Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Archive for July, 2012

Mark209 Seeks Bass Singer

July 28, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Mark209, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

There hasn’t been much news to speak of this week, but here’s an item that I just got wind of: Mark209 is looking for a bass singer after the departure of Joe Armstrong. Armstrong leaves the group on good terms, and you’ll hear him in the bass position for Charlie Waller’s Florida Boys soon.

Mark209 is a quartet with great potential, as evidenced by their debut release, and I am looking forward to hearing who their next bass singer will be. Interested parties can send demos and resumes to contact@mark209.com.

NQC Music Awards: Final Round

July 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Uncategorized

The final ballot for the inaugural NQC Music Awards has been released. Here are my votes, with a note beside categories where my choice in the first round did not make it through:

Bass Singer of the Year – Tim Riley

Baritone Singer of the Year – Scott Inman

Lead Singer of the Year – Arthur Rice

Tenor Singer of the Year – Chris Allman

Soprano Singer of the Year – Sonya Isaacs Yeary

Alto Singer of the Year – Libbi Stuffle

Soloist of the Year – Jason Crabb

Male Group of the Year – Kingdom Heirs

Mixed Group of the Year – The Isaacs

Musician of the Year – Jeff Stice (changed from Wayne Haun)

Album of the Year – The Only Way – Greater Vision (changed from Here We Are Again – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)

Song of the Year – “Ask Me Why” – Legacy Five

News Catch-Up (7/24/12)

July 24, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Beyond The Ashes, Dixie Melody Boys, Freedom, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

While I was out of town the past few days, several items of interest came through in the world of SG news:

1. The Dixie Melody Boys have officially announced their new lead singer. Here’s a snippet from the press release:

The Dixie Melody Boys announced a few weeks ago that they would be accepting demo’s for the lead singer position. They also stated that the new member of this legendary group would be introduced on the main stage at this year’s convention. Over the course of three weeks the group received over 300 applications. “It was an overwhelming response. We didn’t expect so many men to apply. It proved to me that there is a lot of talent in Southern Gospel music. As we stated, our plan was to audition several men, take them on the road with us and then announce them in September. Sometimes plans change. “Stated Matt Felts. “As I was going through demo’s a voice begin to sing and I knew we had found our next lead singer. Ed listened to his demo and agreed. The moment we met Mike Rogers and heard him sing with us we knew God had brought us the right fit.” added Matt.

“Mike started with us the next weekend. The fans have already shown us that we made the right choice. We debuted him at the Absolutely Gospel Fan Fest and Frank Arnolds Songfest in Jackson, TN. After the response he received we knew it wouldn’t take long for word to get out online so we altered our plans and decided to move up our announcement. When God moves, you go with it. Mike is a great talent and we are proud to have him.” said Ed O’Neal.

A couple of videos have surfaced of Rogers with the group on Socialcam. The first features him on a DMB Band classic that was recently revived, “Good Ole Boys.”

The other song is “Daystar,” accompanied by Rogers on guitar. This is a very different sound and stage presence than we are used to for the Dixie Melody Boys, but it’s a “good” different, and showcases the unique presence that Rogers brings to the table. You can view it by clicking this link.

2. Beyond The Ashes have announced the departure of their lead singer, Casey Rivers. He is leaving on a good note, opting to spend more time with family as his third child is on the way. Here’s the announcement in Casey’s own words:

“For more than three years now I have been blessed to be one of those three singers that make up what many have come to know as Beyond The Ashes. Saying goodbye to family, and all I’ve grown accustomed to, is not an easy thing, but nevertheless, a new season has come for BTA and for me. I am 100% supportive of my brothers, and I know they are of me, as we all begin this new journey we’re embarking upon. Also, to pacify any wondering minds, I just want to clarify that I am leaving on an incredibly good note. After much prayer and discernment, I decided this was the best decision for me and my growing family. Most of all, I’m confident that it is God’s will for us. Thank you Anthony, Kellan, Dusty, Rob, fans, friends, and most importantly God for the awesome ride! Love you all…”

3. On the “that’s interesting” front, Freedom Trio recently appeared at the Absolutely Gospel Music Fest…. as a quartet. The group, composed of John Rulapaugh, Josh Garner, and Tyler Vestal, brought up two additions for a few songs during the concert: bass singer Randy Byrd (formerly of the Blackwood Brothers) and pianist Stewart Varnado (formerly of the Dixie Echoes). You can view the video on Socialcam.

Byrd has also done a few concert dates outside of this with the group, so one has to wonder… what’s next?

Youtube Spotlight: The LeFevre Quartet

July 16, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

The LeFevre Quartet came to Concord, VA for a concert last Friday night, and I was glad to be able to attend. This was my first time hearing the group since the addition of Harold Reed at the tenor position, and I was not disappointed. This is arguably the strongest lineup the quartet has had yet, and I am looking forward to hearing their upcoming debut project for Activate Records. Here are some clips of the evening:

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NQC Music Awards: First Round

July 13, 2012 By: Aaron Category: NQC, NQC Music Awards, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

The first round of voting for the inaugural NQC Music Awards has officially begun. Here are my votes for each category this time around.

Bass Singer of the Year – Tim Riley

Baritone Singer of the Year – Scott Inman

Lead Singer of the Year – Arthur Rice

Tenor Singer of the Year – Chris Allman

Soprano Singer of the Year – Sonya Isaacs Yeary

Alto Singer of the Year – Libbi Stuffle

Soloist of the Year – Jason Crabb

Male Group of the Year – Kingdom Heirs

Mixed Group of the Year – The Isaacs

Musician of the Year – Wayne Haun

Album of the Year – Here We Are Again – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Song of the Year – “Ask Me Why” – Legacy Five

Glenn Dustin Resigns Legacy Five

July 12, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

On the heels of the Mark Trammell Quartet’s announcement of change in the group, here’s one that is arguably the most shocking to come along in quite a while:

Dear Legacy Five Family,

If you know me at all, you know I am a man of few words, so I’ll be brief.

It is with much regret that I am announcing my resignation. Effective immediately, I will no longer be traveling and singing with Legacy Five. I have had the time of my life, traveling the highways with L5, getting to meet so many wonderful people. However, nothing lasts forever. I have been honored to see so many things that I would have never had the opportunity to, apart from L5. I have so many wonderful memories, and I will miss so many people.

Please keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers, and continue to pray for and encourage L5. I will miss those men, and I doubt there will be a day that passes where I don’t think of them. I have so many wonderful memories.

In His Grip,

Glenn “Cuz” Dustin

The group goes on to state that they have started looking for a new bass, and interested singers can send an mp3 to scottfowler@legacyfive.com.

I, for one, never expected this news, but I understand that change is inevitable. Dustin’s vocal technique has developed quite nicely over his twelve years in the group since its inception, and he is leaving the group as one of the smoothest and best-blending bass singers in the industry.

As with any change, the speculation of “who’s the new singer” will start soon, so I will throw my prediction in here. If Legacy Five were to go with an already “established” name, they couldn’t go wrong with Randy Byrd. Not only does he have the depth and power to handle the bass parts for the group, but on the group’s Know So Salvation project, they took two of his features with the Blackwood Brothers (“O Say But I’m Glad” and “Where No One Stands Alone”) and gave them to Glenn Dustin. Similar arrangements, same key. Having that connection makes the prospect of his hiring very intriguing.

They may very well go for an “unknown” singer, so let’s have fun with this one. How about this bass singer? Don’t know his name, but he can tote the mail:

Mark Trammell Quartet Announces Changes

July 09, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

The group announced today that some changes are taking place after NQC. Here’s a snippet of the press release:

Lead Singer Dustin Sweatman has accepted the Renaissance Program Director of Choirs position at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. He will remain with the quartet playing piano and singing thru mid-September and will assume his responsibilities at Bethel the week after the National Quartet Convention. Dustin has been a very important part of the beginning years of this ministry and we wish him Godspeed as he begins this new chapter in his life.

Nick Trammell will be filling the open position in the quartet. Nick and his wife Jessica have served the Lord with The Browns from Lemars, Iowa, for the past year and a half and have just become proud parents of their first child. While both Nick and Jessica have enjoyed singing with Jessica’s family, Nick shares that he is excited to fulfill a dream of standing beside his father in Christian work. Likewise, Mark is pleased to have his son joining him as he carries on a quartet tradition that Mark first loved as a child growing up in Arkansas.

The quartet will be releasing a new mainline project at NQC that will feature Nick’s vocals. This CD will also mark the first recording since the return of original Mark Trammell Trio tenor Eric Phillips. Since Sweatman also played piano for a good portion of their concert sets, Mark had this to say about that void:

“The last time I checked,” says Mark, “a keyboard fits just fine in the bus bays—and these young men know how to carry it into the venue. We might as well use it.”

While I thoroughly enjoyed Sweatman’s vocal development while with the group and hate to see him go, I am looking forward to hearing the new dynamic that Nick will bring to the group. The prospect of a full-time pianist with the group is also intriguing. I am glad to be attending NQC during the time frame of Sweatman’s last appearance with the group.

This & That 7/7/12

July 07, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Brothers, Dixie Melody Boys, Promise, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dixie Echoes

Here’s a few items of interest from the past week:

1. The Dixie Melody Boys are offering a limited edition CD of Ed O’Neal’s first ever recording. A copy of the Gospel Harmony Quartet’s debut recording has been found and re-mastered, and is the first of many recordings with O’Neal’s bass vocals. This is being offered in a limited supply of one hundred CDs at the DMB website.


2. Promise has announced that their tenor search is over. Michael Helwig will be joining David Mann and TJ Evans in the trio. Helwig has been with groups like The Torchmen, The Stamps The Homesteaders (Williamsons), The Blackwood Quartet, and most recently filled the tenor position for the Dixie Echoes. I am looking forward to hearing the sound with this new vocalist.

3. Speaking of the Dixie Echoes, a number of videos have surfaced with fill-in members. It is unclear at this point if these men have gotten the job, since no announcement has been made, but here are a couple of those clips:

Those two videos feature Mark Cates on bass and Junior Shelton on tenor. Cates has been on every video uploaded, but Shelton was only at this particular date as far as videos are concerned. This was also one of Stewart Varnado’s last concerts with the group. A video entitled “Dixie Echoes’ new pianist” has popped up, featuring a guy named Ben Hart:

4. Finally, here’s a clip of the Blackwood Brothers featuring new bass singer Butch Owens: