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

Archive for February, 2012

Palmetto State Quartet Gets An Overhaul

February 27, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Palmetto State Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

If you’ve been to the Palmetto State Quartet website in the past few days, you may have noticed that both the site and the group have gotten a revamp. David Staton just posted the above picture to his Facebook with the caption, “This is the new Palmetto State.”

Pictured from left to right are Mike Allen, David Staton, Casey Martin, Paul Lancaster, Larry Strickland, and Jeremy Easley. Be on the lookout for a press release soon. I will post my thoughts on the change once the press release goes out.

Update: That was quick. Right after I hit the publish button, I received this:

PSQ Partners to bring Southern Gospel Music to Wider Audience

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The historic Palmetto State Quartet announces the newest incarnation of this enduring vocal ensemble that defies the quartet label. The group assembles not four, but five vocalists, and breaks out of any traditional mold by refusing to define its members by vocal part. The diverse lineup includes: Mike Allen, a fixture on the popular Gaither Homecoming television series, who had never signed on officially with any one group until now; Jeremy Easley, the X-Factor season-one, top-15 finalist (male vocalist ages 15–30 category) who received a standing ovation from Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and L. A. Reid; Paul Lancaster, longtime Palmetto State member and former member of the Mullins, winner of two Dove Awards with gospel music siblings, the Martins; Casey Martin, popular keyboardist for an array of secular and gospel artists, brings a soulful influence and plays an integral part in the PSQ presentation; David Staton, Grammy-nominated songwriter, singer, producer, and adroit industry thought leader; and Larry Strickland, who sang with the famous Stamps Quartet in the ’70’s when they backed up Elvis Presley, and has been seen on the OWN network show, The Judds.

“Ask any of these guys and they would tell you that singing with other great singers causes you to step it up. And once in a while you hit this magical combination where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” according to Strickland. Besides their stellar talent, each member brings a unique new audience to the gospel music they love and its message they cherish.

With so many tie-ins to pop culture that cross musical genres, this group is uniquely positioned to attract and influence new listeners. This will be welcome news to music promoters and presenters of gospel music globally. Not since Strickland’s Elvis days with the late J.D. Sumner and the Stamps has there been another vocal group that has featured two great bass singers.

Most recently, PSQ has been touring with the Judds, singing backup to Wynonna’s powerful voice and introducing southern gospel music to a whole new audience.

“We are not interested in anyone labeling us a ‘super group’. What we hope is that churches will leverage whatever we’ve been blessed to do in order to reach out to various crowds that typically aren’t planning to come to church or a gospel concert,” said Staton. And with some strategic use of traditional advertizing and social media, church leaders may be surprised the number of first-time attendees who drop in to check out the great music and happen to hear some very good news. The members of Palmetto State are committed to effectively sharing the gospel in a clear, compelling manner and consider that their top priority.

Palmetto State is booked exclusively through the Becky Simmons Agency at +1 615.595.7500 or Info@BSAworld.com.

It should be noted that Mike Allen was with the Poet Voices as a member several years back, and was with The Prophets Quartet during their short revival period, so the statement that he has never officially signed on with anyone until now isn’t entirely true.

When I saw the new group picture over the weekend, I had wondered what the deal was with having two bass singers (Larry Strickland had been the group’s bass up to this point.) I had wondered if maybe Strickland was taking a Jim Hamill/Eldridge Fox type of role with the group and handing bass singing duties mostly to Mike Allen. This five-man revamp, however, is interesting; Palmetto State has been a quartet its entire existence, and while the Gaither Vocal Band did make the transition to five vocalists, they have never been a Southern Gospel quartet in the traditional sense with their vocal arrangements; truly, more of a vocal band with four (now five) part harmony.

I was intrigued by the fact that the point was stressed that they would “refuse to define members by vocal part.” This would make it interesting in terms of arrangements; lots of part swapping among the vocalists. I would imagine that we’ll be hearing Strickland and Allen trade off on the bass vocals quite a bit, but it’s anyone’s guess how the three others will end up configured on a given song. David Staton sang lead with The LeFevre Quartet from its inception until last year, and Jeremy Easley held the tenor slot with that same group for a time. Paul Lancaster has a versatile enough voice that the possibilities are numerous as far as where each vocal will stack.

While the group may not be interested in “being labeled a ‘super group,'” Strickland has definitely brought together a lineup of talent that many may think of them that way. The problem with super groups, however, is that they don’t always stick together for one reason or another (see the Ron Blackwood Quartet of a few years ago). I, for one, am hoping to see this one pan out, and am listening with interest for what these vocalists will produce.

Group Changes This Week

February 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Legacy, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Songfellows Quartet

There have been at least two lineup changes to different groups that have come down the pipe this week:

1. First change comes to The Songfellows Quartet. Bass singer Brad Smith has left the group after accepting a job with Fee Entertainment, and will be singing at the Hatfield/McCoy Theatre at Pigeon Forge as part of the Country Jamboree Breakfast Show. This will make the second Blackwood group that Smith has been a part of; he sang with Mark Blackwood’s Blackwood Quartet a few years back, and has now joined RW and Donna Blackwood for this show. The Songfellows Quartet is now seeing the return of Butch Owens, who is a strong bass singer as well, joining alongside tenor Rick Strickland, lead Bob Jones, Jr., and baritone Ed Hill.

Smith was a huge asset to The Songfellows in both sound and promotion; he did a great job at getting the group’s name out there to a lot of people. I’m sure he’ll do the same promoting for this last venture as well!

2. Blackwood Legacy was a trio that has recently garnered some attention on Daniel Mount’s blog for their unique rendition of “Glory Road.” I say “was” because they are no longer a trio. The group announced the addition of tenor Daniel Rivera today, making the group a quartet. The press release explains the ins and outs of this change:

Daniel Childs, grandson of the late Cecil Blackwood and lead singer of the quartet Blackwood Legacy, announced today the addition of Daniel Rivera as tenor singer.

“I’ve been singing the tenor part for over a year,” Childs stated, “and this past month, our group leader Rick Price made the decision to have mercy on me and hire a high tenor, moving me down to lead, and making our trio into a quartet.  Daniel Rivera was the obvious choice for this position because of his youth, his easy-going temperament, and his high singing ability… all of which are traits that make him a perfect match for how we operate as a group.”

Rivera joined the group on tour in Phoenix, Arizona this past week, and has already become a great addition to the group’s live concert.  Having previously sung full-time with the Hallmark Quartet and the Toney Brothers Quartet, Rivera brings to the group a soaring tenor vocal and a dynamic stage presence.

Blackwood Legacy, signed to Mansion Entertainment, places ministry first in all matters, and endeavors to progressively carry on the work of the late Cecil Blackwood.

The personnel lineup is now Daniel Rivera singing tenor, Daniel Childs singing lead, Luke Yates as baritone / pianist, and Rick Price handling the bass vocal and emcee work.

For more information, visit the group online at www.theblackwoodlegacy.com.

For a preview of the group’s sound with Rivera’s addition, here’s a video. And yes, Glory Road is there as well!

CD Review: Soul’d Out Quartet – What The World Doesn’t Know

February 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet

Rating: 4 stars

Label: Crossroads Music
Website: www.souldoutquartet.com

Song titles: All Things Are Possible; Go Out And Get Them; Since I’ve Been Saved; That’ll Be A Great Day; Worthy The Lamb Is He; If You’ll Just Ask Him; He Is There; When They Had Prayed; What The World Doesn’t Know; Thank You Lord

Download Here

If you hadn’t heard of Soul’d Out Quartet before the end of 2011/beginning of 2012, then you certainly have by now. The group hired Kingsmen lead singer Bryan Hutson after the departure of longtime baritone Tanner Stahl, which moved lead singer and group owner Matt Rankin down to that slot. With a new website, two new CDs (this mainline release and a table project that may be reviewed soon), and a new sound, many have looked forward to hearing what the quartet’s first project since signing with a record label.

The best way I can describe the quartet’s sound with this project is this: smooth. Listeners who enjoy a CD that is chock-full of upbeat numbers will not find much to like here. Rather, the group opted for a laid-back approach this time around. Kicking off with a mid-tempo tune about faith called “All Things Are Possible,” no time is wasted in featuring Bryan Hutson, who gets a solo on the second verse. Hutson is also featured on the project’s most unique song, “Since I’ve Been Saved,” a shuffling song that sounds like it was pulled from a 1950s soundtrack. Of all songs to bring to mind, I thought of Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” The closing track, “Thank You Lord,” also puts Hutson out front on a slower progressive strong that fits him very well.

Though many of the songs feature the new guy, the other singers do a great job as well. Bass singer Matt Fouch shows why he is among the most underrated basses on the road with his solos on “All Things Are Possible” and “That’ll Be A Great Day.” Tenor Dusty Barrett shines on “Go Out and Get Them,” as well as “If You’ll Just Ask Him,” and Matt Rankin sings the title track, which features some very thought-provoking truths. He also gets the second verse of one of my favorites of the CD, “Worthy The Lamb Is He,” an orchestrated ballad in the vein of one of the quartet’s earlier songs, “He Is My Lamb.”

As I mentioned before, the group’s sound is very smooth now, and that fact is prominent on their ensemble work on tracks like “Go Out And Get Them” and “Thank You Lord.” That does not mean that they have lost anything in the way of singing faster, more “quartety” songs; “That’ll Be A Great Day” and “When They Had Prayed” are evidence of that. The difference of style that was chosen for this project show that this lineup has a versatility that will benefit them greatly in future efforts. My only complaint would be that there seemed to be an imbalance in the number of slower tunes vs. more uptempo fare. Too much slow stuff can start to run together after a while!

If you have not heard Soul’d Out Quartet before, this CD will be a great introduction for you, and people who were already fans of the group will find a lot to like about their new sound. What The World Doesn’t Know receives 4 stars.

Union Street Quartet Debuts

February 18, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Ryan Seaton, Ryan Seaton Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Union Street

Last night, Ryan Seaton’s quartet that has been singing together for a while made their official debut. Seaton, along with Toby Hitchcock, Andrew Goldman, and Aaron McCune, make up the quartet now known as Union Street. Roy Webb was on hand to play piano for this concert, and Hitchcock has even uploaded footage from the group’s introduction of the name and first song, “Boundless Love.”


Count me in the number that is looking forward to hearing more out of this group!

Update: There is more video footage of the group’s first night:

NQC 2012 News

February 15, 2012 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It’s about that time of year again: the time when there’s a new development in the upcoming National Quartet Convention’s schedule on a pretty much regular basis. Two news items have come down the pipe today:

1. The NQC has added the NQC Music Awards, taking the place of the Singing News Fan Awards. This will take place at a Friday afternoon showcase.

The Fan Awards have been at Dollywood the past couple of years and will continue to be held there this year. The absence of the awards show has arguably taken away much of the buzz that used to come with NQC, especially near the end of the week. The wrinkle that separates these new accolades from the old is that there are two divisions to the awards; one is voted upon by fans, and the other is voted upon by “music professionals,” which is defined as those who are exhibitors during the National Quartet Convention. Color me intrigued; perhaps this will help to fill in the “empty” feeling that has hung around NQC these past couple of years.

2. The initial draft of the Showcase Schedule has been posted. Notable additions include:

  • The Gaither Vocal Band Reunion Encore. This is intriguing. I’m hoping that there will be songs picked for this time that weren’t featured on the videos or in the showcase last year. The GVB catalog is broad enough that they can bring out the stuff that hasn’t been revived to death. I’m hoping this will also bring back some of the alumni who haven’t been present at any of the reunion events (Terry Franklin, Jonathan Pierce… heck, how about Lemuel Miller?) I noticed that Guy Penrod gets his own dedicated showcase the same afternoon as this one, but that is done in plenty of time for him to be able to attend the Reunion this year.
  • There’s another Crabb Family reunion showcase. I remember the last one being at NQC 2008, and I enjoyed it for the most part. I also remember it featuring most of their latter, more progressive material, and witnessed a large number of folks walking out on the showcase. Perhaps the Crabbs will play it safer this time around?
  • Tim Parton is reviving the Parade of Pianos. This showcase, originally done by Anthony Burger, then done by Roger Bennett, hasn’t been around in any capacity since Gerald Wolfe hosting it in 2008. The NQC Board wisely gave Dino his own showcase that year, saving the Parade of Pianos from becoming the Dino Show as it had in years past. I’m looking forward to seeing the collection of pianists that Parton puts together.
  • Lari Goss is getting a tribute showcase this year. Well-deserved, and it’s about time! The Hoppers, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, The Booth Brothers, and others will be a part.