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

Archive for September, 2009

CD Review: Cross 4 Crowns – It Just Started For Me

September 25, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Cross 4 Crowns, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4.5 stars

Producers: Jeff Collins, Arthur Rice, Allen Leath
Label: Crossroads Music
Website: www.cross4crowns.com

Buy This Project

1. What A Wonderful Time – The album opens up with a country-flavored tune that reflects the traditional sound the group had on their previous project, Turning Point. Judging from that project and this track, the group’s strength seems to lie in the traditional quartet numbers such as this.

2. The First And Last – The group turns the Rodney Griffin-penned song off of Greater Vision’s Everyday People CD into a solid quartet number. The arrangement is a bit different in this version, giving bass singer Justin Terry a solo on the second verse, and the tempo is a bit slower than Greater Vision’s cut. The group does a good job of taking this trio song and making it their own.

3. The Blood Remains – New tenor vocalist Marcus Faulknor is featured on the project’s first ballad. Fans may remember Faulknor from his work with Jericho and Master Peace. He turns in a solid performance on this track, and the song fits his voice well.

4. Keep Living For Jesus – This cut is to be the first radio single off the project and it is the song you may remember that I previewed a few weeks back here on the blog. It exhibits the group sounding similar to the era of the Gaither Vocal Band with Jonathan Pierce. Lead singer Davis McCammon Jr. gets the solo here, with bass Justin Terry getting the standout lines on the choruses.

5. It Just Started For Me – The title track features the jazzy side of the group, a side not really shown heretofore. Baritone Allen Leath and lead McCammon trade off the features here on the verses. It’s a good pick for a title song, but it doesn’t really kick up until the last chorus.

6. Under Control – The Gold City classic that featured Tim Riley is covered here, featuring the group’s bass singer, of course. At 25 years old, one wouldn’t think he would do the song justice. His voice is mature beyond his years, and he does a great job singing the song without sounding like a Riley impersonator. The arrangement doesn’t really stray from Gold City’s, but it is a solid effort.

7. Thinking More Of Heaven – A country track about going to heaven, this song sounds like something from a recent Dove Brothers project. Nothing that really stands out here, but it is a good song.

8. Come To The River – This song is pretty different from anything else I’ve heard the group do. The slow, shuffling tempo gives it kind of a “beach” sound, and the group’s smooth harmonies shine here.

9. We Are Almost Home – It’s a jump back to straight-up quartet music for this tune. This is the style that was dominant on Cross 4 Crowns’ previous work, and Justin Terry sounds very much like Jeff Chapman on these types of songs.

10. He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels – Baritone Allen Leath gets the finest feature I’ve ever heard him do here. It starts with him singing much of the song solo, then the group comes on and the song gets a powerful finish. This ballad is a highlight for this project, and the group would do well to single it to radio. It could be the breakout hit they are waiting for!

11. There’s Only One Well – This peppy, horn-driven tune closes this CD out. Faulknor displays that he’s a tenor that can sing a slow, pretty ballad like “The Blood Remains,” and then turn around and do a faster number just as well.

Final Thoughts: When Turning Point came out last year, Cross 4 Crowns had just signed with Crossroads Music, and the project was considered their label debut, although they had just completed doing it without the label backing them. It turned quite a few heads, including that of this blogger, as it was one of most impressive debuts in recent memory. That project showed what the group could do with a limited budget; this project shows what they can do with a record label behind them.

The group branches out a bit more stylistically than their last outing, and somewhat develop their own sound instead of sounding so much like the Kingdom Heirs. Justin Terry, for instance, doesn’t sound so much like Jeff Chapman here although the maturity and depth are still there. Each vocalist in the group gets their chance to shine here, and to good effect.

A lot may wonder what the group sounds like with the new tenor. Since Turning Point, Dallas Rogers departed the group, Matt Felts joined and left, and they picked up Marcus Faulknor. The group hasn’t missed a beat through all the changes, and Faulknor actually seems like a better fit and the harmonies are smoother. Not a knock to Rogers at all; he just fits better in The Inspirations.

Bottom line: Cross 4 Crowns has turned in another great effort, and they can only go up from here.

Post-NQC 2009 Project Review Schedule

September 22, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Music

There are two things that can be counted on every September: NQC, and a whole stack of projects to review. Such is the case again this year, and here’s a look at what to expect from this blog every Friday for several weeks:

1. Cross 4 Crowns – It Just Started For Me
2. Legacy Five – Just Stand
3. Tribute Quartet – For This Time
4. Liberty Quartet – The Journey
5. Gaither Vocal Band – Reunited
6. Legacy Five, Greater Vision, & The Booth Brothers – Jubilee
7. The Kingsmen – Missing People
8. The Inspirations – The Son Came Down
9. The Anchormen – Always A Road
10. The Ball Brothers – Breakthrough
11. The Rick Webb Family – Faithful
12. Paid In Full – No Trace Of Rain
13. Mercy’s Well – Songbook: Where Hymns & Harmony Live
14. Crystal River – Mercy River
15. Roy Webb – Timeless
16. TaRanda Greene – In The Sanctuary
17. Eva Mae LeFevre Tribute (DVD)

The order may change, but this should keep me busy for a while! The first one will be up this Friday.

NQC 2009: Saturday Night

September 21, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Booth Brothers, Brian Free And Assurance, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Music, Triumphant Quartet

Sorry for taking so long to put this up. Time constraints had me tied down.

NQC 2009 has come to a close after a great week. In a way, it’s sad, because I’m not ready for it to be over yet, but in another way, it’s a relief because I’m worn out and I’m tired of staying up till 2 AM doing these reports!

1. Brian Free & Assurance recovered nicely from their technical difficulties. Their track wouldn’t start so they ended up doing the a capella tune from their Worth It project, “There Is A Kingdom Coming.” It sounded really good; everybody who thought it was too sonically enhanced on the CD should know that it sounded just as good live and off the cuff. They had to decide to do it at the last minute; I know for a fact it was not on the set list for the night.

2. Booth Brothers won a majority of the Fan Awards they were nominated for again. They got the ball rolling a couple years ago and haven’t let up since. Triumphant Quartet had a good year in the awards as well, winning such awards as Eric Bennett for favorite bass (he’s deserved that for years), Jeff Stice for Favorite Musician, and favorite quartet going to Triumphant. Here’s a complete list of winners:

-Musician. Jeff Stice
-Horizon Individual. Jacob Kitson
-Baritone. Jim Brady
-Bass. Eric Bennet
-Young Artist. Joseph Hadabank
-Lead singer. Ronnie Booth
-Soprano. Kim Hopper
-Tenor. Michael Booth
-Alto. Libbi Stuffle
-Norcross/Templeton Award. Jerry Kirksey
-Promoter. Twila Rhoer?
-Male Singer. Ronnie Booth
-Horizon Group. Crist Family
-Song Writer. Rodney Griffin
-Mixed Quartet. Hoppers
-Album. Room For More-Booth Brothers
-Trio. Booth Brothers
Quartet. Triumphant Quartet
-Song of the year. What Salvations Done For Me-Booth Brothers
-Artist of the year. Booth Brothers

3. Speaking of the awards, the show went FAR too long this year. Everything just seemed to drag. I don’t mind the winners talking, but the comedy and stuff like that was just claptrap. I heard one lady in my section say “I coulda done all that in 45 minutes.” I overheard other such comments both in Freedom Hall and in the exhibit area. Make the awards show interesting, but don’t overdo it. Nobody likes that.

Sound issues abounded again, but once again, I can’t say anything different than what I said every other night. The NQC would do well to a get new sound crew for next year. And I heard several people complain about the bass guitar on the tracks sounding like certain people that roll into parking lots with their bass thumping in their cars. It’s annoying.

NQC 2009: Friday Night

September 19, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Gaither Vocal Band, Gene McDonald, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Inspirations

NQC has but one night left before it’s all winded down. It’s time, once again, for a brief look at what transpired:

1. Most poignant moment of the night goes to Jeremy Lile’s feature on “Save Me A Seat At The Table.” For those who don’t know why this particular performance was different than any other, I’ll explain. Jeremy’s father was dying of cancer this week, which is why Jeremy wasn’t there Monday and Jeff Chapman filled in. His dad passed away on Wednesday, the funeral was today and Jeremy took off as soon as the burial was over and got there 45 minutes before Assurance’s set.

Brian announced all that from the stage and had Jeremy sing “Save Me A Seat At The Table” as a tribute to his dad. He faltered a little bit on the first chorus, then regrouped for the rest of the song and made it all the way till the last phrase and just broke down. The guys made a circle around him and he got a standing ovation, and yes, the whole place stood. Easily one of the most touching and moving moments this week.

2. The Gaither Vocal Band’s set was a good one, with each vocalist being featured in equal prominence. Wes Hampton impressed me with his verse on “I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary,” and also taking the final chorus. Listening to the Reunited project, I had thought those were David Phelps’ features, and maybe they are on the CD, but Wes really did a bang-up job with them.

Another highlight was Bill playing the piano while the rest of the GVB (minus Hampton until the encore) sang “Hide Thou Me,” joined by surprise guest Gene McDonald to fill the bass part. If Bill ever retires, he needs to tap McDonald to fill that spot in the Vocal Band. I would have liked it better if the sound technicians had actually had Gene’s mic set at a decent level.

3. Is it just me, or do The Inspirations sound very similar to that of the lineup of the 70s? Tenor Dallas Rogers sounds like the Archie Watkins of that era, and the group’s overall sound is familar enough to please older fans, while fresh enough to catch others’ attention.

I’m not even going to give the sound a point tonight. Anybody who’s been reading this week probably can guess what I’d say anyway.

Anything else?

NQC 2009: Thursday Afternoon & Night

September 17, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes

Thursday of NQC 2009 saw a major flux in attendance numbers. Bill Gaither has come to town, bringing a big draw with him. Some observations and thoughts of today include:

1. Sound issues are not limited to the mainstage, folks. The mix on some songs in the GVB/EHSSQ showcase today was horrendous. I’m not sure if one of Gaither’s crew was running it or not. It sounded no different than earlier this week in the evenings, what with vocalists mics not being at the right levels.

Not to say either group sounded bad; quite the opposite. I just wish the sound had been on par with their performances.

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed a whispery echo effect creeping into the sound? I noticed it to some extent last night on Eric Bennett’s feature on “One Drop Of Blood,” but today it was much more prominent. I thought it might have been just an added effect to David Phelps’ “Nessun Dorma,” but this evening it showed up EVERYWHERE, and it was kind of distracting, to be honest. The regular issues showed up tonight as well. I’m sure everyone would really rather not have NQC Volume 9 just be a collection of the only songs that didn’t have sound issues.

2. The Dixie Echoes are probably the best Traditional group in the business. They know how to get it done and get it done right. Pat Barker’s rendition of “How Big Is God” brought my mind back to clips of the old Blackwood Brothers groups, and it earned a standing ovation. I believe their performance of “Little Is Much” did as well.

3. If people thought Gold City was good Monday night, they should have heard them with the full Band Of Gold tonight. It was like the Gold City of days gone by. Chris Cooper must not have been feeling well tonight; the end of the second verse of “In My Robe Of White” sounded pretty faint, and when The Kingsmen joined them for the encore, he handed off the mic to Harold Reed. Gold City has a masterful command of the stage these days; play their cards right with the hiring of a new bass and it will keep on going.

NQC 2009: Wednesday Night

September 17, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Legacy Five, NQC 2009, NQC Turnover Season 2009, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Greenes

Another night of NQC has become history. A few thoughts for the night:

1. The way Legacy Five sang tonight (Frank Seamans in particular), you’d never guess a personnel change was taking place. Often if a member of a group is getting ready to leave, their stage presence and their singing sounds off. Not so with L5 and Seamans. Seamans is one of the most under-rated vocalists in the industry, let alone tenor singer. It will be interesting to see who L5 picks up as the next tenor.

Something I respect Frank for is, he’s all class, even in the change. At least he is staying on until a new guy comes on board instead of leaving the group up the creek without a paddle.

2. More sound issues. Tonight, the mics popped, cracked, and sizzled again, and several vocalists’ mics were way too hot. Arthur Rice in particular almost blew everybody out of their seat every line he sang. No fault of his own; the mic was simply too loud. Maybe since Gaither has rolled in and his technical crew will have shown up tomorrow, the sound situation will start to improve.

3. Tony and TaRanda Greene looked and sounded great tonight. Big contrast from last year, when Tony barely had the strength to stand. The kidney transplant was a success and it shows.

Post your thoughts in the comments section if you wish.

Frank Seamans Departing Legacy Five

September 16, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Averyfineline has confirmed with the L5 office that Frank Seamans is leaving Legacy Five, but only after a new tenor is found. This is probably due to the health situation with his son, Frank Jr.

More thoughts on this when I do my report of tonight’s NQC. Coincidentally, L5 is on mainstage tonight, hopefully singing some songs off their just-released “Just Stand” project.

NQC 2009: Tuesday Night

September 16, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Music, The Isaacs, The Perrys

Another night of NQC 2009 has come and gone. Some thoughts on tonight:

1. Maybe The Perrys just “make you feel” when they sing, but no one can deny that The Perrys singing “If You Knew Him” was probably the most powerful moment of the night. The place was on its feet at the end of the second verse and it never let up after that.

2. The Isaacs should have done their “almost a cappella” thing a long time ago. The a cappella tune they did tonight brought the house down.

3. More sound issues, unfortunately. Instead of turned off mics, tonight it was mics that popped, sizzled. and screeched all over the place. Can we go a night without issue?

Anything else? Feel free to comment.

As an added bonus, here’s the first song of Gold City’s set last night.

Update: Well, never mind about the video. The user pulled them off of Youtube.

NQC 2009: Monday Night

September 14, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Legends, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes, The Inspirations

Tonight’s lineup of concerts was “Quartet Night,” meaning that every group on mainstage was a male quartet. Let’s take a look at memorable events and happenings that transpired during this first night of NQC 2009.

1. Tim Riley is back! And hasn’t lost a thing; in fact, some might say he’s even better now. Not a word had been spoken by Gold City when they hit the stage, but once Tim stepped on, the place erupted. They were the only group of the night to have such a response. The sound was powerful and crisp, like the GC of the 80s and 90s. Great performance.

2. Speaking of Gold City, anybody who’s doubted about Chris Cooper’s fit at tenor should have heard him tonight. Close your eyes and you would have sworn it was a lineup with Jay Parrack. Gold City as a whole is bringing it so far. I’d like to hear them do “For The Sake Of My Heart” some time this week.

3. Sound issues abound, but that’s almost the norm nowadays. It just seems like it would be common sense for, when the singer is lifting his or her mic, to TURN THE THING ON. Groups that had decent sets were hindered by mediocre operating of the mic levels. Even when the mics were tested beforehand (example, The Dixie Echoes), the mics were still somehow off when the singing started. Hopefully as the week progresses the sound problems will decrease.

4. The comparisons between old and new lineups of the groups is a good idea. The way it worked was, a vintage clip of the group would play, which would segue into the group’s set as a “then-and-now” statement. It was quite fascinating, especially with groups like The Inspirations, whose vintage lineup and current lineup sounded almost identical.

Anything else? Chat away.

NQC 2009

September 13, 2009 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Music

Well, it’s that time of year again, folks; National Quartet Convention time! Be looking on this blog for nightly reports of the goings on of the week. I may or may not do a “tweet-by-tweet” from my Twitter account, but I’m more than likely going to just stick to this. Be sure to look at the blogroll on the left bar to see the other bloggers’ perspectives as well.

If you see me walking around this week, feel free to say hello! I’d love to chat with you. See you all there!