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

Dove Brothers Band Hires Mark McPherson

January 06, 2014 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dove Brothers, The Dove Brothers Band

McCray Dove announced last night on Facebook that the group has decided on a tenor singer following the departure of Jonathan Price:

Excited to announce that Mark McPherson will be McCray Dove and the Dove Brothers Band’s new TENOR! This was Mark’s first weekend with the Band. Mark brings a fresh but true Quartet Tenor sound to the band! So come out and hear the new line up!

Mark has been a member of groups such as Holy City and the Vintage Quartet.

Here are a couple of samples from over the weekend:

Youtube Spotlight: Dove Brothers Band w/ Jonathan Price, Take 2

January 28, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Dove Brothers, The Dove Brothers Band, Youtube

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 Spotlight: Freedom

June 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, Freedom, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

This past Friday night, I headed over to Wirtz, VA to hear Freedom sing at Halesford Baptist Church. The church hosts several concerts each year, and I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of the groups that are brought in. This concert was no exception. This relatively new trio features tenor John Rulapaugh, lead Josh Garner, and baritone Tyler Vestal. Here are some videos that I took during the concert:



A Look At The New Dove Brothers Lineup, And A New Song Spotlight

December 28, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Dove Brothers, Youtube

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.

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: Wrapping Up

September 18, 2011 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Music

Another National Quartet Convention has come and gone. I got in at about 6:30 Friday evening, and in between getting settled, catching up with people in the exhibit hall, and listening to music, I had no time to blog! I encourage you to check out some of the other blogs for their take on Friday night’s music. However, I have some thoughts on things throughout Saturday, and some final thoughts about NQC 2011 as a whole:

1. The Dixie Melody Boys reunion was this year’s “moment.” Every year at NQC, there is a musical moment, be it in a showcase or evening performance, one song or an entire set, that stands out from everything else during the week as a meeting of both spirit and musical greatness. The twenty or so minutes of the Singing News Fan Awards Straw Poll showcase that were set aside to honor Ed O’Neal’s 50 years in Southern Gospel music were those that made up this year’s moment. Three songs, a presentation, a heartfelt testimony, and a powerful closing number; these ingredients made up the magic this time. I counted at least three standing ovations, though it may have been four; either way, I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen an audience respond so well at NQC.

“Antioch Church Choir” and “Good Old Boys” opened it up, and the former got the first ovation. “Ride That Glory Cloud” was absolutely electric, complete with a live band consisting of Eric Ollis on piano, Rodney Griffin on bass guitar, and a drummer whose name escapes me, and it was encored several times. I am usually not an emotional person, but I will admit that I teared up twice this week. Ed O’Neal’s comments that led into “The Call Is Still The Same” caused that second time. What a broken, heartfelt testimony. All that aside, the current lineup of the Dixie Melody Boys is the best they have had in years, hands down. They have a very powerful sound now.

2. The live band and Burman Porter’s rehire are the two best things to happen to the Dove Brothers. Seriously. Their set tonight flat-out rocked. When you can keep doing encores (venturing into four times) and it doesn’t get old, you’re doing it right. Porter’s delivery of “King Jesus” was, at the risk of wearing this adjective out, electric. The energy is back for the Dove Brothers, for sure.

3. Something felt different about NQC this year. Let me preface this by saying that I am very much a fan and supporter of Southern Gospel music. As a matter of fact, I’d love to be able to sing it full-time one day. That does not change the fact that overall, my impression of this year was kind of disconcerting. I don’t know if it was the fact that by the time I got there everyone was tired or what, but it just felt… empty this year. Like the buzz that usually accompanies this event was turned off this time around. I don’t believe I’m the only one who felt this way; comments I’ve seen and heard around our corners of the web and in person lead me to believe that everyone else felt this weird, void-like sensation as well. Will it be fixed for next year? We’ll see. Until then, we have another year of Southern Gospel to enjoy, so let’s get to it!

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!

Jonathan Price Joins The Dove Brothers

October 18, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dixie Melody Boys, The Dove Brothers

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.

Jerry Martin Leaves Dove Brothers

October 15, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Dove Brothers

I should have known that it was just the calm before the storm when Doug said, “So things seem pretty dull lately, no?”

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.”

CD Review: The Dove Brothers – Unshakeable

July 03, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Dove Brothers

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Danny Crawford
Label: Sonlite Records
Website: www.dovebrothersquartet.com

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.