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

Archive for December, 2011

A Look At The New Dove Brothers Lineup, And A New Song Spotlight

December 28, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Dove Brothers, Youtube

Youtube is an amazing tool. I found a high quality clip of the group singing a brand new song that I assume McCray Dove wrote, and it’s probably one of the better ones I’ve heard from him. There haven’t been too many videos of the group since Keith Casstevens joined as tenor, other than a couple in the beginning, so it’s nice to hear more from this form of the group. It’s clear that Casstevens brings a different tenor sound than the group is used to having.


As good as the sound is, I want to draw particular attention to the lyrics of the song. It should be a wake-up call for a lot of people, both fans and industry personnel alike. I know that I, personally, was gripped. I can think of several examples right in the world of Southern Gospel music where someone failed in some way, and people in both camps I mentioned were guilty of kicking them when they were down. Granted, some go on living like the Devil and seem to have no intention of changing that, but how many of them have been truly, sincerely sorry and have repented of what they have done, only to be shunned and cast out by those that are commanded to forgive? It’s a slap in the face of the One who created them, loves them, and forgave them, no matter what they did. May such an attitude of unforgiveness, contradictory to what God commands, not be found in us.

Kingsmen Looking For New Tenor

December 26, 2011 By: Aaron Category: LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen


Change has hit The Kingsmen yet again. The group announced the departure of tenor Harold Reed today, and he is making the move to The LeFevre Quartet. From Brandon Reese:

The Kingsmen announce the departure of tenor Harold Reed.

“I have been blessed to sing with one of my favorite Quartets for the past 4 1/2 years and now I feel it is time for me to start the next chapter in my singing career and join The Lafever Quartet,” says Harold. “Sometimes the Lord tells you it is just time and I will truly miss Ray and the rest of the guys but I am comfortable knowing we will remain in contact.”

“The Kingsmen will be celebrating 55 years of music ministry in 2012. Through those years we have had the most talented and enjoyable team members but more importantly good Christians work with our organization,” says Brandon Reese. “Harold is no exception. I know God is in control and has a plan for The Kingsmen. We are more committed than ever to spread the gospel in song all throughout 2012 and beyond.”

For consideration of the tenor position please send all info and demos to: ray@kingsmenquartet.com or brandon@kingsmenquartet.com

Harold is replacing the departing Jeremy Easley. I was very impressed with Easley in the couple times I saw him in a live setting and am looking forward to seeing where he ends up. I have no doubt he’ll be singing in some capacity!

I had a hunch that this move might happen when I saw Harold filling in with the LeFevre Quartet on TBN the other night. I’m very interested to see who The Kingsmen might hire; their tenor part is notorious for being demanding, especially on the older material. Perhaps a young, upcoming talent that hasn’t really been widely heard yet will take the spot.

For a taste of how the LeFevre Quartet will sound, here are their two songs from their TBN apperance. Bass singer Brandon Barry was out in the hospital and Mike Allen was filling in. The addition of Reed gives them a different sound than they are used to, but it’s still good.

CD Review: Three Bridges – Christmas Must Be Tonight

December 21, 2011 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Three Bridges

Rating: 3 stars

Producer: Rick Sandidge
Label: The Mansion Entertainment
Website: www.threebridges.net

This trio gets the distinction of being the only group to have a Christmas project come across my desk for review this year. I was looking forward to hearing another CD by Three Bridges, since I was so impressed with their last effort, and after reading a review of this particular one at Musicscribe shortly after receiving the project in the mail, my interest was even piqued.

Kicking it all off is the upbeat, light rock-tinged title track featuring lead singer Shannon Smith. This style seems to be the one that the group clicks the most with. The song takes three perspectives: a traveler going to see the newborn Jesus, the shepherds on the hillside, and someone dreaming on the night of Jesus’ birth. Though the lyrics do seem random in this way, the song ties them together well, and this is one of my personal favorite tracks.

The Drifters’ arrangement of “White Christmas” comes next, reuniting Smith and tenor Jeremie Hudson with their former Imperials partner, Ian Owens, as a guest bass vocalist. Though it would have made it impossible for the group to do this song live had Owens gotten the feature as the original arrangement dictates (the bass got the first verse and standout lines on the chorus in The Drifters version), part of me wishes he had gotten it instead of being confined to background vocals. Baritone Elliott McCoy takes those features instead, with Hudson taking the second verse. Owens shows up at background vocals again on “Mary Had A Baby.” The sound on both of these tracks sounds remarkably like the later versions of The Imperials, especially when Smith and Hudson start ad-libbing on “Mary Had A Baby.”

Other high points include “Mary Did You Know,” which follows the Gaither Vocal Band arrangement pretty closely but showcases the beautiful high harmony of the group, an uptempo arrangement of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” that is probably the most unique I’ve heard in quite a while, a mellow Hudson feature in “He Came Here For Me,” and another unique arrangement of a classic carol in “Noel.”

As a whole, Christmas projects are something that I can take or leave. Unless they offer something different from the stuff that usually permeates the airwaves this time of year, you can count me out. Three Bridges offers enough interesting arrangements and songs that haven’t been recorded by everybody and their brother that it has earned multiple plays on my iPod and in my car. Though not every song is a solid choice, this CD is a fine effort. If you’re a Three Bridges fan, or just want another Christmas collection to play every year, Christmas Must Be Tonight is a good choice.

Online Concerts: Flash In The Pan, or Starting A Trend?

December 17, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Booth Brothers, Concert Reviews, SG Artists, SG History, SG Music

Last week, I won a ticket to a Booth Brothers concert in a giveaway on SouthernGospelBlog.com. Big deal, you might say. Here’s the catch: the concert was not in a church, a concert hall, or even outdoors. No, the concert was held in the living/dining room area of a recording studio (I believe it was Homeland), and the audience consisted of myself and many others across the United States, and even in foreign countries, if I remember correctly. This wonder was accomplished with a relatively new technology that has found its way to our genre of music. Thanks to the American Society of Gospel Music (ASGM), that concert was one of the first to be held in a new venue: online.

To be clear, musical events being broadcast online is surely not a new event. National Quartet Convention has had a live stream on the web for several years, and the Singing News Fan Awards are also available to watch online, as well as other events throughout the year.  What separates these events from what the Booth Brothers did last night is the fact that these events have a live audience and just happen to be available for online viewing. The Booth Brothers sang to zero live audience; the concertgoers were all watching from computers. The dynamic of audience participation was absent, and there was no applause. In a live concert setting, they also don’t have to deal with the concert completely going out (at least, I’d hope not!). I was impressed with the class with which the Booth Brothers handled all the technical difficulties, giving the full music and Q&A section as promised.

The question here is whether or not this will become a more regular thing. This concept of using technology usually reserved for “webinars” to hold an online concert is certainly an interesting one, and the ASGM, by all indications, is planning on conducting more. Before the BB concert, there was a full schedule being displayed of other groups doing online concerts in the coming months.

I would say that this will catch on, but only if they can work to bring the technical issues down to a minimum (which is certainly not their fault; technology can be fickle). There are enough SG fans with an Internet connection these days that the idea of paying for a ticket to watch your favorite group do a concert for you online would be appealing, especially if they don’t come to your area very much. However, if half the concert experience is spent waiting for the thing to come back online, the advent of concerts on the Internet will go on a fast decline.

Bob Sellers Joins The Kingsmen

December 16, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

In a move that has been much speculated on and expected, Capstone Quartet lead singer Bob Sellers has come in as the new lead singer for The Kingsmen. Here’s the press release:

The Kingsmen are pleased to welcome Bob Sellers to the quartet, filling the vacancy created by the departure of BryanHutson. “I am so excited to become a member of the legendary Kingsmen Quartet family,” says Bob. “I’m thankful for this opportunity that Ray and Brandon Reese have given me, and I look forward to meeting every single Kingsmen fan.

“The first song I recall singing with my mom and sister in our little country church was ‘A Place Where The Hungry Are Fed,’ so it is a dream come true to now stand on stage with the group that introduced that song and so many other great songs to Gospel music. I will work with all that is within me to continue the proud tradition that is The Kingsmen Quartet and, most importantly, to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in song effectively. I cannot wait to see what God has in store!

Bob’s first concert will be in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada on December 31, 2011.

Sellers has filled in for two Kingsmen singers recently: the first was Bryan Hutson a couple months ago when he had to be away for a funeral. Most recently, he was filling in for Randy Crawford when he was out for his heart operation. Here’s a taste of what he sounds like, singing “For God So Loved” with the Capstone Quartet:

For a taste of his sound with The Kingsmen, here’s “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet.” Hat tip goes to my friend Andrew Graham for this find:

If the videos are any indication, Sellers will be a great fit.

Bryan Hutson Joins Soul’d Out Quartet

December 14, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet, The Kingsmen

At long last, the word has finally come out. The “mystery man” that is coming to the group after the departure of Tanner Stahl earlier this month is none other than Kingsmen lead singer Bryan Hutson. Here’s an open letter from Hutson on this move:

I want to thank the many friends that I have made while being involved in Gospel Music as well as Worship Ministry. You have embraced me since I began singing with my brother in “The New Generation” in 1985. I started traveling fulltime with “The Heartland Quartet” in 1993. Your continued support, love and encouragement through both my tenures with “The Kingsmen” is deeply appreciated. In early November, I decided to follow God’s leading and give my resignation with “The Kingsmen.”

January of 2012 will mark a new chapter in my gospel music career. I will be joining one of America’s best new groups, “Soul’d Out Quartet”. In fact, the group was awarded “Horizon Group of The Year” (Favorite New Group) in the Singing News Magazine Fan Awards in 2010. Matt Rankin (lead), Dusty Barrett (tenor), Matt Fouch (bass) and Michael Howard (piano) make up “Soul’d Out Quartet”. I will share lead vocalist duties with Matt Rankin. SOQT is a solid quartet who sings straight ahead Southern Gospel Music with a progressive sound. I’m very excited to see what God has in store for our future! Over the past several years, I have developed a friendship with members of the group. I believe the men of “Soul’d Out” are men of integrity and have a heart for ministry that mirrors my own passion. I know my friends and family will love the music and ministry of “Soul’d Out” as much as I do.

My wife, Yvonne, and I have been seeking God and wise counsel about this decision and feel that this is a door God has opened. The tour schedule for “Soul’d Out” is a better fit for me as a husband and father. This opportunity will also allow us to reach our long term goals as a family.

I joined my all time favorite group “The Kingsmen” in 1996 under the late Eldridge and Greg Fox. The 5 years that I spent learning from the Fox’s, the late Jim Hamill and Ray Reese were some of the best years of my life. Upon returning for my second run with “The Kingsmen” in 2007, we have seen lives changed through our music. I want to thank Ray and Brandon Reese and “The Kingsmen” for allowing me to be a part of the continuing Kingsmen legacy.

I would like to ask for your continued support, encouragement and prayers for my family and both groups. I am looking forward to seeing each of you at upcoming “Soul’d Out Quartet” concerts. Please check our website for upcoming performances: www.souldoutquartet.com

In His Will,

Can’t argue with that. Family is often a reason for changes made in a singer’s career, and I am glad that Hutson didn’t beat around the bush in stating that as the reason. I also appreciate that he didn’t simply say, “I want more time with my family.” He was open and transparent and explained the move well. Not that every singer has to live in a glass house, but it’s a refreshing change from the usual cliches. The classiness is also admirable; both the group he is going to and the group he is leaving get equal treatment, and it’s nice to see a singer that is making a move from one quartet to another have good things to say about their former employer.

The Kingsmen have also put out a press release:

From The Kingsmen

Bryan Hutson will be leaving the Kingsmen this December and will be joining Soul’d Out Quartet.

Brandon Reese states, “In November, Bryan came to me and stated that he felt it was time to make a change in his professional career. He also told me that he had been seeking God’s will in an opportunity to stay home more with his family. I commended him for letting the Lord lead in his life. The door opened for Bryan to join Matt Rankin and the rest of Soul’d Out (who are based out of Columbus, OH) and as many of you know is only an hour or 2 from where Bryan grew up in Batesville, IN. Bryan stated to me that joining Soul’d Out is perfect for the long term goals of his family and until then will maintain his residence in Asheville, NC with his wife Yvonne and four children Alexa, Jake, Bailey and Jordan. I, along with the other Kingsmen members, wish to thank Bryan for his two tenures here and his continuing friendship.”

I am planning on seeing Soul’d Out in January, and I am looking forward to hearing how the group’s sound changes with Bryan on board. Hearing Matt Rankin and Bryan Hutson swap parts will be interesting for sure! Be sure to check out the group if they are near you; I have a feeling the future for this quartet is very bright!

Update: Soul’d Out Quartet has also issued a release on the change:

We would like to inform everyone that Tanner will be leaving Sould Out Quartet and will be pursuing other interests. He will be missed by many and SOQT would like to thank Tanner for being part of this ministry for four and a half years. We ask that you pray for Tanner and his family as he is starting a new path. We believe that God has orchestrated this change and we pray that he will continue to bless Tanner as well as SOQT.

Coming the first of 2012, Matt Rankin will be assuming the baritone position and Bryan Hutson, a Kingsmen Quartet icon, will be taking the lead. We are excited that God has placed us together and we look forward to seeing how the Lord blesses the new line up. As always, the heartbeat of the ministry is to reach the lost, encourage the saints, and make a difference in people’s lives.

We will be releasing two new recordings after the first of the year. Coming the first part of January will be a hymns and old songs CD called “Soulace.” Then a brand new CD with all original songs called “What the World Doesn’t Know” at the end of January. We are very excited about both of these projects and we pray they will spiritually affect the lives of those who listen.

Tanner Stahl Departs Soul’d Out Quartet

December 05, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet

After five years as baritone for the Soul’d Out Quartet, Tanner Stahl has announced via Facebook that he is leaving the group. From Tanner:

A couple of months ago, Ashley and I felt led to begin praying the Prayer of Jabez. Things started happening in our lives! We were determined, no matter what happened we were going to trust Him and stick to His plan. God started closing doors He wanted closed and opening doors that He wanted opened. It has been amazing to watch Him work in our lives! One of the doors He closed was Soul’d Out Quartet. The hardest part of this change in our life is saying goodbye to all of the many friends we have gotten to know and love over the last five years. We want to thank you for your love, support, and encouragement— it never went unnoticed and was always greatly appreciated! Wherever He leads, we will go—please continue to pray for us and we will continue to pray for you. God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

I have been a fan of Tanner’s for quite a while. He was present for some of the group’s best years and projects thus far and while it’s sad to see him go, I’m glad that he and his wife are following where God leads. Best of wishes to the Stahls!

As a tribute to him, here’s a video of one of my favorite features of his, and it happens to be one of my favorite songs: “There Is A Fountain.”

Be on the lookout for a press release from the group soon on the departure, as well as an announcement on the new baritone. I have a feeling that 2012 will be a big year for SOQT!

Eric Phillips (Re)Joins Mark Trammell Quartet

December 05, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Yes, it’s true! Via the group’s Facebook page:

After three months of searching, praying, and auditioning. Mark Trammell Quartet is happy to announce that former Mark Trammell TRIO tenor Eric Phillips will rejoin the group at the end of the year. Eric has faithfully served the city of Gadsden, Alabama as a law enforcement officer for the last 2 years and has earned highest honors in his service to them. Eric states “When music is in your blood, its hard to get it out. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road with Mark and the guys, seeing friends I haven’t seen in two and a half years and most importantly encouraging people with the gospel message thru song!” Mark states “I couldn’t be happier with Eric‘s decision to return. He loved being a police officer and I admired him for his work. The first song we sang together when he asked to be considered again confirmed what God was trying to tell everyone in the room. All I can say is welcome home Eric, good to have you back!”

Mark continues “We would like to thank 28 men and two ladies that showed interest in filling the position. We are honored that you would trust this ministry that much. Also, we MUST thank our friend Jim Cox from Cumming, Ga for his excellent job of filling in at the tenor position over the last two months. Jim has been a true joy to our fans and friends across the country.”

As always, a classy press release from a classy group.

2011 has proved to be a year of returns for fan-favorite singers to the groups which propelled them to that state. Earlier this year, we saw Burman Porter return to the road with the Dove Brothers. Now more than ever, I can say that the Mark Trammell Quartet is the group to watch. Eric has a tenor voice that is high and consistent, and helped to give the trio version of this group the “wow” factor. I believe it was Daniel Mount that stated that Always Have A Song, the Mark Trammell Trio’s final project with Phillips’ voice on it, just sounded like a quartet album without a bass. Phillips’ return will make that quartet a reality!

Join me in welcoming Eric back to SG!

New Artist Spotlight: In The Vine

December 01, 2011 By: Aaron Category: In The Vine, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

A few days ago, it was announced on Facebook that a new Southern Gospel trio has formed and will officially launch in 2012, and this group has a couple faces that may be familar. Joe Kitson, brother of former Tribute Quartet/Greater Vision/Statement of Faith tenor Jacob Kitson, has teamed up with his former singing partner in the Toney Brothers, Daniel Childs, to form In The Vine. Many may remember Joe from his days with groups such as the Dixie Melody Boys, The Toney Brothers, and Statement of Faith. Kitson and Childs will sing baritone and lead, respectively, with Childs handling the emcee work. Joining them singing tenor is Kitson’s brother Kurtis, who is by all accounts a newcomer to the Southern Gospel scene.

The group hasn’t officially hit the road yet, but have done at least one performance. Here’s a video from their first night featuring Joe Kitson on “I’d Rather Have Jesus.”

Since Daniel Childs is currently a member of another trio, Blackwood Legacy, I asked Childs if he was leaving that group for this one, or if there would be a dual membership situation. He had this to say:

I am staying with Blackwood Legacy, and will be working with both groups. It can be explained like this: I work for Blackwood Legacy, but In The Vine is my own group that I’ve started as an equal partnership with Joe. I will be singing with both groups for the forseeable future.

Be sure to head over to the group’s website for updates and music clips, as well as their Youtube channel.