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

Archive for August, 2011

News & Such 8/20

August 20, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Diplomats, The Kingsmen

1. The Dixie Melody Boys have had quite a few things come down the pipe this past week. First, owner and bass singer Ed O’Neal fell six feet before a recent concert appearance, coming away with a broken leg and having to get eight stitches in his hand. It would certainly have been understandable if the group had just done the concert as a trio, but O’Neal insisted on doing the entire concert sitting on a stool. He will not be missing any dates. Talk about dedication!

2. The second Dixie Melody Boys happening is in preparation for their 50th Anniversary Celebration at this year’s NQC. There will be two events for this, and apparently will feature all former members that can attend, as well as the current group. From a press release sent today:

The Dixie Melody Boys will be celebrating their 50th Anniversary with two very special events at this years National Quartet Convention. These events will include all former and current members who can attend. Over the years, the group has lost contact with some of the former members. If you are a DMB Alumni or have contact with one, please email Matt Felts through the Dixie Melody Boys website or call 615-335-0743. We don’t want anyone to be left out of this once in a lifetime event. More information will be announced soon for the fans who will want to be a part of this historic celebration.

3. The Kingsmen’s owner and bass singer, Ray Dean Reese, has announced his diagnosis of prostate cancer. He is optimistic about his future treatment, and plans to be on the road with The Kingsmen through it all.

4. Song Garden Music Group has announced their signing of The Diplomats. The popular family group will release their debut project with the label this fall.

Burman Porter Rejoins The Dove Brothers

August 15, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dove Brothers

Yes, you read that right. According to a Facebook status and employment change from Porter himself, he is once again the bass singer for the group.  No word on where David Hester went or when this goes into effect, Via DBM, David Hester is leaving to be closer to his grandchildren and family, and Porter is starting in early September. A press release is forthcoming.

I have long thought that the finest lineup(s) of the group happened when Porter was present. I was talking to a blogger friend of mine, and he made a statement that I pretty much agree with: “I really liked David Hester in many ways, but Burman brought something special that just worked with McCray’s and Eric’s voices.” While my personal preferences go more to Porter’s voice than Hester’s, he turned in some good performances in his time with the group, the two I had in mind being “Face to Face with Grace” and the updated arrangement of the Oak Ridge Boys tune, “King Jesus” on his last studio release with the group. Whatever his plans are for the future, best wishes.

Join me in welcoming Burman Porter back on the road!


Update: Via DBM, David Hester is leaving to be closer to his grandchildren and family.
Update 2: AbsolutelyGospel.com has the  press release from the Dove Brothers here. It mentions the fact that the move was unofficially announced last week at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion during the Original Dove Brothers’ set. Money quote from McCray Dove on Hester’s departure:

Hester is leaving the road to go home and be a full-time grandfather.

McCray Dove of the Dove Brothers said, “It’s really that simple. We have been nothing but happy with David in the group. He was just ready to start planning his retirement and watch his grandkids grow up. David has been an essential part of our team, and we will miss him greatly.”

First Look: Dixie Echoes 2011

August 14, 2011 By: Aaron Category: First Look, SG Artists, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes, Youtube

Stewart Varnado just posted this clip of the new lineup of the Dixie Echoes, featuring new additions Michael Helwig on tenor and Mike Jennings singing bass. This standard for tenor singers features Helwig, although Jennings can be heard on the chorus. This clip is a great show of the potential that this new combination of singers has. It is worth noting that this is their first full concert together, and the first time that they have sung this song.

Update: Another video has just been posted from the same concert, this one featuring Mike Jennings. He is singing a song I don’t believe the group has staged since Pat Barker’s time with them: “How Big Is God.” This both gives a better insight to Jennings’ voice, and gives Helwig some of Wesley Smith’s higher notes to hit. Check it out:

Dixie Echoes Hire New Vocalists

August 10, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes

Last week, the news broke that the Dixie Echoes had filled the vacancy left by departing bass singer Trent Adams with a relative newcomer: Mike Jennings. See Daniel Mount’s post about the hire, which includes videos highlighting his sound, here.

Today, the announcement was made about a new tenor for the group following Wesley Smith’s move to the Palmetto State Quartet. In a surprising move, the group has hired a lead/baritone singer: Michael Helwig. You may remember him from groups such as The Wilburns, The Stamps, and The Williamsons (formerly The Homesteaders.) In all of those groups, he sang lead or baritone. Most recently, Helwig was the lead singer for the Blackwood Quartet. I was at the concert where he debuted with the group, though interestingly enough, he was the quartet’s new tenor, coming in after Dale Evans left. He did a fantastic job, but moved down to lead when David Mann went to Statement of Faith. Here are some videos of Helwig with the Blackwood Quartet:




Daniel Mount has linked to another video in his post about the move which highlights Michael’s tenor singing. Needless to say, Helwig has quite a range. I have been impressed with his vocal ability for quite a while and will be looking forward to hearing him as a Dixie Echo. I agree with Daniel: look for this lineup of the Dixie Echoes to generate buzz soon.

Greatest Hits Collections, And Why Buy Them?

August 06, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music

Steve Eaton’s latest View From The Back Row is an album review of sorts; Daywind Records and Brian Free & Assurance are releasing a new project right on the heels of their latest mainline release, Never Walk Alone. The “new” part can be debated, however, since this is just a compilation of fourteen of the group’s hit songs.

The post addresses a point I absolutely agree with: what incentive is there for long-time fans to get this CD? Chances are, they already have the original projects from which each song is taken. With a group as popular and as long-lived as BF&A, I’d say brand-new fans are not going to be the vast majority, so really, this project would just be another ho-hum compilation. Another point brought up was the merit of placing a couple of new songs alongside the old, which would be that incentive to buy this release.

I’ll take that last point a bit further; the only thing that would make a Greatest Hits project break the mold from all the other ones is re-making the hits. New vocals, new tracks, possibly even new arrangements. New songs are optional, but with the current group putting their own stamp on the group’s hits, the interest factor to buy the thing is there for both new and old fans of the group. A good example of this would be Legacy Five’s Decade release. This was a greatest hits compilation marking the group’s ten-year anniversary. Rather than being a run-of-the-mill “let’s throw together the best stuff we’ve ever done” CD, the group actually went in and cut all-new tracks and vocals for each song, some of them with slightly different arrangements. There were also a couple songs that were previously unrecorded that went right alongside the others. Another interesting thing this project did was include a second CD that had the original cuts of the songs, giving an easy way to compare the renditions.

Was each new cut better than the original? In some cases, I personally liked the older version better, but at least I was given the chance to compare. Groups don’t necessarily have to go all-out with a two-disc release of the originals and the newer version, but a compilation that breathes new life into the group’s hits would likely get fans to pay quicker than what is usually done. Plus, only releasing projects like this on a big event (like a ten-year anniversary, for instance) would avoid an over-saturation of the market with a bunch of Hits releases.

The greatest hits project concept is a good one, but if more groups don’t give an incentive to buy them, it will continue to become a tired trend.