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

Archive for August, 2010

Gold City Searching For Pianist

August 31, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

From the press release put out by the group:

When 2010 began, Gold City introduced a new line-up of familiar faces with the addition of tenor Josh Cobb and pianist Roy Webb. As mentioned in the earliest days of this re-organization of the quartet, Roy was  on board in a temporary role to help develop Gold City’s future plans. During this time, Roy maintained a schedule of selected solo dates, with the intentions of one day returning to a full-time solo career.

That day has arrived, and Gold City is searching a for a new pianist. Anyone interested in being a part of a 30-year ministry is encouraged to send a resume and demo to Gold City, Attn: Jason R. Maise, P.O. Box 2100, Gadsden, AL 35903 or via email at jasonrmaise@yahoo.com.

“It has been a pleasure to be involved with Gold City,” says Roy. “I wish them much success and I believe that this group is truly one of Southern Gospel music’s all-time great quartets.

“However my heart is in my solo efforts and that’s where I feel I need to be. So it is time to make the move.” Roy’s scheduling will be handled through The Beckie Simmons Agency.

“We wish for nothing but the best for Roy,” adds Gold City’s Daniel Riley. “Roy’s contributions to this group have been numerous and they are greatly appreciated.

“In the meantime, we look forward to the next person God will put in our path. We’re excited about what may lie ahead for us.” Personal appearances for Gold City are also scheduled through The Beckie Simmons Agency (www.bsaworld.com).

It seems the “Singing News cover curse” strikes again. For those who don’t know what I’m referencing, it’s a running joke that, like the “Sports Illustrated cover curse” in which the player featured on the cover usually suffers a serious injury afterwards, any group featured on the SN cover is usually due for a lineup change. Gold City was on the August 2010 edition.

Roy built quite a following with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and even more so with Gold City. While he will be missed, his contributions towards Gold City’s image and sound will leave a lasting mark, and his fan base is big enough that his solo ministry should do well.

The obvious question on everyone’s mind now is this: who will the new player be? I have a feeling it may be an “unknown,” but it is certain that whoever is picked will be an asset to what the group is doing now. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but I would love to see Garry Jones on the piano bench with the group again. His arranging and producing with the current vocal lineup is a match made in Heaven.

Southern Gospel Petition from Overseas

August 27, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Music

It’s been making the rounds around Southern Gospel blogs, but there is a petition to get a Weatherfords recording, In The Garden, released on CD. The request comes from The Netherlands, and though it may be a long shot, it’s worth signing: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/38572.html

CD Review: The Hoppers – Something’s Happening

August 20, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Hoppers

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Lari Goss
Label: Hopper Music
Website: www.thehoppers.com

Buy Here

Track list: “Victory Shall Be Mine,” “Oh How Amazing Is Amazing Grace,” “Something’s Happening,” “Nobody’s Too Bad Or Too Good,” “I’ve Been To Heaven,” “East of Jerusalem,” “Could It Be I’m Dreaming,” “He Remembers To Forget,” “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” “On The Authority,” “Living In The Arms Of Mercy,” “Statement Of Faith”

I’ll admit, I’m a casual fan of The Hoppers. Other than the occasional iTunes purchase of some of their more well-known songs and stuff they’ve done that I heard and enjoyed, I’m not all that familar with their work. I am, however, familiar enough to know that they have maintained a solid sound for the past few years, and this collection of songs is no exception.

The project opens with two upbeat tracks to grab the listeners attention. “Victory Shall Be Mine” has the typical orchestrated, driving sound that the group is known for, and “Oh How Amazing Is Amazing Grace” features a New Orleans big band style. On the other end of the spectrum, the title track is a big ballad that was originally done by male quartet Mercy’s Mark. The Hoppers take a more epic, ponderous approach to it than that group did, featuring the whole group on the first verse, Dean Hopper on the second, and Kim Hopper on the third verse, all the while building to the powerful chorus. What truly separates this version from any other, however, is Connie Hopper’s recitations sprinkled in between the verses, which fit in perfectly with both the lyrics and the sound of this song.

The other covers on the project include another Mercy’s Mark song, “Living In The Arms Of Mercy,” which is given a more traditional treatment this time around, and the GVB hit “On The Authority,” which is considerably jazzier than the Vocal Band rendition. The former features drummer Mike Hopper stepping behind the mic, and the latter, Dean Hopper. A Southern Gospel classic, “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” is also redone, and is slightly faster than most versions I’ve heard. That track features Claude Hopper in his only solo of the album.

Some of the other memorable songs from this project are “Nobody’s Too Bad Or Too Good,” which features Dean and Kim Hopper’s daughter Karlye, and is both well sung and well written, and “East of Jerusalem,” a big slow number that features Kim Hopper, and manages to be a great song in its own right without any sort of nod to the group’s hit, “Jerusalem.” The final song, “Statement of Faith,” features all the same vocalists that are on the version found on the Legacy Five project, Just Stand.

Final thoughts: In the world of modern Southern Gospel music, the names Lari Goss and The Hoppers are almost synonymous. Goss is once again behind the producer’s chair for this latest project, and the combination once again turns out a fine body of work. While not exactly exploring groundbreaking material for the group, this project sticks to the tried-and-true sound that The Hoppers have attained over the last few years, while still throwing in a few unique numbers to add flavor. One thing you can say about this group is this: they are consistent in the quality of their material. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” indeed.

Bottom line: Fans of The Hoppers, or quality Southern Gospel in general, will enjoy Something’s Happening.

Update on Tracy Stuffle

August 13, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Uncategorized

Reports have indicated that Tracy’s surgery is going well. They were grafting veins from his legs and he was in stable condition. Thank you all for your prayers!

Update: The surgery went off without a hitch. They are planning on taking the chest drainage tubes out and getting him  to walk around a little. He is in a lot of pain, but praise God he is doing well thus far!

CD Review: Gaither Vocal Band – Greatly Blessed

August 13, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Bill Gaither, David Phelps, & Michael English
Label: Gaither Music Group
Website: www.gaither.com

Buy Here

This project was purchased directly from the artist. This fact has no bearing on the final rating.

1. Better Day – The project starts off with a song that will be familiar to those who have seen the last DVD that the Vocal Band put out, as it was the title track. There are a few subtle differences in vocal arrangement and instrumentation from the live version, which make it more than just the studio version of a song that was previously introduced in a live setting. This track displays the smooth harmonies of the five-man lineup right up front and whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of the project, which makes it a good choice for an opener.

2. When He Blest My Soul – Like the previous track, this song was already featured on a DVD release. There’s added instrumentation here also, most notably the driving brass section that work with the organ and piano to inject energy into the song. The vocal arrangement is outstanding, most notably with David Phelps and Wes Hampton’s parts interchanging throughout the final chorus. While Gold City is the group that comes to my mind when this song is mentioned, the Vocal Band has a version that is just as good.

3. Love Like I’m Leavin’ – This is the third and final track that has already been introduced elsewhere. Nothing much differs between this take and the live one, but the studio version better highlights some of the vocal subtleties in the group harmonies.

4. You Are My All In All – In the first “new” song on the project, David Phelps’ arranging skills are brought to bear on this CCM classic. A cello brings in the start, and Pachelbel’s Canon in D is interwoven throughout the song with an acoustic guitar and violins. Phelps is featured on the verses, and keeps it pretty low-key for the most part before taking it up into classic power-tenor mode for the final chorus. Phelps’ arrangements are something the Vocal Band sorely missed, and this is a perfect example of why.

5. Please Forgive Me – This Crabb Family hit gets an orchestrated treatment and features Michael English. The emotion with which English sings is evident throughout the first verse and carries throughout the song. Some very smooth harmonies are sprinkled into the second verse, and then after the second chorus, an arpeggiated vocal lead-in brings in a powerful final chorus. This is one of the highlights of the disc, showcasing both the group’s power harmony and how much vocal strength English still has.

6. Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored – Right off the bat, you get the sensation you’ve heard this song before. That’s because, technically, you have. This Larry Gatlin and Bill Gaither cooperation takes the melody and rhythm of the Gatlin Brothers hit, “All The Gold In California” and changes the words to convey the message of being a “Greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect but forgiven child of God.” Wes Hampton takes the solo on the verse, and while the song is a definite re-write of a popular country tune, it thankfully manages to avoid the cheesiness factor and stands on its own two feet.

7. He’s Alive – Fans of Don Francisco or owners of David Phelps’ rare pre-Gaither solo project, Journey To Grace, will recognize this track. David Phelps displays that he can tell a story with a lyric like few other singers can, and while the final chorus is half a step lower than his solo take, the wall of five voices give it extra punch, and his suspended high note is no less powerful.

8. Ain’t Nobody – This song displays one of the most unique sounds on the album. This Michael English feature features some very precise group harmonies to start out, with Bill Gaither singing half a beat in front of the group, making for an interesting sound. I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe this track, but funky would be the best term. It’s bouncy, progressive, and different.

9. Clean – David Phelps displays a smooth, soft delivery on this Bill Gaither & Larry Gatlin creation. Wes Hampton is above Phelps on the tenor line, giving the backup lines by the rest of the group a very full sound that really takes the track to the next level.

10. Muddy Water – It’s back to the funky, gritty sound on this one. English’s vocal riffs at the beginning are reminiscent of those of Guy Penrod on the title track of the group’s 2008 project, Lovin’ Life. Gordon Mote supplies some very nice piano riffs throughout, and Bill Gaither’s standout bass lines on the last lines of the choruses are probably the strongest on the project.

11. That Sounds Like Home To Me – This Goodman’s classic hasn’t been covered all that much, so this was a good choice for a song to update. The group gives it a swing feel and the vocals display a tight sound not unlike what you would find on a Booth Brothers project. Michael English takes the first verse (which is only fitting, since he was in the 1982 Goodmans group that sang the song), and Mark Lowry is featured on the second. David Phelps leads an almost-acapella final chorus before the instruments come back in on the last half and bring the song to a soft close.

12. I Know How To Say Thank You – Mark Lowry gets his first full feature on the album with this song that many may know from when it was sung on a Homecoming video by Sarah DeLane and Marshall Hall. Mark’s tones have become fuller and richer with time, and this is one of his finest performances to date. A powerful final chorus brings all five parts in before softening up again for a quiet finish.

13. He Is Here – Wes Hampton takes a song that Kirk Talley is well-known for writing and singing and puts his own spin on it. Wes was a good tenor when he first joined the Vocal Band, but has really come into his own in his time with the group, and even more so in the five-man lineup, and this track proves it. The soaring melody brings out probably his best solo feature in his tenure with the group. A subdued choir in the background closes out the project with a fadeout.

Final thoughts: The past couple of projects that the Gaither Vocal Band had recorded had many people, including this blogger, wondering if Bill Gaither was bringing in the twilight of the Vocal Band and planning to retire. Other than a couple decent songs, there just seemed to be something lacking in the music. A lineup change that led to an unprecedented five members in the Vocal Band and the return of Michael English, David Phelps, and Mark Lowry to the ranks injected new excitement in the group, and the sound was incredible. The first project by the new group, Reunited, was good, but it had people longing for the group to do something truly new.

Greatly Blessed is that something new. Every vocalist is at the top of their game here, and the song selection and arrangements hearken back to both the vocal prowess of Phelps’ days with the group and the creativity of both that era and English’s first run. Part of the beauty of having five people is hearing how the parts are structured on each song; Wes Hampton and David Phelps do their fair share of swapping the tenor part, which make for some interesting background harmonies on each song.

Bottom line: This Vocal Band’s first real product of new material is a breath of fresh air into their discography, as it gives the group a chance to explore with different styles and use the five vocal parts to create a unique sound. There is simply no reason that Greatly Blessed should not get 5 stars.

Pray For Tracy Stuffle

August 11, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Uncategorized

Via Libbi Perry Stuffle’s Twitter page, Tracy Stuffle, the bass singer for The Perrys, has been taken to the heart center in Nashville. He was complaining of chest pains, and an EKG was done that revealed that his heart has four to five blockages, a couple of which are 99% blocked. There will be a bypass surgery tomorrow morning. Please keep he and the family in your prayers.

Update: The surgery has been put on hold because the doctors have discovered there may be an aneurysm on Tracy’s heart.

Southern Sound Quartet Announces New Bass Singer

August 09, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Southern Sound Quartet

From this press release at AbsolutelyGospel.com:

Rick Fair New Bass For Southern Sound Quartet

We wish to announce that Rick Fair has accepted the position of bass singer with Southern Sound Quartet. Rick brings a long and rich history with great quartet groups including Palmetto State and Hovie Lister and The Statesmen Quartet. We went through an exhaustive search for the right man, both in fine bass voice and Christian character, and Rick is the perfect fit.

Rick replaces Alan Brewster who is leaving the group to have more time to devote to his business in Ringgold, GA. Alan has made many friends during his tenure with Southern Sound, and many in the industry have come to recognize him as one of the finest bass singers ever to grace a stage. Alan and his lovely wife Pam will be missed more than words can say. They brought a touch of grace and character to Southern Sound, and are lasting members of our extended family. Although Alan will not be part of our touring ensemble, he will in fact, always be a member of Southern Sound and very much loved by all of us. Alan, we wish you and Pam only the best, as you have given your best, not only to us, but to your Heavenly Father. These two kind and generous people are the real thing. They both love the Lord and prove it everyday in their walk with Him. Be well my friends and go with God!

And now a new chapter begins with Rick Fair as the anchor of our group. Rick’s calm laid-back style is a perfect fit for our group. His voice is huge and powerful, and we look forward to the months and years ahead. This decision did not come lightly, but only after many hours of praying and asking God for His will. We had many great candidates contact us with interest in becoming our new bass singer, and we are honored by your interest in Southern Sound. In the end, Rick was both the voice and the man we felt fit us the best. Help us welcome Rick Fair to Southern Sound Quartet. And, be sure to come hear Rick on his first engagement with Southern Sound at Grand Ole Gospel Reunion in Greenville, SC in mid August.

Once again, Southern Sound impresses me twofold; they made a great hire in Fair, whose smooth bass voice I’ve missed hearing, and they also handle group changes better than most other groups out there. The press release is written well; they mention the reasons for the change, they commend the departing member on their contributions during their tenure with the group, and make it clear there are no hard feelings. However, they also devote equal attention to welcoming the new member.

I am looking forward to hearing the new vocal lineup of Southern Sound Quartet.

Youtube Find: New Mark Trammell Quartet Songs

August 05, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

In yet another find coming from user iamredeemed1, here’s some videos of the Mark Trammell Quartet in a concert that took place the same night as the Tribute Quartet concert mentioned earlier. As revealed in these clips, the group is staging songs from their new Daywind release, Testimony, which was produced by Lari Goss. I remember having a conversation with a couple of the group members a couple months ago, and they stated that this release would not predominantly feature the typical big, orchestration-driven sounds usually found in a Goss production (although they are certainly present on some tracks.) Judging from the clips, they were right. It actually sounds rather like something that any given lineup of the Cathedrals with Mark Trammell might have recorded.




Youtube Find: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – We Shall See Jesus

August 05, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG History, SG Music, Youtube

Ever since it had been let out of the bag that Ernie & crew would be doing “We Shall See Jesus” on their Cathedrals tribute project, speculation ran wild as to what the arrangement would sound like and who would be featured, as Haase did a good job of keeping both under wraps. Since the recent video taping, it was revealed that the featured soloist is none another than lead singer Devin McGlamery, in his first major project with Signature Sound.

Although it’s been said that a video of Glen Payne taking the third verse was shown at the taping, this Youtube clip shows McGlamery taking the song all the way through. This is the first time I’ve heard Devin really let loose with this group, and he does an incredible job of both doing justice to Payne’s performance and making it his own.


The New Tribute Quartet In Action

August 02, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, Tribute Quartet, Youtube

When it was announced that nineteen-year old Riley Harrison Clark had first joined Tribute Quartet as their tenor following Brian Alvey, there was a montage of clips of one of his first concerts with him, which can be found here. But now, Youtube user iamredeemed1 (who is becoming quite the go-to source for SG videos, particularly of new lineups) has posted several videos from a Tribute concert this past weekend. Several of the clips highlight Clark, and I’ll post them as they become available.