Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Archive for January, 2013

Youtube Spotlight: Dove Brothers Band w/ Jonathan Price, Take 2

January 28, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Dove Brothers, The Dove Brothers Band, Youtube

If you’ve followed the Dove Brothers since they added the live band, you know that Jonathan Price was hired from the Dixie Melody Boys to join the group on tenor after Jerry Martin’s departure. After coming off the road for a little over a year, Jonathan Price made his return to the group. There have been videos floating around from his “second debut,” but that same Youtube user, DLPollard65, has posted more recent videos that show that the lineup has really settled:

It’s no secret that the Dove Brothers were adopting a country flavor before the live band was formed, but having the band has also allowed the group to branch out in other ways. Never in a million years would I have expected McCray Dove to cover “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” but here it is, and it’s good. According to several comments that have been posted on various sites, this was one of the moments of the concerts.

While the tenor singer in the interim, Keith Casstevens, is certainly a capable singer in his own right, his tenure took the overall sound of the group in a direction that seemed to stray too much from the group’s traditional quartet roots for many people’s liking. Price’s return has given the group the chance to more easily perform that style of Southern Gospel music again. This cover of an old Kingsmen song is solid evidence that the group can still “dance with the girl that brung them,” as the saying goes.

This compilation of four songs from the concert is a testament to the versatility that the Doves have achieved by adding the band. Here, we get a rendition of the group’s first #1 song, “I Can Pray,” a takeoff of the Oak Ridge Boys arrangement of “Just A Little Talk With Jesus,” the classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” and a cover of Rascal Flatts’ “I Won’t Let Go.”

In the SG blogging world, whether we are the ones blogging, commenting, or just sitting back and watching the back-and-forth discussions, it is sometimes lamented that the “excitement” in Southern Gospel music is gone, and that the raw energy, adaptability, and authentic vocals of live instrumentation and singers has given way to tracks and stacks. While I’m not going to down tracks (I personally see nothing wrong with them as long as the vocals are the actual live performance and not a lip-sync), I will pick a live band (or even just piano) any day if given the option, hands-down. The energy and excitement was tangible when I watched these Youtube videos for the first time, and I can honestly say that the Dove Brothers Band is one of the few groups I have been excited about in quite a while. No tracks, no stacks, just solid Gospel singing. That’s something we can all get behind.

NQC 2013 Main Stage Schedule – First Take

January 18, 2013 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

By now, most of you have probably seen the initial schedule for NQC’s last year in Louisville. Since the showcase schedule is not really fully formed yet, I’ll just comment on the main stage lineup. Daniel Mount gave a good rundown of additions and removals, so I’ll quote his list and give my thoughts below:

The Inspirations and The Torchmen return, and there are five new artists: 11th Hour, Keepers of the Faith, Old Paths, Providence Quartet, Wilburn & Wilburn.

Meanwhile, ten artists on the 2012 program won’t be returning to the mainstage: Bowlings, Browders, Chuck Wagon Gang, Down East Boys, Naomi & the Segos, Nelons, Paul’s Journey, Pfeifers, Sisters, Skyline Boys.

I’ll admit, I don’t “get” some of the moves. I remember a conversation I had with a friend shortly after last NQC. We noticed the strength of both of Tribute Quartet’s sets (two of the best sets of the convention), and my friend commented that the Down East Boys seemed to have been received just as well. As someone who actually attended and caught both groups, I agreed; plus, they are seeing some success from their latest major release. Surely they could have gotten at least one night; perhaps another Quartet Night slot as they did last year.

Sisters were on the Gaither slot, but they also took the spot of the King’s Heralds for “A Capella” moments in between sets. I wonder if they’re doing away with that feature altogether, or if they’ll bring in a completely different group like the Penny Loafers to fill the spot.

Nelons were also on the Gaither slot, and got a favorable response. For their first set on main stage in years, it was apparent that the crowd was glad to have them back. Of course, it’s entirely possible that they and the Sisters will be with Gaither again.

I’m glad to see Wilburn & Wilburn and the Old Paths get spots this year. The Old Paths have had it coming for years; “Battle Stand” going #1 no doubt sealed the deal.

The Inspirations return after not appearing last year; Ernie Haase & Signature Sound and Dove Brothers, so far, don’t share the same fate. If you look around in the comments section of a couple other blogs, you’ll get a pretty decisive answer on one of those, but it’s fair game for these and several other absences.

If history repeats itself, this schedule will undergo several changes before September rolls around, but for now, let the speculating and “armchair quarterbacking” begin! 🙂

Breana Crist Henderson Leaves The Road

January 17, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Crist Family

The Crist Family announced today that Breana Henderson, one of the recently married daughters and alto singers of the family, will be coming off the road in February:

After traveling full-time with The Crist Family for the last eight years, Breana Henderson (formerly Breana Crist) is leaving the road.

Here is a quote from her farewell letter, which can be read in full at www.cristfamilymusic.com: “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under Heaven… a time to plant and a time to uproot… Now, after eight years and over a thousand concerts later, I am writing this letter to tell you that the time has come for me to ‘uproot’ from this ministry and follow God with my husband to the next stage of life He wants to take us through together. I am so excited to see where God takes Josh and me as we seek to follow his leading in our marriage.”

Breana’s father, group manager Rich Crist, says, “We will miss Bre a whole bunch!  We are so thankful that God gave us these years with Bre and we will never forget the blessing of traveling and singing together side by side. Our love and support go with her and Josh as they step into the next stage of life together. Now…how ‘bout some grandkids!”

The changes don’t end there, as the family also announces that younger sibling Valerie will be stepping into the role:

The Crist Family is grooming sixteen year old Valerie Crist (Breana’s younger sister) to step into Breana’s alto role.  You will begin seeing Valerie on a limited basis starting in February on their three week long west coast tour. Breana’s last date with the Crist Family will be January 26th.

First Look: LeFevre Quartet & More

January 17, 2013 By: Aaron Category: First Look, LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

The LeFevre Quartet entered the new year with two new additions: tenor Thomas Nalley, formerly of Providence Quartet, and bass Randy Byrd from the Blackwood Brothers and Anchormen. DinanaSN has three new videos that spotlight the new members:

It’s striking how well the LeFevre Quartet has gelled in a short time. If they are considering re-cutting tenor and bass vocals on their latest release, But For The Cross, this lineup would pull it off well; the first clip, which is a track from that project, makes a good case for doing so. Regardless, I am looking forward to hearing music from this assembly of vocalists for (hopefully) quite a while!

The second has been out there for several months, but was pointed out to me last night. Jackie Lamb, former tenor for Heirline, has a new trio called Mercy’s Bridge. They have a Youtube video hightlighting selections from their debut project:

Youtube Find: Perfect Heart – Have A Little Talk With Jesus

January 13, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Perfect Heart, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

I never did pay much attention to the Garry Sheppard era of Perfect Heart (probably because I haven’t heard their stuff!), but this clip was shared with me today and it cracked me up!

A friend of mine made the comment that a couple of these guys missed their calling. Who knew that Mike Presnell (bass singer for several groups over the years) could sing lead so well? Jeff Stice’s vocals were a surprise as well; perhaps Triumphant Quartet should consider giving him a couple features once in a while, à la Roger Bennett with the Cathedrals and Legacy Five.

The lineup here is tenor (pianist) Jeff Stice, lead (bass) Mike Presnell, baritone Joseph Smith, bass (tenor) Garry Sheppard, and pianist (lead) Darren Doyle.

News Roundup 1-7-13

January 07, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, Jordan's Bridge, SG Artists, SG Music, Talley Trio

1. After coming off the road from the Dove Brothers, pianist Joe Lane has teamed up with tenor Phil Barker to form a new trio. Fans may remember Barker from his Singing Americans days. The group’s name is Jordan’s Bridge, and it is comprised of tenor Barker, lead Rick Sheets, baritone/bass player Jamey Lane (Joe’s brother), and pianist Joe Lane.

I wasn’t all that familiar with Joe Lane’s piano work before hearing him with the Dove Brothers at NQC 2011, but after that, I made sure to go back and listen to everything I could. I was sad to see him leave the road, but am glad to see him return and bring a great tenor like Phil Barker with him. Barker still sounds as good as ever today, and the group as a whole already sounds like a cohesive unit.

Here’s a clip of their debut concert, featuring Phil Barker on an encore of “Glory Road:”

2. Brian Alvey, husband to Lauren Talley Alvey and member of The Talleys, is coming off the road. In Lauren’s words from the group’s newsletter:

My husband, Brian Alvey, has been attending college this past fall and is now going to be working full-time in the financial industry with Western and Southern Life providing insurance, investment and annuities services. We will miss him singing with us but we are excited about the new opportunity God has given him. He remains very supportive of his wife’s ministry, which I’m thankful for! Brian still writes music and records, so you will still enjoy his talents from time to time. Our latest single, “Make Way For the Master,” is one of Brian’s compositions and features him.If you haven’t heard it yet….just get ready, because it’s one of the greatest songs we’ve ever recorded.

No argument from me on their assessment of “Make Way For The Master,” and I hope that Brian will still occasionally contribute to the Talleys’ body of work.

3. It has been a personal thrill to watch the Dixie Melody Boys become a re-energized, renewed quartet. That trend continues, as this press release acknowledges, with numerous nominations in the Christian Voice Magazine awards:

With the announcement of the 2013 Southern Gospel Music Fan Awards Top Ten nominations yesterday by the Christian Voice Magazine, the Dixie Melody Boys showed that the groups recent rise back to the top of Southern Gospel continues to find new heights. The legendary group received eleven Top Ten nominations, the most the group has ever received in one year. In 2012, the Dixie Melody Boys received seven nominations and went on to win Favorite Male Quartet and Favorite Bass Singer. The group is again nominated for Favorite Male Quartet. Hall Of Fame member Ed O’Neal continues to be favorite to fans after fifty years with the group and was nominated again as favorite Bass Singer as well as the Living Legend Award. Tenor Matt Felts appears for the second year in a row in the Favorite Tenor category, solidifying his place as one of Gospel’s brightest young talents. The groups baritone, Steven Cooper makes his debut appearance, nominated for Favorite Baritone. Mike Rogers joined the group as their new lead singer earlier in 2012. He has made an instant impact and the fans have embraced him. Mike has been nominated for Favorite Lead Singer and Excelling Young Individual.

The group was also honored by having their recent album receive two nominations, Album Of The Year and Song Of The Year for “The Call Is Still The Same”. That is the second song from the historic 50th Anniversary project to receive Song Of The Year honors, Jesus In My Boat was nominated last year. The Dixie Melody released another historic project this year, Dixie Melody Boys Reunion: 50 Years Of Influence. The DVD recorded live at the National Quartet Convention has been nominated as Video Of The Year. Last but not least, the television show “Great American Gospel” hosted by Ed O’Neal and the Dixie Melody Boys was nominated for Favorite Television Show.

“We are honored to be selected by the fans. The lists include so many incredible people that we love and admire so to be included on this list and this is a blessing. We have several big things to announce in the coming weeks and this is a great start to our new year.” said Matt Felts.

The voting has started for the next phase in the voting process, fans can go to http://christianvoicemagazine.com/sgmtop10vote.html

Dan Keeton Departs Gold City

January 02, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

So far, 2013 has been a year of changes in Southern Gospel music, and the trend continued this evening when Dan Keeton posted this to his Facebook page:

An open letter to the friends and fans of the Gold City Quartet,

In march of 2011, I was afforded a dream come true, to sing tenor with Gold City. Most of you know my testimony of child abuse, the divorce of my parents and my daddy’s alcoholism. I have recently been given an opportunity to do something I have wanted to do for quite some time. I have wanted to start a non profit organization using music and the arts to inspire child victims of abuse. That opportunity has presented itself and I am so excited, but also heavy hearted. Opening this door means I will have to leave Gold City. I can honestly say, I love the Rileys so much. Tim and Danny are like family to me. Chuck, Bryan and Jerry are so easy going and fun to be around that I will dearly miss being on the bus with such fine Christian gentlemen. I will always be greatful for my time here.

As friends and fans of Gold City, please know, I love you all. I have never felt so much love as I have from you. Please pray that Gold City finds the best replacement and the transition is as smooth as possible.

Sincerely,
Dan Keeton

Daniel Riley later added:

We support Dan 100 percent in this new chapter of his life. We believe God has given him this opportunity to go into this new ministry. Dan has personally dealt with child abuse, and we believe his passion is for helping others in this area. He has our blessing and prayers as he leaves to encourage and enrich the lives of others in this special calling. Dan has agreed to stay on with Gold City and continue his role as our tenor until a replacement can be found.”

For those interested in applying for the tenor position with Gold City, demos and resumes will be accepted via email form to tenorauditions@me.com.

While this news is a surprise, I can respect the reasoning behind it. It is certainly not a common reason given for departure, and I wish Dan the best of luck!

The tenor position for Gold City is a demanding role that requires an ability to consistently sing a part that often is pitched higher than many other groups. It will be interesting to see who the group gets, as it is a tough part to fill.

In tribute to Dan’s time with the group, here is one of my favorite clips of Gold City during his tenure:

Randy Byrd Joins LeFevre Quartet

January 02, 2013 By: Aaron Category: LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Anchormen

Today, the final piece of the LeFevre Quartet puzzle fell into place. Since the departure of Paul Harkey for Ernie Haase & Signature Sound shortly after NQC 2012, the group has had several fill-in bass singers, including Keith Plott and Tim Duncan, during their search for a new member. That search has finally come to a close, as former Blackwood Brothers and Anchormen bass singer Randy Byrd announced the transition in a Facebook status, citing wanting to move back to being closer to family as the reason for the departure. No word yet on future plans for the Anchormen, but look for an announcement there soon.

In Daniel Mount’s review of the group’s latest release, But For The Cross, he made this statement about the track “I’m So Saved”:

Mere weeks after the album released, Paul Harkey left to join Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. This song shows the potential he could have had with the group if he’d stayed. The song requires a bass comfortable with incredibly low notes; here’s hoping the LeFevre Quartet can find replacement who can pull off this challenging arrangement with aplomb.

The LeFevre Quartet has picked up a  capable singer in Byrd, and it’s worth noting that he has proved that he can handle Paul Harkey bass parts, as this is the second time he has followed Harkey in a quartet. I believe the above criteria has been met. Couple with the recent hire of tenor Thomas Nalley, there is much potential for this group.

Join me in welcoming Randy to the LeFevre Quartet, and looking forward to what this newly solidified lineup will do!

Promise Welcomes Matt Baker

January 01, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Promise, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

2013 brings a Southern Gospel news item right as the year kicks off! Promise has been “promising” (pun intended) big news on New Year’s Day. That came to fruition early this morning with the announcement of a new member for the trio. Here’s the press release regarding this hire:

Promise is thrilled to announce the addition of Matt Baker to their ministry. Matt is from Lenoir, North Carolina, has a lovely wife, and a beautiful baby girl. They are also expecting their second child next summer. Matt will be filling the baritone position, as well as bringing his piano playing skills into the mix.

“When Matt first stepped on stage with us, something clicked” says David Mann. “His pleasing voice and great personality make him a joy to have with us. And we found out that he’s not a bad piano player either!”

TJ Evans states, “We’re gaining both a great singer and a good friend in Matt. We’ve gotten to know him well over the last few months. He’ll bring a lot to our concert experience, and we’re very excited to see what the future holds.”

And… HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

You can visit Promise online at www.promisetrio.com, or they can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

You’ll notice that the release mentions that Baker is the group’s new baritone. This effectively gives the group a new dynamic, as former lead singer TJ Evans is bumped up to the tenor position, and baritone David Mann steps in at lead. Such a shift will undoubtedly bring some changes to the group’s sound, while still building upon the foundation that was already in place.

I’m glad that Promise will be capitalizing on Baker’s talent at the piano, as that will give a fresh aspect to their concerts. While there have been no video clips of this configuration of the group yet, I did come across one of Matt a couple of years ago, showcasing both his singing and piano playing: