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

Archive for the ‘Brian Free And Assurance’

Mike Rogers Departs Dixie Melody Boys, Joins Brian Free & Assurance

May 22, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Dixie Melody Boys, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

971766_10151564029864039_142470391_nThe Dixie Melody Boys announced on their Facebook page tonight that lead singer Mike Rogers had left the group after a ten-month run, and also sent out this press release:

The Dixie Melody Boys have announced that their lead singer Mike Rogers has resigned. Mike has been with the group for the last ten months. “We wish Mike and his family the best.” said Ed O’Neal. The group will begin looking for a replacement shortly. “Change can be hard but also exciting. History has proven that every time a singer has left, God has brought us another great addition to the Dixie Melody Boys. We know God has someone coming that will be the right fit for years to come.” added Matt Felts. The Dixie Melody Boys are taking demos at dixiemelodyboys@yahoo.com.

A short time later, Brian Free & Assurance made this announcement on their Facebook page:

Brian Free & Assurance Announce New Baritone

Douglasville, GA – May 22, 2013 Brian Free announced today a decision has been made in filling the baritone position. Joining the BFA family will be Mike Rogers of Kinston, NC who fans will recognize from his recent position as lead singer for the Dixie Melody Boys. Mike will join the group on June 20th at the Memphis Quartet Show.

Twenty-four year old Mike shares, “The warmth and humility from Brian and the guys when I auditioned made me feel this was truly a God-thing, and confirmed for me that I wanted to be a part of their ministry. BFA is very family-oriented, which means a lot to me. Ministry is important, but after God, family is top priority. Quartet music doesn’t get any better than BFA. They are top notch, and I am honored to join them.”

Brian states, “When I received the audition info for Mike I was very impressed with his vocal ability and the gift to deliver a song. After spending some time with him, his wife Bekki and daughter Coraline at my home, I knew he was the one God had sent to be a member of our family. I love his heart and the love he has for people. He will be a wonderful addition to BFA.

Having over 300 people apply for the job, it was a hard decision due to all the talent I heard. I want to thank each person who took their time and effort to apply for the position. I am truly honored that so many wanted to be a part of our ministry. I know God has a place and time for you to use your talent for him.”

Brian Free & Assurance’s first single I Want To Be That Man off their current project, Nothing But Love, went to number one the month of February on the Singing News Charts. Their follow up single, Calvary’s Cry has quickly climbed the charts and currently holds number six for the month of May.

To keep up to date with Brian Free & Assurance visit their website at: http://www.brianfreeandassurance.com/

While BFA got a singer that certainly fits their style and sound, I hate to see it come at such a blow to the Dixie Melody Boys, as he really added a lot to their sound and stage presence. However, I am sure that the DMB’s upward trajectory will continue with the hire of a new singer.

CD Review: Brian Free & Assurance – Never Walk Alone

December 07, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producer: Ricky Free
Label: Daywind Records
Website: www.brianfreeandassurance.com

Buy Here

Track list: Anything is Possible; I Believe; God Will Close the Door; The Part Where You Come In; Remind Me of the Cross; It’s My Life; Turn the Page; Stand Among the Millions; It’s Gotta Be God; Never Walk Alone

After Brian Free & Assurance released Live In New York City in 2005, many people waited with anticipation to see what the group would produce next. What could follow such a successful effort? The answer came in the form of 2006’s It’s So God! That particular album has been mentioned time and time again as a “career project” for the group. It received five-star ratings from many reviewers, and the song selection and production were top-notch. After bass singer Keith Plott left the group in 2007, Jeremy Lile, formerly of Crystal River, was hired and Real Faith was released. This garnered attention as being both Lile’s debut with the group, and the group’s true foray into the cutting edge of Progressive Southern Gospel music. While the song selection on that album and the next, Worth It, was certainly stellar, the major complaint that many had was that the production gave those efforts a computerized, almost robotic sound, which was a detriment to the body of music, and kept either of those albums from surpassing the quality and success of It’s So God!

Earlier this year, it was announced that Ricky Free, Brian’s son and former drummer for the quartet, would be taking over the production of the group’s projects, breaking Barry Weeks’ two-project run. Ricky had already produced a few projects for the group (Christmas with Brian Free & Assurance, Timeless Hymns & Classics Vol. 2, and Acappella) that were very well-done, and many, including this blogger, hoped that he would finally get a hold of a true mainline release and steer it away from the computerized sound, and get back to the pre-Real Faith quality of the group.

At the risk of sounding like a fanboy, Never Walk Alone is today’s It’s So God!

There is plenty to like on this project: song selection, sound, production; all are stellar. While the group still maintains the modern feel of their previous two mainline releases, the sound is crisp and clean with sounding completely tweaked. Songs like “Anything Is Possible,” “God Will Close The Door,” and “Turn The Page” have the driving, progressive sound the group is known for. The album has its fair share of slower songs as well; bass singer Jeremy Lile gets the lead on a beautiful track entitled “Remind Me of The Cross,” returning baritone Derrick Selph carries a “mission statement” song on “It’s My Life,” and tenor Brian Free lends his trademark soaring tenor for “Stand Among The Millions.” He is also featured on the project’s title track, and takes it almost completely solo save for some harmony lines by lead singer Bill Shivers from the second verse on. That particular tune is one of my favorites on the project for a few reasons: it’s a very real and powerful lyric, it highlights the tight harmony Free and Shivers have built in the ten years they have been singing together, and it’s a completely different sound for the group. The only instrumentation is piano and orchestra, making for a striking contrast from the rest of the songs to close out the project.

Final thoughts: I’m afraid I’ve sounded like a crazed fan all over this review, but the truth is, I don’t know of a single thing to complain about on this project. Every aspect of it, right down to the album liners, is top-notch. Brian Free & Assurance have certainly outdone themselves here, and I’m anxious to see how they will follow this one up in the future. This is surely one of 2010’s best albums in the Southern Gospel genre.

Bottom line: For fans of BF&A who are tired of the over-compressed sound and longing for the days of It’s So God!, I would encourage you to pick up Never Walk Alone.

Randy Crawford Leaves Brian Free & Assurance; Derrick Selph Rejoins

May 10, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Brian Free & Assurance posted to their Facebook today that effective May 16, baritone Randy Crawford will no longer be singing with the group. In an even more surprising move, they announced that on May 20, former baritone Derrick Selph will start back with BF&A.

It’s becoming more common a singer will return to a group he’s sung with before, recent examples being Bryan Hutson to The Kingsmen, Randy Crawford to Brian Free & Assurance, Tim Riley to Gold City, and Chris Allman to Greater Vision. But it is extremely rare for a former group member to return to a group so quickly!

The good thing about a former member returning in such a short time period is that a) the sound of the group will not change drastically and b) fans are already familiar with the singer. Best of luck to the parties involved in this transition. There have already been hints on Crawford’s Facebook page that he will still be singing. Where and in what capacity still remains to be seen.

News From The Weekend

January 11, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Quartet, Brian Free And Assurance, Guy Penrod, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

1. Ron Blackwood Quartet Lineup Changes – There have been a few rumblings on various forums and blogs about changes for this group, but it’s official now: Chris West has joined the group as bass singer and Steve Warren will pull double duty as baritone and pianist. Both of these men have quite a resume in the world of Southern Gospel music, and Ron Blackwood has quite a lineup assembled now. The group’s first lineup had a good sound and great potential, but didn’t keep together before they signed with a record company. Hopefully, this lineup will fare better.

2. Brian Free & Assurance At Work On New Project – Via Burke’s Brainwork, Brian Free & Assurance is going to work on a new A Capella project, due out sometime in March or April. The latest example of a song in this style that the group has done is the opening track of their Worth It project, “There Is A Kingdom Coming.”

The group has often been criticized for sounding too artificial or digital on their more recent recordings, and that complaint has carried over more so when they did the aforementioned song on their project. However, Brian Free’s son, Ricky, will be producing the project and all projects from here on out for the group. Ricky produced the group’s Christmas CD a few years ago, and he produced and arranged their Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume II project as well; on those projects, the group sounds much more real and less digitized, and their future efforts will be better for it.

3. Guy Penrod Signs With Gaither Music Group – If nothing else puts to rest the rumors of bad blood between Gaither & Penrod since his departure, this press release will. Gaither Music Group will be re-releasing his Breathe Deep solo debut in the coming months.

NQC 2009: Saturday Night

September 21, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Booth Brothers, Brian Free And Assurance, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Music, Triumphant Quartet

Sorry for taking so long to put this up. Time constraints had me tied down.

NQC 2009 has come to a close after a great week. In a way, it’s sad, because I’m not ready for it to be over yet, but in another way, it’s a relief because I’m worn out and I’m tired of staying up till 2 AM doing these reports!

1. Brian Free & Assurance recovered nicely from their technical difficulties. Their track wouldn’t start so they ended up doing the a capella tune from their Worth It project, “There Is A Kingdom Coming.” It sounded really good; everybody who thought it was too sonically enhanced on the CD should know that it sounded just as good live and off the cuff. They had to decide to do it at the last minute; I know for a fact it was not on the set list for the night.

2. Booth Brothers won a majority of the Fan Awards they were nominated for again. They got the ball rolling a couple years ago and haven’t let up since. Triumphant Quartet had a good year in the awards as well, winning such awards as Eric Bennett for favorite bass (he’s deserved that for years), Jeff Stice for Favorite Musician, and favorite quartet going to Triumphant. Here’s a complete list of winners:

-Musician. Jeff Stice
-Horizon Individual. Jacob Kitson
-Baritone. Jim Brady
-Bass. Eric Bennet
-Young Artist. Joseph Hadabank
-Lead singer. Ronnie Booth
-Soprano. Kim Hopper
-Tenor. Michael Booth
-Alto. Libbi Stuffle
-Norcross/Templeton Award. Jerry Kirksey
-Promoter. Twila Rhoer?
-Male Singer. Ronnie Booth
-Horizon Group. Crist Family
-Song Writer. Rodney Griffin
-Mixed Quartet. Hoppers
-Album. Room For More-Booth Brothers
-Trio. Booth Brothers
Quartet. Triumphant Quartet
-Song of the year. What Salvations Done For Me-Booth Brothers
-Artist of the year. Booth Brothers

3. Speaking of the awards, the show went FAR too long this year. Everything just seemed to drag. I don’t mind the winners talking, but the comedy and stuff like that was just claptrap. I heard one lady in my section say “I coulda done all that in 45 minutes.” I overheard other such comments both in Freedom Hall and in the exhibit area. Make the awards show interesting, but don’t overdo it. Nobody likes that.

Sound issues abounded again, but once again, I can’t say anything different than what I said every other night. The NQC would do well to a get new sound crew for next year. And I heard several people complain about the bass guitar on the tracks sounding like certain people that roll into parking lots with their bass thumping in their cars. It’s annoying.

NQC 2009: Friday Night

September 19, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Gaither Vocal Band, Gene McDonald, NQC 2009, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Inspirations

NQC has but one night left before it’s all winded down. It’s time, once again, for a brief look at what transpired:

1. Most poignant moment of the night goes to Jeremy Lile’s feature on “Save Me A Seat At The Table.” For those who don’t know why this particular performance was different than any other, I’ll explain. Jeremy’s father was dying of cancer this week, which is why Jeremy wasn’t there Monday and Jeff Chapman filled in. His dad passed away on Wednesday, the funeral was today and Jeremy took off as soon as the burial was over and got there 45 minutes before Assurance’s set.

Brian announced all that from the stage and had Jeremy sing “Save Me A Seat At The Table” as a tribute to his dad. He faltered a little bit on the first chorus, then regrouped for the rest of the song and made it all the way till the last phrase and just broke down. The guys made a circle around him and he got a standing ovation, and yes, the whole place stood. Easily one of the most touching and moving moments this week.

2. The Gaither Vocal Band’s set was a good one, with each vocalist being featured in equal prominence. Wes Hampton impressed me with his verse on “I Believe In A Hill Called Mount Calvary,” and also taking the final chorus. Listening to the Reunited project, I had thought those were David Phelps’ features, and maybe they are on the CD, but Wes really did a bang-up job with them.

Another highlight was Bill playing the piano while the rest of the GVB (minus Hampton until the encore) sang “Hide Thou Me,” joined by surprise guest Gene McDonald to fill the bass part. If Bill ever retires, he needs to tap McDonald to fill that spot in the Vocal Band. I would have liked it better if the sound technicians had actually had Gene’s mic set at a decent level.

3. Is it just me, or do The Inspirations sound very similar to that of the lineup of the 70s? Tenor Dallas Rogers sounds like the Archie Watkins of that era, and the group’s overall sound is familar enough to please older fans, while fresh enough to catch others’ attention.

I’m not even going to give the sound a point tonight. Anybody who’s been reading this week probably can guess what I’d say anyway.

Anything else?

News Roundup

June 30, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Hey, everybody! Great to be back in the blogosphere after a nice break. Let’s look at a rundown of things I missed:

1. Brian Free & Assurance Hires New Baritone – The second in a string of personnel changes to be completed, BF&A hired Randy Crawford (h/t, Singing News) to fill the position left by Derrick Selph.
You may remember Randy from his days with The Kingsmen/Carolina Boys, and most recently, The Toney Brothers. He also had an earlier stint with BF&A in the 90s as lead singer, singing hits such as “Who Is This King” and “What A Difference A Day Makes.” It has been observed that such a hiring is similar to what The Kingsmen did with Bryan Hutson. It will be very interesting to hear how the group’s harmony rounds out now, with a lead singer as baritone, a tenor as lead, and a sky-high singer singing tenor!
2. Frank Seamans Rumors Settled – There have been rumors flying for some time now that Frank Seamans was leaving Legacy Five. Thanks to L5girl-N-TX over at SN Forums, the truth to the situation is finally out:

“…Ok, I got to talk to Frank Friday night. I just told him that I’d heard some rumors going around about him leaving the group and I wanted to hear from him if he was.

He said that in several weeks Frank Jr is going to have to be in the hospital for a month. He said that him staying depends on how Frank Jr is after that. He said if he is gets good results and he’s doing alright he’ll stay, but if something happens his son needs to be his #1 priority. As much as I don’t want him to leave, I completely understand. He told me that he just felt like he had to be honest with Scott about it, because if something happened with his son and he was still with the group he didn’t want to have be in the position where L5 needed him and he also needed to be with Frank Jr. He said that they had checked in to some possibilities of either a temporary or replacement tenor.

So as of right now he’s not leaving. They just have to keep in mind the possibility of needing another tenor. He said they’re just praying and waiting on what God leads them to do. But he did tell me that unless something happens where he has to leave or unless God leads him to do something else, he would NEVER leave! He said he loves what he does and really believes this is what God has lead him to do.

He just asked that we please pray for his son. And we all REALLY need to keep Frank and Frank Jr in our prayers regularly. I know I’m definitely gonna be spending alot more time on my knees on their behalf. The whole family needs to be in our prayers. I know it’s got to be trying on Frank’s faith and not always easy to put up a strong front.

I just want him to know that we love him and are praying for him. I’m really believing God will work a miracle for him…”

Speaking of Legacy Five, they have several new projects coming out in the next couple of months, one being their next Daywind release. It is entitled Just Stand, and is being produced by Lari Goss. That said, it should be one of the best projects they’ve ever done.

They are also coming out with a new DVD called Legacy Five: Live At Oak Tree which will be studio footage capturing songs from their Decades project. Another project, entitled Jubilee, is a joint effort between L5, Greater Vision, and The Booth Brothers, and it will feature the three groups singing SG classics.

Derrick Selph Leaves Brian Free & Assurance

June 09, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, NQC Turnover Season 2009, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In another out-of-left-field personnel change, Brian Free announced today that baritone Derrick Selph is leaving Assurance to be an electrician.

Daniel Mount is calling this recent rash of changes the “NQC Turnover season,” and I’d say it’s the biggest one I’ve seen since I’ve been a fan of SG music. Right now, we’re looking at two groups that are without a tenor (Gold City and Mark Trammell Trio), a group that has disbanded (Dan Keeton Quartet), and now a group without a baritone (Brian Free & Assurance); all of these changes were pretty unexpected. No word yet on any replacements.

If the recent statements on the latest Averyfineline open thread hold any water, there are a lot more coming, including one that will leave a major group without all except the owner/manager. Stay tuned…

Update: Here’s the press release:

We are saddened to announce that Derrick Selph will be coming off the road. He will be going to school to pursue a career as an electrician. Derrick has been a wonderful part of this ministry for over six years. He will greatly missed. We love and care for Derrick and his wife, Jennifer, very much and we wish the very BEST for them in the future.
Derrick will be with the group until Sunday, July 5. His last night will be a sad one for us.
As of the time of this press release, the replacement has not been chosen yet. We know that God has the right person out there. We will keep you updated on the new person.
God bless you while you continue to support our ministry.

A News Roundup

February 10, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Gaither Vocal Band, Oak Ridge Boys, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It’s been a busy past few days for me, so here are some news items I’ve had to catch up on:

1. Brian Free & Assurance’s New Project and Website – The sound clips were put up just yesterday. The guys are definitely continuing in the Progressive vein of Real Faith. I can’t wait to hear this project, as it will definitely be more geared toward the current lineup than Real Faith, which was put together before Keith Plott left the group and re-recorded with Jeremy Lile.

2. Gaither Vocal Band Wins A Grammy – The group’s latest album, Lovin’ Life garnered the award. Many are scratching their heads over it; I will agree that it’s not the best project the group has ever released, but it’s not terrible either. Congrats, GVB.

3. Gaither To Release Oak Ridge Boys video – I had read a couple months ago that the video was being recorded. Nice to see it finally get a release date.

CD Review: Brian Free & Assurance – Timeless Hymns & Classics II

October 21, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Label: Daywind Records
Producer: Ricky Free
Website: www.brianfreeandassurance.com

1. First Day In Heaven – Right off the bat, this Classics project opens up with a standard SG quartet song. What I appreciate most about this song (besides the great vocals, of course) is the fact that Ricky Free arranged this song in such a way that it let the group put their own spin on this song, instead of doing it the same way that every group and their cousin has done over the years.

2. What A Beautiful Day – The album slows down a bit for this country-flavored mid-tempo track. Everyone who liked Brian Free’s stratosphere tenor singing on the song “What A Lovely Name” on the group’s Timeless Hymns & Classics Volume I album will like this track near the end. He gets pretty near to that high note on this song, quite possibly hitting it or even going half a step higher. One of my favorite tracks of the project.

3. Glory Road – The group once again puts their own spin on a quartet classic. The track actually breaks from the traditional piano opening, opting instead for a guitar-and-horns approach. Brian Free sings some high tenor here as well, staying well within his range and not screaming like so many tenors like to do on this song.

4. He Looked Beyond My Faults – Lead singer Bill Shivers is featured on this Dottie Rambo song, which is a fitting tribute considering that this is one of her best-known songs and Dottie passed away soon before this album was released. The group does a great job singing this slow song.

5. Mercy Built A Bridge – This was a song that was recorded by The Hinsons 1987 album Generations. I was not familiar with it before this album, but the way that it is done on this album would make it right at home on any other recent BFA project. Bass singer Jeremy Lile (2008 Horizon Individual) showcases his upper range on the first verse, then moves down the scale in the middle of the second. Lile is one of the best and most versatile young basses on the road today, and he turns in a good performance on this song.

6. John The Revelator – A classic quartet song that is once again tweaked to BFA’s style. There is no bass lead of “Talkin’ bout John” on the chorus, but Jeremy Lile’s still rocks the lower end of the spectrum in his ensemble work.

7. Just A Little Talk With Jesus – The arrangement used here is not unlike the arrangement found on the first KingsGold project. Brian Free is featured on the slowed-down second verse, and Jeremy Lile’s bass lead recalls Ray Dean Reese and Tim Riley’s singing on the aforementioned project. The song even speeds up for the final choruses.

8. The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power – Derrick Selph is featured on this slow old song. Pretty standard fare.

9. Sheltered In The Arms Of God – Brian Free is featured on the second Dottie Rambo song of the project. His smooth tenor carries the song well, and the acoustic guitar and strings that back him throughout the song are a nice touch.

10. Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet – Brian Free sounds good on this song, but I’m of the opinion that the Booth Brothers pretty much own this song now. This is a nice way to close the album, though.

Final Thoughts: This follow-up release to 2007’s Real Faith proves that this decidedly Progressive quartet can still get it done like any Traditional group. As I stated in the first track, I appreciate the fact that the songs covered here go for the group’s own personal spin rather than doing stuff the standard way. The vocals and production are spot-on, and Ricky Free does a great job arranging and producing the project (as well as playing drums throughout and playing additional electric guitar on “Mercy Built A Bridge.” I find nothing wrong with this project, and it definitely earns its 5-star rating.

Next Review: Dual Review: Tribute Quartet – My Tribute & Anticipation