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

Archive for April, 2013

David Ragan Departs The Inspirations

April 29, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Inspirations

Change is in the air once again, as this announcement from the Inspirations lead singer just hit the Internet. From his Facebook page:

Hello friends, I have some unfortunate news. As of Friday, April 26th, 2013, exactly one week after my son was born, I am no longer the lead singer for the Inspirations.

There will no doubt be many questions about this, and I am prepared to answer any of them that you might have. Let me say first that I want to put any potential rumors to rest by stating that I was not fired for any kind of moral issues or anything else of that nature. The decision was mine to make, even though I did not expect to have to make it last week. Needless to say, the past week and a half has been very chaotic for me and my wife.

Singing for the Inspirations was my dream ever since I first saw them in concert when I was 14 years old. I am very thankful that God allowed me to live that dream for the past 4 ½ years. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I have met some of the most amazing, wonderful people in the world, and I have been privileged to experience so many things that many people never get to. I have made so many friends, both artists and fans alike, in the past several years. For all of that I am extremely grateful.

Last week I was presented with a situation that I believed was completely unreasonable. Without getting too specific, there were simply too many irreconcilable differences for me to continue with the group. I was not fired; I decided to leave. It was in the best interests of me and my family to do so, even though it is not something that I had planned before last week. If anyone has any specific questions I have nothing to hide, but I would prefer to answer questions in a personal message rather than on a public post.

To the guys I have sung with, I support you and love you like brothers. I have never, nor will I ever take your friendship for granted. I wish them all the best and hope they can find somebody that sings better than me!

Let me say a huge thank you to all of you who have supported me, befriended me, and prayed for me during the last 4 ½ years. I am very grateful. At this point I’m not sure what the future holds or if I will sing full-time again, but I will keep you all posted. Please continue to pray for me and my wife along with our newborn son as we begin a transition into a new time in our lives. Please pray that I’m able to find employment soon as well.

I love you all and thank God for the opportunity to be involved in the greatest music this world has ever known. God bless you all.


I came to appreciate David’s work with the group over his relatively brief tenure with the group, both on and off the stage. On stage, he was a dynamic voice that clearly defined their sound. On top of the Appalachian Gospel sound that the quartet has become known for over the years, you could tell who was singing when the lead singer stepped up to the microphone. Aside from that, I enjoyed interacting with him at the product table. While I have never seen the group in a full concert, I had the opportunity to talk to David on numerous occasions at NQC, and I greatly appreciate his friendly demeanor and the kind words he had to say about this little corner of the web. I wish him well.

Obviously, family comes first, and while you always hate to see them go, it’s completely understandable, especially with a newborn. While some details of the departure are apparently not the most pleasant, I hope that both parties can amicably move forward, and am anticipating good things from both David and the Inspirations with their new vocalist.

Update: Inspirations baritone Jon Epley posted this on behalf of the group:

Hello everyone, this is Jon Epley. First of all, let me say on behalf of all the guys, that we love David and wish the best for him. He is an incredible singer and a good friend. David made a decision that he felt was the right thing for him and his family, and we support his decision. There was no sin or immorality involved, so we can put any of those rumors to rest!

Change is never easy, but at times it is inevitable. We, The Inspirations, will continue to sing about the same Jesus and His great love, and that will never change. We appreciate ALL of our friends and thank you for sticking by us through even the most difficult of times. We hope you will continue to stand by us as we seek the Lord’s will in the search for that one person that God has in mind for us. We know that He always has a plan and covet your prayers in the days ahead.

We know that there are many questions; however, out of respect to David’s privacy and the group’s privacy, no questions will be answered on this public page. On a final note, the last thing David did as administrator of this page was remove his previous post. We did not remove it, that was his decision. Editor’s note: The post referred to here is the announcement above. David posted to his personal Facebook first, then the group’s page.

Once again, thank you all so much for your prayers and support. We love each and every one of you and look forward to seeing you down the road!

I Corinthians 15:58

Youtube Spotlight: Gold City

April 29, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

We’ve seen a couple of clips of Gold City floating around since Robert Fulton was named to the tenor position, but no high quality video has been available until now. These are from the beginning of April, but were just recently uploaded. Here’s one that I want to turn a spotlight on that I feel is a good representation of where the group is now:

Why this video in particular? For starters, it’s a song that has been absent from their set list for several years. I’m glad to see them start incorporating some songs that aren’t the same ones we’ve heard time and time again. Also, this is a good showcase of the new tenor’s range and stage presence. It certainly makes me want to see and hear more.

Here’s another clip that includes three songs: “I Cast My Bread Upon The Water,” “I Can Tell You The Time,” and “When He Blessed My Soul.” Following that is the Tim Riley standard, “Under Control.”

Pardon The Interruption

April 17, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

At some point yesterday, the server crashed for reasons unknown. If you tried to access the site up until a short while ago, it was down. I was in the same boat! Everything seems to have been fixed, however, so hopefully there are no issues on either end.

As it turns out, the crash caused me to miss blogging the big announcement from IMC Concerts, but there was no real loss since the hunch that was already formed ended up being correct. Thoughts?

Big News From IMC Concerts

April 15, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a steady buzz building on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter of a “big announcement” coming today from IMC Concerts. The announcement hits at 9:00 PM EST, but for now, the floor is open for guesses as to what the news entails.

My guess (and what seems to be a consensus among the posts I’ve seen) is that this is a Cathedrals Reunion event, and possibly even a full tour. The evidence is this: the groups that have been posting and hinting at the announcement include Legacy Five, Greater Vision, Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, and the Mark Trammell Quartet, at least (there may be more that I’ve missed). The common thread among all of those groups is that they each contain one former member of The Cathedrals.

For years, Legacy Five, Greater Vision, Mark Trammell Trio/Quartet, and Danny Funderburk have done select concerts under the name of “Remembering The Music,” which were Cathedrals tribute events, just without the group name. I remember attending one several years ago in Winston-Salem, NC that was entitled “Remembering The Cathedrals,” but the name changed shortly thereafter. I would guess that, with the addition of Ernie Haase’s group to the usual lineup, the Cathedrals name could be used again for these events, but I’m not privy to how that all works (who actually owns the name or has permission to use it, among other things). No word so far on whether other Cathedrals alumni will be a part of the event/tour, but it will be interesting to find out if the general guess is correct.

There are some silhouette pictures of the photo shoot on Facebook here and here.

Check back here around 9:00 for the official announcement, and feel free to leave your guesses in the comments section!

Update: In light of the tragedy in Boston, the announcement has been postponed until tomorrow at 9:00 PM Eastern.

First Look: Robert Fulton with Gold City

April 15, 2013 By: Aaron Category: First Look, Gold City, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

At long last, we have a Youtube clip of Gold City’s new lineup where the tenor can be heard. It’s a video from far away, but the audio quality is good. While it’s not a tenor feature, it does manage to show that the group has achieved a fine blend with Fulton. Hopefully, more will follow, but here is “I Can Tell You The Time.”

Robert Fulton Is The New Gold City Tenor

April 10, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

There have been several groups on the market for a new tenor singer, but one book seems to finally closed on that, as Tim Riley gave word in a recent radio interview that Robert Fulton, formerly of Palmetto State Quartet, is singing the high part for Gold City. Fulton has been filling in/auditioning for the past several weeks. Head over and check out the interview; the stuff concerning the tenor position comes at around 3:40.

Hopefully, there will be some video footage of Fulton that surfaces with the group around the time of an official press release (though I think that word from Tim Riley is official enough), but so far I haven’t found anything on Youtube that really showcases the new sound. For now, though, here’s a clip from a few weeks ago made available by Gospel Music Today on Facebook.

From what I have heard so far, Fulton brings a different sound to Gold City, but it is one that I believe will be a benefit. I will say that I was surprised at first when I heard him sing songs like “I’m Not Giving Up,” as Palmetto State’s material never really sent him into that range, but he pulled it off.

CD Review: Beyond The Ashes – Living In The Moment

April 01, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Beyond The Ashes, CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music

Beyond The Ashes - Living In The MomentRating: 5 stars

Producer: Wayne Haun
Label: Stow Town Records
Website: www.beyondtheashesonline.com

Song titles: So Amazing To Me; Living In The Moment; Oh, The Thought That Jesus Loves Me; No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace; Peace In The Midst Of The Storm; Walking With My Eyes On Jesus; I Can’t Do This By Myself; Where The Gold Begins; When Love Whispers Your Name; Your Love Comes Shining Through; Over For Good

Download Project Here

Beyond The Ashes is a trio that has been on an upward climb in Southern Gospel music for the past couple of years. Started by Anthony Facello, former tenor of groups such as the Heaven Bound, The Down East Boys, The Journeymen, and Mercy’s Mark, the group has steadily built a fan base since around 2007. The group started under the name Anthony Facello & Crossroad before changing their name to Beyond The Ashes in 2008. With their release on Vine Records, Treasures Unseen, the trio began to make a name for themselves with successful radio singles such as “Whenever We Pray.” After signing with Ernie Haase & Wayne Haun’s Stow Town Records, they released an independent project made of covers entitled Loving What’s Begun, which was also the first project to feature the current lineup of tenor Facello, lead Dustin Doyle, and baritone Kellan Monroe. This lineup gets their first real chance to show themselves with this release.

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I appreciate a group that has a distinctive sound. Facello’s is a tenor voice that is instantly recognizable, but Beyond The Ashes is comprised of voices that set them apart even from the other groups he has been a part of. Each voice has a similar soulful quality that meshes well with the others. This is used to good effect on close harmony songs like “So Amazing To Me” and “Oh, The Thought That Jesus Loves Me.” You may have guessed that the latter is a cover of a Collingsworth Family song, and BTA’s version holds its own in a way that doesn’t make it feel like a cover. Facello himself gets a standout track on the project with a song from his own pen, “No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace.”

Speaking of distinctive voices, this album is a highlight reel for new lead singer Dustin Doyle. Doyle gets the lion’s share of features here, and his singing style lends itself well to the “traditional Gospel with a twist” feel of “Peace In The Midst Of The Storm,” as well as the Jason Mraz pop tune “Living In The Moment.”

In reviewing this album, I discovered that Beyond The Ashes may have established a knack for picking catchy songs; I’ve had a harder time getting most of these songs out of my head than possibly any other project I’ve reviewed. Songs like the bouncy “Your Love Comes Shining Through” and the aforementioned “No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace” or the title track have a way of embedding themselves in your head, and you’ll more than likely find yourself humming them from time to time. For any Christian music, this can be a good thing; the message in these songs is important, and they’ll be grasped more if the listener catches on to the music well. If Beyond The Ashes can continue picking songs of that nature, it certainly won’t hurt.

Treasures Unseen may have put the foot in the door for Beyond The Ashes, but Living In The Moment has the all-around quality that can potentially solidify their place on the Southern Gospel map, and that’s why it receives 5 stars.