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

Gold City with Chris West

January 17, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Gold City, SG Artists, SG History, SG Music

When I went to Youtube this morning to search for something, I got a pleasant surprise in my subscription bar; a video entitled “GOLD CITY’S NEW BASS SINGER 1-16-2011” (caps not mine.)

I had heard rumors that Chris West, former Mercy’s Mark bass singer and current sound man for Gold City, was being called up to sing several songs every night with the group, but this video was the first true evidence I had seen of it. It starts off with Tim Riley (who sounds like he’s channeling JD Sumner in this clip!) talking about Chris and their friendship, and then bringing him on stage as “After A While” begins playing. He then steps off to one of the wings and West proceeds to nail the song with a bass voice that has all the depth and power to it that Riley has now.

This video, I think, is solid proof that Riley is prepping West to take his place after his eventual second retirement. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it on this blog or not, but I have a feeling that is the most prudent method. With Bill Lawrence, and even Aaron McCune, it was almost a case of Tim up and retired, hired another bass singer, and rode off into the sunset. The problem with that is this: fans of Gold City immediately think of Riley and his singing when Gold City is mentioned. All of a sudden, they’re left with a new bass to get used to. That didn’t go over too well, and neither Lawrence nor McCune, unfortunately, were ever really accepted as “Gold City’s bass” by many of its fans.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that none of that was meant as an offense to either of those singers. They are both fine basses and I enjoyed both of them with Gold City, but I just observed over those time periods what the general response was from the fan base.

The beauty of this method of transition is this: it is already known that Tim is coming off the road again eventually. Bringing Chris up on stage every night and introducing him saying that he has been working with him gives fans a concrete image of Tim giving this young man the thumbs-up as his replacement, which is something that did not happen with the other two. If fans can physically see the passing of the torch, they will more readily accept him. It also helps that West sounds like a young Riley, anyway.

And so, dear readers, here’s a preview of the next generation of Gold City:

Playing Catch-Up

February 22, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Gospel Quartet, Blackwood Quartet, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

With the busy schedule I’ve seemed to keep for the past few days, I haven’t had much time to blog! Here’s some items I missed:

1. Blackwood Shake-Up Groups experience change in SG quite often, but few experience changes this drastic. Ron Blackwood, owner of the Blackwood Quartet, announced his retirement for health reasons on the advice of his physician, and announced that he was turning leadership of the group over to Mark Blackwood, baritone and owner of the Blackwood Gospel Quartet. On the heels of this announcement came the one that stated, effective March 1, tenor John Rulapaugh and lead Josh Garner were resigning their positions in the Blackwood Quartet and forming a quartet of their own. Thus, Mark Blackwood is merging the BGQ with Ron Blackwood’s group. The lineup is: tenor Dale Evans, lead Mark Blackwood, baritone David Mann, and bass Chris West.

I am very excited about this announcement, because, for one, the vocal lineup for the Blackwood Quartet is shaping up to be quite the powerhouse. David Mann and Mark Blackwood are great vocalists, and Dale Evans is one of the best young tenors I have ever heard. Throwing a young bass like Chris West in the mix is sure to make a great quartet.

Greater still, the fact that John Rulapaugh and Josh Garner are forming a group opens up exciting possibilities for a lineup. I wouldn’t mind seeing them pick up baritone Rick Fair and bass Brad Smith. An announcement should be coming sometime soon as to the lineup of this new quartet.

2. Videos of the Mark Tramell Quartet are now up. Check out Pat Barker singing what has becoming something of a signature song for him, “How Big Is God,” and a favorite song by the Mark Trammell Trio getting a quartet treatment on “Loving The Lamb.”

Be looking, probably sometime next week, for the first interview I’ve ever done on this blog. It was a great interview that I was privileged to be able to conduct, and I can’t wait to have it posted!

Update: For now, the videos of the Mark Trammell Quartet have been removed at the artist’s request. I’ll repost if they are put back up!

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.