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

Archive for the ‘Mark Trammell Quartet’

Mark Trammell Quartet and The Whisnants To Release Christmas Project

October 10, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Whisnants

It’s quickly approaching the time of year when many artists decide to release Christmas-themed projects. This year, it’s a team effort between the Mark Trammell Quartet and The Whisnants:

(Morganton, NC) October 10, 2014 – United Independent Artists (UIA), for the first time releases a Christmas CD combining the family harmony of the Whisnants with the traditional sounds of the Mark Trammell Quartet in a twelve track project titled “Home For Christmas.”  The CD’s official release date is November 3, 2014 and will be available for purchase on both group websites www.whisnants.com and www.marktrammellministries.com.

Home For Christmas features twelve songs recorded by the Mark Trammell Quartet and the Whisnants.  Selections on the project include the groups singing together and individually as well as featuring new songs and traditional carols.  “We decided to do this CD together,” Mark Trammell explains, “when Jeff Whisnant was looking to record a new Christmas project around the same time I was.  When folks heard we were doing this, they asked if we could put together a Christmas program as well.”  Jeff Whisnant adds, “I haven’t been this excited about anything in a long time as I am about the Home For Christmas project.  We are so pleased to collaborate with our friends the Mark Trammell Quartet; we love and appreciate what these men stand for.”

Pre-sales for this project will begin on October 10th, and can be found on both artists websites (links found above).  In addition to the pre-release, The Mark Trammell Quartet and the Whisnants are hosting a special online event in celebration of their first recording together.  This event will take place on the official release date, November 3rd, and will feature exclusive information and unique interaction for fans from both artists.  The event is open to the public – anyone who can access the internet via computer, smart phone or tablet can join for free.  To receive updates and join this online event, visit www.homeforchristmaslaunchparty.com.  Though the event does not begin until November 3st, those wishing to join are encouraged to do so now.

United Independent Artists (UIA) began in 1997 with Jeff and Susan Whisnant at the helm and consists of artists who record independently from recording labels.  Artists such as Greater Vision, The Mark Trammell Quartet, Booth Brothers, Taylors and others use UIA in radio promotions.  UIA is behind #1 songs such as Greater Vision’s “Preacher Tell Me Like It Is,” Booth Brothers “Look For Me At Jesus Feet,” Mark Trammell Quartet’s “I Want To Know” and other successful songs in the industry.     www.uiamusic.com

It is worth noting that this will be the first MTQ release to feature Randy Byrd on bass vocals.

Mark Trammell Quartet Hires Randy Byrd

July 16, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In a move that is likely not a surprise to anyone who has been observing the group’s concert appearances since Pat Barker’s departure, the Mark Trammell Quartet announced today that they have selected Randy Byrd as their new bass singer. From the group’s blog:

After three months and 36 candidates for the position, Mark Trammell has announced today that Randy Byrd will be the new bass vocalist for the Mark Trammell Quartet.   Mark shares, “We are thrilled with the overwhelming inquiry about this position.  And after much prayer and consideration, the group collectively feels that Randy is the man for this season of our ministry.”

Many of you will remember Randy from his recent years with the prestigious Blackwood Brothers Quartet. He also logged some miles with our friends the Mike Lefevre Quartet and the Songfellows.  Randy relates the following upon receiving confirmation from Mark.

“At 12 years of age, I heard The Cathedrals sing There is a Fountain and I was hooked!! I told my mother that night after hearing George Younce, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a bass singer.’  God has blessed me and allowed me to sing with some of the best in the business.  Three years ago my dream started to fall apart.  Between my flesh and Satan’s attacks it seemed my life was over. I am thankful today that in spite of my faults and failures, God never took His hand off of me.  Everything that Satan robbed from me, God has restored!  I am beyond excited to join The Mark Trammell Quartet! I am living proof that God IS faithful!!  Pat Barker is a dear friend.  I am not and cannot be Pat Barker.  But I can work at being the best version of me that God can use and I gladly accept that challenge.”

Please join us in welcoming this wonderful man to the Mark Trammell Quartet!!!

This is a great pick for the quartet’s next chapter. Randy seems to fit them like a glove both on and off the stage, and there is no doubt that the quality of the music will be maintained with this hire. Here’s a clip from Facebook:

Post by ThOm GilmOre.

CD Review: Mark Trammell Quartet – Your Walk Talks

February 06, 2014 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 starsYourWalkTalks_CD

Label: Crimson Road Productions
Website: www.marktrammellministries.com

Song titles: Don’t Stop Running; God’s Been Faithful; When the King Comes To Claim His Throne;  Thanks to Calvary; I’ll Go Over Jordan Someday; Man of Sorrows; Your Walk Talks; To Know He Knows Me; I’ll Take It To The Grave; I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

The Mark Trammell Quartet has had quite a time since their last release of new songs (Testimony in 2010. They’ve released three projects of mostly older material since). The lineup on Testimony included tenor Joel Wood, lead Dustin Sweatman, baritone Mark Trammell, and bass Pat Barker. During the span from then to now, Wood left and original tenor Eric Phillips rejoined the group. Sweatman came off the road and Mark’s son, Nick, stepped into the role. Phillips then left the road again, and the group was left looking for a tenor. After a trial run, Dustin Black was eventually named as the new guy.

Despite these transitions, the group has not rested on its laurels. This project serves as a debut for two things: a new sound/lineup for the group, and the birth of a new record company in Crimson River Productions.  With stakes as high as these, one would be forgiven for wondering if this project collapses under the weight of its own promise. It does not.

The wait for truly new music from the Mark Trammell Quartet has been long (four years), but worth it. While the better-known projects in the group’s discograpy have been pretty ballad centric, this one only has one such track in “Man of Sorrows.” That is certainly a strong track, but one will probably think of the upbeat songs when recalling this CD. “When The King Comes To Claim His Throne” and “I’ll Take It To The Grave” are two major standouts, one telling of the milennial reign and the other celebrating the joy and peace that we have forever in Christ. On the other end of the tempo scale, “God’s Been Faithful” and “Thanks to Calvary” are worth mentioning. The latter is the George Younce signature, and while it doesn’t stray too far from the original, it is a fitting tribute in the context of the recent Cathedral Family Reunion.

I have alluded to the “new sound” that debuts with this project, and that’s one of the reasons I appreciate this release. The difference is most evident with the tenor part. Though no one could truly duplicate the sound the group had with Eric Phillips, Joel Wood was a hire that had a similar tone, so the group’s sound never really wavered from what it used to be. Dustin Black, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Phillips made the MTT/MTQ unique because of his through-the-roof notes and consistently high harmonies; Black makes them unique by having a different sound from any tenor on the road, and while he is not as stratospherical as Phillips, his blend with the group is smoother. His feature at the end of the project, “I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way,” is a perfect showcase of this, though “I’ll Take It To The Grave” sounds like one they would have done with Phillips.

MTQ continues their line of strong song choices and a recognizable sound with Your Walk Talks, and this will undoubtedly be seen as one of the best quartet releases in 2014. It receives 4 stars.

MTQ Blog Tour Stop #4: Pat Barker

January 15, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

ywtblogtour_fbcoverpatThe Mark Trammell Quartet has quickly become one of the finer quartets in this genre of music, with a journey that began before they added a bass singer. I started paying attention when they released the Once Upon A Cross as a trio, and I have continued to appreciate their strong song choices and their ability to hold that standard even through personnel changes.

I got the chance to catch up with the bass singer for the quartet, Pat Barker, and ask him about the group’s latest effort:

Aaron Swain: What is your favorite song from “Your Walk Talks,” and why?

Pat Barker: My favorite song is “Your Walk Talks.” I was on the Alaska cruise when Rodney (Griffin) and Babbie (Mason) went into the piano bar and wrote that song. They came out to the table and immediately pitched it to Mark. I loved the hook from the beginning and the arrangement is perfect. Mark does a perfect job on the solo, even throwing in a little Jake Hess just for fun.

AS: “Thanks To Calvary” was a signature song for George Younce, and your admiration for him is no secret. What went into the decision to include that song?

PB: “Thanks to Calvary” is a “George” song, no doubt. He is the greatest, and will always be the greatest.

I have had the honor of doing Remember the Music concerts along with Glenn Dustin and Matt Fouch the last few years. It has been a dream come true. More recently, I got to be a part of the Cathedral Family Reunion. At a RTM concert, someone in the audience requested “Thanks to Calvary.” I had never sung it, but I knew the song. Something special happened, and we literally didn’t know what to do next. It became a permanent fixture at the RTM concerts, and was added to the CFR concert as well. Gerald Wolfe was the one who suggested that we put it on the album. My testimony is the story in that song, so it is an easy one to sing. I love that song.

AS: Other than Mark Trammell, you are the only member that has been with the group from the beginning of their “quartet” days. With the other two parts changing over this time period, how do you think the sound has evolved, and do you feel that the change is reflected with this project?

PB: Lots of things have changed. Losing (Dustin) Sweatman was a tough loss. He brought a lot to the table with his piano skills and his ability to win the crowd over. He was also a big help in the studio and picking songs. I still miss having a piano on stage, but Nick (Trammell) has taken over beautifully on lead. He is also a great songwriter, which shows up on this new album.

With the loss of Eric (Phillips), we not only lost an incredible tenor, but I lost my buddy. We bonded very quickly, and that relationship continues, but not as much as I would like. When Dustin (Black) came on board, I knew it would be a challenge for him. I could not be prouder of someone musically than I am of him. There is no other tenor that he sounds like, and I, for one, welcome the change. His solo at the end of the project is one of my favorite cuts.

Thanks, Pat, for a great interview!

I’ll echo Pat’s sentiment about “Your Walk Talks.” At first listen, it just sounds like a bouncy little ditty, but there are very true and applicable lyrics in such a fun song. Another that has taken up residence on my “most played” list is “I’ll Take It To The Grave.” The team of Rebecca J. Peck and Dianne Wilkinson penned a great song with that one, and I’m glad to see it get a fine quartet treatment.

Head over to Musicscribe for the next stop on the MTQ blog tour as Diana Brantley interviews Dustin Black!

Mark Trammell Quartet Names New Tenor

May 16, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

From a press release on Singing News:

Gadsden, AL – GREAT NEWS!!!!! On his 26th birthday, Dustin David Black has accepted the position as the new tenor vocalist for Mark Trammell Quartet! Dustin is from Saginaw, Michigan, and will soon become a “southern boy.”

Mark shares the following…”We are SO excited about Dustin coming on board and we look forward to what is in store for both Dustin and MTQ. I am still convinced that God knows exactly what we need and when we need it.” Dustin has been traveling with the group on a 90 day trial basis. He is a brand new face to gospel music and has already made many new friends across the country with his winning smile and warm personality. He has proven to be a true Christian Gentleman in every way. Mark continues, “I was immediately impressed with this young man and his ability to just be one of the boys. Dustin had only been to one gospel concert prior to walking on our bus. It was a Gaither event in California a few years back while he was finishing his Masters degree in music at West Coast Baptist College.”

When Mark was asked about having a “yankee” on his bus, he smiled and replied, “Its certainly a first for me, but we will eventually get accustomed to the smell!”

When you see MTQ in concert in the coming days, make it a point to stop by their table and welcome this fine young man to the world of gospel music.


The group came to my area during Dustin’s first weekend of filling in. At the time, he was still learning the material and was understandably nervous, and was also recuperating from a bout with laryngitis on top of it all. Despite all of these factors, he did an admirable job, and it was enough to make me look forward to hearing him when he was in better health and more comfortable with the group. After hearing him on JOY FM’s broadcast of Singing In The Sun a couple of weeks ago, I was impressed.

Black is not the next Eric Phillips (few tenors are cut from that same cloth), but his is a solid tenor that is a departure from what the Mark Trammell Quartet is used to having; more of a blending tenor with an open sound. The blend for this lineup is already tight, and it bodes well that Black has brought a unique style to the table that has already been given positive feedback.

Happy birthday to Dustin, and congratulations to both he and Mark Trammell Quartet as they move forward!

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.

CD Review: Mark Trammell Quartet – Lifetime

October 30, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Lari Goss and Mark Trammell
Label: Daywind Records
Website: www.marktrammellministries.com

Song titles: Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah; ‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus; Way Past Ready; Garden City Tour Medley; Wonderful Time Up There; Too Much To Gain To Lose; Meet Me Over On The Other Side; Footprints of Jesus; I Sing The Mighty Power; The King Is Coming Medley

I’ll admit it; whenever I see the description of an upcoming project of “hymns and classics,” and the project is supposed to be a mainline release, I cringe. This is because these projects usually just rehash the same old songs that everybody and their brother has recorded, and doesn’t really do anything to break the mold, and I just end up wishing it was a table project to tide the listener over for the next major CD. When I saw some of the songs on the track list for this album, I had the same reaction. My interest was piqued a little when I saw some songs that haven’t been done to death, but I still had doubts as I gave the CD a first run-through.

The Mark Trammell Quartet has released a collection of material here that, thankfully, exceeded my expectations. Starting with a triumphant rendition of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” it’s clear that this list of old songs isn’t just more of the same. A good example of this is a brassy arrangement of “Wonderful Time Up There.” This song is one that could have easily fallen into the problem I mentioned earlier; everybody seems to record it at least once, so it all runs together. Not so this time around; the orchestration gives it a unique flair, and bass singer Pat Barker turns in one of the stronger performances of his career.

Tenor Eric Phillips marks his return to the group on this project, and sounds as if he has not lost a thing in his years off the road. His solo feature on the CD, “‘Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus,” may not be pitched in the rafters, but it shows a smoother side of his voice that was rarely brought to bear with the Mark Trammell Trio. That’s not to say he doesn’t do some high singing here; his ensemble work on songs such as “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” “Wonderful Time Up There,” and “Way Past Ready,” to name a few, give the listener plenty to enjoy in that regard. Speaking of “Way Past Ready,” it is the only original song on the project, and is strong enough to fit in with the rest of the track list.

Baritone Mark Trammell is the frontman for most of the songs, and over the years has perfected a delivery style that is both unique and reliable, hitting notes that few baritones attempt (for example, the high B-Flat during “Golden City Tour Medley.”) Though the project was built around the concept of songs from the years of Trammell’s life, he is featured on the only “new” song, the aformentioned”Way Past Ready.”

While I would have liked to hear the solo feature tracks divided more evenly (Mark Trammell gets the lion’s share, with Eric Phillips and Pat Barker getting one each and new lead Nick Trammell getting none), this CD is evidence that the Mark Trammell Quartet has truly found their niche. Lari Goss’ production work, coupled with the strength of the vocals, makes for a “hymns and classics” project that is worth pushing through whatever reservations the listener may hold with that description. Lifetime receives 5 stars.

Mark Trammell Quartet Announces Changes

July 09, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

The group announced today that some changes are taking place after NQC. Here’s a snippet of the press release:

Lead Singer Dustin Sweatman has accepted the Renaissance Program Director of Choirs position at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. He will remain with the quartet playing piano and singing thru mid-September and will assume his responsibilities at Bethel the week after the National Quartet Convention. Dustin has been a very important part of the beginning years of this ministry and we wish him Godspeed as he begins this new chapter in his life.

Nick Trammell will be filling the open position in the quartet. Nick and his wife Jessica have served the Lord with The Browns from Lemars, Iowa, for the past year and a half and have just become proud parents of their first child. While both Nick and Jessica have enjoyed singing with Jessica’s family, Nick shares that he is excited to fulfill a dream of standing beside his father in Christian work. Likewise, Mark is pleased to have his son joining him as he carries on a quartet tradition that Mark first loved as a child growing up in Arkansas.

The quartet will be releasing a new mainline project at NQC that will feature Nick’s vocals. This CD will also mark the first recording since the return of original Mark Trammell Trio tenor Eric Phillips. Since Sweatman also played piano for a good portion of their concert sets, Mark had this to say about that void:

“The last time I checked,” says Mark, “a keyboard fits just fine in the bus bays—and these young men know how to carry it into the venue. We might as well use it.”

While I thoroughly enjoyed Sweatman’s vocal development while with the group and hate to see him go, I am looking forward to hearing the new dynamic that Nick will bring to the group. The prospect of a full-time pianist with the group is also intriguing. I am glad to be attending NQC during the time frame of Sweatman’s last appearance with the group.

Eric Phillips (Re)Joins Mark Trammell Quartet

December 05, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Yes, it’s true! Via the group’s Facebook page:

After three months of searching, praying, and auditioning. Mark Trammell Quartet is happy to announce that former Mark Trammell TRIO tenor Eric Phillips will rejoin the group at the end of the year. Eric has faithfully served the city of Gadsden, Alabama as a law enforcement officer for the last 2 years and has earned highest honors in his service to them. Eric states “When music is in your blood, its hard to get it out. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road with Mark and the guys, seeing friends I haven’t seen in two and a half years and most importantly encouraging people with the gospel message thru song!” Mark states “I couldn’t be happier with Eric‘s decision to return. He loved being a police officer and I admired him for his work. The first song we sang together when he asked to be considered again confirmed what God was trying to tell everyone in the room. All I can say is welcome home Eric, good to have you back!”

Mark continues “We would like to thank 28 men and two ladies that showed interest in filling the position. We are honored that you would trust this ministry that much. Also, we MUST thank our friend Jim Cox from Cumming, Ga for his excellent job of filling in at the tenor position over the last two months. Jim has been a true joy to our fans and friends across the country.”

As always, a classy press release from a classy group.

2011 has proved to be a year of returns for fan-favorite singers to the groups which propelled them to that state. Earlier this year, we saw Burman Porter return to the road with the Dove Brothers. Now more than ever, I can say that the Mark Trammell Quartet is the group to watch. Eric has a tenor voice that is high and consistent, and helped to give the trio version of this group the “wow” factor. I believe it was Daniel Mount that stated that Always Have A Song, the Mark Trammell Trio’s final project with Phillips’ voice on it, just sounded like a quartet album without a bass. Phillips’ return will make that quartet a reality!

Join me in welcoming Eric back to SG!

CD Review: Mark Trammell Quartet – Treasures

October 15, 2011 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Mark Trammell, Kevin McManus, Dustin Sweatman
Label: Independent Release

Song titles: Echoes From The Burning Bush; Gentle Shepherd; Bloodwashed Band; That Day At Calvary; I’ll Have A New Life; Statue Of Liberty; An Old Convention Song; I Thirst; Master Builder; Wedding Music; Then I Met The Master; Boundless Love

There has been a whole slew of Cathedrals tributes that have cropped up in the past couple of years, perhaps the biggest being Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s latest album. A major release, that project consisted of re-done arrangements of about twenty-one songs from The Cathedrals, and came with a live video. The Mark Trammell Quartet went the complete opposite direction; they have released a table project that doesn’t even mention The Cathedrals by name, only referring to “Pop” and “The Old Man” in the liner notes. Straight-ahead arrangements, a table project, no video that features all the tracks; this project differs from that of EHSS in almost every way.

Where they are comparable is the high quality of the music.

The MTQ didn’t just take all the big hits that EHSS re-did and do versions not that much different from the originals (the only ones the two share are “An Old Convention Song,” “I Thirst,” “Wedding Music,” and “Boundless Love”). Rather, they reached back and pulled out songs that haven’t been recorded to death. Songs like “Bloodwashed Band,” the upbeat opener to The Cats’ Travelin’ Live that was long overdue for a revival, “That Day At Calvary,” and “Statue of Liberty.” Two of the songs are live cuts from a live DVD the group released and feature fellow Cats alum Gerald Wolfe at the piano. While the new and creative arrangements that Signature Sound brought to the table were certainly stellar, the lower-key feel of this project makes just as much a fitting tribute as that project did.

Really, Trammell did the Cats proud on this project. While I would have liked to hear Dustin Sweatman and Joel Wood featured more (especially since this turned out to be Wood’s final effort with the group), the singing is impeccable. Pat Barker’s voice has drawn comparisons to George Younce over the years, but on these songs especially, the similarity is almost scary. If you enjoyed the Cathedrals and didn’t care for the HUGE sound of EHSS’ work, then this tribute to one of the best groups in SG history will be right up your alley. Treasures receives 5 stars.