with stellar music make this song one of my favorites of the project.

5. Share It With Jesus – Yet another slow song that features Gerald Wolfe. A nice track, but not one that stuck out to me.

6. He Is Loved – The fourth slow song in a row, this time bringing Jacob Kitson out front. Good orchestration with sax provide the accompaniment, and Jacob proves that he can carry a ballad as well as any tenor out there. A quiet inclusion of a bit of the song “I Love You Lord” has some smooth blends, and the track ends very reflectively and quietly.

7. I’ve Been To The Bottom – The tempo finally picks up a bit to the mid-tempo range on this Rodney Griffin song and feature. Very jazzy track, and it works well for a song like this.

8. Born To Serve The Lord – The album slows back down for a song that has an intro similar to Legacy Five’s “In His Grip.” This style of song is one that GV pulls off very well. Jacob Kitson leads a throwback to “I Will Serve Thee” before the final bit of the track.

9. The Source Of My Song – The album speeds up again with this happy little tune about Jesus giving us a song to sing. The track is one I’ve found myself singing a lot. Good product of the pen of Rodney Griffin.

10. You’re Not Forsaken – The final song on the album is yet another ballad with orchestration backing the group. It gives the project a powerful finish that should do well for itself among Greater Vision’s repertoire of songs.

Final Thoughts: Greater Vision’s newest project proves that the trio hasn’t skipped a beat with the addition of Jacob Kitson at tenor. Oftentimes, he sounds like his predecessor, Jason Waldroup, while at the same time sounding much fuller and thereby giving the group a fuller sound as well.

My only complaint with this album is that the pace drags in it’s middle. As I stated earlier, GV pulls off the slow song like few other groups can, but having too much at once can make the listener grow bored with the album.

But boy, are there some great songs on here, which is why this album is a great addition to Greater Vision’s discography.

Singing News Fan Awards

September 15, 2008 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Singing News Fan Awards

Here’s the list of the winners for this year:

Favorite Soloist – Ivan Parker
Favorite Young Artist – Nick Trammell (Perrys)
Favorite Mixed Group – Hoppers
Favorite Male Singer – Gerald Wolfe (Greater Vision)
Favorite Musician – Jeff Stice (Triumphant Quartet)
Horizon Individual – Jeremy Lile (Brian Free & Assurance)
Horizon Group – Tribute Quartet
Favorite Female Singer – Kim Hopper (Hoppers)
Favorite Tenor – Michael Booth (Booth Brothers)
Favorite Soprano – Kim Hopper (Hoppers)
Favorite Alto – Sheri Easter (Jeff & Sheri Easter)
Favorite Lead – Ronnie Booth (Booth Brothers)
Favorite Bass – Mike Holcomb (Inspirations)
Favorite Baritone – Rodney Griffin (Greater Vision)
Marvin Norcross Award – Maurice Templeton
SGPA Promoter Award – Bill Bailey
Favorite Songwriter – Rodney Griffin (Greater Vision)
Favorite Trio – Booth Brothers
Favorite Album – Carry On – Booth Brothers
Favorite Traditional Male Quartet – Legacy Five
Favorite Song – Look For Me – Booth Brothers
Favorite Artist – Booth Brothers

My original picks were:

Favorite Soloist – Ivan Parker
Favorite Young Artist – Joseph Habedank (Perrys)
Favorite Mixed Group – Perrys
Favorite Male Singer – Gerald Wolfe (Greater Vision)
Favorite Musician – Tim Parton (Legacy Five)
Horizon Individual – Jeremy Lile (Brian Free & Assurance)
Horizon Group – Tribute Quartet
Favorite Female Singer – Kim Hopper (Hoppers)
Favorite Tenor – Jason Waldroup (Greater Vision)
Favorite Soprano – Kim Hopper (Hoppers)
Favorite Alto – Libbi Stuffle (Perrys)
Favorite Lead – Scott Fowler (Legacy Five)
Favorite Bass – Aaron McCune (Gold City)
Favorite Baritone – Mark Trammell (Mark Trammell Trio)
Favorite Songwriter – Ronnie Hinson
Favorite Trio – Mark Trammell Trio
Favorite Album – Look No Further – Perrys
Favorite Traditional Male Quartet – Triumphant Quartet
Favorite Song – What We Needed – Kingdom Heirs
Favorite Artist – Greater Vision

I’m Back! And Upcoming Reviews

September 14, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Trio, NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet, The Mike LeFevre Quartet, Tribute Quartet

Just got back yesterday from this year’s NQC, and it was a blast! I could never adequately give a rundown of all the events, but be sure to check out Averyfineline.com, Daniel Mount’s blog, and David Bruce Murray’s blog for some reports.

Also, I took advantage of some great deals, so be looking for these upcoming reviews (in order):
1. Greater Vision – Not Alone
2. Mark Trammell Trio – Always Have A Song
3. Mike LeFevre Quartet – Nothin’ But Good
4. Soul’d Out Quartet – Ain’t Nobody
5. Legacy Five – God’s Been Good
6. Brian Free & Assurance – Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume II

And, since Tribute Quartet won 2008 Horizon Group Of The Year, I’ll be reviewing both of their projects as well.

NQC And Upcoming Reviews

September 09, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Trio, NQC, SG Artists, SG Music, The Mike LeFevre Quartet

Well, this will be the last you hear from me till probably Monday. I’m heading out tomorrow to go to NQC, and I’m planning on picking up several new (some brand-new, some that have come out recently) projects to review. Be looking for such reviews as:

Mark Trammell Trio’s new CD
Greater Vision – Never Alone
Legacy Five – God’s Been Good
Mike LeFevre Quartet – Nothin’ But Good
Brian Free & Assurance – Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume II

Hope to meet some of you at NQC, and I’ll see you all when I get back!

N’Harmony Returns

September 06, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Crystal River, Mercy's Mark, N'Harmony, SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music

After being unable to access the Internet for a couple days, I was thrilled to read this press release from Shane Dunlap:

Charlotte NC- For almost ten years N’Harmony’s youthful sound and energy
wowed audiences where ever they went. Now nearly six years after news of their retirement,
N’Harmony returns stronger than ever, poised and ready to pick up right where
they left off. Original lead singer and founder Shane Dunlap states, “I have
been thinking about a return for a long time, but I wanted to find the right guys
with the same exact goals.” Joining Shane (N’Harmony and Signature Sound)
is Tenor Brent Mitchell (Mercy’s Mark), Baritone Chris Whitaker (Won by One
and Crystal River), and Bass Will Van Wyngarden (Journeymen Qt.). Shane says, “Every
single guy in this group has their priorities in order.”

They were in the studio recently put the finishing touches on a brand new favorites
project, and will be kicking things off Oct. 17th and 18th with concerts in Northern
Ireland and Scotland.

For more info or scheduling contact nharmonysings@gmail.com. You can also visit
N’Harmony’s brand new myspace page with clips of the new recording at www.myspace.com/nharmonyquartet

This is pretty cool news; not only is a great group being brought back, but the lineup is none too shabby either. Brent Mitchell is a great tenor, Shane is an awesome lead, and Chris Whitaker is one of the most underrated baritones in the business. I’ve not heard of the bass before this, but he sounds good as well.

I’m very excited after hearing the clips and am looking forward to hearing the new project.

New Videos Of The Band Of Gold

September 01, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Music

Two different Youtube users posted these vids taken at a recent Gold City appearance in Silver Dollar City. It’s a shame that the band is only being used at certain events, because the guys sound tremendous with all-live sound! Looking forward to hearing them at NQC.

I Cast My Bread Upon The Water

Danny introduces the band

I Love This Land

Ain’t That What It’s All About

Not Anymore