Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Archive for January, 2009

George Beverly Shea Turning 100!

January 27, 2009 By: Aaron Category: George Beverly Shea, SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Legends, SG Music

George Beverly Shea, the legendary gospel music singer that many may remember from the Billy Graham Crusades, is turning 100 years old on February 1st. To honor the occasion, a biography is being written about this man. I would encourage you to head over to his website and wish him a Happy Birthday, and maybe even order his book.

We salute you, Mr. Shea. Thank you for your contribution to Southern Gospel Music.

As The Revolving Door Turns…

January 25, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Cross 4 Crowns, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It was announced yesterday that Matt Felts, the tenor who replaced Dallas Rogers in Cross 4 Crowns, has resigned from the group after only three months:

Matt Felts announced today that he has resigned from the Cross 4 Crowns quartet. Matt has been with the Knoxville based group for the last three months.

“I want to thank Cross 4 Crowns for the opurtunity to work with them. I pray God blesses them in the direction they are headed.” stated Felts. He added “I look forward to the doors God will open in my ministry.”

This was a shock to me. I hadn’t expected Felts’ tenure with the group to be so short. No word on any auditions or replacements yet, but I sincerely hope the group doesn’t just decide to call it quits. They have too much promise to do that, especially with the attention they’ve garnered with their Crossroads debut.

Official New Gaither Vocal Band Photo

January 25, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

During the rehearsals of the new group this past week, they have come out with a new photo of the group:

I think it’s safe to say that it’s better than the first one!

New Crystal River Music Video

January 24, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Crystal River, SG Artists, SG Music

To accompany the upcoming release of their debut project (with the all-new lineup), here’s a music video that they put together for the title track, “Mercy River.”


Mercy River Music Video from Owen Smith on Vimeo.

I have to say that it is pretty well done. It’s high-quality, and the backstory told through the video is interesting to watch as well.

I guess time can only tell whether the new Crystal River will do well or not. But, if they can keep the sound and quality that they’ve shown thus far, they’ll be well on their way.

Extra: For anyone intersted, here’s the original group’s video of the same song. It is a live version. As I said in the comments, I wasn’t all that impressed with it because it sounded like the group was still solidifying itself. Jeremy Lile’s bass lead sounds forced and not as good and mature as it is today.

Possible Song For The New GVB?

January 15, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Music

My friend Jeremy Bell has an interesting post at his blog that casts the spotlight on a lineup that is quite similar to that of the new group: Mark Lowry, David Phelps, Michael English, and Guy Penrod singing “House Of Gold” on one of the earlier Gaither videos. He states that the current lineup can probably sound pretty close to that.

I am quite confident that this new lineup is capable of tackling that song and sounding great on it. Wes Hampton would either take Penrod’s spot in the song or he and English would switch spots. The former is probably the best route to take. If any of them read this, this song would certainly help prove that the new lineup is up to par (Bill could add his part if he so chose) and it would probably gain quite a response from the crowd.

If the new lineup can attain a sound similar to the one shown in the video, they’ll have it made.

New Interview With Bill Gaither

January 15, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Daniel Britt of the Morning Joy Ride on JOY FM did an interview today with Bill Gaither about the recent news, which David Bruce Murray posted about here. I encourage you to go listen to it. It answers many questions straight from the horse’s mouth.

Further Thoughts On The GVB Changes

January 14, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Music

1. The Completely Unexpected Departure Of Marsh Hall As I stated yesterday, I think everyone pretty much expected Guy Penrod to part ways with the GVB. (That is in no way a knock on Penrod; his new direction will fit him perfectly.) However, I think that all of us were completely blindsided by Marsh leaving the group. Many have commented on various blogs and websites saying that they thought the press release made it sound like he got canned. That does not seem to be the case, however, after reading this excerpt from this blog post from Emily Sutherland:

“In spite of all the mixed emotions you probably feel, I do want to tell you that I spoke with Marshall today and I’m anxious for you all to hear from him. I’ll work on that, but in the meantime, you need to know that he says performing on-stage has never been his “sweet spot” (though he has done an incredible job of stepping up to the plate for the Vocal Band)! His true love is leading worship… and he is very much looking forward to finding the right situation where he can do that. He is not mad, and he is keeping in touch with Bill as they work together to make this transition smooth and positive. More on that later.”

It appears that a worship leader position is in Hall’s future.

2. The Beginning Of The End? With this recent change in direction, a lot of people seem to think that Bill Gaither has gathered this true “super group” to let the group go out on top, a la The Cathedrals with Ernie, Glen, Scott, George and Roger. Honestly, do you expect him to call Mark, David, and Michael away from their solo careers just to carry out a Farewell Tour? Somehow, I doubt it. I do believe that Bill has a plan for this group to carry on the name after he retires, and possibly bringing in a younger bass when he does do that to keep the five-man thing going.

3. Below Par Vocalists Popular opinion believes that the three alumni Bill has brought back are no longer the great vocalists they were in their prior tenures with the GVB. OK, David Phelps has been counted out of that statement in every such comment I’ve seen.

However, I beg to differ about the other two. I’ve heard Mark Lowry many times since he embarked on his solo venture, and he has actually improved as a vocalist and performer since being on his own. And Michael English still has chops as well.

Which brings me to another point. I realize I ripped on him a little, perhaps more harshly than I should have, in a post about the “Satisfied” clip from the GVB Reunion video. I said that I was very disappointed in English’s performance in that clip. However, I have seen some clips of recent concerts of his on various websites and I must say that he really hasn’t lost all that much vocally. He sounds much better in those than he did in the Reunion clip.

Sure, he lost a little in his upper range, but his emotion and pathos makes up for that and then some. I imagine that once the new GVB group gets rolling and he performs more in that setting, one will be hard-pressed to tell that he even lost anything.

Well, enough from me. I hope to catch the group when the Homecoming tour comes to Charlottesville in a few months

Gaither Vocal Band Announces Changes

January 13, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Bill Gaither, David Phelps, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music


Several changes have come for the Gaither Vocal Band.

First off, Bill Gaither has announced that Guy Penrod has departed the group to pursue a solo ministry career.* If you have spent any time reading comments about Penrod’s hiatus from the group, you’ll know that many of us saw a departure coming. Thankfully, it is not from singing completely. I for one am excited to hear future efforts from Guy. I’ll also say that I appreciate the fact of his longevity with the group: 14 years is quite a remarkable feat nowadays. I wish Guy well in this new endeavor.

Secondly comes perhaps one of the biggest announcements in GVB history: the group has expanded from four to five members, with a great lineup of voices. Returning to the group are three of its most popular alumni as well. The new lineup is: David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Michael English, Mark Lowry, and Bill Gaither.

When I read the press release, I literally said “WHOA!” out loud. I’m very excited for this new group. It is absolutely great to see the three alumni returning. I wonder how Phelps and Hampton will handle the tenor part. Perhaps Bill has plans for two different tenor parts to give the group a very full-sounding upper range. For sure, the GVB’s next project will be one of the most anticipated release or 2009 or 2010.

I do wonder what Marshall Hall’s future plans are. His departure is very shocking to me, actually. He was one of the finest vocalists to come through the group. The press release did not mention very much about his departure, so I’m hoping another will be sent out announcing what he will be doing.

* – DBM points out that Penrod’s future plans consist of doing a family friendly Country music album. Therefore, it is more of a solo career instead of a ministry.

SouthernGospelForums.com Launched

January 12, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Blogging Community, SG Music

Just felt it would be good to point out that Daniel Mount has launched a new Southern Gospel message board. Come check it out and join!