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

Archive for April, 2012

The Inspirations In The Studio

April 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Inspirations

Hat tip goes to Daniel Mount for recording (and posting) these two clips of The Inspirations at work on their next release through Crossroads. Interestingly, both songs featured are updated recordings of past Inspirations songs. The first one is a fairly recent radio hit, “In The Twinkle Of An Eye,” which was found on their 2004 release, What a Day. I particularly enjoyed watching baritone Jon Epley’s reaction to Mike Holcomb’s low ending on the verse:


The next song is quite a bit older; over thirty years old, in fact. “It Won’t Be Long” was recorded on the 1980 album Singing in the Smokies.


What strikes me about both of these “covers” is that, with this lineup, it doesn’t feel that way. The hiring of Jodi Hosterman changed the sound and dynamic of the group, and while they are still maintaining the classic sound that makes them “The Inspirations,” the vocals are versatile enough that they can do different things with the harmonies on these older songs. It makes more of a mark on them than it would have if the Dallas Rogers lineup had gone back and re-recorded them; in that case, it would have just sounded like the old group recording it with modern technology. I’ve enjoyed hearing the harmonies changed up even in these short clips, and I am looking forward to the final product.

Joshua Ball Leaves The Ball Brothers

April 24, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Ball Brothers

Change has hit the lineup of Ball Brothers once again with the departure of bass vocalist Joshua Ball. In true “Ball Brothers” fashion, the press release for the change was both heartfelt and humorous:

Chickamauga, GA – THE SKY IS FALLING! The previous line was intended to make the following statement less shocking. After 6 years with the Ball Brothers, Joshua Ball has retired . . . at age 26. Josh states, “I was going to resign, then it dawned on me that retirement made more sense. The guys will have to pay me until Social Security kicks in. All joking aside, I am leaving the Ball Brothers. I will miss all the friends I have made and I will miss singing and being with the guys, but I am definitely looking forward to spending more time at home. I’ll still be the Ball Brothers ‘#1 fan’ but it won’t be as weird now that I’m no longer in the group.”

Daniel Ball said, “Most press releases are boring and void of useful information. I read them . . . then wonder what the ‘real’ story was? In order to avoid unfounded speculation, I will seed speculation with misinformation. We fired Josh because he is our family’s version of “Joseph”. Andrew and I were jealous that he was Dad’s favorite so we sold him on eBay and told dad that he was eaten. BAM!!! There’s your story! Seriously . . . We’re saddened that Josh is leaving, but fully support his decision. We are thankful for Josh’s hard work and contributions and look forward to seeing what God has in store for Josh and the Ball Brothers.”

The new Ball Brother will be announced soon!

For more information about the Ball Brothers visit: www.theballbrothers.com

I will be interested to see what kind of sound the group adopts as a new vocalist is brought in. Josh was a bass, but was more of a “lower blend” part than a true bass. The hire of a bass singer in the traditional sense would give the Ball Brothers sound a whole new dynamic. I enjoyed Josh’s work with the group and wish him well in his future endeavors.

Side note: The group put this press release in a Facebook status update, and had this note at the bottom: “Our sincere apologies to any blog or news editor that has to edit this release.”

Apology accepted, guys! As always, I got a chuckle out of reading a press release from the Ball Brothers, no matter what the news was!

Start of the Week Odds & Ends

April 23, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Dailey and Vincent, Dixie Melody Boys, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

1. Legacy Five debuted their first ever concept video late last week. The song is “Ask Me Why,” arguably one of the finest songs the group has recorded, and the story behind the song is acted out very well in the video. One cool tidbit is that the lady that the song was written about is actually featured in the video. Check it out:

2. Dixie Melody Boys tenor Matt Felts has released a project highlighting hymns of the Civil War. The project, Angels On The Battlefield, will be carried by parks across America, and features a throwback style of music, as well as guest vocalists Johnny Minick, Aaron Minick, and Mike Allen. This website features clips and ordering information.

3. Dailey & Vincent have released an instructional video on quartet harmony. The video features the current vocal lineup of Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, Jeff Parker, and Christian Davis, and can be purchased here.

CD Review: Mark209 – From The Heart Of Nashville

April 20, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark209, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Billy Coren
Label: Music City Media Group
Website: www.mark209.com

Song titles: The Blood of One Man; Book of Life; Count Me In; Daddy; Down In Bethlehem; Get Up In Jesus’ Name; Already On The Phone; In God We Still Trust; My Home In Heaven; That’s How Jesus Sees Me; Tougher Than Nails; Who Prayed For Me; Wine Into Water; The Tree

Last year, after the departure of baritone Ed Crawford from the Mystery Men Quartet, and the subsequent hiring of Jimmy Reno a short time later, it was announced that the group would be changing their name. During the week of NQC 2011, the new name was announced; the quartet would be called Mark209, a reference to mile marker 209 that leads into Nashville. It is fitting, then, that the group’s first project of original songs would be titled From The Heart Of Nashville.

Fans of the Mystery Men Quartet may find a lot of this project very familiar; that’s because all but two of the songs can be found on the Mystery Men’s Blue Collar Gospel project. Before you blow this off as a “get something out quick” effort, I’d encourage you to take a listen to it. I admit that, seeing the song titles, I went into this fully expecting something of that nature. However, I appreciate the fact the current lineup of Nathaniel Justice, Jym Howe, Jimmy Reno, and Joe Armstrong took the time to go back and re-record most, if not all, of the vocals on the project. Their vocals take the sound that Blue Collar Gospel had and refines it, making this CD an improvement over the original. The new tracks, “Down In Bethlehem” and “In God We Still Trust” fit seamlessly into the track list, though the latter has been recorded so much that another song may have been a better choice. I also appreciate the fact that the mix has been tweaked and improved as well. Two of the issues most of the tracks had the first time around were that the instruments were unevenly mixed (for example, the cymbals were louder than everything else to the point of distraction), and the vocals often sounded muddy behind the instrumentation. Both were resolved this time.

Being from Nashville, you would expect the country music influence to be very prevalent in Mark209’s sound, and the group certainly delivers that in both sound and lyrical content. The opener, “The Blood Of One Man,” is a straight-ahead gospel tune with that genre’s feel, as is the next track, “The Book of Life,” which highlights the quartet’s ensemble work and harmony. Other such tunes include “He’s Already On The Phone,” another harmony feature that also gives lead singer Jym Howe a solo verse, and “My Home In Heaven,” the group’s current radio single penned by Woody Wright, which has seen some favorable chart action.

The other component of a country influence manifests itself in “story songs,” and this project has its fair share of such songs with a Christian message. Bass singer Joe Armstrong delivers “Daddy,” which centers around a father figure who was a simple man of simple means, whom the singer imagines will have a similar home in Heaven near his mansion. “Who Prayed For Me” is a baritone feature for Jimmy Reno, and a thanks to an anonymous person that prayed for the storyteller during various parts of his life. Reno also sings “Tougher Than Nails,” which relates the story of a father teaching his bullied son the “turn the other cheek” lesson through the example of Jesus’ life, and tenor Nathaniel Justice carries a thoughtful ballad in “That’s How Jesus Sees Me.”

Other high points in the project come in the form of “Wine Into Water,” a tender prayer for help from God, and the project’s closer, “The Tree,” which reflects on the fact that the Creator made the tree He would be crucified upon.

This project is one of the better debuts that I have heard in the past couple of years. It defines Mark209’s sound very well, and each member of the group is featured fairly equally, so the listener gets a taste of each vocalist’s style. Fans of the Mystery Men, as well as country-flavored gospel music, will appreciate this effort from Mark209, and I would encourage the uninitiated to give this CD a spin as well. From The Heart Of Nashville receives 4 stars.