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

Archive for June, 2010

Tribute Quartet Hires New Tenor

June 30, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, Tribute Quartet, Uncategorized

From the press release at Singing News:

Nashville, TN – Crossroads recording artist, Tribute Quartet, is pleased to announce the addition of eighteen-year-old Riley Harrison Clark as its new tenor. Riley is originally from Fairland, Okla., and is a graduate of the Steve Hurst School of Music. Riley replaces Brian Alvey, who left the group to accept a position in marketing and promotions.

Group manager Gary Casto says, “We are absolutely thrilled to have found a wonderful Christian young man to join Tribute Quartet. He brings to the group a strong and natural tenor voice that we know our fans are going to love. In the short time I’ve known him, Riley has shown maturity and spiritual character, as well as a love for people. We believe his passion fits perfectly with the mission and message of our group, as well as all of southern gospel music. Josh Singletary, Dennis Dugger, and I cannot wait to introduce Riley to our fans across the country.”

Brian Alvey leaves Tribute Quartet with the blessing of Gary as well as the other group members. “For the past two years our tenor vocalist has done an outstanding job not only as a singer, but also as a musician and song writer,” Gary says. “He leaves us with a spotless record of service and our best wishes for much success in his future career. The Bible says to everything there is a season, and during Brian’s season with Tribute, he managed to make many fans and friends who I know join us in our support of Brian and his future endeavors.”

Riley joins Tribute Quartet just as it is gearing up for a busy summer and fall tour. Make your plans to find Tribute in concert soon and welcome Riley to the wonderful world of Southern Gospel Music. For more information on Tribute Quartet, visit its website at www.tributequartet.com. Tribute is booked exclusively by The Harper Agency, www.harperagency.com.

Count me in the camp of those eager to hear the new tenor. It will be interesting to see whether he possesses a vocal quality similar to that of either of Tribute’s previous tenors, Jacob Kitson & Brian Alvey, or if he will bring something entirely different to the table. A hire of such young talent is enough to catch my attention to start with; obviously, he caught Gary Casto’s attention as well.

Looking forward to hearing how the group will sound.

Update: Hat tip goes to Daniel Mount (and NewSoGoFan as well!) for being the first to post this video of the new tenor in a solo appearance.

Even though he’s not singing in tenor range for this song, I’m already looking forward to hearing his upper range with Tribute. What intrigues me most is the amount of maturity and control he has in his voice for such a young singer. Looks like Gary Casto made a great hire.


June 28, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Danny Funderburk, Gaither Vocal Band, Gold City, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Quartet, NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

It seems that when I went on vacation, the Southern Gospel world decided to go on overtime with newsworthy items. Here’s some of the things I missed out on:

1. Check out Daniel Mount’s short interview with Gold City tenor Josh Cobb. In it, Cobb mentions two of his features on the upcoming mainline release from the group. The first is the song that he is probably most recognized for from his Legacy Five days, “I Stand Redeemed,” which he mentions Gordon Mote has arranged this time around. The second is a Michael English song from the early 90s, “Heaven.” With a singer well-known for performing the song producing the project, it will be interesting to see just what he brings out of Cobb for that particular track.

2. The master schedule for NQC 2010 has been posted. A quick perusal shows that up-and-coming groups like Liberty Quartet and The Ball Brothers have finally made it to mainstage, and there is a showcase highlighting young artists called “Legends of Tomorrow” that has a Wednesday afternoon slot. That will be worth going to, especially if it is like the “Torch” video that was released a couple years back.

3. Speaking of legends of tomorrow, check out this clip of a recent Remember The Music concert: A quartet comprised of tenor Danny Funderburk, lead Scott Fowler, baritone Mark Trammell, and bass Pat Barker sing “Movin’ Up To Gloryland,” and this is the first time I’ve seen an instance where Glenn Dustin didn’t take the bass on the song.

At a Mark Trammell Quartet concert I attended a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Joel Wood and Dustin Sweatman beforehand, and both of them mentioned how, since Barker had joined the group and gotten his own mic, he had adopted a George Younce style of bass singing that showed a lower range he didn’t get to display often with the Dixie Echoes’ two-mic style. I certainly noticed it during that concert, but this clip is by far the greatest evidence of that fact. Whether intentionally or not, young Barker’s tones and placement are very reminiscent of those of Younce’s, especially here. This well-rounded bass will only improve with age.

4. My friend Andrew Graham attended a recent Kingsmen concert, and got several videos. You can view the four that he posted at his Youtube channel, but the one that perhaps best highlights the impact that Randy Crawford is having on their sound is this clip of a song originally led by Phillip Hughes, “Mountain of Grace.”

5. I noticed that Wes Hampton posted the track list and features for the upcoming Gaither Vocal Band project, Greatly Blessed, on his blog. Interestingly enough, ChristianBook.com also has a preview of five songs from the new project here. The first three songs were already featured on the latest GVB videos (although, the studio versions have added instrumentation), but about halfway through the preview comes two new songs. Check out the heavily orchestrated Crabb Family cover, “Please Forgive Me,” featuring Michael English. The vocal lead-in is stunning, and the entire arrangement sounds like it will be stellar.
Update: Looks like a preview for the entire project is up here.

6. As a last-minute addition to this roundup, Greater Vision just posted a sneak preview of their upcoming project at their Facebook page. It’s a re-recorded version of “You Were Faithful Yesterday” from their 2009 project, Not Alone, released with Jacob Kitson. The difference is almost indiscernible until the second verse when Chris Allman takes a solo. This says good things about both Kitson and Allman; Kitson’s vocal style is close to that of the stellar Allman’s, and Allman’s ability to seamlessly blend after so many years is impeccable.

Youtube Find: The Kingsmen – Justified

June 21, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Kingsmen

Here’s a video of a recent Kingsmen concert, in which “new” baritone Randy Crawford sings one of his signature songs, “Justified.” Good to see the group bringing this one back. (H/t, Nate!)

My Final Picks for the 2010 Singing News Fan Awards

June 19, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, Singing News Fan Awards

1. Favorite Artist of the Year
Booth Brothers
Greater Vision
Kingdom Heirs
Triumphant Quartet

2. Favorite Traditional Quartet
Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Kingdom Heirs
Legacy Five
Triumphant Quartet

3. Favorite Mixed Group
Collingsworth Family

4. Favorite Trio
Booth Brothers
Greater Vision
Jeff & Sheri Easter
Karen Peck & New River

5. Favorite Soloist
Bishop, Mark
Crabb, Jason
Parker, Ivan
Penrod, Guy
Ritchie, Charlotte

6. Favorite Male Singer
Booth, Michael (Booth Brothers)
Booth, Ronnie (Booth Brothers)
Habedank, Joseph (Perrys)
Parker, Ivan (Soloist)
Rice, Arthur (Kingdom Heirs)

7. Favorite Female Singer
Easter, Sheri (Jeff & Sheri Easter)
Gooch, Karen Peck (Karen Peck & New River)
Greene, TaRanda (Greenes)
Hopper, Kim (Hoppers)
Stuffle, Libbi (Perrys)

8. Horizon Individual
Barker, Pat (Dixie Echoes)**
Easter, Morgan (Jeff & Sheri Easter)
Elliot, Bryan (Perrys)
Gaches, Gus (Legacy Five)
Ragan, David (Inspirations)

9. Horizon Group
Austins Bridge
Ball Brothers
Crystal River
Soul’d Out Quartet

10. Favorite Young Artist
Collingsworth, Brooklyn (Collingsworth Family)
Easter, Morgan (Jeff & Sheri Easter)
Elliot, Bryan (Perrys)
Stringfield, Andy (Kingdom Heirs)
Thompson, Amber (Nelons)

11. Favorite Tenor
Booth, Michael (Booth Brothers)
Free, Brian (Brian Free & Assurance)
Haase, Ernie (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)
Phelps, David (Gaither Vocal Band)
Sutton, David (Triumphant Quartet)

12. Favorite Lead
Booth, Ronnie (Booth Brothers)
Fowler, Scott (Legacy Five)
Habedank, Joseph (Perrys)
Inman, Clayton (Triumphant Quartet)
Rice, Arthur (Kingdom Heirs)

13. Favorite Baritone
Anderson, Doug (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Brady, Jim (Booth Brothers)
Campbell, Melton (Inspirations)
Griffin, Rodney (Greater Vision)
Inman, Scott (Triumphant Qt)

14. Favorite Bass
Bennett, Eric (Triumphant Qt)
Duncan, Tim (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)
Dustin, Glenn (Legacy Five)
Holcomb, Mike (Inspirations)
Riley, Tim (Gold City)

15. Favorite Soprano
Gooch, Karen Peck (Karen Peck & New River)
Greene, TaRanda (Greenes)
Hopper, Kim (Hoppers)
Isaacs, Sonya (Isaacs)
Ritchie, Charlotte (Soloist)

16. Favorite Alto
Bean, Peg McKamey (McKameys)
Easter, Sheri (Jeff & Sheri Easter)
Hopper, Connie (Hoppers)
Stuffle, Libbi (Perrys)
Talley, Debra (Talley Trio)

17. Favorite Musician
Collingsworth, Kim (Collingsworth Family)
Fortner, Roger (McKameys)
Mote, Gordon
Parton, Tim (Legacy Five)
Stice, Jeff (Triumphant Qt)

18. Favorite Songwriter
Brady, Jim
Crabb, Gerald
Griffin, Rodney
Habedank, Joseph
Hinson, Ronny

19. Favorite Album
20 Years-Live In Texas (Greater Vision)
Almost Morning (Perrys)
Everyday (Triumphant Quartet)
Jubilee (BB, GV, L5)
The Son Came Down (Inspirations)

20. Favorite Song
He Locked The Gates (Kingdom Heirs)
I’ll Pray For You (Whisnants)
If You Knew Him (Perrys)
It Pays To Pray (Greater Vision)
Peace In The Shelter (Booth Brothers)
The Son Came Down (Inspirations)
When The Trumpet Sounds (Triumphant Qt)
When They Found Nothing (Legacy Five)
Why Can’t All God’s Children Get Along (Karen Peck & New River)
You Must Have Met Him (Brian Free & Assurance)

Jimmy Dean Passes Away at 81

June 16, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Uncategorized

The music and business world was saddened to hear about the passing of Jimmy Dean Sunday.  One of Dean’s most recognizable songs is “Big Bad John” which tells the story of a common working man that gives his life to save his fellow man.  Dean hosted his own TV show known as the Jimmy Dean show.  The younger crowd will know Dean for his sausage, Jimmy Dean Sausage.  This is all amazing for a man that dropped out of high school after the ninth grade.

Dean died in his Henrico Co. home just outside of Richmond, VA.  I had the privilidge of seeing him at a Gaither concert here in the VA area.  He will be truly missed by friends and family.

Bill Gaither gives tribute to his friend here.

As of late, Dean appeared on the Gaither Homecoming Joy In My Heart DVD.  Here are a couple links to those videos.  You can also find clips of Dean on youtube when he was in better health appearing in his TV show as well as other events.

Randy Crawford Joins The Kingsmen

June 14, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

From a press release on The Kingsmen’s Facebook page:

Ray Dean Reese is thrilled to announce the addition of Randy Crawford to The Kingsmen. Randy will be filling the vacant baritone/ lead position. Many will remember him from his past tenure with the Kingsmen. He can be heard on the 2002 top ten song, “Justified”. More recently he was a member of Brian Free & Assurance. Randy is an extremely gifted vocalist as well as a fine Christian gentleman. Randy will be relocating to the mountains of Asheville, NC immediately. He will share the stage with Ray Dean Reese (bass), Bryan Hutson (lead/ baritone), Harold Reed (tenor), Cody McVey (piano), and Brandon Reese (sound). Randy looks forward to seeing his many friends as he embarks on this new chapter in his life. To find out when the Kingsmen will be in a city near you please visit www.kingsmenquartet.com

There had been rumors floating around ever since Randy had departed Brian Free & Assurance that he would be making this move; glad to see they were true. Even when he was filling in for the past several weeks, he seemed to be having the time of his life, and seemed to fit seamlessly into the group. I enjoyed Randy’s sound with the group when he was with them the first time (although, they were The Carolina Boys for most of his tenure), and the “Justified” song mentioned in the PR is one of my favorite Crawford features.

Looking forward to hearing this new lineup in action!

Edit: Check out this clip of Randy’s first night with the group. Here, he sings a Phillip Hughes feature, which is a perfect platform to compare/contrast their respective styles.


CD Review: The Nelons – Beside Still Waters

June 14, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Nelons, Uncategorized

Rating: 4 stars

Producers: Wayne Haun & Jason Clark
Label: Vine Records
Website: http://thenelons.com

1. The Love Of God – The project’s opener features the group’s youngest member, Amber Nelon Thompson. This particular track does a great job of highlighting her growth as a vocalist in her time with the group. She definitely has her mother’s vocal power, with a modern twist on it (think Kelly Nelon meets Carrie Underwood.) The song’s verses are reminiscent, in both lyrics and structure, of “Don’t Let Me Miss The Glory,” but the chorus gives the song its own identity. Amber absolutely knocks off the top off her solos, and I actually had to rewind before the last chorus to make sure what I was hearing wasn’t just an ultra-high steel guitar riff; the lead-in she gives there sounds like a Mariah Carey vocal run.

2. Beside Still Waters – This song that the Mark Trammell Trio originally did serves as the title track for this CD. Each vocalist takes a turn on the verses, and though the song is by no means a standout, it’s a good showcase of the trio’s harmony.

3. Goodbye Valley, Hello Mountaintop – A fast-paced country tune gives Jason Clark a solo vehicle. Clark does a great job carrying the melody here, and the key changes make for some interesting high harmony.

4. There Is A Way – In a true standout on the project, Amber Nelon Thompson is once again featured, but this time on a powerful ballad. The song is already powerful, backed by beautiful orchestration, but on the bridge, the key changes and takes the song into the clouds. Probably my favorite on the project.

5. He Found Me – In a contrast to the big ballad, this track features a medium-tempo blues feel. Jason Clark takes the first verse, and Amber has the second. This song was a good choice for the first radio single.

6. Settled At The Cross – In her first true solo on the CD, Kelly Nelon Clark is featured on a ballad that is sure to become a signature for her. The sound of her voice has been a constant in the group’s existence, and her alto fits the song perfectly.

7. I’m Going Home With Jesus – This classic by The McGruders has been taken and reinvented to give it a modern feel. The group does a great job redoing it; it doesn’t sound like just a cover version, and they really make it their own. The song has a built-in encore that has another Amber lead-in; this time sounding like something Kim Hopper would do. Fantastic track!

8. My Tribute (To God Be The Glory) – The trio covers this Andrae Crouch classic with a “power orchestra” sound, opening with blaring horns, and electric guitars kicking in on the bridge. While not as original as their cover of “I’m Going Home With Jesus,” their version of this song certainly does it justice.

9. Weep – Kelly takes the lead on this mid-tempo song. Like the title track, it’s not a memorable song, but more of a showcase of harmony. Very smooth, mellow track.

10. Consider Me – Jason Clark carries this mid-tempo jazzy tune. More smooth singing, with some interesting lyrics on the chorus. “Consider me a Jesus fan,” as Averyfineline noted, is a bit campy for my taste, but not so glaringly annoying as to detract from the song.

11. Jesus, What A Wonderful Name – It’s back to the orchestra for this worshipful ballad. This is one of the more memorable songs on the project; it’s powerfully delivered both musically and vocally.

12. I Choose To Live – The closing track serves as the vocal debut for Kelly Nelon Clark younger daughter, Autumn. She does a great job here; her voice fits very well with the other members of the group, and she carries the melody well.

Final Thoughts: I’ll be honest; up until this point, I really hadn’t paid much attention to The Nelons. Sure, I know a lot of their older stuff, from back when they were the Rex Nelon Singers, and sure, they’ve had some great songs over the years, but nothing they had done in quite a long time was grabbing my attention.

Until now.

Beside Still Waters, from the first note to the last, had me sitting up in my chair and really listening. The project features some of the best songs and vocal performances that the group has had in their existence, and each singer has solid features on this project. Wayne Haun & Jason Clark did an excellent job of producing a great sound from both the musicians and the singers, and while not every track was a standout, this is a pretty stellar collection of songs.

Bottom line: Both longtime fans of The Nelons, or those just being introduced to the group, will enjoy this latest effort by the group.

Upcoming CD Review: The Nelons – Beside Still Waters

June 13, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Nelons

Look for this review to be posted Monday. It would have been posted today (Saturday), but the storm downed the Internet here for quite some time.

Mega-Review: Booth Brothers – Declaration

June 01, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Booth Brothers, CD Reviews, Mega Reviews, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Uncategorized

The bloggers featured in this review are Daniel Mount, Wes Burke, Brandon Coomer, Nate Stainbrook, Phil Boles, and myself. The project released today (June 1, 2010) and was produced by Lari Goss.
We hope you enjoy reading this review as much as we enjoyed writing it!

Song 1: A Higher Throne

Daniel: A few hours before this CD arrived in my mailbox, I was pondering Lari Goss’s iconic introduction to the Cathedrals classic “Champion of Love.” It’s an instantly recognizable riff—and not just because it is the melody of a line whose lyrics we remember. It’s inherently unforgettable on its own merits. I was pondering whether Goss would ever offer another intro of that caliber.

Now Declaration isn’t even in bookstores yet as I write this, so it’s far too early to declare this intro iconic. But incipiently iconic or not, the introduction instantly grabs your attention. A soaring trumpet crescendo is answered by swelling strings and woodwinds. The trumpet sounds again, and the orchestra answers. The band kicks in, and trumpet, orchestra, and band set a fittingly majestic backdrop for a lyric depicting Heaven’s throne room.

Though Declaration is so full of strong songs that there will be stiff competition for radio slots, this song should unmistakably go to radio. Though it’s 5 minutes 25 seconds long, a tempo on the fast side of midtempo makes it seem to go by faster.

Wes: What a great choice to open the disc.  I love the anthemic feel of this song, and right away this cut shows that the partnership between Lari Goss and the Booth Brothers is going to exceed every possibility you’ve imagined since it was made known.

Nate: Agree totally with you guys about this song. I can’t help but get excited when I hear this song. I love it from the opening to the ending. It ends with a breathtaking, sweeping, epic ending.  You mentioned the beginning being a great opening stanza, but the song also ends on a great note. Great song that Lari Goss struck gold on again. And I can’t wait to see this song get staged live.

Daniel: I knew the song was good on its own merits. But not until several weeks later, when I came across the original, by Keith & Kristyn Getty, did I fully appreciate what Goss had done with the song. I should say that I rediscovered the original, to be precise, since I had already heard it. But the arrangements are so different that I hadn’t connected the two until searching for the songwriter.

Goss deserves to be named in the same breath as Beethoven, Bach and Mozart. It would take a talent of that level to take the original and give it this level of treatment.

Song 2: God Did it All
Daniel: This Ronnie Booth feature starts simply enough. A lush orchestral track featuring the woodwind section accompanies a beautiful, lilting melody about Creation. By the chorus, the song becomes a powerful statement of God’s sovereignty. The song builds into a huge ending that should equally captivate live audiences and radio DJs (though Daywind should cut the encore before singling it, as 6:10 is too long for a single.)

The melody for this Rusty Golden / Dianne Wilkinson collaboration has a fascinating provenance: Wilkinson wrote the lyric and composed a melody for the chorus. She brought up the song during a collaboration session with Golden, who proceeded to come up with a melody for the verses—without having heard her chorus melody. Then she showed him what she had for the chorus—and they realized it was a perfect fit.

Nate: This song is very well written and very well performed. I love Ronnie Booth’s voice. This song makes you take notice of just how good of a singer he really is. I love the message to this song. It should challenge you to get ready, and to tell others that “God Did It All.”

Wes: This is the first big ballad you hear from Goss and the Booths, and it doesn’t disappoint.  Ronnie Booth turns in a tremendous performance.  This should be a single, the length not withstanding.  Actually, the Kingdom Heirs singled “He Had To Hold To Calvary” back in the mid 90s, and it was 6:01.

Daniel: It wouldn’t be more than a minute of work to cut out the encore. They’d be wise to single it without the encore (even if they leave the alternate version on the radio compilation disc  for any DJs who want it).

Song 3: I See Grace
Nate: This song written by Jim Brady along with Barry Weeks and Tony Wood, is a song that the Booth Brothers have been staging for several months now. It is one of my favorites on this project. It starts with a epic sounding intro, that settles into to a great medium to fast tempo song, that is very well orchestrated. Jim Brady gets the lead on this song.He never ceases to amaze me with his vocal versatility and range, and he really shows it here. He has Michael Booth stacked above him for part of the first verse, making for some nice harmony. I love the end of the second verse that says “Those who have come through unbearable loss not defined by the past but defined by the Cross.” That is a great line that really defines this song and makes it a potential radio hit. I have been told that this song has been going over particularly well in concerts, and I can see why.