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

Archive for January, 2012

Ernie Phillips With The Kingsmen…. 2012?

January 29, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Music, The Kingsmen, Youtube

Ever wonder how some of the legends of yesterday that are no longer “in the spotlight” sound today on a more modern song? Here’s one of those legends: Ernie Phillips. One of the more famous tenors to come along in the history of the Kingsmen, and Southern Gospel in general (remember his big ending on “Love Lifted Me” on Live… Naturally?), and the father of Mark Trammell Quartet tenor Eric Phillips. Since the departure of Harold Reed for the LeFevre Quartet, Phillips has been filling in for The Kingsmen. Here he is taking one of Reed’s signature songs while with the group, “God Saw A Cross.”

If this doesn’t make the case for why The Kingsmen should try their hardest to get Phillips out there with them full-time, I don’t know what does. (Well, this and the fact that, from what I hear, he can still do those sky-high endings!)

Update: Daniel Mount informed me this morning that there had been more videos from this concert uploaded since this post went up. I’ll post a few more, some of which also highlight new lead singer Bob Sellers. Even if Ernie Phillips doesn’t turn out to be the man for the job, this is still an interesting look at one of the legends still toting the mail!







CD Review: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – Here We Are Again

January 27, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4.5 stars

Producer: Wayne Haun
Label: Stow Town Records
Website: www.erniesigsound.com

Buy Project Here

It’s been said that, in Southern Gospel music, the only thing that is more certain than the Truth that is sung about, is change. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound are not immune to that fact; since their last project of original material (2008’s Dream On), the group has said farewell to longtime lead singer Ryan Seaton and bass singer/founding member Tim Duncan. Devin McGlamery filled the vacancy left by Seaton, and Cumberland Quartet/The Imperials bass Ian Owens came back on the road following Duncan’s departure. Though McGlamery was featured on a table project (Influenced II: Spirituals and Southern Classics) and a mainline release (A Tribute to the Cathedral Quartet) in 2010, this is his first “original” project with the group, and Owens’ first effort with them period (unless you count background vocals on George Younce with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound).

With this latest release, fans are hoping to see a return to the creativity and energy that was found with the group’s 2007 hit effort, Get Away Jordan. The follow-up release, the aforementioned Dream On, had several strong songs with lasting value in the group’s repertoire, but was overall just… missing something. I’ve made the observation that it was “sleepy” (pun somewhat intended!).

I am happy to report that Here We Are Again brings back the spark, in spades.

Take, for instance, the opening track. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” starts with the sound of an old projector reel, and then launches into a classic spiritual that EHSS injects with its trademark “SG quartet music with a kick” style, much like they did with “Someday” to open Get Away Jordan, complete with an “instrumental” break in the middle that has the quartet mimicking a band with their voices. This track sets the tone for the rest of the project, and flows nicely into an original upbeat tune, “Singing In The Midnight Hour,” which serves as a vehicle for baritone Doug Anderson to show off some of his soulful vocals. The other most creative tracks undoubtedly come in the form of “Every Time,” a wild Ernie Haase feature in the vein of “Happy Birthday, Anniversary Too” (except more bearable, and twice as hyper), and “Any Other Man,” which adopts a Third Day-esque rock sound and has already piqued interest around various SG blogs and message boards.

The big question is, how are the “new guys” doing in the new group? The answer is, quite well. Lead singer McGlamery takes the feature on the group’s latest single, “I’ve Been Here Before,” as well as solos on “Love Carried The Cross” and “Stand By Me,” the latter of which he absolutely nails his part on. These songs spotlight his development since joining the group, seeming to bridge the gap between his sound as lead for the Dixie Melody Boys and his more modern sound he attained with Karen Peck & New River and brought to EHSS.

Speaking of “Stand By Me,” that is indeed the song that really got EHSS started back in 2003 with a project of the same name, and it was actually the first track I’d heard on the project since I went right to it, wondering if it was actually the same one. Ian Owens is a different type of bass than Tim Duncan; he’s not all about the low notes, and has a smoother higher range that makes for a killer blend. On this particular track, he takes the EHSS signature and effectively makes it his own, giving it a soulful swagger that reminds me of a Black Gospel group like the Fairfield Four. Other highlights for him include his standouts on “I’ve Been Here Before,” which serve to show that his lower range has been brought out and developed nicely in the year since he joined the quartet, and “I Believe,” which he has sung regularly in concert since his Imperials days, and has become his “signature” with this group.

The other vocalists also have a strong showing. A big ballad about Christ’s sacrifice (“Love Carried The Cross”) calls to mind a ballad the Haase-era Cathedrals would do, especially with Haase’s delivery on the last verse. “Sometimes I Wonder” sounds like a song that would have fit seamlessly into Doug Anderson’s solo project, and pianist Wayne Haun even gets a full-fledged feature on “You Are Welcome Here.” The whole group comes together for “Thankful,” a softer, orchestrated tune that I’d imagine would be used near the end of a concert, but doesn’t really jump out on CD.

People who have written the group off since the lineup changes took place are doing themselves a disservice. This lineup can hold its own with any previous iterations of the quartet and has developed very nicely, and has produced a top-notch project. In fact, I will go out on a limb and rank this project as the best collection of songs they have released to date, with Get Away Jordan at a close second. I’d encourage anyone who may have been a fan of the previous lineups to purchase a copy of Here We Are Again; you just may be pleasantly surprised. Here We Are Again receives 4.5 stars.

The Melody Boys Ending The Song

January 24, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Melody Boys

I came across this surprising news article on the Singing News website this morning: the Melody Boys Quartet is retiring at the end of this year. The press release from the group:

The Melody Boys Quartet (TMBQ), one of America’s longest operating male quartets in gospel music, makes their official retirement announcement, effective New Year’s Eve, 2012.

Says Gerald Williams, who began his position as bass singer for TMBQ in 1949 at the age of 16, “We know there is a time and a season for all things. This is the right time. 63 years is a good season.”

TMBQ’s heritage goes all the way back to the late 1930’s when they performed three live radio programs daily as well as a healthy concert schedule. They were gospel music pioneers when they were the first gospel music group in Arkansas to move into the, then young, television market. They were among the groups that performed at the first National Quartet convention in 1957. At the death of owner, manager and bass vocalist, Herschel Foshee in 1949, pianist and song writer, ‘Smilin’ Joe Roper reorganized the group as The Melody Boys Quartet and introduced a new. young bass singer to the nation. Gerald Williams a Southern Gospel Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole’ Gospel Living Legend now his 63rd year as a professional vocalist.

Generation after generation of fans that love quartet music have labeled TMBQ’s sound as a touch of the past and a taste of the future. Quality sound and ministry integrity, tastefully mixed with family entertainment, is TMBQ’s trademark.

Beginning in March, TMBQ will embark on their ‘Exit 63’ Tour, which will run through the end of 2012. Mike Franklin, first tenor with TMBQ for over 19 years says, “We are still booking dates for this, our final year. If you’ve ever considered having The Melody Boys Quartet at your gospel sing or your church, NOW is the time to schedule.”

While it is saddening to see a long-time name end its run, I’m glad that Mr. Williams decided to do so before the TMBQ name became a caricature of its former self. I would like to see the group get some kind of nod at NQC this year, but since they haven’t been on main stage in a couple years, I’m not counting on it. I am interested to see what the other members of the group will do after the group shuts its doors; Gerald has surrounded himself with very capable vocalists that could either start another group together or be picked up by other groups separately, whatever the case may be.

Join me in saluting Gerald Williams and The Melody Boys Quartet for 63 years of great gospel music!

Afterthought: I got to thinking about it after I posted this, and somebody should really organize a Melody Boys Quartet reunion concert, possibly as a grand finale, and definitely taped. I’d personally love to see all the different lineups (that could be there) together again one last time, particularly that of Mike Franklin, Jonathan Sawrie, Jeremy Raines, and Gerald Williams. What say ye?

CD Review: Vintage Quartet – Tell The Story

January 21, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Vintage Quartet

Rating: 3.5 stars

Producer: Danny Crawford
Label: Skyland Records
Website: www.vintagequartet.com

Song titles: I’m Gonna Tell The Story; I’ll Cast My Crown; He’s Been So Good To Me; Somebody Touched Me; I Can See The Hand; Freedom Still Flows; Lord Stir The Wind; The Cross Has Won Again; That Wonderful Day; Everything

Crossroads Music recently launched a new label, Skyland Records, to give up-and-coming artists a chance to have Crossroads production, marketing and promotion, and distribution. The first release of this label comes from a new quartet, The Vintage Quartet. By all accounts, this is the group’s debut project, though they have been singing since 2010. I hadn’t heard much about them until a friend of mine (that many know around the SG blogs as irishlad) started giving them some praise. I decided that, since he’s no slouch when it comes to critiquing SG music, it would be worth it to download the project. I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

Being a newer, regional group that has just signed to a component of one of the bigger record labels, it’s no surprise that their debut effort would be a fair mix of original songs and covers. In fact, after the opening track, the project has a streak of four cover songs. The first two, “I’ll Cast My Crown” and “He’s Been So Good To Me,” come from the Soul’d Out Quartet catalog. The former is nice, but doesn’t quite top the original, and the latter throws in some higher tenor harmony near the end to help put the group’s mark on it. The next two songs are both Cathedrals tunes, and both are tenor features. Tenor Chris Jenkins has a voice that reminds me of a mix of Jodi Hosterman and Jeremy Peace, and his rendition of both of these tunes are different from what you might expect because of the timbre and range he possesses. Other covers include The Kingsmen’s “The Cross Has Won Again” (a song that deserved a revival) and “That Wonderful Day” (another Soul’d Out Quartet song that has been widely recorded, but once again is made unique by the harmonies on the higher end).

The original songs on the project are well done. “I’m Gonna Tell The Story,” which also serves as the group’s debut radio single, is a straight-ahead quartet number that fits the group’s sound well. “Freedom Still Flows” is a slower song that the group won a talent contest with in 2011, and is one of the project’s stronger songs. My personal favorite of these songs is found in “Lord Stir The Wind,” an upbeat bass feature that gives Jim Albertson that really lets tenor Jenkins and lead singer Steve Bertaux shine on the choruses. “Everything” is a slower song that never really grabbed my attention.

Vintage Quartet has a lot to be proud of with this effort; it does a good job of highlighting their strong sound and the song selection is decent, though a couple of the covers could have stood to have the quartet put their spin on it rather than follow what was originally recorded so closely. The combination of voices found with Chris Jenkins, Steve Bertaux, Warren Kinney, and Jim Albertson are very good for any quartet, much less a regional one. I was especially impressed with Jenkins; with the power and range in his voice, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up with a group like The Kingsmen in the future.

You may be wary of buying a project from a quartet you’re unfamiliar with, but The Vintage Quartet has made a project is worth the purchase. Tell The Story receives 3.5 stars.

First Look: Harold Reed with The LeFevre Quartet

January 20, 2012 By: Aaron Category: First Look, LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

The LeFevre Quartet got a makeover right around the time of NQC 2011 with the departure of lead singer and founding member David Staton, and the additions of Mike LeFevre’s son Jordan at the lead position (moving up from soundman/former drummer) and Old Paths bass Brandon Barry finally filling the position that was being held down long-term by Mike Allen. In December, it was announced that tenor Jeremy Easley was leaving the group and that Kingsmen tenor Harold Reed was coming aboard. Now, three videos have surfaced of this new lineup in action. These are from Reed’s second weekend with the group, and it should be noted that Jordan LeFevre was performing with laryngitis.

This quartet classic features each vocal part out front at some point, and does a good job highlighting the new sound this combination of voices brings to the table. Here’s “Oh The Glory Did Roll:”


One of the changes that Harold Reed brings to the stage presence of the group is a keen sense of humor. The previous lineups knew how to have fun for sure, but Reed brings some new comedy to the group, especially in learning the words to the songs! Here’s a double feature of “Crown Him King” and “Wait Upon The Lord:”


You never really know how a group’s dynamic changes until you hear a new vocalist singing one of the group’s popular sings. This tenor feature has been sung by Gus Gaches, Jeremy Easley, and even Stephen Sigmon in a fill-in situation. Reed’s voice is a different timbre and style than all theirs, but no less effective on “You’re Never Too Far Away.”


Count me in the camp that is looking forward to a project of new material from this lineup of the LeFevre Quartet. I really like their sound!

First Look: Bryan Hutson with Soul’d Out Quartet

January 08, 2012 By: Aaron Category: First Look, SG Artists, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet, Youtube

On January 6, I was privileged to be able to attend the Soul’d Out Quartet concert in East Bend, NC, hosted by JOY FM and a local group, The Boys. Every Soul’d Out concert I’ve ever been to has been great, but there was an extra level of excitement to this one, as it was the debut concert for the group’s new vocalist, Bryan Hutson. Hutson came from singing lead with The Kingsmen to fill the void left by Tanner Stahl’s departure in December 2011.

The activity center of Enon Baptist Church was filled to capacity, making it one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen for a concert that wasn’t NQC or Gaither related. There were quite a few singers in our genre, past and present, that were in attendance as well; among those spotted were Phil Barker, Darren Osborne, Harold Reed, and Chris Collins.

Bryan Hutson fits the Soul’d Out Quartet like a glove in sound, stage presence, and personality. I also picked up the new Soulace project and a pre-release copy of their upcoming Crossroads debut, What The World Doesn’t Know, and both are really good. But you don’t have to take my word for it about their live sound; see and hear for yourself!


Youtube Feature: Down East Boys

January 03, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Down East Boys, Youtube

I attended a Down East Boys concert in my area on January 1st, and got several videos of the event. This was my first time seeing the Down East Boys outside of a couple sets at NQC over the years, and I was particularly looking forward to hearing their live sound with Tony Jarman at tenor. This was their first date in about fifteen days, so though they were getting back into the swing of things singing on the road, they still put on a great concert.

Click the link below to see the videos!


First Look: Ken Turner & Valor III

January 03, 2012 By: Aaron Category: First Look, Ken Turner & Valor III, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Youtube

Near the end of 2011, it was announced that Valor III would be making the transition to a quartet with the addition of former Palmetto State Quartet/Dixie Echoes/Blackwood Brothers bass singer, Ken Turner. This is the first group that Turner has sung in for a number of years, so I was particularly thrilled to have the opportunity to hear one of my personal favorite bass singers again.

I’ll let some of the videos taken at their debut concert a few weeks back speak for themselves as to how good Turner still is. I’ll only use a couple of them, but you can watch all the videos that were posted here. Here’s the first song of the concert:


I’ve always felt that Turner was underrated, due in part, perhaps, to his goofy stage demeanor! But the range that Turner possesses, both back in his day and now, is incredible. This is displayed with “Lonesome Road,” complete with some of his more comedic side:


Here he is in a more serious setting with “How Big Is God:”


Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include something that featured the vocals out front. That happens with the A Capella classic, “Sweet Sweet Spirit:”