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

Freedom Trio Becomes Freedom Quartet

September 05, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Freedom, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Freedom QuartetIt seems that the NQC season of changes has recently kicked off, with several changes taking place over the past couple of weeks. This one in particular is the one that many were keeping an eye on; since the departure of group co-founder and lead singer Josh Garner for the Dixie Melody Boys, many were wondering where John Rulapaugh would take the group next. I think it’s safe to say that the group bounced back from the shakeup:

Nashville, TN (September 5, 2013) – John Rulapaugh, founder of a group known for its dynamic energy and prowess, Freedom, raises the bar even higher, as he introduces Freedom Quartet.

The quartet’s new line up is the “creme dela creme” of Gospel music.

The new lead singer has an array of accolades and accomplishments and is best known for his days with the group, Perfect Heart.  He is Dale Shipley.  Read more about him at daleshipley.com.

Filling the baritone position for the group is Preston Garner.  Garner is not only a notable vocalist with a vast array of experience. He is also a music minister and worship pastor and has a very clear understanding of leading an audience to the throne of God.

Taking the bass position is one of the most talented bass singers to grace a Gospel music stage.  He is none other than Burman Porter.

Along with the solid and seamless tenor singing of Rulapaugh, this combination is poised to be one of the most cutting edge and impacting Gospel music ministries of the decade.

“The departure of my friend Josh Garner from Freedom’s lineup left a great void, one that could not easily be filled,” shares Rulapaugh.  He continues, “Since the inception of Freedom, it was always our desire to have a great quartet. There have been several opportunities to make that move, but the timing was never right. Over the past few weeks the Lord has really made His plans evident in our lives and we are thrilled with the new starting place He has set for us. I couldn’t be more happy than with the addition of my old friend, Burman Porter, to the lineup of Freedom. Many will remember that Burman and I worked together on two previous occasions; First with The Dove Brothers Quartet and, then, with Palmetto State Quartet. There’s so much to tell about how this decision and direction unfolded…and not nearly enough space here to tell it all. Over the coming days and weeks I will share the details of how this all came to be. If you’re interested in the “back story,” visit and join our website.  You can sign up for free and receive all the latest news from the group.”

The group is partnered with a premiere booking agency, Mountain Top Talent (one entity of the multi-faceted Michael Davis & Associates).  Mountain Top will be heading up their scheduling.

Michael Davis expresses, “John Rulapaugh has done it again by assembling one of the strongest personnel lineups to come along in quite sometime.  The move from trio to quartet will be well received by John’s fan base.  I am very excited about the future of the Freedom Quartet.”

The quartet is looking forward to getting into the studio soon for their first full recording together.

To meet and follow the exciting happenings of this outstanding quartet, visit their brand new website, coming soon, at www.freedomquartet.com.

You can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/freedomquartet and follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/freedomquartet.

To learn more about all of the artists who call the Dominion Agency home, visit mountaintoptalent.com and michaeldavisandassociates.com. To schedule the Freedom Quartet and other wonderful artists with Michael Davis And Associates, call 828-454-5900 or email michael@michaeldavisandassociates.com.

Each iteration of the group Freedom has been a stellar assembly of talent, and this is no exception. What SG quartet fan hasn’t wanted to hear Dale Shipley in that setting again, or Burman Porter and John Rulapaugh filling the “bookends” of a group again? As far as Preston Garner, here are a couple of clips of him singing baritone with The Supernals in 1997, a group which included SG songwriter Ray Scarborough (“He’s My Song”). Garner is the featured singer on both songs.

safe to assume that this lineup of Freedom will be appearing at NQC. With this lineup overhaul, Harold Reed joining the Diplomats, and the Skyline Boys seeing tenor Jodi Hosterman’s return and Brian Alvey’s debut at the lead position, NQC 2013 is shaping up to have several groups to watch with particular interest. As a matter of fact, Freedom and the Skyline Boys will be appearing on the same side showcase on Friday afternoon. It’s during the NQC Music Awards, but I think this has convinced me to leave that early.

Burman Porter Leaves The Dove Brothers

August 13, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dove Brothers Band

After experiencing health problems this past weekend at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, Dove Brothers Band bass singer Burman Porter has announced that he is coming off the road. Porter had this to say on his Facebook page:

Today, with mixed emotions, I tendered my resignation to The Dove Brothers Band.

Many of you know that this past weekend during the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion, I suffered chest pains that led me to make a trip to the local emergency room on the night that I was to perform with the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion Quartet. After several rounds of blood tests, x-rays, and an EKG I was released with instructions to not be far from home and to see my family physician as quickly as possible.

I cannot thank my friends at the Grand Ole Gospel Reunion enough for their kindness and understanding as I missed the evening performance that I had been looking forward to for a year. During my visit to the hospital I received numerous calls, text messages, and Facebook messages offering prayers and encouragement. I am very thankful that I have true friends who think enough of me to reach out like that.
Following the evening performances The Dove Brothers left Greenville, SC for an extended tour that I did not feel comfortable taking considering the warning from the ER doctors, so I remained in Greenville, 3 blocks from the hospital for the remainder of the weekend. We returned home Sunday morning and Robin went with me to see my doctor today. We were told that the source of my chest pain is stress…and that I should do anything within my ability to reduce my stress level in order to stop the pains and avoid future complications.

Following my doctor visit, and after talking with Robin, we informed McCray that we feel it best that I not return to the road with the group. McCray says he has found my replacement, so I’m sure you can look for his announcement sometime soon…but I wanted you to hear it from me first.

While we hate to see such a great talent step down, it’s definitely better to be safe than sorry when it comes to one’s health. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Burman back with the group that he helped to start, and prayers are being sent for him and his health, as well as for the Dove Brothers Band as they carry on.

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!

Introducing: Daniel Ashmore

October 06, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Old Paths

Yesterday, the Old Paths officially announced that they have hired 21-year old bass singer Daniel Ashmore of Southaven, MS to take that position following the departure of Brandon Barry for the LeFevre Quartet. Now, via their official Youtube channel, comes a clip of his singing. Here is “Going Home:”


Ashmore is already garnering a lot of attention from fans and artists alike. For being such a young age, his voice is surprisingly mature. The comparison that comes to my mind is Chris West, but I can hear shades of Mike Allen as well. When he is so inclined, he can also sound like Pat Barker. For evidence of that, and a taste of his lower range, see this clip that was released around NQC time, when he was still “unknown” and the group was trying to get people to guess his age:


Daniel certainly has a bright future in Southern Gospel music, as evidenced by getting such a warm reception already. From the artist’s side of things, I read a post where the Dove Brothers and The Old Paths were on the same program. Dove Brothers bass Burman Porter made the remark that “when that boy gets a little more age on him he’ll sound like a fog horn.” How’s that for a vote of confidence?

NQC 2011: Tuesday Night Commentary

September 13, 2011 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Music

For a little while tonight, before other commitments take me away, I’ll be watching the live feed and giving my thoughts as the night goes on right here in this post. I’ll do this for other nights as well, but I’ll just do “highlight posts” Friday and Saturday when I’m actually at the convention.

I have a feeling that one of the biggest sets I will be covering tonight is that of the Dove Brothers. Burman Porter is making his return tonight (though I believe he’s been back on the road for a couple of weeks, NQC may as well be his “re-debut!”), and I’m very excited about hearing him again.

5:31 PM: There’s a musical group that was apparently singing and playing in the convention hall before the feed went up that looked like they stepped out of a Charles Dickens book. Now Tim Lovelace is talking to people in the audience. Settle back for about 15 minutes for this.

5:40 PM: The Harpers are singing a bluegrass song (I believe by The Isaacs.) The strumming on that one instrument is doing all kinds of fun things with the sound. They just fixed it, though.

5:49 PM: The Booth Brothers are singing a song. At least they had all the mics on when they started!

5:52 PM: Dean and Kim Hopper are leading the crowd in some singing with a band made of Gerald Wolfe on piano, Mike Hopper on drums, and Scoot Shelnut on bass guitar.

5:56 PM: And here come the Dove Brothers! Mic problems right off the bat… Looks like Les Butler and his son are helping the Dove Bros Band out tonight.

6:02 PM: Here’s “I Recall.” Burman Porter’s solo lines are solid. Good song for this group.

6:06 PM: I just noticed Joe Lane (formerly of The Dixie Melody Boys and several other groups) is playing piano for The Doves.

6:08 PM: Burman is singing “Operator.” There you go! He’s still got it! It’s in a lower key this time. The band works well for this one.

6:11 PM: They encored “Operator.” I hope Joe Lane is a permanent hire; he’s playing the heck out of that piano.

6:13 PM: “Get Away Jordan” sounds just like old times.

6:16 PM: Jonathan Price soared on the end of the encore just like Jerry Martin used to. With that, the set is over. I really like The Dove Brothers’s sound now, both vocally and the band!

And I have to step out a while.

…… I think I’ll just do the whole thing tomorrow! No leaving this time!

Burman Porter Rejoins The Dove Brothers

August 15, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dove Brothers

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.”