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 ‘Gaither Vocal Band’

Studio Clip of the New Gaither Vocal Band

March 20, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Music

The Gaither website just sent an email with a clip of the group with the new additions of Adam Crabb and Todd Suttles in the studio. The group has re-recorded “Give It Away,” and you can hear it here.

The website mentions here that David Phelps did the arranging, and the perhaps the most interesting part is the fact that it sounds like Todd Suttles is taking the bass part, including a standout near the end. It’s hard to tell, but that may have Bill in the baritone slot, at least for this song.

This is unprecedented for the five-man iterations of the GVB. Bill was the full-time baritone in the group’s early days, singing over Lee Young and later Jon Mohr, but he has been the group’s bass for most of its career. There were several observations around the Internet that Todd Suttles had a lower speaking voice than Bill, but the fact that something like this is happening in the music, even on a part-time basis, makes this chapter of the group unique.

Will we see more of this as this lineup expands its repertoire? Only time will tell, but I wouldn’t be opposed. If they were going to make a name for themselves apart from the “all-star” lineup with English and Lowry, a move like this is the way to do it.

Update: Interestingly enough, I’ve found a live clip of this song.

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Gaither Vocal Band Welcomes Adam Crabb; Still Seeking Fifth Member

January 10, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Adam Crabb, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In an email today, Bill Gaither confirmed what many had already speculated:

We are thrilled to welcome Adam Crabb aboard as the newest member of The Gaither Vocal Band!  Adam comes to us with years of musical expertise, including on-stage and studio work as a member of award-winning Crabb Family, and as a solo artist and worship leader.

Bill Gaither is grateful and excited about the future! He says, “For decades now, we have reinvented the Gaither Vocal Band again and again, and in the process we have found some of the most incredible male singers and wonderful human beings on the planet. Adam is a very exciting addition to this 30-year legacy of excellence.”

As for whether or not the GVB will maintain a five-man lineup, Gaither had this to say:

“We are taking our time and trying out some wonderful individuals during the next few weeks. You will see some very gifted guest artists out on the tour with us as we seek the perfect fit.  Trust me. You do not want to miss the chance to see what is about to happen as we enter this new season.”

Let the speculation continue! For now, here’s a look at how Adam fits with the group. This is a compilation of clips, and the whole thing is worth watching, but for the songs that directly feature Adam, skip to 1:07, 2:55, and 4:41:

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!

Gordon Mote Leaves Gaither Tour

May 28, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It may or may not be the “big news” that Gerald Wolfe hinted at on Facebook last week, but a surprising bit of information dropped today in the form of a SocialCam video from Mark Lowry: Gordon Mote will no longer be with the Gaither Homecoming tour. Lowry quickly points out that Gordon will still be at Gaither events like Family Fest, just not on the regular tour. Mote will still be on the road; presumably, that means he is embarking on a solo venture, in addition to his studio work. You can keep up with him at his website.

This marks the second major change in the piano position for the Homecoming Tour, the first being Mote’s hire after the passing of Anthony Burger. Let the speculation begin as to who will fill the piano bench now. Will they go with a relative unknown, or hire someone more established?  Two players come to mind, the first being Tim Parton. He has already done quite a bit of work on various Gaither Videos, and if he was willing to take the job, he’d be a fine accompanist and arranger for the tour.

Another would be Christopher Phillips, who has showed up on a couple of Gaither productions himself. Here he is doing a duet with Gordon Mote:

If I’m not mistaken, didn’t he also play on Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s Dream On DVD? In any case, he would be a strong choice if Gaither were to look for someone that is basically a newcomer to the scene.

Gaither Vocal Band Reunion At NQC 2011: Should They Do It?

September 01, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Gaither Vocal Band, NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Daniel Mount has the scoop today: it appears that Guy Penrod will not be appearing at the Gaither Vocal Band reunion event at NQC. Also not appearing are Terry Franklin & Jonathan Pierce, who were not present at the videotaped Reunions. Penrod’s schedule does not show the date, but Mount says that the wording in the press release (“will include”) may mean that Penrod will be added at last minute. My question is, why is he not on there in the first place?

First of all, let me say that this is not a knock to the GVB. I believe an event with the current group alone is worth going to, because this lineup is the best they’ve had in a while, IMHO. But I just don’t see the point of doing a reunion if one of your most recognizable members will not even be attending. Chances are, many current fans of the group will look back to past lineups and point to the ones involving Penrod as those that they remember most fondly. Indeed, Penrod’s lead is heard on many of the group’s hit songs in the past nearly twenty years. To have a reunion event when a member that has been so influential in the musical sound and success of your group will be absent makes very little sense.

I suppose that if they do Penrod features (a very likely circumstance, if they are doing many of their 90s-2000s hits), they can just divvy up the solos/lead parts between Michael English, Buddy Mullins, etc., and still make it a good concert. It will be interesting to see this unfold.

CD Review: Gaither Vocal Band – Greatly Blessed

August 13, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Bill Gaither, David Phelps, & Michael English
Label: Gaither Music Group
Website: www.gaither.com

Buy Here

This project was purchased directly from the artist. This fact has no bearing on the final rating.

1. Better Day – The project starts off with a song that will be familiar to those who have seen the last DVD that the Vocal Band put out, as it was the title track. There are a few subtle differences in vocal arrangement and instrumentation from the live version, which make it more than just the studio version of a song that was previously introduced in a live setting. This track displays the smooth harmonies of the five-man lineup right up front and whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of the project, which makes it a good choice for an opener.

2. When He Blest My Soul – Like the previous track, this song was already featured on a DVD release. There’s added instrumentation here also, most notably the driving brass section that work with the organ and piano to inject energy into the song. The vocal arrangement is outstanding, most notably with David Phelps and Wes Hampton’s parts interchanging throughout the final chorus. While Gold City is the group that comes to my mind when this song is mentioned, the Vocal Band has a version that is just as good.

3. Love Like I’m Leavin’ – This is the third and final track that has already been introduced elsewhere. Nothing much differs between this take and the live one, but the studio version better highlights some of the vocal subtleties in the group harmonies.

4. You Are My All In All – In the first “new” song on the project, David Phelps’ arranging skills are brought to bear on this CCM classic. A cello brings in the start, and Pachelbel’s Canon in D is interwoven throughout the song with an acoustic guitar and violins. Phelps is featured on the verses, and keeps it pretty low-key for the most part before taking it up into classic power-tenor mode for the final chorus. Phelps’ arrangements are something the Vocal Band sorely missed, and this is a perfect example of why.

5. Please Forgive Me – This Crabb Family hit gets an orchestrated treatment and features Michael English. The emotion with which English sings is evident throughout the first verse and carries throughout the song. Some very smooth harmonies are sprinkled into the second verse, and then after the second chorus, an arpeggiated vocal lead-in brings in a powerful final chorus. This is one of the highlights of the disc, showcasing both the group’s power harmony and how much vocal strength English still has.

6. Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored – Right off the bat, you get the sensation you’ve heard this song before. That’s because, technically, you have. This Larry Gatlin and Bill Gaither cooperation takes the melody and rhythm of the Gatlin Brothers hit, “All The Gold In California” and changes the words to convey the message of being a “Greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect but forgiven child of God.” Wes Hampton takes the solo on the verse, and while the song is a definite re-write of a popular country tune, it thankfully manages to avoid the cheesiness factor and stands on its own two feet.

7. He’s Alive – Fans of Don Francisco or owners of David Phelps’ rare pre-Gaither solo project, Journey To Grace, will recognize this track. David Phelps displays that he can tell a story with a lyric like few other singers can, and while the final chorus is half a step lower than his solo take, the wall of five voices give it extra punch, and his suspended high note is no less powerful.

8. Ain’t Nobody – This song displays one of the most unique sounds on the album. This Michael English feature features some very precise group harmonies to start out, with Bill Gaither singing half a beat in front of the group, making for an interesting sound. I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe this track, but funky would be the best term. It’s bouncy, progressive, and different.

9. Clean – David Phelps displays a smooth, soft delivery on this Bill Gaither & Larry Gatlin creation. Wes Hampton is above Phelps on the tenor line, giving the backup lines by the rest of the group a very full sound that really takes the track to the next level.

10. Muddy Water – It’s back to the funky, gritty sound on this one. English’s vocal riffs at the beginning are reminiscent of those of Guy Penrod on the title track of the group’s 2008 project, Lovin’ Life. Gordon Mote supplies some very nice piano riffs throughout, and Bill Gaither’s standout bass lines on the last lines of the choruses are probably the strongest on the project.

11. That Sounds Like Home To Me – This Goodman’s classic hasn’t been covered all that much, so this was a good choice for a song to update. The group gives it a swing feel and the vocals display a tight sound not unlike what you would find on a Booth Brothers project. Michael English takes the first verse (which is only fitting, since he was in the 1982 Goodmans group that sang the song), and Mark Lowry is featured on the second. David Phelps leads an almost-acapella final chorus before the instruments come back in on the last half and bring the song to a soft close.

12. I Know How To Say Thank You – Mark Lowry gets his first full feature on the album with this song that many may know from when it was sung on a Homecoming video by Sarah DeLane and Marshall Hall. Mark’s tones have become fuller and richer with time, and this is one of his finest performances to date. A powerful final chorus brings all five parts in before softening up again for a quiet finish.

13. He Is Here – Wes Hampton takes a song that Kirk Talley is well-known for writing and singing and puts his own spin on it. Wes was a good tenor when he first joined the Vocal Band, but has really come into his own in his time with the group, and even more so in the five-man lineup, and this track proves it. The soaring melody brings out probably his best solo feature in his tenure with the group. A subdued choir in the background closes out the project with a fadeout.

Final thoughts: The past couple of projects that the Gaither Vocal Band had recorded had many people, including this blogger, wondering if Bill Gaither was bringing in the twilight of the Vocal Band and planning to retire. Other than a couple decent songs, there just seemed to be something lacking in the music. A lineup change that led to an unprecedented five members in the Vocal Band and the return of Michael English, David Phelps, and Mark Lowry to the ranks injected new excitement in the group, and the sound was incredible. The first project by the new group, Reunited, was good, but it had people longing for the group to do something truly new.

Greatly Blessed is that something new. Every vocalist is at the top of their game here, and the song selection and arrangements hearken back to both the vocal prowess of Phelps’ days with the group and the creativity of both that era and English’s first run. Part of the beauty of having five people is hearing how the parts are structured on each song; Wes Hampton and David Phelps do their fair share of swapping the tenor part, which make for some interesting background harmonies on each song.

Bottom line: This Vocal Band’s first real product of new material is a breath of fresh air into their discography, as it gives the group a chance to explore with different styles and use the five vocal parts to create a unique sound. There is simply no reason that Greatly Blessed should not get 5 stars.

Mega-Roundup

June 28, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Danny Funderburk, Gaither Vocal Band, Gold City, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Quartet, NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

It seems that when I went on vacation, the Southern Gospel world decided to go on overtime with newsworthy items. Here’s some of the things I missed out on:

1. Check out Daniel Mount’s short interview with Gold City tenor Josh Cobb. In it, Cobb mentions two of his features on the upcoming mainline release from the group. The first is the song that he is probably most recognized for from his Legacy Five days, “I Stand Redeemed,” which he mentions Gordon Mote has arranged this time around. The second is a Michael English song from the early 90s, “Heaven.” With a singer well-known for performing the song producing the project, it will be interesting to see just what he brings out of Cobb for that particular track.

2. The master schedule for NQC 2010 has been posted. A quick perusal shows that up-and-coming groups like Liberty Quartet and The Ball Brothers have finally made it to mainstage, and there is a showcase highlighting young artists called “Legends of Tomorrow” that has a Wednesday afternoon slot. That will be worth going to, especially if it is like the “Torch” video that was released a couple years back.

3. Speaking of legends of tomorrow, check out this clip of a recent Remember The Music concert: A quartet comprised of tenor Danny Funderburk, lead Scott Fowler, baritone Mark Trammell, and bass Pat Barker sing “Movin’ Up To Gloryland,” and this is the first time I’ve seen an instance where Glenn Dustin didn’t take the bass on the song.

At a Mark Trammell Quartet concert I attended a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Joel Wood and Dustin Sweatman beforehand, and both of them mentioned how, since Barker had joined the group and gotten his own mic, he had adopted a George Younce style of bass singing that showed a lower range he didn’t get to display often with the Dixie Echoes’ two-mic style. I certainly noticed it during that concert, but this clip is by far the greatest evidence of that fact. Whether intentionally or not, young Barker’s tones and placement are very reminiscent of those of Younce’s, especially here. This well-rounded bass will only improve with age.

4. My friend Andrew Graham attended a recent Kingsmen concert, and got several videos. You can view the four that he posted at his Youtube channel, but the one that perhaps best highlights the impact that Randy Crawford is having on their sound is this clip of a song originally led by Phillip Hughes, “Mountain of Grace.”

5. I noticed that Wes Hampton posted the track list and features for the upcoming Gaither Vocal Band project, Greatly Blessed, on his blog. Interestingly enough, ChristianBook.com also has a preview of five songs from the new project here. The first three songs were already featured on the latest GVB videos (although, the studio versions have added instrumentation), but about halfway through the preview comes two new songs. Check out the heavily orchestrated Crabb Family cover, “Please Forgive Me,” featuring Michael English. The vocal lead-in is stunning, and the entire arrangement sounds like it will be stellar.
Update: Looks like a preview for the entire project is up here.

6. As a last-minute addition to this roundup, Greater Vision just posted a sneak preview of their upcoming project at their Facebook page. It’s a re-recorded version of “You Were Faithful Yesterday” from their 2009 project, Not Alone, released with Jacob Kitson. The difference is almost indiscernible until the second verse when Chris Allman takes a solo. This says good things about both Kitson and Allman; Kitson’s vocal style is close to that of the stellar Allman’s, and Allman’s ability to seamlessly blend after so many years is impeccable.

This & That

May 30, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dove Brothers, Uncategorized

Here’s a couple interesting tidbits from the weekend you may have missed:

First, check out this video that David Bruce Murray blogged about last week and recorded at a recent Dove Brothers concert. The song is “I’ll Fly Away”:

A couple thoughts:
1. The low G that bass singer David Hester hits actually vibrates two Bose speakers right off the stage. Wow.
2. The Dove Brothers are a good quartet to begin with, but throwing a live band into the mix takes them to a whole new level. Look to see how that affects the arrangements on their recordings from now on.
3. Speaking of which, the group has a full preview of their upcoming release, Unstoppable, available on their website’s music player. It’s well worth the listen.

In other news, Daniel Mount has posted both the song list and cover art for the upcoming Gaither Vocal Band project, Greatly Blessed, on his site. The songs are as follows:

1. Better Day
2. When He Blest My Soul
3. Love Like I’m Leavin’
4. You Are My All In All – this is possibly the popular Praise & Worship song, and if so, it will be interesting to see how the group can present it to an SG audience without being too polarizing. Then again, the GVB has never been strictly SG. I can see this as a David Phelps or Wes Hampton feature.
5. Please Forgive Me – An interview I was fortunate enough to do with Michael English indicated that he would be out front on this Crabb Family classic.
6. Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored
7. He’s Alive – There is a song of the same title about Jesus’ resurrection that has been featured on a Homecoming video, and was also recorded by David Phelps on his very first solo project, Journey to Grace, that came before his time with the Vocal Band. A solo by Phelps with the whole group kicking in on the final choruses would be a powerhouse sound for sure.
8. Ain’t Nobody – if this is the same song by Soul’d Out Quartet, it would be one of the most unique sounds the GVB has ever adopted. Keep an eye on this one.
9. Clean
10. Muddy Water – The group has adopted a country flavor to several of their songs recently (Jesus & John Wayne, anyone?), so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the tune made famous by Trace Adkins. A Michael English lead could possibly come from this, especially since the lyric is essentially the story of the prodigal son.
11. That Sounds Like Home To Me – This Happy Goodmans classic was mentioned in the interview. It will be interesting to see how the group arranges this song.
12. I Know How To Say Thank You
13. He Is Here – Michael English stated that this would be a big song for Wes Hampton, and I’m sure that Wes will do great on this Kirk Talley staple.

An Interview With Michael English

March 09, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Gaither Vocal Band, Interviews, Michael English, SG Artists, SG Music

This is one of the most exciting posts I’ve been able to make in this blog’s existence! As the very first interview done on Swain’s Musings, I got to sit down and chat with Michael English backstage at a Gaither Homecoming concert on February 12, 2010, and we covered topics from his background, to his testimony, to coming back to the Gaither Vocal Band, to future projects, and much more.

Hope you enjoy it, and thanks to Michael English for taking the time to do this!

Michael English Interview from Aaron Swain on Vimeo.

New Gaither Vocal Band CD

January 29, 2010 By: Jeremy Bell Category: Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

According to a Wes Hampton facebook post, the Gaither Vocal Band has completed vocals on 9 songs for a new CD. The untitled CD should have a total of 14 songs and is due out probably early summer. I am personally looking forward to some new material becuase I thought there would be more on the 2 CD / DVD combo that was just released.