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

Archive for October, 2012

CD Review: Mark Trammell Quartet – Lifetime

October 30, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Lari Goss and Mark Trammell
Label: Daywind Records
Website: www.marktrammellministries.com

Song titles: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah; ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus; Way Past Ready; Garden City Tour Medley; Wonderful Time Up There; Too Much To Gain To Lose; Meet Me Over On The Other Side; Footprints of Jesus; I Sing The Mighty Power; The King Is Coming Medley

I’ll admit it; whenever I see the description of an upcoming project of “hymns and classics,” and the project is supposed to be a mainline release, I cringe. This is because these projects usually just rehash the same old songs that everybody and their brother has recorded, and doesn’t really do anything to break the mold, and I just end up wishing it was a table project to tide the listener over for the next major CD. When I saw some of the songs on the track list for this album, I had the same reaction. My interest was piqued a little when I saw some songs that haven’t been done to death, but I still had doubts as I gave the CD a first run-through.

The Mark Trammell Quartet has released a collection of material here that, thankfully, exceeded my expectations. Starting with a triumphant rendition of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” it’s clear that this list of old songs isn’t just more of the same. A good example of this is a brassy arrangement of “Wonderful Time Up There.” This song is one that could have easily fallen into the problem I mentioned earlier; everybody seems to record it at least once, so it all runs together. Not so this time around; the orchestration gives it a unique flair, and bass singer Pat Barker turns in one of the stronger performances of his career.

Tenor Eric Phillips marks his return to the group on this project, and sounds as if he has not lost a thing in his years off the road. His solo feature on the CD, “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus,” may not be pitched in the rafters, but it shows a smoother side of his voice that was rarely brought to bear with the Mark Trammell Trio. That’s not to say he doesn’t do some high singing here; his ensemble work on songs such as “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” “Wonderful Time Up There,” and “Way Past Ready,” to name a few, give the listener plenty to enjoy in that regard. Speaking of “Way Past Ready,” it is the only original song on the project, and is strong enough to fit in with the rest of the track list.

Baritone Mark Trammell is the frontman for most of the songs, and over the years has perfected a delivery style that is both unique and reliable, hitting notes that few baritones attempt (for example, the high B-Flat during “Golden City Tour Medley.”) Though the project was built around the concept of songs from the years of Trammell’s life, he is featured on the only “new” song, the aformentioned”Way Past Ready.”

While I would have liked to hear the solo feature tracks divided more evenly (Mark Trammell gets the lion’s share, with Eric Phillips and Pat Barker getting one each and new lead Nick Trammell getting none), this CD is evidence that the Mark Trammell Quartet has truly found their niche. Lari Goss’ production work, coupled with the strength of the vocals, makes for a “hymns and classics” project that is worth pushing through whatever reservations the listener may hold with that description. Lifetime receives 5 stars.

First Look: Paul Harkey With Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

October 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, First Look, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

Youtube user EHSSQfan1 has posted a ten-minute video featuring songs from Paul Harkey’s first night with the quartet. Harkey’s features on “Scars In The Hands Of Jesus” and “Old Rugged Cross” are instant standouts, and, like his predecessor Ian Owens, he had a funny moment getting used to the choreography. Hearing the sound from his debut makes me look forward to how this lineup will gel.

Ian Owens Joins Soul’d Out Quartet

October 23, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet

In one of the more surprising moves of the year, the quartet announced today that they have made a big hire similar to the one that took place when they picked up Bryan Hutson after the departure of Tanner Stahl.

Since the departure of long time bass singer Matt Fouch, in mid August, Soul’d Out Quartet has been diligently seeking God and following his leading in the attempt to find the right person to be our bass singer. Despite having met many great people through the audition process, we (the men of Soul’d Out) had made the decision to remain a trio unless God provided the absolute right fit for our team and ministry.

Soul’d Out Quartet is thrilled to announce that God has provided us with the right bass singer!! We are so excited to have Ian Owens joining the Soul’d Out family! You may have heard Ian’s name before as the bass singer for Gospel Quartets such as “The Imperials” and “Ernie Haase and Signature Sound.” Ian has 12 years of full time ministry in gospel music and we are so pleased that this chapter of our lives brings us together to proclaim the Good News!! Ian’s first appearance with Soul’d Out will be on November 9th, 2012. We ask for your prayers for both Ian and the current Soul’d Out members as we transition into this new and very exciting time. God has great things in store for this ministry! Come and see us when we are in your area and welcome Ian aboard! Dusty, Michael, Bryan, Rick and Matt.

Ian also had a personal statement in the press release:

“After spending a weekend on the road with Soul’d Out Quartet, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that joining their team is God’s will for my life. I am very excited to have the opportunity to spread the Word of God with such strong men of faith and integrity! Matt, Bryan, Dusty, and Michael all have such a sincere and earnest desire to see souls won and lives changed. I absolutely can not wait to be “pounding the pavement” with these awesome men! However…..I’m scared I may not be much of a bass singer for them if I’m always hoarse from laughing at them! They’re funny!!”

My “big hire” comment refers to the level of popularity within Southern Gospel that Owens possesses. He gained quite a following in his time with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound (and, with some fans, during his tenure with The Imperials), much like Bryan Hutson gained with The Kingsmen. A second hire of this caliber in a row can only do good things for the popularity of the group.

Besides that aspect, this is also a good move vocally. In the eight years that previous bass singer Matt Fouch was with the group before his move to Legacy Five earlier this year, he developed a unique sound that combined solid low notes with a rich upper register. Owens developed his lower range quite nicely with EHSS, and has an upper register that has received favorable comments. His sound will continue what Fouch brought to the table with the group, while carving his own niche.

Owens had the task of following Tim Duncan in EHSS, and while he certainly developed quite well to fill that role, I’m looking forward to hearing him as he takes the mantle of a bass singer that is more similar to his style.

Youtube Spotlight: Legacy Five

October 23, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Music

Last Friday was a rare opportunity to see Legacy Five at a church only about thirty minutes from my home area of Lynchburg, VA. It was especially worth the trip because it would be my first opportunity to hear the group outside of NQC since the hire of bass singer Matt Fouch. The vocal lineup has gelled even more since the convention, and they are more comfortable with each other on stage and are more used to the vocal tendencies of the other members, making for their strongest sound to date. Check out the videos from the night:


First Look: Michael Helwig with The Blackwood Brothers

October 10, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Brothers, First Look, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Youtube

In the course of the week, Youtube user MannaAcres posted several videos of the new lineup of the Blackwood Brothers in concert. These are the first videos of the group since Jimmy Blackwood’s recent retirement. You can go to the link above to see the rest of the videos, but I’ll just post a few that highlight what Helwig brings to the table:

What strikes me about these clips is how seamlessly the transition has been pulled off. Michael stepped into a huge void left by Jimmy Blackwood, but has brought a voice that is very similar to a Blackwood lead, while being unique enough to carve his own niche. Fans of the group that lamented the Blackwood Brothers sound being completely changed will find a lot to enjoy with this lineup.

Ernie Haase & Signature Sound Announces Change

October 01, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

I guess it’s safe to say that NQC Turnover Season 2012 is underway.

In one of the more surprising moves in a while, the group announced the departure of their bass singer, as well as his replacement:

Dear Friends,

For the past two years the EHSS team and fans have been enriched by the voice and personality of Ian Owens. Ian has announced that he will be pursuing other interests (both musical and personal) and we fully support him and wish him great success. Ian’s last date with EHSS will be October 13th, 2012 in Sunnyvale, TX. Come out and support Ian and please pray for Ian and his wife Megan as they follow this new path.

We will miss Ian dearly. He is a funny, FUNNY man who has become a great friend and that will never change. We will update you at a later date with all information concerning Ian and his plans. Our new bass singer is a young man you are going to love. His name is Paul Harkey. We will fill you in on all of his information soon. Pray for EHSS as we navigate through this transition time.
Sincerely, Ernie

Color me shocked, first that Ian is leaving, and second, that Paul Harkey is coming in. Harkey joined the LeFevre Quartet several weeks ago, and was the featured bass vocalist on their new mainline release. For them to have a lineup change so quickly is surprising, possibly even more surprising than EHSS experiencing a change.

Owens brought a different style of bass singing to the quartet than they were used to with Tim Duncan, but it was one that left a positive mark on their arrangements, with a fuller upper register that allowed for tighter harmony. While Harkey has that same solid upper range, he is a bass in the Tim Riley/Jeff Chapman tradition, so look for this to change the group’s sound quite a bit.

For a good example of how Harkey sounds, here’s a recent video of him with the LeFevre Quartet:

For a showcase of his higher range, here’s “One Day” by the Anchormen. Paul has the first feature: