Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go hear the Dove Brothers Band for the first time (other than several NQC appearances). This time around was especially unique, because it was a graduation celebration for a friend to both the group and myself, Lynn Pollard, who you will hear referenced from the stage several times in the videos. Congratulations again, Lynn!
I say it was unique because the event was held in the small fellowship hall of a church in Roanoke, VA. The group set up in the corner, and with a small crowd of family and friends in the mix, it made for a very intimate setting, as you’ll see in the clips. I was impressed that the sound was as balanced as it was in that kind of setting.
As always, I’ll let the music speak for itself:
Traveling with a live band obviously has several perks, one of them being that the artist can let the music keep going if he wants to say something during a song. I enjoyed the little bit of background that McCray gave during “Hold On.”
If you’ve followed the Dove Brothers since they added the live band, you know that Jonathan Price was hired from the Dixie Melody Boys to join the group on tenor after Jerry Martin’s departure. After coming off the road for a little over a year, Jonathan Price made his return to the group. There have been videos floating around from his “second debut,” but that same Youtube user, DLPollard65, has posted more recent videos that show that the lineup has really settled:
It’s no secret that the Dove Brothers were adopting a country flavor before the live band was formed, but having the band has also allowed the group to branch out in other ways. Never in a million years would I have expected McCray Dove to cover “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” but here it is, and it’s good. According to several comments that have been posted on various sites, this was one of the moments of the concerts.
While the tenor singer in the interim, Keith Casstevens, is certainly a capable singer in his own right, his tenure took the overall sound of the group in a direction that seemed to stray too much from the group’s traditional quartet roots for many people’s liking. Price’s return has given the group the chance to more easily perform that style of Southern Gospel music again. This cover of an old Kingsmen song is solid evidence that the group can still “dance with the girl that brung them,” as the saying goes.
This compilation of four songs from the concert is a testament to the versatility that the Doves have achieved by adding the band. Here, we get a rendition of the group’s first #1 song, “I Can Pray,” a takeoff of the Oak Ridge Boys arrangement of “Just A Little Talk With Jesus,” the classic hymn “Amazing Grace,” and a cover of Rascal Flatts’ “I Won’t Let Go.”
In the SG blogging world, whether we are the ones blogging, commenting, or just sitting back and watching the back-and-forth discussions, it is sometimes lamented that the “excitement” in Southern Gospel music is gone, and that the raw energy, adaptability, and authentic vocals of live instrumentation and singers has given way to tracks and stacks. While I’m not going to down tracks (I personally see nothing wrong with them as long as the vocals are the actual live performance and not a lip-sync), I will pick a live band (or even just piano) any day if given the option, hands-down. The energy and excitement was tangible when I watched these Youtube videos for the first time, and I can honestly say that the Dove Brothers Band is one of the few groups I have been excited about in quite a while. No tracks, no stacks, just solid Gospel singing. That’s something we can all get behind.
Youtube is an amazing tool. I found a high quality clip of the group singing a brand new song that I assume McCray Dove wrote, and it’s probably one of the better ones I’ve heard from him. There haven’t been too many videos of the group since Keith Casstevens joined as tenor, other than a couple in the beginning, so it’s nice to hear more from this form of the group. It’s clear that Casstevens brings a different tenor sound than the group is used to having.
As good as the sound is, I want to draw particular attention to the lyrics of the song. It should be a wake-up call for a lot of people, both fans and industry personnel alike. I know that I, personally, was gripped. I can think of several examples right in the world of Southern Gospel music where someone failed in some way, and people in both camps I mentioned were guilty of kicking them when they were down. Granted, some go on living like the Devil and seem to have no intention of changing that, but how many of them have been truly, sincerely sorry and have repented of what they have done, only to be shunned and cast out by those that are commanded to forgive? It’s a slap in the face of the One who created them, loves them, and forgave them, no matter what they did. May such an attitude of unforgiveness, contradictory to what God commands, not be found in us.
Yes, you read that right. According to a Facebook status and employment change from Porter himself, he is once again the bass singer for the group. No word on where David Hester went or when this goes into effect, Via DBM, David Hester is leaving to be closer to his grandchildren and family, and Porter is starting in early September. A press release is forthcoming.
I have long thought that the finest lineup(s) of the group happened when Porter was present. I was talking to a blogger friend of mine, and he made a statement that I pretty much agree with: “I really liked David Hester in many ways, but Burman brought something special that just worked with McCray’s and Eric’s voices.” While my personal preferences go more to Porter’s voice than Hester’s, he turned in some good performances in his time with the group, the two I had in mind being “Face to Face with Grace” and the updated arrangement of the Oak Ridge Boys tune, “King Jesus” on his last studio release with the group. Whatever his plans are for the future, best wishes.
Join me in welcoming Burman Porter back on the road!
Update: Via DBM, David Hester is leaving to be closer to his grandchildren and family. Update 2: AbsolutelyGospel.com has the press release from the Dove Brothers here. It mentions the fact that the move was unofficially announced last week at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion during the Original Dove Brothers’ set. Money quote from McCray Dove on Hester’s departure:
Hester is leaving the road to go home and be a full-time grandfather.
McCray Dove of the Dove Brothers said, “It’s really that simple. We have been nothing but happy with David in the group. He was just ready to start planning his retirement and watch his grandkids grow up. David has been an essential part of our team, and we will miss him greatly.”
In a press release from Southern Spin Entertainment, The Dove Brothers confirm what I heard a couple days ago; Jonathan Price has joined the group:
“Multi-award winning quartet the Dove Brothers are excited to announce the addition of Jonathan Price as the group’s new tenor vocalist.
“We auditioned Jonathan this weekend, and he brought the house down,” mentioned McCray Dove, owner/manager/lead vocalist of the popular quartet. “He’s got a different sound than any of our previous tenors, but it’s a good fit, and we’re excited about his future with our group.”
McCray continued, “I was taught a long time ago by a prominent member of the Gospel music community that you don’t go looking for a replacement when someone leaves your group. You have to look for someone who brings something fresh to the group. Jonathan brings that fresh sound to our group, and we know he’s going to do an exciting job in this post.”
Jonathan has a strong resume within the Southern Gospel music community. Price joins the Dove Brothers after a three-year tenure with the Dixie Melody Boys. Price sang with Paul’s Journey before the Dixie Melody Boys. Jonathan and his wife Vivian currently reside in Farmville, North Carolina.
Price will begin full-time with the Dove Brothers during the month of November. Price replaces long-time vocalist Jerry Martin who left the group to pursue other interests…”
I’ll admit, when I first heard the news, I was a bit skeptical. It just didn’t seem like his voice would mesh, or be able to handle the material that the Doves do. However, attendees at a recent Dove Bros. concert told me he can handle it very well, and even though, like McCray said, his sound his different, it apparently sounded great. I’m looking forward to hearing how he sounds; a young tenor always has room to grow, and even in his tenure at Ed O’Neal University, he improved quite a bit, so I’m looking forward to hearing what Price brings to the table with this quartet.
In the second major (and unexpected) change this week, The Dove Brothers announced today that Jerry Martin, their tenor singer for the past eight years, has departed the group. Says the press release at the Singing News website:
McCray Dove, of the Dove Brothers, has announced that tenor Jerry Martin has left the group to pursue other interests. A replacement for Jerry will be announced soon.
“Jerry has been with our group for over eight years and has done a great job,” says McCray. “We wish him the very best in all his endeavors. Jerry felt it was time to make some changes in his career, and we respect his decision. We will be announcing our new tenor very soon, so stay tuned!”
I’m currently racking my brain to figure out who the new tenor may be, but I’m coming up short. Jerry Martin was part of that elite class of tenors that includes Ernie & Eric Phillips, Brian Free, and Jay Parrack (among others), that can sing in the rafters night after night and make it sound absolutely effortless. Some of the more recent Dove Brothers arrangements utilized that high tenor, so whoever they bring in has some big shoes to fill. As known tenor singers go, Parrack doesn’t fit the sound, and I don’t see Eric Phillips back on the road anytime soon. While I’d hate to see Jodi Hosterman leave The Inspirations, he has a sound similar to Martin’s, and he’d be a good fit. Perhaps McCray has a fresh, untapped talent in mind. We shall soon see…
This announcement comes right on the heels of yesterday’s news about the departure of Troy Peach from The Perrys. I had a review ready to go of a pre-release copy of their new project, Blue Skies, but since I learned that the album is being re-cut with new baritone Bryan Walker’s vocals, I will not post it. However, Daniel Mount has a fine review up of it in its current form, and I shared many of the same thoughts he had in the review.
Update: A later press release expands a little on the departure. From McCray Dove via Southern Spin Entertainment:
“Jerry has been a big part of our group for the last eight and a half years. This decision was mutual between us. We have no hard feelings for Jerry and wish him the best in the future. Sometimes one knows when their time is up with a group, and Jerry felt that it was time for him to transition to a new area. What that is exactly we don’t know – but we love Jerry and support him in whatever way he chooses to go.”
The end of 2009/beginning of 2010 saw several big changes for the Dove Brothers, with piano player Jerry Kelso leaving the group and Adam Harman being brought in, and then adding drummer Devin Dove and bassist Marc Peele for a three-piece live band. Changes this major will affect a group’s sound for sure, but the question here is this: how did the addition of the band change their sound for this new project?
The group has stayed in the Country Gospel direction they started in with 2006′s Never The Same, and continued with 2008′s Life and 2009′s Hold On. Fans who didn’t like the sound to begin with will really dislike this album; the group has jumped into the Country sound with both feet this time around.
With the band, the group’s song choices for this project feature arrangements that a three-piece band can easily replicate. Interestingly, many of the project’s songs come from the 1970s, an era when live bands were popular in Southern Gospel. The covers run the gamut, with songs such as The Imperials’ “Ole Buddha,” and The Dixie Echoes’ “Good Ole Gospel Song,” both of which feature lead singer McCray Dove and do a great job of maintaining the original feel of the songs while updating them to a more modern sound. Tenor singer Jerry Martin takes a feature on “My Soul Has Been Set Free,” an old Lesters Tennesseans tune (thanks, DM!). As if the group knew that this effort would draw parallels to the Oak Ridge Boys, they also recorded the Oaks classic “King Jesus,” totally updating the arrangement and turning it into a bass feature for David Hester. Hester is also featured on a Blackwood Brothers song that Bill Lyles originally sang, “How About You.”
There are plenty of newer songs to go around as well. “Hey Lazarus” has a callback arrangement on the chorus, with Hester echoing the group on each line. Baritone Eric Dove gets a solo on a verse of the Poet Voices song “Preachin’ In Prison.” “I Recall” is an upbeat quartet song, and “If I Knew Then” is a ponderous McCray Dove feature that has the lonesome sound you would find on any country ballad on the radio today. The last track, “Unstoppable,” is a song originally cut by Rascal Flatts that allows Jerry Martin to cut loose.
Bottom line: While the group has definitely adopted the heavy country sound, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Although there’s a couple tracks that aren’t my cup of tea, the Dove Brothers have released a project that makes a bold statement about who they are and what they believe in, while very clearly defining their sound.
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.
In a press release issued today at SoGospelNews.com, the Dove Brothers announced that Jerry Kelso is leaving the group and that Adam Harman will be filling the piano bench. Harman was with the Kingdom Heirs for several years, and is probably one of the most underrated pianists in SG music.
My prediction of the group hiring Andrew Ishee was wrong, but this is a great hire as well. Harman’s style will fit the group well, especially in the modern country sound they’ve adopted on their recent projects. When I thought of Ishee, I was thinking of their “Didn’t It Rain” material mostly, but Harman’s playing will supplement that well, too.
Best of luck to Jerry Kelso, and welcome aboard, Adam Harman!
Via SouthernGospelForums.com, poster RobertYork said this in the Dove Brothers news forum:
Dove Brothers announced tonight that this was Jerry Kelso’s last week. We talked with Jerry and he is moving to Nashville. They have a replacement for Jerry. He will be joining them after the break. He has played for a couple of well known Southern Gospel Groups and I’m sure he will fit in well with them as he is a GREAT piano player. I’m sure McRae will be making the announcement very soon.
Running through a mental list of piano players that I can envision with the Dove Brothers, Andrew Ishee definitely comes to mind. He has played for a couple of well-known groups, and he has both the ability and stage energy that Kelso possessed. He’s currently off the road, but if he was going to come back, this quartet is definitely the one he would fit with.
An official announcement will be made in the next few days, so it will be interesting to see who the choice is.
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