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

Mid-Week Roundup 10/30/2013

October 30, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Freedom, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Several news items have popped up in the past few days. Here’s a rundown:

  1. Legacy Five has started a Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming release. With the incentive of various rewards for different amounts of donations, fans can get involved in helping to fund this project. Visit the link for a summary of what the group is doing and the different rewards.

    One thing you can say Southern Gospel music is that even the “top groups” are some of the most accessible artists out there. In how many other genres can you regularly meet the artist at the product table? In a way, something like Kickstarter is perfect for this genre, because it’s a way for the fan to become involved in what the artist is doing with their music, which in turn brings a new sense of that accessibility.

  2. Some have asked where former Dixie Melody Boys lead Donald Morris ended up after leaving the group. Morris and his wife have just joined a family group by the name of the Hoggle Family, and are currently working on a mainline release through AK Music. You may remember that Morris had several songs that he had written cut on the DMB’s The Call Is Still The Same project. He has not stopped writing; all ten songs on the Hoggle Family project are from him.
  3. Freedom Quartet made a splash at last NQC with a lineup of several fan favorites and a new face to most. John Rulapaugh, Dale Shipley, Preston Garner, and Burman Porter are getting ready to release their first project as Freedom Quartet, and you can hear three songs from that project in the player at the bottom of their website: “Somebody Touched The Lord,” “I Believe He’s Coming Back,” and “On A Journey.”

First Look: Gold City with Chip Pullen

October 29, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, First Look, Gold City, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

Gold City made a return trip to Grandin Court Baptist Church in Roanoke, VA last Friday night. I was planning on going anyway, but my interest increased when it happened to fall on the second weekend since Chip Pullen, formerly of the Anchormen, started singing with the group following Jerry Pelfrey’s departure. Interestingly enough, when the group sang there two years ago, Pelfrey had recently started with them. Since then, they have changed tenors (from Dan Keeton to Robert Fulton) and lead singers (Pelfrey to Pullen).

Nothing I say will describe how the change has affected their sound quite like actually hearing it, so here are some clips.

It’s nice hearing “Somebody Sing Me A Gospel Song” as the concert opener again. They wasted no time in featuring the new guy!

Gold City’s catalog is vast and plentiful, so I like the fact that they are starting to change up the setlist from what we are used to. This is one of my favorite Jay Parrack features, so it’s nice to hear it find a voice again.

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Mark Lowry, Michael English Leaving The Gaither Vocal Band

October 28, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Gaither Vocal Band, Michael English, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Talk started late last week that there may be changes for the GVB when it was noted that Mark Lowry was not listed on the roster for concerts in Spring 2014. This morning, Lowry posted a video announcing that he is departing the group, citing the reason as being a desire to slow down and focus on solo dates more. He says a press release will be sent out today and that he will remain with the group through the rest of this year, and will still appear at events like Family Fest.

Later update: I have updated the title of the post to reflect the news that just hit. Apparently, Mark is not the only one leaving the GVB. A press release has been posted on the Gaither website saying that Michael English is also leaving, effective immediately:

Nearly five years ago, when Bill Gaither created an all-star version of the Gaither Vocal Band, the returning GVB members were managing solo careers and added the Gaither Vocal Band’s tour dates, video tapings and recordings to their existing schedules.  Now, after trying to manage both solo careers and Gaither Vocal Band responsibilities, Mark Lowry and Michael English are ready for a new season of life that is not so demanding.

“When I rejoined the Gaither Vocal Band in 2009, I figured it wouldn’t be a long-term commitment since Bill was over 70 years old,” Mark says, adding, “That was nearly five years ago and Bill’s bucket list is wearing me out!  But the Vocal Band is a family.  We come and we go, but we never REALLY leave.  I could pop up anywhere at any time!”

Mark Lowry will fulfill his Gaither Vocal Band concert commitments through the end of 2013. Michael English has already concluded his last regular Gaither Vocal Band concert as the lead singer, but we look forward to having him join us for Gaither Fest in Myrtle Beach and other future events. We have confirmed Mark Lowry for the 2014 Caribbean Cruise and Family Fest 2014.  Besides those two events, if you want to hear the Gaither Vocal Band with Mark Lowry singing baritone, the concerts remaining in 2013 will be your last opportunity! Check www.gaither.com for upcoming tour dates and ticket information.  Check Michael’s website,www.michaelenglishmusic.com, for solo concerts in a city near you.  And check for Mark Lowry’s solo dates at www.marklowry.com.

Bill Gaither states, “I am grateful that we have had five bonus years with these incredibly talented artists. Thank you, thank you to Michael and Mark.  For those of you who have followed the Vocal Band for the past 25 years, you know that I have worked with some of the most talented male vocalists in our field, and I promise you we are not going to let that standard down in this transition. I am sad to see Michael and Mark leaving, yet I am so excited about the new possibilities we are considering.  So stay tuned for an exciting voyage in 2014!  We will update you when we have made final decisions.”

At this point, the future personnel of the GVB is anyone’s guess. While this chapter of the group’s history is drawing to a close, the “all-star five-man group” was an awesome period that I’m glad to have witnessed.

Update: Here’s a statement from Michael English:

Want everyone to know I appreciate all your love and support over the years. The last 5 years with the GVB have been very enjoyable for me and I will miss the guys.
Like Mark this was a very difficult decision but one I feel at peace with. I will be enjoying more time off and able to pursue other opportunities. It will be a new day for Michael English but one I am very excited about. Hope to see many of you at solo shows in the future!

Omega Becomes A Quartet

October 26, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Omega, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

RickShortly before NQC, it was announced that Kevin Harry, a fill-in lead for the Dixie Melody Boys, was joining this trio from Georgia. The group has been on main stage as showcase winners for several years. Now, the group announces, they are adding a bass singer:

On the very recent heels of hiring Kevin Harry as their new lead singer, OMEGA prayerfully made the decision to become a quartet!

After several discussions, a close friend of the group called with a name and a huge recommendation. Phone calls were made and an audition weekend was scheduled. It only took one sound check singing a few songs and the group knew they had found the right man for the job.

OMEGA is pleased to announce that Rick Walls will be the new bass singer for the group. Rick is no stranger to Southern Gospel. He sang bass for the Grand Strand Gospel Hour at the Gatlin Bros Theatre in Myrtle Beach, and most recently toured with the Holy City Quartet. Jeff Chapman of the Kingdom Heirs states, “I think Rick is a fine bass singer and will be a great addition to Omega”.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity the Lord has given me to minister with the three anointed men from Omega. Their passion and desire to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ is something that I am looking forward to being a part of for many years to come”, says Rick.

Doug Pittman, group owner, says “Rick is the full package! His enthusiasm and love for the Gospel is evident in all that he does. Not only does he have a great bass voice, he also has a heart for people. This partnership between Rick and Omega is perfect and God ordained. He sees eye to eye with our mission: to spread the love of God through His word in music.”

Rick will make his first official appearance with the group at the Creekside Gospel Music Conference October 28,2013.

For more information about OMEGA, visit them at www.omegaquartet.com

Omega already had a strong sound as a trio, and I’m looking forward to hearing how they will sound as a quartet.

The Inspirations Post-Holcomb

October 07, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Inspirations

Last week, it was announced that longtime Inspirations bass singer Mike Holcomb has resigned the group after 42 years to become a full-time evangelist. Obviously, after such a lengthy tenure for any singer, the group’s sound would be easily identified by that vocalist. The big question is, what does the future hold for the Inspirations?

While this is almost assuredly not what the final sound will be, here’s an interesting look at how the group is filling the gap. Tenor Mark Clark is the only one here in his usual spot; lead singer Steve Srein had the weekend off, so former lead singer Matt Dibler filling in there, multi-instrumentalist Luke Vaught is holding down the baritone, and usual baritone Jon Epley is standing in at bass. Here are a few clips of a recent concert featuring this lineup. For a mostly shuffled quartet, they fit together pretty well!

With the advent of sites like Youtube, fans are afforded a peek at a page of a group’s long history that they may not be able to see otherwise.

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CD Review: Dixie Melody Boys – Have You Heard

October 04, 2013 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Dixie Melody Boys, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: David Staton & Dirk Johnson
Label: Song Garden Music Group
Website: www.dixiemelodyboys.com

Song titles: Praise The Lord Hallelujah Amen; What I Lost In The Flood; Roll Back; When I Called His Name; God’s Gonna Give You A Testimony; Valley of Tears; Muddy Water; What Remains Of Me; Rhythm of Heaven; Death Has Died; That Story Is Mine; Haven Called Heaven

When it comes to comeback stories in Southern Gospel music, one can certainly point to the Dixie Melody Boys as a prime example. Just a couple of years ago, almost anyone who followed the music may have told you that the group was one with a rich heritage in this genre, but was heading off into the sunset of their careers. It looked like the Ed O’Neal University was probably going to close its doors for good.

Then came the group’s 50th Anniversary. A change in personnel and the release of a celebratory project fittingly entitled The Call Is Still The Same kicked off the biggest turnaround for a group’s direction in recent memory. The quartet hasn’t stopped since then, and this latest CD finds them at an interesting point in their history.

Since the last album, the group has seen baritone Steven Cooper step down from his vocal role due to voice problems and take a seat behind the soundboard, with an occasional bass guitar appearance. Filling his role, as well as playing piano on select songs, is Aaron Dishman, a fresh face to most fans. Lead singer Donald Morris came off the road and Mike Rogers stepped in. He had all but completed his contribution to this project when he left to join Brian Free & Assurance, and Florida Boys alum Josh Garner was eventually picked as the new lead. With so many changes in the lineup, this project has the daunting task of continuing the group’s positive trajectory, while also establishing an almost brand-new vocal sound.

The Dixie Melody Boys tread new musical ground here as far as their catalog is concerned. Songs like “What I Lost In The Flood,” “God’s Gonna Give You A Testimony,” and “Rhythm of Heaven” are progressive enough to set themselves apart from other things the group has done, while still falling solidly in the quartet tradition they have established. There is still plenty of straight-up traditional fare here, such as the country-flavored “When I Called His Name,” the fast-paced “That Story Is Mine,” and the Rodney Griffin and Joseph Habedank ballad “Valley of Tears,” which features newcomer Dishman.

Did you ever think that the Dixie Melody Boys would cover a big, orchestrated Cathedrals ballad? Take a listen to their revival of the underrated “Death Has Died.” Another pleasant surprise is Ed O’Neal’s solo feature. His work on “What Remains Of Me” makes the song a prime choice for a radio single.

The Dixie Melody Boys have produced a collection of music that is another solid step in the right direction, proving that they have become a viable quartet once again, and that is why Have You Heard receives 5 stars.

Gold City Hires Chip Pullen

October 01, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Anchormen

In a surprising announcement this morning, Gold City lead singer Jerry Pelfrey announced that he is stepping away from the group to re-launch his family group, The Pelfreys:

In a joint statement, Gold City manager Danny Riley and lead singer Jerry Pelfrey announce Jerry will be leaving the award-winning quartet to reorganize his family group, The Pelfreys. Jerry’s last day with the group will be Wednesday, October 16th at Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Danny says, “Anyone who has heard Jerry sing knows he has been a great addition to Gold City vocally and behind the scenes as well. We could make this a sad occasion over losing a valued team member, but in reality, no one knows more the importance of traveling with family than my father (Tim Riley) and I. We respect Jerry for taking this opportunity to be with his family at this time in all of their lives. Gold City asks that you join us in praying for the Pelfreys that God would bless their ministry and allow them to do His work for many years to come.”

The Pelfreys will feature Jerry, his wife, Mikki, and Jerry’s sister, Kim Pelfrey Van Hoozier. Jerry says, “I will be honest. I’m scared to death, but ever since the song Lord of Life, I have had a burden to personally be more specific in asking people who Jesus is to them. Once I made the decision with my family to re-establish The Pelfreys, I’ve had a peace about it. We covet your prayers as we step out in faith to launch this new ministry.”

Gold City’s new lead vocalist is Chip Pullen, who most recently has sang with the Anchormen and is an Alabama native. He will assume his role with Gold City on Thursday, October 17th. Danny says, “We know fans are going to fall in love with Chip. We are excited about our future as we continue to make great gospel music for the glory of God.”

Gold City is booked exclusively by The Beckie Simmons Agency. For more information about Gold City or to schedule a concert, visit www.bsaworld.com or www.goldcityqt.com.

I have appreciated Jerry’s contributions to the Gold City sound over the past couple of years, and am glad to see that he will still be singing. Both parties should be commended on such a smooth, friendly transition.

As for Chip Pullen, Gold City has capitalized on a great young talent that has only recently stepped into the national spotlight with The Anchormen. These two clips of his work with that group show that he will be a great fit for the sound and direction that Gold City is cultivating: