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

New Baritone For The Perrys

February 24, 2009 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Perrys

Just one day after the announcement of Nick Trammell’s departure from the group, Libbi Stuffle announced The Perrys’ new baritone vocalist in the latest edition of their newsletter:

As many of you know, Nick Trammell our baritone resigned this past weekend from the group. He has been a part of our group for two and a half years. We love Nick and Jessica and we wish them all the best in their future plans. We have watched Nick grow up from a baby into a fine young man over the years and we love him just like a son. We will miss him, but we know God will bless him for his faithfulness. Please pray for Nick and Jessica that God will lead them in the direction He wants them to go.

Troy Peach will be filling the baritone position. Troy has been with our group for the past year as one of our sound techs and bus drivers. He also filled in for Nick back in December while Nick was off for his wedding and did a great job. Troy is no stranger to singing as you may remember him with Jeff and Sheri Steele and later his own group First Love. We have known Troy for years and have watched him develop into a hard working young man. With the economic situation right now going on in not only gospel music but the whole country, we feel like this is the thing to do, this is not taking away from the fact that Troy is a great singer and we have traveled with him and we know his life. He is so easy to get a long with and that counts for a lot when you travel on a 45 foot bus four days out of the week and sometimes more. Troy has a heart and passion for not only our music, but gospel music as a whole and he wants to do his part to make it all it can be. He is already a part of our “family” so now we have just tied him in even more! Troy is so excited about being able to sing again and we are excited to have him sing with us. Troy’s wife Katy is in full support of Troy and his new position with our group. Katy is enjoying being able to stay home with their 3 year old twin boys Clayton and Shelton while they are little. It has been over- whelming at the emails we have received from people all across the United States who love Troy and have ask us to please give him the position. This shows us that Troy has made a lot of friends during his time in gospel music that love him, his singing and his humble attitude. We feel God placed Troy under our noses for this purpose.

It was guessed on many of the other blogs that this would happen, and it seems that their hunches were correct. Everyone who heard Troy fill in with The Perrys has said that the group sounded great together. I am not too familar with Troy’s vocal work, so I am anticipating hearing him sing on the upcoming Perrys project, Almost Morning.

Nick Trammell Resigns From The Perrys

February 23, 2009 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Perrys

It would seem the personnel change bug has bitten Southern Gospel Music once again here recently. From The Perrys’ newsletter today:

CHANGES FOR THE PERRYS

Nick Trammell has tenured his resignation to the Perrys. Trammell joined the group as baritone vocalist in August of 2006.

“I would like to thank all of those who have supported and loved me over the past two-and-a-half years,” says Nick. “I don’t feel that I am done in Southern Gospel music, nor in ministry. But for now, I feel God is moving me to a new chapter in my life. I don’t know what is to come but I believe stepping out in faith is what I need to do to be shown what is next.

“I would like to thank Tracy, Libbi and all of those on the Perrys’ bus for giving me a chance and taking me in as family. I wish them God’s best in the future. Please continue to pray for Jessica and I as we seek God’s will for whatever it is that God has in store for us. We love you all.”

“We certainly wish Nick God’s blessings on all of his endeavors,” adds Tracy Stuffle of the Perrys. “God rewards faith, and as such, we know that God can use Nick in ways that will honor Him.

“When personnel changes have come our way in the past, we’ve anxiously awaited to see the person God would put in our path. We hope to be able to announce the name of our new baritone soon.” Troy Peach will be filling in until a decision has been made.”

I must say this is another change I never saw coming. Certainly, Nick Trammell has been a tremendous asset to the group, and he is a fine young vocalist whom I hope to see traveling with a group again soon.

I’m curious to see who The Perrys will hire as their next baritone. The Perrys have never been slouches in who they hire, so it will be interesting to see. Their upcoming project hasn’t had vocals recorded yet, to the best of my knowledge, so the replacement should have no trouble leaving his own mark on it.

First "Official" Video Of The New Gaither Vocal Band

February 20, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG History, SG Music

It would seem that Gaither has discovered the value of Youtube.

After seeing the hype it generated for the GVB Reunion videos, he used it to do so for the new Oak Ridge Boys video.

And now, he’s giving the world a taste of the new five-man Gaither Vocal Band in this video showing highlights of their debut in Orlando, Florida.

The guys sound fantastic, Michael English especially. This is much better than he sounded in the first clip of the Reunion video, and he sounds a lot like he did in his first GVB stint. He sounds great on “Let Freedom Ring” especially (which sounds like it has been lowered half a step. It still sounds just as powerful!)

I am greatly looking forward to seeing this group for myself in Charlottesville, VA on April 26th.

Legacy Five Announces 10th Anniversary Project

February 19, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

From the L5 newsletter:

“We’re excited to announce that the “Decade… A Celebration Of Our 10th Year” CD will be available soon. This two CD set includes 10 original recordings plus those same songs re-recorded with new tracks and vocals… and as a bonus, there are 3 more songs never recorded by L5.

Song titles are: I’m Feeling Fine, Joy, Vessel Of Mercy, I Found Grace, The Prettiest Flowers, Strong in the Strength, That’s What Grace is For, Out Of My Darkness, Jericho Road, I Know That I Know, Stepping Out on the Water, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, and Why Wouldn’t I?…”

I must say it will be interesting to hear the new vocals and tracks on the group’s earlier stuff, especially on songs like “Joy,” “Strong In The Strength,” and “Out Of My Darkness,” which originally featured the group’s late pianist/fifth vocalist, Roger Bennett. If I understand this correctly, all of the hits on this project are to be given a re-recording.

Looking at the never-before-released songs that will be on here intrigues me even more. I wonder if “I Know That I Know” is the same as the opening track on the Mark Trammell Trio’s latest project. Likewise, I wonder if “Why Wouldn’t I?” is the same song Liberty Quartet features on their Amazed project. I look forward to hearing their take on those two songs if so, and also “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

You can be sure that I’ll be ordering this on March 10.

Archie Watkins Resigns From The Inspirations

February 18, 2009 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Legends, SG Music, The Inspirations

Daniel Mount got it partly right; Archie is leaving The Inspirations.

However, he is not retiring completely. Check out this press release from the Singing News:

Archie Watkins Resigns From Inspirations Quartet

Long-time tenor and founding member of the Inspirations Quartet, Archie Watkins, has announced his resignation after 45 years on the road with the group.

Watkins informed Singing News, “I will be continuing my ministry as a solo artist.” His last appearance with the Inspirations will be Feb. 28 at New Hope Church (formerly the Lee Greenwood Theater) in Sevierville, Tennessee.

Anyone wishing to contact Archie can call (828)497-9798, send an email to info@archiewatkins.com or visit his website at www.archiewatkins.com.

I can see where this move makes sense; Archie could work at his own pace and not have to keep a full road schedule all the time. However, I wonder how big his fanbase will be. Sure, the 45 years of Southern Gospel Music history will certainly be a draw, but not everyone is a fan of Watkins’ Appalachian tenor style.

I can only imagine the conversation that will take place once Averyfineline gets wind that Archie is embarking on a solo ministry.

With all of that said, I am eager to hear the new Inspirations lineup in concert. Dallas Rogers (the new tenor) has such a similar style to Watkins that the group will sound essentially the same. I hear tell the young new lead, David Ragan, is very good as well.

New Lead Vocalist For N’Harmony

February 16, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Mercy's Mark, N'Harmony, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In a surprising move, Shane Dunlap released this statement today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

N’Harmony Announces New Lead Singer

Nashville, TN – N’Harmony is pleased to announce the addition of fan favorite Josh Feemster as the new lead vocalist for the group. “We are honored to have Josh joining us in our ministry”, states Shane Dunlap. “He is one of the finest singers in gospel music today and we look forward to working and traveling with him.”

With the addition of Josh at the lead position, Shane Dunlap will be assuming the baritone vocalist position. Feemster’s first concert with N’Harmony will be held at Temple Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC on Good Friday April 10, 2009.

To learn more about N’Harmony’s touring schedule, please visit www.nharmonymusic.com or www.dominionagency.com.

My intial thought is; Josh Feemster is back? Awesome! I’ve been really wanting to see him back with a group ever since he left Mercy’s Mark, and since the group he was trying to put together didn’t go through, he couldn’t have picked a better lineup of vocalists to go with.

A question does arise, though, that I hope a future press release will answer; since Dunlap has opted to move to the baritone slot, does this mean that N’Harmony has gone the Gaither Vocal Band route and employed a five-man lineup, or has Chris Whitaker left the group and no one knows it yet? If the latter is the case, it would be a real shame; Whitaker is one of the finest baritones on the road today, and I was very impressed with him on N’Harmony’s latest project, Favorites.

I’ve said before, keep an eye on this group, because they will go far if they can keep together. I say that now more than before, especially if they are going for the five-man group.

Welcome back, Josh!

Update: Several have contacted me to say that Chris Whitaker has indeed left the group and his future plans are to be announced soon.

Further Update: I had a suspicion that this would be the case, but it seems that Chris has joined Mike & Kelly Bowling:

Popular Southern Gospel trio, Mike & Kelly Bowling have announced the addition of tenor Chris Whitaker to the group’s line-up. According to Mike & Kelly, “Chris has so much to offer our group. Not only does he possess an incredible lead voice and a natural ability to sing harmony, he has a passion for ministry.” “Kelly and I believe Chris is a perfect fit for our group,” stated Mike. “We are so happy to have Chris as a part of our ministry and are excited about the future.”

Chris grew up in Hamilton, Mississippi where he began singing in church at the age of 10. His family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2005. Chris married Tara Leonard in February of the same year. They now have one child, Robert Colton Whitaker, who is 9 months old. Chris is no stranger to Southern Gospel music. He has performed full time for several years within the Southern Gospel industry. Chris added, “I am extremely excited about singing with such a wonderful group and family. I am most looking forward to ministering to those who are lost.”

The addition of Chris came on the heels of Mike & Kelly Bowling’s hit single “A Miracle Today” reaching number one for March 2009 on the National Radio Chart according to the Singing News Magazine. It is the third consecutive number one from the trio. “A Miracle Today” was written by Becky Isaacs Bowman and Sonya Isaacs and is the second number one for Mike & Kelly Bowling from the writing duo. “Your Cries Have Awoken The Master” was the Singing News 2008 Song of the Year and topped the charts in August 2008. The Singing News Song of the Year is selected according to a point system assigned to radio singles for their duration on the National Radio Chart throughout the year. The Song of the Year announcement came at the one year anniversary of Mike & Kelly Bowling’s first number one song written by Carroll McGruder, “We Have A Saviour.” Their current single, “Notified” was written by Ronny Hinson and is currently playing on radio stations worldwide. All four singles are included on Mike & Kelly Bowling’s debut Canaan Records release Faith To Believe. Word Entertainment distributes the newest project to stores worldwide and was released on August 12th.

Also, Mike & Kelly Bowling are currently looking to add a full time piano player. Interested musicians can e-mail their information to mikeandkellybowling@hotmail.com .

For booking information on Mike & Kelly Bowling, contact The Beckie Simmons Agency (615-595-7500, http://www.bsaworld.com or e-mail: beckie@bsaworld.com.) For more information on Mike & Kelly Bowling or to order Faith To Believe, visit http://www.mikeandkellybowling.com or Canaan Records, http://www.canaanrecords.com . For radio information, contact The Rick Hendrix Company ( rick@rickhendrix.com ) or call 615-662-4848

Mike & Kelly won’t miss a beat, as Chris’ voice will fit in great with theirs. I look forward to hearing this group in the future, especially once they hire a piano player.

CD Review: The Telestials – I Can Call Jesus

February 13, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Telestials

Rating:3.5

Producer: Michael Sykes
Label: New Wine Records
Website: www.telestials.com

1. I Wanna Go There – A strong country sound kicks off the opening track of the project. The featured vocalist’s style fits the sound well. I found myself having to hit the skip button halfway into the first verse. I am sure that whoever wrote this song can come up with something more original than “Howdy” over and over and over again.

2. Everything – The second track is much better than the first. This slow ballad features lead singer Scott Lucas (I’m not completely sure, since I don’t really have a list of who’s featured where). The song keys up at the end for a powerful finish. This track would make a good radio single.

3. One Way Flight – This song has a bit of history behind it; The Telestials got a Dove Award nomination for it in 1977. This re-recording adopts the country sound again. It is a nice rendition, and it makes me wonder how similar it is to the original cut.

4. No One Ever Cared For Me Like Jesus – One of the female vocalists takes the feature on this hymn. The soft background music makes for a peaceful effect. There’s nothing spectacular about this track, but it is a nice inclusion.

5. Free – The group threw a curveball for me on this one; I did not expect to hear a Contemporary-sounding song on this project. Written by the group’s lead singer, it plays on the group’s strengths well. This is one of the best songs of the album.

6. My Redeemer Is Faithful And True – The group turns in another slow song with a powerful message. The featured vocalist reminds me of Clint Black. Very well-done song. The group seems to pull off songs of this nature very well.

7. Oh What A Savior, What A Friend – The bass singer gets the lead on this medium-tempo song. Nothing really stands out about this cut, but it is an OK song.

8. I Can Call Jesus – The project’s title track is the same song that The Prophets used to open their latest release, I’ll Follow. The Telestials’ arrangement is different enough that it doesn’t sound like just a copy. The group does a nice job on this Brock Speer-penned tune.

9. Through It All – Andrae Crouch’s famous song is sung by the group’s older female vocalist. It is an alright rendition, but it does not top the Gaither Homecoming version.

10. Redeemed – The group jumps once again to a Progressive/Contemporary feel to end the album. This is another of the strongest tunes of the project; It is written by the same team that wrote the earlier track “Free.” Very well written and a great way to close.

Final Thoughts: The Telestials name is one that has quite a bit of history in SG music, especially in the 1970s. I had not heard of them prior to being approached about reviewing the project, but it is nice to see a group that continues to work hard despite having somewhat fallen under the radar.

This project was produced very well by Michael Sykes, and the group sounds better in some styles than others. I would encourage the group to find the style that they get the best results from and work in that vein. The writing team of members Caleb Brown and Scott Lucas should definitely get more chances to shine; they penned two of the best cuts on here. Very good project.

For all of you high tenor fans out there…

February 11, 2009 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes, The Kingsmen, The Perrys

Check out this video of The Kingsmen singing one of their best-known songs, “Beautiful Home,” at the recent Bill Bailey’s Winter Gospel Sing in Palmetto, FL. I’d encourage you to go watch it in high quality for best picture and sound.

I remember back when Reed first joined The Kingsmen, many wondered if he would fit the “Kingsmen tenor” style. If you haven’t heard how fantastic he sounded on their latest recording, When God Ran, then this video will settle any doubts. I heard the group do this live at last NQC, but it was near the end of the week, the guys were probably tired, and it didn’t sound so good. This one is the best I’ve heard. Harold’s range has extended since joining The Kingsmen; he hits a B-natural, which Daniel Mount says is a half-step above Ernie Phillips’ famed sky-high ending on “Love Lifted Me”.

Members of the Perrys and the Dixie Echoes (Tracy Stuffle and Pat Barker help Ray Dean Reese out on the bass) join on the encore, making for a powerful ending.

On a side note, notice the young piano player with The Kingsmen. His name is Cody McVeigh (I hope I didn’t butcher that spelling!), he is 17 years old, and as far as I know has been filling in with the group for about three weeks. I watched the other clips of the same night to see how Cody sounded, and what little I heard tells me he’s very talented for his age. Keep an eye open; we may hopefully see an announcement soon!

A News Roundup

February 10, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Gaither Vocal Band, Oak Ridge Boys, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It’s been a busy past few days for me, so here are some news items I’ve had to catch up on:

1. Brian Free & Assurance’s New Project and Website – The sound clips were put up just yesterday. The guys are definitely continuing in the Progressive vein of Real Faith. I can’t wait to hear this project, as it will definitely be more geared toward the current lineup than Real Faith, which was put together before Keith Plott left the group and re-recorded with Jeremy Lile.

2. Gaither Vocal Band Wins A Grammy – The group’s latest album, Lovin’ Life garnered the award. Many are scratching their heads over it; I will agree that it’s not the best project the group has ever released, but it’s not terrible either. Congrats, GVB.

3. Gaither To Release Oak Ridge Boys video – I had read a couple months ago that the video was being recorded. Nice to see it finally get a release date.