Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Archive for December, 2010

New Inspirations Baritone Revealed

December 27, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Statement of Faith, The Inspirations

If you look at comments on the various SG blogs these past couple of weeks, speculation and question has abounded as to who would be taking the baritone spot in The Inspirations following the sudden departure of Melton Campbell. That question was answered this morning via Daniel Mount: it is Jon Epley. Epley formerly sang baritone with Jacob Kitson (former Greater Vision tenor) and Jacob’s brother Joe in the new trio Statement of Faith. He announced this on his Facebook, but look for an announcement from the Inspirations group in the coming weeks.

I haven’t posted a review of Statement of Faith’s debut project on this site (yet!), but I will say that Epley will be a great fit with the Inspirations. He is a great singer, and, as Daniel Mount mentions, also plays piano, so he can fill in if Martin Cook should ever have to miss a date.

Be looking for an announcement about a new baritone for Statement of Faith soon!

Merry Christmas!

December 25, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Uncategorized

Merry Christmas to you and yours! May you have safe travels as you go to be with your families, and remember why we celebrate this time of year: Jesus.

CD Review: Greater Vision – Everything Christmas

December 24, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Greater Vision, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Lari Goss and Gerald Wolfe
Label: Greater Vision Music
Website: www.greatervisionmusic.com

Buy Here

Track list: Everything Christmas (Overture); God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Do You Hear What I Hear?; A Cradle In Bethlehem; It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year; O Holy Night; Sleigh Ride; I Heard The Bells; Grace Has A Face; There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays/I’ll Be Home For Christmas

I’m a pretty hard sell on Christmas music.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not the type that rages against the fact that we are bombarded with the stuff on the radio starting shortly after Thanksgiving and lasting till what seems like an eternity when Christmas rolls around. I will say, however, that I get bored with it really easily. After all, when all of your major radio stations in your car are blaring it, you tend to just go on autopilot and tune it out.

The same goes for Southern Gospel Christmas music. Every year, you’ll have at least a couple groups come out with a brand-new Christmas project, and most of them fail to stand out. In fact, they are downright lackluster. Needless to say, I was kind of wary about this particular project for that reason, but when I saw Lari Goss’ name in the credits, I knew that it couldn’t be that bad.

I’m glad to say my instinct was correct; the long-time team of Goss & Greater Vision have churned out a Christmas album that features classy arrangements of both Christmas classics and more recent songs. Most of the songs incorporate background vocals by the Voices of Lee, which further enhances the big sound of the album. The full-orchestra sound that Goss is famous for incorporating is in full swing here, even kicking off the project with an overture of music that includes “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year,” “Unspeakable Joy,” “Joy To The World,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “The First Noel,” “Gloria In Excelsis Deo,” and “Angels From The Realms of Glory.”

The first vocal performance of the project comes in the form of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” which features an arrangement not unlike the one The Cathedrals did on 1985’s A Cathedral Christmas A Cappella, although this one does have instrumentation. The trio takes a quartet arrangement and very ably makes it their own. The return of Chris Allman on tenor is made very prominent throughout the piece, and really kicks up on the last two verses. Speaking of Allman, if one has been under a rock for the past year, he need only listen to this project to hear that he has not lost a thing over the years; his feature on last verse of “Do You Hear What I Hear” is absolutely stellar. I can honestly say I did not expect that from a Greater Vision tenor, as they usually do not venture into that territory of high notes, but Allman handles it with aplomb.

Other highlights include Rodney Griffin’s take on a soft ballad with “A Cradle In Bethlehem” and Gerald Wolfe’s signature performance of “O Holy Night,” but really, there’s not a bad track on the project. Christmas projects usually have one or two “sleeper” songs, but I was pleasantly surprised with every single one here.

Bottom line: If you’re tired of the same boring Christmas music every year, let Everything Christmas rescue you from that. This project gets 5 stars.

Pre-Christmas Round-Up

December 23, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, HisSong, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

As the day of Christ’s birth comes closer, I received a couple news items that I didn’t have time to post in the last couple of days, but wanted to get to before posting my last CD review before Christmas:

1. Dixie Melody Boys joins Beyond Measure Marketing –

One of Southern Gospel’s most respected and beloved groups, The Dixie Melody Boys have signed with Beyond Measure Marketing. The legendary group is preparing for an exciting year in 2011. “We have many big events planned and will also be working on a new album shortly. We are excited to partner with Beyond Measure.” said Steven Cooper, baritone for the Dixie Melody Boys. Beyond Measure has established itself as the premier Southern Gospel Marketing company, with a family of artists that include The LeFevre Quartet, Mike Allen, Johnny Minick, The Blackwood Brothers, The Chuckwagon Gang, Perfect Heart, The Gospel Singing Caravan and many others. For more information on the Dixie Melody Boys, go to www.dixiemelodyboys.com or www.beyondmeasuremarketing.com.

I had figured it would only be a matter of time before this move happened when Matt Felts joined on tenor, as he is the owner of that company. The group currently has one of its strongest lineups in recent memory; perhaps joining this marketing company will help get that sound out there.

2. HisSong hires new baritone – Southern Spin Entertainment released this news earlier this week. Best of luck to both Adam Cannon and David Price!

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – (December 21, 2010) – Vine Records/Crossroads recording artist and Dove Award nominated artist HisSong has named David Price as the group’s new baritone vocalist. HisSong temporarily hired David for 90 days until they knew for sure that he was a right fit. After the 90-day trial period – David was hired as the full-time baritone vocalist.

Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, David is 22 years old, and he began singing at a young age. David sang with Michigan-based quartet The Calvarymen for two years prior to joining HisSong.

HisSong owner/manager Dennis Humphries states,  “I am proud to have David as a part of HisSong.  David is an awesome singer and brings a lot of energy to the group.  We’re excited to have David as a part of this team.  David is doing an outstanding job, and everywhere we go, people are loving him.”

The group’s previous baritone vocalist, Adam Cannon, sang with HisSong for the last four years. Cannon left the group to pursue a ministry with his wife, Samantha, that will include both singing and preaching.

Dennis added, “I was sad to see Adam go but knew that God had amazing things in store for HisSong.  We all became like brothers, and although we miss Cannon and still have a close friendship with him, our prayers are with Adam, Samantha & Noah.”

HisSong will be entering the studio soon to begin recording their brand new project for Vine/Crossroads Records. Dove Award-winning producer and songwriter Wayne Haun will once again produce this project. Haun has produced HisSong’s last three recordings as well – Watching & Waiting, Dove-nominated On the Way Up, and their current release Journey Through the Sky, which was nominated for Album of the Year in the 2010 SGN Music Awards.

Friends, family, and friends are encouraged to call and request HisSong’s latest single – “When We Talk to the Father.” This is HisSong’s third Top 40 single from their latest release – Journey Through the Sky.

HisSong is booked through the Adoration Agency.  For more information on how to book the popular trio, log on to http://www.adorationagency.com or call (910) 426-1931.

HisSong also has a weekly online newsletter which gives fans of the group information on the ministry and much more.

More information on HisSong can be found at http://www.hissongmusic.com. Fans are encouraged to visit the group’s Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hissongmusic .

Be looking either late today or early tomorrow for my review of Greater Vision’s Everything Christmas!

New Gold City Lead Singer Announced

December 19, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Well, that was fast!

A trip to the Singing News website today revealed that Gold City has announced their new lead singer, who is taking the position after the resignation of Bruce Taliaferro:

Gold City has announced that Craig West  of Jasper, Alabama, is the group’s new lead vocalist. (emphasis mine.)

His first date with Gold City will be Thursday, Dec. 30, 2010, in Villa Rica, Georgia.

“Bruce Taliaferro, who sang with our group for three years, is a dear friend,” adds Daniel Riley, “and one of the finest lead singers to come along in years. I will miss singing and traveling with him. I look forward to introducing Craig to the friends of Gold City at a concert or church service near you soon.”

Diana Brantley (DinanaSN on various forums and Youtube) has already said on the Southern Gospel Forums that she will be there to take videos of Craig’s debut concert, but in the meantime, she has captured several videos of him over the years. These three videos are of the “No Name Quartet,” an unnamed group that was set to hit the road a couple years ago but never did. Brent Mitchell, the current Gold City tenor, was filling in for this first concert while the group was searching for a full-time tenor. Josh Feemster (Mercy’s Mark) sang the lead, Craig was the baritone, and Gold City soundman and former Mercy’s Mark bass Chris West (brother to Craig) was the bass singer:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXKsNOaX3q0

What has struck me most about Craig, both when I first heard him and now, is how much he sounds like a young Michael English, all the while having a style of his own. He’s a great choice for the part; he definitely has the range to handle the material, and there’s the added bonus of having sung with Brent Mitchell before (he, Brent, and Chris had a quartet of their own several years back), so that will make for a strong blend.

Another good thing is that, according to several reports I’ve seen, Chris West is running sound with the group, but is getting called up to sing several songs each night. This leads me to believe that when Tim Riley eventually retires again, Chris will step in as the new bass. This will give Gold City three singers that have previously sung together, plus Daniel Riley. That will make for a great sound, and it should be similar to the current one; Chris already has the depth and power in his voice that Tim has, and that can only grow stronger with time.

Craig should be on the upcoming mainline release, so, much like Bruce did when he first joined, he’ll have new material with which to make a name for himself. Gold City has made a great pick here; they managed to get a lead singer that has the command of a vocalist like Ivan Parker or Jonathan Wilburn, while having Bruce Taliaferro’s soulful sound as well.

Update: David Bruce Murray left a comment with a link to a post on his blog that Kyle Boreing put up this morning featuring two clips of the Promise Quartet, a group that Brent, Craig, and Chris sang in together. Throw in Daniel Riley and you could be hearing what Gold City will end up sounding like in the near future, claims Kyle. Check them out!

The first clip, “Glory Land” features Craig and shows off some of his upper range that I, personally, didn’t realize he possessed, and is very uncommon for a lead singer to have. After hearing that, I hear some similarities between he and Josh Feemster. The second clip, “Turn Your Back” features Chris. Coincidentally, that song was done on Gold City’s last mainline release, Moment of Truth.

CD Review: Dustin Rogers – Consider The Gospel

December 18, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Dustin Rogers, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Producers: Dustin Rogers, Keith Rogers, Derek Rogers
Label: Independent Release
Website: www.dustinrogersmusic.com

Track list: Consider The Gospel; Little Maria; He’s Been There; Lord, Pierce My Heart; I Still Miss You; Handing My Life To You; That Kid; I Worship You; Just A Word; Open My Eyes

Hear a full preview of this project.

Every once in a while, I’ll receive a project to review that is from an artist that may never rise to the ranks of national renown, but they produce a body of work which has a quality on-par with those groups and people that have that privilege. Such is the case with this album from Dustin Rogers, a pastor in Nebraska. According to a short bio on his website, Rogers has been playing guitar and writing music since his college days. This collection of songs he has written over the years is his debut recording project.

On Consider The Gospel, the listener who is looking for fully orchestrated tracks and a heavy sound will be disappointed. The music on this project is more on the “scaled-back” side, with most of the instrumentation being centered around the acoustic guitar (played by Rogers), often supplemented with piano, bass guitar, and on some tracks, a fiddle or kick drum. This approach to the music allows the songs to speak clearly and for themselves rather than being buried behind big production. Since Rogers probably wrote and arranged most of these pieces primarily on the guitar, the stripped-down sound gives them a more personal feel as well.

The songs range from Gospel songs to folk songs with a Christian message. The title track starts off with two verses of the hymn “Man of Sorrows” before segueing into a song in which the singer ponders how powerful the impact of the Gospel story is. From there, the album covers the adoption of a Romanian girl living in poverty (“Little Maria), dealing with the loss of a loved one, but living with the hope that they are in Heaven (“I Still Miss You,”), a sobering narrative on a “problem” child (“That Kid,”), and a story about how just the simple act of striking up a conversation with a stranger ended up being an encouragement to both the stranger and the conversation starter. Most of those songs were written from personal experiences in Rogers’ life (many of which are told on his website), and it gives each a quality that any listener can relate to. The rest of the tracks are songs of worship that, like the other songs, have a very real, accessible feel.

Final thoughts: When I heard that this was a debut project, and that it was a collection of songs all written and arranged by the person doing the singing, I almost groaned. Most of the time, the trouble with these kinds of albums is that they fall into the trap of producing a bunch of songs that all sound so similar that it becomes bland and monotonous. Not so with Consider The Gospel. Rogers has managed to avoid that, and instead wrote songs that stand on their own two feet. Each one, like I mentioned earlier, has a message we can all relate to, and the lyrics are often thought-provoking. It is always refreshing to hear songs that can appeal to everyone, not just a selective audience.

Bottom line: For a songwriting and recording debut, Consider The Gospel is a fine piece of work.

Weekend Roundup 12/18

December 18, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

1. There were several weddings that occurred this week in the Southern Gospel world. Congratulations to Madison Easter and Brooklyn Collingsworth on their respective marriages!

2. Bruce Taliaferro has resigned from the lead singer position for Gold City. There have been rumblings of this over the past week or so, but Daniel Mount broke the story this morning. The replacement will be named soon, presumably before January. Since a press release is forthcoming, I won’t name the replacement, but I will say this: he hasn’t been with a particularly well-known group yet, but he is a fantastic young singer that has deserved some recognition for a while. I, for one, I’m very excited to see and hear what he will bring to the table.

Phil Collingsworth To Undergo Brain Surgery

December 14, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Collingsworth Family

Via Daniel Mount, the father and baritone for the Collingsworth Family will be having brain surgery done this morning. According to Courtney Collingsworth’s Facebook page, the procedure is being done to “move a brainstem artery that is compressing one of the nerves that controls the movement on the right side of his face.”

Update: According to all reports, the surgery went well. This post should have posted this morning, but an error in the auto-post option prevented it from doing so. Sorry!

Weekend Roundup 12/11

December 11, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music

1. Former Imperials and Stamps tenor Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen has passed away. According to several Facebook posts, Nielsen went home at about 11:00 yesterday morning after a courageous battle with cancer. Nielsen has always been one of my favorite tenors, and I really enjoyed his work with the aforementioned groups. At the time of this posting, there have been no obituaries (EDIT: Absolutely Gospel just posted one here),but I managed to find some Youtube clips in tribute to him. Here’s one of him singing with the Statesmen Quartet in 1971. Jim Hill takes the lead here, but Nielsen’s tenor soars in the background harmonies.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvBDZPzvHVc

Although this clip is well past his prime, this demonstrates his sound in his later years with “Hide Thou Me,” with the Statesmen in 1995:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em0FUHlF-cQ

2. In light of Daniel Mount’s recent review of a Men of Music project and ensuing discussion, I decided to go on a Youtube hunt just for fun to find something that featured Chris West singing bass with them, since he has been a topic of discussion lately whenever Gold City is mentioned. Here’s what I found:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11wLQYT8SQM

Although the difference between his sound then and now is night and day, it’s fun to step back in time and hear how he sounded early in his career. Enjoy!

Former Chuck Wagon Gang Tenor Passes Away

December 08, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Chuck Wagon Gang, SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music

An obituary honoring one of the best-known members of the Chuck Wagon Gang was released today, highlighting all the contributions he made in his time with the group. Eddie Carter passed away on Monday morning at the age of 91. While I’m not all that familiar with the Chuck Wagon Gang’s body of work, I feel this is worth noting, especially since Carter was the replacement for one of the Gang’s original members.

Eddie Carter, the last living son of Dad and Mom Carter, passed away on Monday morning, December 6, 2010 in Texas from complications from pneumonia. He was 91 years old.

He was born Nov. 15, 1919 in Noel, MO, and was the middle child of the Carter sibblings. He met his wife, Carrie, in 1940, and recently the couple celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. He retired in 1984 as service manager for Maynard Foods. He was preceeded in death by his daughter, Rebecca Ann (Becky) Stout, and son, David Parker Carter III.

After D. P. “Dad” Carter retired from active participation with the Chuck Wagon Gang in 1955, Eddie became his replacement. In the mid-50’s, the Chuck Wagon Gang headquartered in Knoxville, TN for a couple of years, and were promoted and booked by Rev. and Mrs. J. Bazzel Mull of Knoxville. Prior to this time, all recordings by The Chuck Wagon Gang were recorded in Texas. With the move to Knoxville, the Chuck Wagon Gang began recording all sessions in Nashville.

On October 6, 1956, Eddie recorded his first eight songs with the Gang, along with his sisters Rose and Anna, his brother Roy, and his brother-in-law Howard Gordon, guitarist and husband of Anna. Songs recorded were: I’ll Walk and Talk With My Lord”, “When I Looked Up and He Looked Down”, “Sing On The Way”, “I Know (Yes, I Know)”, “He’s My Lord and King”, “Inside the Gate”, “There’s Gonna Be Singing”, and “I’m Headed for the Promised Land.” While the songs were of the old-time flavor, they were different with the “new” Nashville Sound. They were released as singles to gospel and country music stations, and the songs dominated the airways.

Eddie’s time was short lived with The Gang at this time, but he later returned for some tour dates in the early to mid 70’s, and recorded on all Chuck Wagon Gang Columbia Records sessions from 1971-1975. The 1975 sessions marked an end to a 39-year association with Columbia Records. Eddie, along with his sister, Anna, made their final recordings with The Gang, on February 13, 1978, as “Old Fashioned Singing,” This was a collection of 20 greatest recorded for TV on an independent label, Tame Records.

Eddie made some later special appearances at Grand Ole Gospel, National Quartet Convention in Nashville, and other events. He was on tour again for some special appearances in 1993-4 with Ruth Ellen Carter Yates, Roy Carter, Shaye Smith. He was present for The Chuck Wagon Gang’s induction into the GMA Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1998.

Survivors include his wife, Carie; son, Clyde (Buster) Carter; daughter-in-law, Sheri Carter; son-in-law, Jerry Stout; grandchildren, Eddie III and wife, Vicki, Danny Stout, Jonathan Stout and wife, Ashley, Nicole Carter Hawthorne and husband, Matt, Aaron Carter and Alayne Hollis and Jake Carter; great-grandchildren, Carley, Kelsey, Madison Carter, Merek and Maddox “Peanut” Hawthorne, Evan Stout, Zoey and Parker Carter and Gaige Carter; and sisters, Ruth Ellen Yates and Betty Goodwin

Funeral arrangements: 10 a.m. Wednesday, December 8 at Victory Baptist Church (2910 Layton Ave., Fort Worth, TX 76117 – 817-834-1502). Interment will be at Mount Olivet Cemetery. Visitation: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, December 7 at Mount Olivet Funeral Home.