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

Archive for May, 2012

Blackwood Brothers Hire Butch Owens

May 31, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Brothers, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Jimmy Blackwood and the Blackwood Brothers made the announcement of their new bass singer following weeks of fill-ins and auditions. Butch Owens is stepping into the bass position following the departure of Randy Byrd. He has already been in the studio working on the quartet’s next Daywind release. Owens is no stranger to Southern Gospel music, having sung with groups such as The Stamps Quartet, The Anchormen, The Florida Boys, The Blackwood Quartet, and, most recently, a second stint with The Songfellows Quartet. His son is Ian Owens, bass singer for Ernie Haase & Signature Sound.

Here are a couple clips of Butch singing with The Blackwood Quartet (Mark Blackwood’s group) a while back:

Gordon Mote Leaves Gaither Tour

May 28, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It may or may not be the “big news” that Gerald Wolfe hinted at on Facebook last week, but a surprising bit of information dropped today in the form of a SocialCam video from Mark Lowry: Gordon Mote will no longer be with the Gaither Homecoming tour. Lowry quickly points out that Gordon will still be at Gaither events like Family Fest, just not on the regular tour. Mote will still be on the road; presumably, that means he is embarking on a solo venture, in addition to his studio work. You can keep up with him at his website.

This marks the second major change in the piano position for the Homecoming Tour, the first being Mote’s hire after the passing of Anthony Burger. Let the speculation begin as to who will fill the piano bench now. Will they go with a relative unknown, or hire someone more established?  Two players come to mind, the first being Tim Parton. He has already done quite a bit of work on various Gaither Videos, and if he was willing to take the job, he’d be a fine accompanist and arranger for the tour.

Another would be Christopher Phillips, who has showed up on a couple of Gaither productions himself. Here he is doing a duet with Gordon Mote:

If I’m not mistaken, didn’t he also play on Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s Dream On DVD? In any case, he would be a strong choice if Gaither were to look for someone that is basically a newcomer to the scene.

CD Review: The Mark Dubbeld Family – On With The Praise

May 28, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Mark Dubbeld Family

Rating: 3 stars

Producer: Bill Traylor
Label: Manor House Music
Website: http://www.mjdubbeld.com

Song titles: On With The Praise; Discover The Wonder; O Lord I Need You; I Didn’t Buy It; God Says There’s Plenty; Through The Eyes of Faith; Forever And For Always; Inside The Gate; Answer In, “I Am”; Here A Little There A Little; Sound of Freedom

The Mark Dubbeld Family is a relatively new group that was formed a couple years ago. The father, Mark, is no stranger to the Southern Gospel scene; he sang tenor with the Celebration Quartet, a group that has ties to both the Collingsworth Family (Kim Collingsworth played piano) and Liberty Quartet (Liberty baritone Jordan Cragun’s father, Ray, sang bass). This CD marks the family group’s second effort, and is released on The Mansion Entertainment’s Manor House Music label.

As with the group’s first CD, Living Oasis, the songs are written by members of the group. Several of the tracks show that songwriting is a talent that benefits the group well. Personal favorites include “Through The Eyes of Faith,” a ballad in the same vein as the Gaither Vocal Band/EHSS song, “Dream On,” and “Inside The Gate,” a song that showcases Mark Dubbeld’s vocals in a way that bespeaks his years in the SG field. Another standout track was found in “Answer In, ‘I Am'” features son Vincent, whose vocals were mature enough for his age that I sat up and took notice.

I came away from listening to this CD with the opinion that the Mark Dubbeld Family has great potential as a group in both their vocals and songwriting. On songs like the ones specifically mentioned earlier, as well as most of the country-styled tracks like “I Didn’t Buy It,” the vocalist’s voices come together and blend well. On the other tracks, however, the timbre of each individual voice seems to clash with the others, making it sound as if each singer is trying to sing their own solo at the same time. Thankfully, the majority of the songs speak to the fact that the family has learned the lesson of “getting out of each other’s way,” so to speak, in their vocals, and the blend is much better on those tracks. Things like that let the listener know that the group is continually working on their craft and honing their sound.

I hadn’t heard the group’s other material before now, but if The Mark Dubbeld Family continues in the same vein as what is found on this project, their future in Southern Gospel music is bright. On With The Praise receives 3 stars.

The Kingsmen With Chris Jenkins

May 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Kingsmen

The Kingsmen Quartet’s official Youtube channel posted a video this morning that gives the first real glimpse into what the group sounds like since hiring Jenkins. Check out this a capella reprise of “The Judgement,” a song made popular during the Garry Sheppard era of the group:

It’s a bold move to have your first online feature of a new lineup be an a capella song, but I think that they pulled it off here.

Youtube Spotlight: Promise

May 22, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Promise, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

Last Sunday, I headed over to Amherst, VA to hear this new trio in concert. Just over a year old, the group’s self-titled debut project received favorable reviews around the Southern Gospel blogosphere, so I was looking forward to hearing them in a live setting. Since this service marked the beginning of a week-long revival at the church, the group did an abbreviated concert, but still managed to sing plenty of music. Take a look:



Concert Review: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound in Belfast, Northern Ireland (Live Stream)

May 19, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG Music

I noticed over the past few days on Facebook that Ernie Haase & Signature Sound will be broadcasting their Belfast concert on the Internet, so I decided to watch and give my thoughts in “stream of consciousness” form.  Hopefully, this doesn’t end up looking like I took a bunch of cough medicine and decided to write afterwards!

1. Since Jesus Passed By – Hadn’t heard the group stage this song in quite a while; in fact, not since Tim Duncan left. Ian Owens NAILED his solo verse and step out lines, and it’s quite a testament to his development since joining the group. I like this “all-live” treatment of the song supplied by the live band. The re-working of the instrumentation is really interesting.

2. Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – The first track of the group’s new Here We Are Again project, is also “all-live.” Good showcase of the quartet harmony here, and the “instrumental break” goes over well live.


Blackwood Legacy Welcomes Paul Secord

May 17, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Legacy, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

After the sudden departure of Daniel Rivera, the search was on for a new tenor for the group. Today, it was announced that the man for the job is Paul Secord:

Daniel Childs, descendent of the original Blackwood Brothers Quartet and lead singer for Southern Gospel group Blackwood Legacy, announced today the addition of Paul Secord as tenor singer for the quartet.

“Our last tenor left very suddenly,” Daniel said, “so we were pressed to find a fill-in as quickly as we could.  After praying about it and searching through dozens of resumes, we knew that Paul was a special candidate and was someone we wanted to meet.  And, as it turns out, he’s not only a very talented guy, but an incredibly nice guy as well.”

Secord flew to Portland, Oregon to join the group on tour last week, and after much prayer and thought, both Secord and Rick Price (group leader / emcee) felt that making Paul a permanent addition to the group was the right step.

“So excited to have Paul here,” says Price.  ”He will be recognized as one of the great vocalists in Gospel music today.  He’s a great friend, musician, and has an ability to communicate with an audience – which is truly a gift from God.  We feel blessed to have the sudden opportunity to add him to our team.  God certainly can take something that was meant for harm, and turn it into something good!”

Paul Secord has a long history in ministry and in entertainment, having been a featured performer at Walt Disney World, as well as having been a Worship pastor at a church in Virginia Beach.  Paul currently resides near Nashville with his wife, Dawn, and their two wonderful children.

“I am thrilled to be a part of Blackwood Legacy,” says Secord.  ”I believe my gifts are a great match for their ministry and can’t wait to see what God does when we put it all together.”

Paul will be featured on all the upcoming tour dates with the group, and will also be featured on their next album, which is currently in the works.

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

I admit that I am unfamiliar with Secord’s voice, but I am looking forward to hearing how he affects the sound of the group. Perhaps this change will be one that finally stabilizes the lineup for a good long while!

Youtube Spotlight: Dixie Melody Boys

May 14, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Dixie Melody Boys, Youtube

I attended a concert last Thursday night in Vinton, VA featuring the Dixie Melody Boys. I had never seen the group outside of NQC, and I had heard enough from the reunion last year and the 50th Anniversary project to know that I would likely enjoy their sound with the new lineup, and I was not disappointed. Due to the number of videos that I got, I’ll just link to the playlist. A large number of the songs done at this concert came from their latest CD, including their new radio single, “Jesus In My Boat.”

The Kingsmen Hire Chris Jenkins

May 09, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

(l-r) Ray Dean Reese, Bob Sellers, Randy Crawford, Chris Jenkins, Brandon Reese)

After a fill-in period that once included Ernie Phillips, and a guessing game this past weekend on Facebook that built some excitement, the Kingsmen have finally announced their pick for the tenor position:

The Kingsmen are pleased to announce the addition of Chris Jenkins as our new tenor vocalist.

Chris, 25, has been singing in various ministries and groups since his teenage years, most recently tenor vocalist for the Vintage Quartet since 2010. Prior to joining The Kingsmen, Chris worked as a loan officer and banking manager for the last six years.

“I am so thankful that God has allowed me to do what I have always loved to do,” says Chris. “I could not be more excited about joining a group with such a legacy and rich history as The Kingsmen.  I have been a fan of The Kingsmen since I was very young. I look forward to seeing what the future holds with this great quartet, especially this line-up of individuals as they are top-notch vocalists. It is a real honor to follow in the footsteps of some of my heroes.”

Chris will begin touring with the group immediately. In fact he has been filling in with us in recent weeks. Chris, along with his wife Kimberly, and two children make their home right outside of Greensboro, in the Piedmont area of North Carolina.

Chris is looking forward to meeting many friends and fans of The Kingsmen as he begins this new chapter in his life. To find out when the Kingsmen Quartet will be in a city near you please visit us at www.kingsmenquartet.com, and also visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kingsmenquartet

I have been excited about the possibility of this hire ever since I learned that Chris was filling in after Ernie Phillips came back off the road. Jenkins has already impressed me with his work with the Vintage Quartet, and I am glad that he has been given a platform with such a well-known group. I would encourage anyone in the “bring back Ernie” camp to give this guy a chance; Jenkins bring a sound to the table that is a throwback to the Ernie days of the group, while still having the modern flair the group has adopted over the past few years.

I am looking forward with renewed anticipation to the release of material featuring this lineup of Chris Jenkins, Bob Sellers, Randy Crawford, and Ray Dean Reese.

No videos of Chris with The Kingsmen have surfaced yet, but here’s a clip from the Vintage Quartet:


Stewart Varnado Leaves The Dixie Echoes

May 07, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes

Any time that there is a lull in the stream of news in Southern Gospel music, you can be sure that it is the calm before the storm. We’re already waiting on the announcement of a new Kingsmen tenor (more on that later, but it’s gonna be good!), but another lineup change has hit and is making shockwaves. In a Facebook post yesterday, Dixie Echoes pianist Stewart Varnado made this announcement:

I’d like to thank the Dixie Echoes for allowing me the opportunity to live out my dream for the past 14 years. I joined the group when I was 17 years old. Randy and Scoot Shelnut have became like family to me, and it’s been a blast traveling with some great guys through the years. I realize that when people put out statements saying they want to spend more time at home, it seems to be a cover for unhappiness within the group. That is not the case here. I simply have the desire to come off the road for a while. I wish nothing but the best for the Dixie Echoes, and pray that one day, if it’s God’s will, I can return to Gospel music.

I have no future plans at the moment and will be filling in for the group until a replacement has been found. Thanks also to the many friends that I have made while traveling! It has been an honor to get to meet so many fine people. I will still be active behind the scenes promoting the music that I love. Anyone interested in auditioning should contact Randy Jr. at scoot@dixieechoes.com

In a later update, Stewart also confirmed that he will still be involved with promoting events like the Memphis Quartet Show and the Gospel Jubilee Cruise.

Remaining for fourteen years with one group is no small feat, and I appreciate Varnado’s longevity and commitment, qualities that are arguably a rare find in the revolving door of SG group changes. While I’m certainly shocked by this announcement and am sad to see him go, I’m sure that he’s probably ready to rest after being on the road for so long! Perhaps we’ll see him back playing again in a few years.

As far as a replacement… the return of Andrew Ishee, anyone?