Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Archive for the ‘Crystal River’

CD Review: Crystal River – Mercy River

May 08, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Crystal River, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 3.5 stars

Producer: Glen Bates
Label: BSA World Records
Website: www.crystalriveronline.net

Buy Here

In 2005, a new quartet of young guys came on the Southern Gospel scene. They were Crystal River, and they garnered some well-deserved with their sound. They eventually signed with BSA World Records, and released the much-underrated project, Taking A Stand. When baritone Jeff Snyder left to join Mike & Kelly Bowling (and later, The Greenes), and bass singer Jeremy Lile left to join Brian Free & Assurance, the group hired baritone Chris Whitaker and continued as a trio, releasing Hope Is Alive in 2007. The group then folded when Zack McGill sold the group and came off the road, with tenor Dusty Barrett going to Soul’d Out Quartet, and Chris Whitaker going from Mike & Kelly Bowling, to N’Harmony, and finally off the road. The group’s record label eventually hired an acapella group named ChoZen to become the “new” Crystal River, and this project is the new lineup’s debut.

Mercy River is a fair mix of new songs and songs that the previous Crystal River lineups recorded. The title track itself comes from the Taking A Stand project, with the key being dropped a full step and the lead being handed to lead vocalist Tony Churchill. The key dropping thing happens also in “Faith Takes A Stand.” Other covers include, “Hope Is Alive,” “Jesus Is Always Doing Something,” “There Is A Hope,” and “I Stand In Awe.” The latter is tenor Ben Mooney’s stand-out feature on the project, and he does a good job of making the song his own.

The project’s new songs are good as well, but they seem to run together. “Jesus Wake Up,” “A Little Bit A What I Got,” and “Hole in the Sky” are all in the upbeat country style, with no real distinguishing characteristics. While “Everyday Is Christmas” is a nice Christmas-themed song, it seems out of place on this project, and probably would have been better placed as a bonus track. The album closer is an a capella track written by Tony Churchill named “Here With Me.” It shows the group’s roots as a primarily vocal group, complete with some beat-boxing by baritone Randy Gober.

Bottom line: This new lineup of Crystal River has great promise. Tenor Ben Mooney, lead Tony Churchill, and baritone Randy Gober have a good sound, but it is obvious that they were still getting used to a lot of new material when this project was recorded. It’s a “middle of the road” project; those already familiar with Crystal River music may not be impressed, but those uninitiated will find plenty to like. A new project with more original pieces and a bit more variety in style and songwriting (all songs except the last track were written by Glen Bates) would serve this group well.

I am looking forward to future efforts from this trio.

New Crystal River Music Video

January 24, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Crystal River, SG Artists, SG Music

To accompany the upcoming release of their debut project (with the all-new lineup), here’s a music video that they put together for the title track, “Mercy River.”


Mercy River Music Video from Owen Smith on Vimeo.

I have to say that it is pretty well done. It’s high-quality, and the backstory told through the video is interesting to watch as well.

I guess time can only tell whether the new Crystal River will do well or not. But, if they can keep the sound and quality that they’ve shown thus far, they’ll be well on their way.

Extra: For anyone intersted, here’s the original group’s video of the same song. It is a live version. As I said in the comments, I wasn’t all that impressed with it because it sounded like the group was still solidifying itself. Jeremy Lile’s bass lead sounds forced and not as good and mature as it is today.

Soul’d Out Singing "Just A Little Talk With Jesus"

November 10, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Crystal River, SG Artists, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet


This is Horizon Group Of The Year 2009 material, folks. All of the guys are great vocalists, but tenor singer Dusty Barrett (formerly of Crystal River) has the best control over his voice than a lot of tenors these days. That’s quite a range he displays in this video; I don’t think he ever switched to falsetto the whole time. If he did, it was very subtly.

I make my prediction right now; Soul’d Out Quartet will be next year’s Horizon Group. Watch this and the other videos of the group’s current lineup and I think you’ll agree.

N’Harmony Returns

September 06, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Crystal River, Mercy's Mark, N'Harmony, SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music

After being unable to access the Internet for a couple days, I was thrilled to read this press release from Shane Dunlap:

Charlotte NC- For almost ten years N’Harmony’s youthful sound and energy
wowed audiences where ever they went. Now nearly six years after news of their retirement,
N’Harmony returns stronger than ever, poised and ready to pick up right where
they left off. Original lead singer and founder Shane Dunlap states, “I have
been thinking about a return for a long time, but I wanted to find the right guys
with the same exact goals.” Joining Shane (N’Harmony and Signature Sound)
is Tenor Brent Mitchell (Mercy’s Mark), Baritone Chris Whitaker (Won by One
and Crystal River), and Bass Will Van Wyngarden (Journeymen Qt.). Shane says, “Every
single guy in this group has their priorities in order.”

They were in the studio recently put the finishing touches on a brand new favorites
project, and will be kicking things off Oct. 17th and 18th with concerts in Northern
Ireland and Scotland.

For more info or scheduling contact nharmonysings@gmail.com. You can also visit
N’Harmony’s brand new myspace page with clips of the new recording at www.myspace.com/nharmonyquartet

This is pretty cool news; not only is a great group being brought back, but the lineup is none too shabby either. Brent Mitchell is a great tenor, Shane is an awesome lead, and Chris Whitaker is one of the most underrated baritones in the business. I’ve not heard of the bass before this, but he sounds good as well.

I’m very excited after hearing the clips and am looking forward to hearing the new project.

Update On The "New" Crystal River

August 25, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Chozen, Crystal River, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Noticed that the guys formerly known as ChoZen have indeed become the new Crystal River. They’ve updated their Myspace accordingly (which seems to be serving as their website for now), and they’ve uploaded clips of their re-recorded versions of the former Crystal River’s songs. I was pleasantly surprised by their rendition of Mercy River; it misses Jeremy Lile’s solid bass, but the chorus reveals that this group has a good blend. I’ll be waiting for this new recording to come out.

Crystal River 2.0?

August 04, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Chozen, Crystal River, Mike and Kelly Bowling, SG Artists, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet

A guy with the moniker of insider at averyfineline.com is saying that a local, formerly acappella group from Georgia called ChoZen has been chosen (pun intended) to be the new Crystal River. If this is true, they will definitely have an interesting sound.

As far as insider’s comments on the group going under, I’m of the opinion that after Jeremy Lile left to join Brian Free & Assurance, they lost some of their punch. Yes, they were pretty good as a trio, but the double turnover (Jeremy Lile and baritone Jeff Snyder leaving) was a hard blow, I imagine. Now that they have disbanded, Jeremy is with BFA, tenor Dusty Barrett is with Soul’d Out, and former baritone Jeff Snyder is with Mike & Kelly Bowling. Lead Zack McGill and Chris Whitaker are no longer in groups.

From what I gather from insider’s comments, McGill may have actually sold the name to ChoZen. Whether that is the case or not, I don’t know, but I would be thrilled to see Zack take the lead position of the group and make it a quartet once again. Stay tuned on this story.

Crystal River To Disband

February 04, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Crystal River, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

According to this forum post, the group is going their seperate ways.

It’s a real shame; they’re all great vocalists. Hopefully, they will find their way back into a group.