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

Archive for the ‘Mercy’s Mark’

New Lead Vocalist For N’Harmony

February 16, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Mercy's Mark, N'Harmony, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In a surprising move, Shane Dunlap released this statement today:


N’Harmony Announces New Lead Singer

Nashville, TN – N’Harmony is pleased to announce the addition of fan favorite Josh Feemster as the new lead vocalist for the group. “We are honored to have Josh joining us in our ministry”, states Shane Dunlap. “He is one of the finest singers in gospel music today and we look forward to working and traveling with him.”

With the addition of Josh at the lead position, Shane Dunlap will be assuming the baritone vocalist position. Feemster’s first concert with N’Harmony will be held at Temple Baptist Church in Fayetteville, NC on Good Friday April 10, 2009.

To learn more about N’Harmony’s touring schedule, please visit www.nharmonymusic.com or www.dominionagency.com.

My intial thought is; Josh Feemster is back? Awesome! I’ve been really wanting to see him back with a group ever since he left Mercy’s Mark, and since the group he was trying to put together didn’t go through, he couldn’t have picked a better lineup of vocalists to go with.

A question does arise, though, that I hope a future press release will answer; since Dunlap has opted to move to the baritone slot, does this mean that N’Harmony has gone the Gaither Vocal Band route and employed a five-man lineup, or has Chris Whitaker left the group and no one knows it yet? If the latter is the case, it would be a real shame; Whitaker is one of the finest baritones on the road today, and I was very impressed with him on N’Harmony’s latest project, Favorites.

I’ve said before, keep an eye on this group, because they will go far if they can keep together. I say that now more than before, especially if they are going for the five-man group.

Welcome back, Josh!

Update: Several have contacted me to say that Chris Whitaker has indeed left the group and his future plans are to be announced soon.

Further Update: I had a suspicion that this would be the case, but it seems that Chris has joined Mike & Kelly Bowling:

Popular Southern Gospel trio, Mike & Kelly Bowling have announced the addition of tenor Chris Whitaker to the group’s line-up. According to Mike & Kelly, “Chris has so much to offer our group. Not only does he possess an incredible lead voice and a natural ability to sing harmony, he has a passion for ministry.” “Kelly and I believe Chris is a perfect fit for our group,” stated Mike. “We are so happy to have Chris as a part of our ministry and are excited about the future.”

Chris grew up in Hamilton, Mississippi where he began singing in church at the age of 10. His family moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 2005. Chris married Tara Leonard in February of the same year. They now have one child, Robert Colton Whitaker, who is 9 months old. Chris is no stranger to Southern Gospel music. He has performed full time for several years within the Southern Gospel industry. Chris added, “I am extremely excited about singing with such a wonderful group and family. I am most looking forward to ministering to those who are lost.”

The addition of Chris came on the heels of Mike & Kelly Bowling’s hit single “A Miracle Today” reaching number one for March 2009 on the National Radio Chart according to the Singing News Magazine. It is the third consecutive number one from the trio. “A Miracle Today” was written by Becky Isaacs Bowman and Sonya Isaacs and is the second number one for Mike & Kelly Bowling from the writing duo. “Your Cries Have Awoken The Master” was the Singing News 2008 Song of the Year and topped the charts in August 2008. The Singing News Song of the Year is selected according to a point system assigned to radio singles for their duration on the National Radio Chart throughout the year. The Song of the Year announcement came at the one year anniversary of Mike & Kelly Bowling’s first number one song written by Carroll McGruder, “We Have A Saviour.” Their current single, “Notified” was written by Ronny Hinson and is currently playing on radio stations worldwide. All four singles are included on Mike & Kelly Bowling’s debut Canaan Records release Faith To Believe. Word Entertainment distributes the newest project to stores worldwide and was released on August 12th.

Also, Mike & Kelly Bowling are currently looking to add a full time piano player. Interested musicians can e-mail their information to mikeandkellybowling@hotmail.com .

For booking information on Mike & Kelly Bowling, contact The Beckie Simmons Agency (615-595-7500, http://www.bsaworld.com or e-mail: beckie@bsaworld.com.) For more information on Mike & Kelly Bowling or to order Faith To Believe, visit http://www.mikeandkellybowling.com or Canaan Records, http://www.canaanrecords.com . For radio information, contact The Rick Hendrix Company ( rick@rickhendrix.com ) or call 615-662-4848

Mike & Kelly won’t miss a beat, as Chris’ voice will fit in great with theirs. I look forward to hearing this group in the future, especially once they hire a piano player.

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.

The Imperials Usher In A New Era

August 21, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Brothers Forever, Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG History, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Imperials

As you all may know, Shannon Smith left The Imperials several weeks ago to become a Minister Of Music. Now, The Imperials announce that Jeremie Hudson is leaving to accept a position in an Alabama church, and also names the people to take Smith and Hudson’s place.

Taking the lead position is Scott Allen, the guy who filled in while The Imperials searched for a new lead. You may remember Scott from his short-lived tenure with Mercy’s Mark, and this guy has a voice that has been just waiting to be heard on a national level. Scott will be a great addition to the group.

Filling the tenor slot is former Brothers Forever tenor Perry Jones. This guy’s sound is one that will blend well with the other Imperials. It is worth noting that Jeremie Hudson, the tenor who is leaving, has the second longest tenure with the group (clarification: as a tenor). He clocks in at nine years, the longest tenure being Jim Murray’s at 20 years.

Best of luck to Smith and Hudson, and I am excited to hear how The Imperials will sound with the new additions.

Shannon Smith To Leave The Imperials

May 31, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Imperials

I had heard a couple rumors here and there of this, but it seems that Daniel Mount has confirmed it. Scott Allen, formerly of Mercy’s Mark for a very short time, will be filling in, and an official announcement is coming soon.

I wish Shannon well in his endeavor as a Minister Of Music. I enjoyed hearing him with The Imperials, and I know he will do a great job.

I also wouldn’t mind seeing Scott get the job, seeing as he sort of got the rug jerked from under him with the Mercy’s Mark thing. He’s a very talented guy!

Dual CD Review: Southern Selections Volume One & Two by Mercy’s Mark

March 06, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Garry Jones, Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Music

Slow news days here in the SG realm, so I thought I’d post a review of two projects that probably are the two lesser-known Mercy’s Mark projects. These were the only two table projects released by Mercy’s Mark.

The group was (and maybe still is) having a “going out of business” sale, with CDs for only $5. I took advantage of this deal and completed my MM discography with these two projects. These two copies were recorded with the original lineup: Anthony Facello at tenor, Josh Feemster at lead, Garry Jones as baritone, piano player, and producer, and Chris West rounding out the bass.

Southern Selections Volume One
I believe this was released a short time before their first mainline self-titled release, and I think the group was still trying to find its sound. How, you ask? Well….

1. When They Ring Those Golden Bells

The album opens up with a piano solo from Garry Jones. No other instrumentation except the piano is heard, and it showcases Jones’ great ability at the keys.

2. Whosoever Will

This track sounds like the Mercy’s Mark of the mainline release, until they reach the chorus. Anthony Facello’s tenor sounds whiny, which was a major surprise considering his great vocal ability.

3. Sheltered In The Arms Of God
I was greatly disappointed in this Facello feature. His tenor once again sounds whiny, and he tries to over-sing his lines far too much. I found myself hitting the skip button about 30 seconds into the track.

4. I’ll Take The Old Highway
One of the few songs I actually liked on this album. This song reflected how the group’s sound would improve over time.

5. Going Home
Phenomenal bass feature from Chris West on this old Bill & Gloria Gaither song. This song had me wishing that West would find himself another group to sing with; this guy is just too good not to! His ability is absolutely outstanding for his young age.

6. Some Glad Day
Similar to the familiar MM sound, but Facello’s tenor starts to stick out a little too much, but not glaringly as in the aforementioned tracks.

7. Climbing Up The Mountain
The group rolls out an old song, in the four-guys-and-a-piano style. Good up until the end, when they just repeat the same “Up The Mountain” phrase to the point of annoyance.

It Is Well With My Soul
Josh Feemster (another awesome young talent that needs to find another group!) gets the lead on this old hymn. Outstandingly arranged by Jones for a powerful take on this classic.

9. Jesus Is Coming Soon
The group puts forht a very modern take on the Oak Ridge Boys/Inspirations hit. I find myself hitting the repeat button on my iPod for this one.

10. Going Going Gone
The album closes out with one of my favorite tracks. It starts with a bass feature from West, who rocks the subwoofers on the last note of the verse. Feemster takes the lead on the second verse, and this project finishes out strong.

Final Rating:
The group hadn’t quite found its niche, but there’s a couple songs on here that are good.

Southern Selections Volume Two
This album was much better than its latter volume. The group had definitely established itself by this time, and the result is a great table project from a great quartet.

1. Where Is God
Awesome song. Great way to open the album, and they pull it off sounding like pros.

2. Gonna Be Movin’
The guys “modernize” this old Cathedrals classic, giving Chris West the feature. You might remember this one from The Cathedrals’ “Travelin’ Live” project.

3. When I Knelt The Blood Fell

An Anthony Facello feature that proves that he had greatly improved since the first volume. Only a minimal amount of over-singing occurs, and this ballad ends up being a great track.

4. Plan Of Salvation
Another Cathedrals classic gets covered, with piano as the only instrument. Chris West does George Younce justice on his solo lines, as he did in the aforementioned Cats cover.

5. The Prodigal Son
Nothing really wowed me about this Feemster feature. Not bad, but not really great either. It rather comes across as a “filler” track.

6. Life Will Be Sweeter

Yet another Cathedrals tune is covered, and the guys modernize this one too, for a great result.

7. Lord, Feed Your Children

Garry Jones turns in a great feature on this slow song. One of my favorite songs on the album.

8. I’m Gonna Walk Everyday With My Lord
Great quartet song that has West rockin’ the low end on the chorus, and doing none too shabby on his solo line either. I love this track!

9. I’m Free
A slow song featuring Feemster on the first verse and Facello on the second. Pretty good.

10. I’m Too Near Home
The album closes out with a good ol’ foot-stomper. As the last notes fade out, I realized that that was the very last anyone heard of this lineup. A nice close-out to a good debut lineup.

Final Rating: ****
This was a much better album than the latter. Definitely recommend it for all quartet fans.

EDIT: Updated some information posted in error. Thanks to Kyle Boreing for pointing those out.

Mercy’s Mark Update

February 06, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Garry Jones, Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

From an e-mail newsletter I received today:

Hello everyone,
I hope you are having a great year so far. I have not written for a couple of months
as I have been absorbed in the holidays and reconnecting with my family. I have
also been exploring future interests for myself and Mercy’s Mark.

As most of you are aware, Mercy’s Mark discontinued touring in November of 2007.
I vowed at that time that no drastic decisions would be made until all options could
be explored and I had the time needed to pray about the future. After careful consideration
and prayer, Mercy’s Mark will not resume touring to the degree we were. There have
been promoters who have expressed interest in booking MM in the future for selected
dates. Because of this we are not officially disbanding but will consider a few
selected dates on a limited basis.

Returning to the quartet world as an artist was a significant decision and a desire
I had but only as it was practical from a Christian business perspective. At the
present time I have determined that it is just not financially practical for Mercy’s
Mark to immediately resume touring. However, it is my desire that God’s will
and purpose for MM be fulfilled. I will continue to keep you updated on any changes
for the group and any concert dates that we may perform.

As for my immediate plans I have scheduled a few select concert piano solo appearances
and I am actively returning to the production world to arrange and produce recording
projects for other artists. Being in the studio already this year has definitely
rekindled my passion and excitement for assisting in the development of artist’s
and their musical vision. I look forward to what projects I am privileged to be
a part of in 2008.

You have prayerfully supported Mercy’s Mark since its inception and for that I
want to personally offer my sincere thanks and appreciation. We have made so many
wonderful friends along the way and have not forgotten your gracious acceptance.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. I look forward to seeing you again somewhere
and pray God’s blessings for you throughout this year.

Garry Jones

I honestly don’t know what to make of it. The fact that Garry is getting more involved with producing albums excites me, though.

Update: I admit this post was made in haste yesterday; I was low on time, and this news rather shocked me.

With Garry going back to focusing on producing, I wonder if he will produce future Gold City albums. They’re good in their own right, but with Garry’s production once again, it’d be just like old times. Hit after hit after hit.

Hmm… I would like to see that quartet put together of Brent Mitchell, Josh Feemster, Craig West, and Chris West (see the post I made earlier featuring those videos) go to a full-time group, with maybe a different piano player. Garry would join them on those “select dates”, maybe.

A Future Quartet In The Making?

January 07, 2008 By: Aaron Category: Garry Jones, Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Music

Just wanted to share these videos on Youtube of a recent concert, which Garry Jones was a part of. Garry is the baritone/piano player/manager of Mercy’s Mark, whose future is being prayerfully considered at this point. He joined with former Mercy’s Mark bass singer Chris West, former lead singer Josh Feemster, former tenor Brent Mitchell, and sang some songs with them. Then, he accompanied a quartet made of West, West’s brother Craig, Feemster, and Mitchell, on the piano for a couple songs.

Let me just say that I hope the Mitchell-Feemster-Jones-West lineup will be Mercy’s Mark’s next lineup, or that the Mitchell-Feemster-West-West-Jones lineup will. Craig West’s performance of “I Bowed On My Knees” in one of the videos reminds me of the performance of the same song I saw at an NQC showcase in 2007, with young, dynamic lead Scott Allen taking the solo.

Very excited for the MM future now!

I’m On The Battlefield

Midnight Cry

I Bowed On My Knees

Another Mercy’s Mark Update

November 20, 2007 By: Aaron Category: Garry Jones, Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Looks like some new developments are opening up in this news story, with yet another update from the ever-popular Singing News Forums. Quoted from a post:

“As far as Christian, Brent and Scott are concerned, they have worked
out with Garry to fill most of the December dates. (I think the dates will
probably be posted at Dominion soon.) They did 5 dates in Florida this past
weekend and saw 6 people get saved! And that’s what it’s all about!! Please keep
everyone in your prayers.”

And in a later update:

“The dates that Christian, Brent and Scott are filling are not as
Mercy’s Mark but they are doing them together on their own. None of these men
are part of Mercy’s Mark now.”

Hmm… looks like the worst turnover in Mercy’s Mark’s career has happened. That is, if Mercy’s Mark is even existing at this point. I would like to see the first three MM members return, but I suppose that is rather wishful thinking…

Or maybe, Garry can draft some of the off-the-road talent out there and put together another great incarnation of the Mercy’s Mark Quartet. Thin about how they’d sound with Jeremy Peace on tenor, Josh Garner at lead, Garry at baritone, and Gene McDonald on bass. Eh… on second thought, MM’s Progressive style may not be the tenor, lead, and bass singer’s cup of tea, but a guy can dream…

On the other hand, I’m really excited to hear that these three singers are traveling together. Maybe they’ll pick up a baritone and another great quartet will be born! Or, Christian Davis will move to the baritone slot. He sings all four parts on his solo CDs, so it’s possible.

More updates coming as I get ’em.

Mercy’s Mark Update

November 14, 2007 By: Aaron Category: Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In an open letter from Garry Jones to the Singing News, Mercy’s Mark may or may not have disbanded. See for yourself:

“First of all I would like to thank all the friends and supporters of Mercy’s Mark and those who have contacted me. There has been a lot of speculation about the future of Mercy’s Mark and honestly, due to circumstances beyond my control the group has been temporarily unable to fulfill our scheduled commitments for the remainder of 2007.

“In the last few days I have been presented with many exciting possibilities for the future of Mercy’s Mark and am prayerfully weighing each one. I ask that you would please continue to pray for the future of this group and I will keep you informed as things develop.”God bless you and thank you again.”
Garry Jones
Mercy’s Mark

Hmm… it’s the part about the “many exciting opportunities” that intrigues me. I certainly hope this means that God ain’t finished with Garry and the boys yet, so for now, I will say that they are off the road. I’m sure, whatever direction God leads them, that they will either continue in this ministry or be guided into others.

I will post updates as I get ’em.

What A Day…

November 08, 2007 By: Aaron Category: Brian Free And Assurance, Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Well, looks like some more revolving doors are opening up.

Or rather, just this one seems to be a revolving one, with SoGospelNews reporting that Christian Davis is no longer the bass vocalist for Mercy’s Mark. Poor Garry Jones just can’t seem to get a break. His group has probably seen more turnovers in their short time of existance than other groups see in years. Hmm… could this mean the return of my favorite “why did they leave the road?” bass, Chris West?

And another sad note, Brian Free & Assurance’s piano player, Scott McDowell, has left the group, according to a commenter on Averyfineline (which in turn has gotten his own blog post). That’s a rather surprising turn of events as well; I’ve always enjoyed watching ol’ Pepper play. He got into it, let me tell ya! The commenter says that BFA is currently scouting other groups, but I’d sorta like to see Andrew Ishee hit the road with these guys. He’d fit in rather well….

Be looking for updates on these stories. I’ll post as I get ’em.