Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Gaither Vocal Band Welcomes Adam Crabb; Still Seeking Fifth Member

January 10, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Adam Crabb, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

In an email today, Bill Gaither confirmed what many had already speculated:

We are thrilled to welcome Adam Crabb aboard as the newest member of The Gaither Vocal Band!  Adam comes to us with years of musical expertise, including on-stage and studio work as a member of award-winning Crabb Family, and as a solo artist and worship leader.

Bill Gaither is grateful and excited about the future! He says, “For decades now, we have reinvented the Gaither Vocal Band again and again, and in the process we have found some of the most incredible male singers and wonderful human beings on the planet. Adam is a very exciting addition to this 30-year legacy of excellence.”

As for whether or not the GVB will maintain a five-man lineup, Gaither had this to say:

“We are taking our time and trying out some wonderful individuals during the next few weeks. You will see some very gifted guest artists out on the tour with us as we seek the perfect fit.  Trust me. You do not want to miss the chance to see what is about to happen as we enter this new season.”

Let the speculation continue! For now, here’s a look at how Adam fits with the group. This is a compilation of clips, and the whole thing is worth watching, but for the songs that directly feature Adam, skip to 1:07, 2:55, and 4:41:

NQC 2013 Main Stage Schedule – First Take

January 18, 2013 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

By now, most of you have probably seen the initial schedule for NQC’s last year in Louisville. Since the showcase schedule is not really fully formed yet, I’ll just comment on the main stage lineup. Daniel Mount gave a good rundown of additions and removals, so I’ll quote his list and give my thoughts below:

The Inspirations and The Torchmen return, and there are five new artists: 11th Hour, Keepers of the Faith, Old Paths, Providence Quartet, Wilburn & Wilburn.

Meanwhile, ten artists on the 2012 program won’t be returning to the mainstage: Bowlings, Browders, Chuck Wagon Gang, Down East Boys, Naomi & the Segos, Nelons, Paul’s Journey, Pfeifers, Sisters, Skyline Boys.

I’ll admit, I don’t “get” some of the moves. I remember a conversation I had with a friend shortly after last NQC. We noticed the strength of both of Tribute Quartet’s sets (two of the best sets of the convention), and my friend commented that the Down East Boys seemed to have been received just as well. As someone who actually attended and caught both groups, I agreed; plus, they are seeing some success from their latest major release. Surely they could have gotten at least one night; perhaps another Quartet Night slot as they did last year.

Sisters were on the Gaither slot, but they also took the spot of the King’s Heralds for “A Capella” moments in between sets. I wonder if they’re doing away with that feature altogether, or if they’ll bring in a completely different group like the Penny Loafers to fill the spot.

Nelons were also on the Gaither slot, and got a favorable response. For their first set on main stage in years, it was apparent that the crowd was glad to have them back. Of course, it’s entirely possible that they and the Sisters will be with Gaither again.

I’m glad to see Wilburn & Wilburn and the Old Paths get spots this year. The Old Paths have had it coming for years; “Battle Stand” going #1 no doubt sealed the deal.

The Inspirations return after not appearing last year; Ernie Haase & Signature Sound and Dove Brothers, so far, don’t share the same fate. If you look around in the comments section of a couple other blogs, you’ll get a pretty decisive answer on one of those, but it’s fair game for these and several other absences.

If history repeats itself, this schedule will undergo several changes before September rolls around, but for now, let the speculating and “armchair quarterbacking” begin! 🙂

NQC 2012 Thoughts: Friday

September 15, 2012 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Music

1. Today marked the first ever NQC Music Awards show, and I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. On the one hand, there were several moments that echoed the spontaneity of some of the Singing News Fan Awards shows throughout the year, but it ended up running really long and at times felt like a train careening out of control. At the beginning, some ground rules were laid out that basically said, “Stick to the script, no additional joking,” but that rule wasn’t followed, and actually became a joke in itself as the awards show went on. It did make for some moments that made me laugh till I cried, though!

But I digress. I don’t even remember who I voted for, but I can’t think of any winners today that left me disappointed. It was nice to see David Phelps win Favorite Tenor, for sure. Hopefully, if the Music Awards become an annual thing, they can refine what they do further.

2. Gaither’s block made for some of the strongest moments of the evening. Sisters had a strong set, especially with their A Capella number, as did The Nelons. Speaking of The Nelons, I was glad to see them finally get back on Main Stage, as they have had a quality group in recent years that deserved a spot there. Let’s hope this starts another streak of inclusion for them.

The Gaither Vocal Band did several things different from their usual material. Mark Lowry had fun with “I Catch ‘Em, God Cleans ‘Em,” and Matthew Holt played some great licks on the piano. By the way, he was officially announced as Gaither’s new pianist tonight. The new material from Pure And Simple went over really well with the crowd as well.

3. All the sound issues that have held off, for the most part, throughout the week all decided to converge on the day’s events. Feedback, mic level issues, and more plagued the night. Here’s hoping they will disappear so the sound can finish the week strong on Saturday.

Gordon Mote Leaves Gaither Tour

May 28, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

It may or may not be the “big news” that Gerald Wolfe hinted at on Facebook last week, but a surprising bit of information dropped today in the form of a SocialCam video from Mark Lowry: Gordon Mote will no longer be with the Gaither Homecoming tour. Lowry quickly points out that Gordon will still be at Gaither events like Family Fest, just not on the regular tour. Mote will still be on the road; presumably, that means he is embarking on a solo venture, in addition to his studio work. You can keep up with him at his website.

This marks the second major change in the piano position for the Homecoming Tour, the first being Mote’s hire after the passing of Anthony Burger. Let the speculation begin as to who will fill the piano bench now. Will they go with a relative unknown, or hire someone more established?  Two players come to mind, the first being Tim Parton. He has already done quite a bit of work on various Gaither Videos, and if he was willing to take the job, he’d be a fine accompanist and arranger for the tour.

Another would be Christopher Phillips, who has showed up on a couple of Gaither productions himself. Here he is doing a duet with Gordon Mote:

If I’m not mistaken, didn’t he also play on Ernie Haase & Signature Sound’s Dream On DVD? In any case, he would be a strong choice if Gaither were to look for someone that is basically a newcomer to the scene.

Thoughts on NQC 2010: Friday Night

September 18, 2010 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Music

1. Cut it out with the picture-taking already! I hate to start out my report with a grievance, but honestly, it needs to be addressed. I was sitting at about the second row back at the Gaither Sing-A-Long this afternoon, and there were several times that people came up to take pictures and just stood there for five minutes. They took maybe three pictures. Total. I would have asked them to move, but the nice gentleman across the aisle beat me to the punch.

C’mon folks! I’m not against taking pictures, but at least kneel or position yourself to where you’re not blocking the view of others trying to enjoy the show. Or, if it’s necessary to stand and take the picture, take it and go. DO NOT stand there for five minutes, take one picture, and continue standing there. LEAVE! Nobody can see past you. What makes it worse is when you do it multiple times a set. Just sit down and watch!

2. Most memorable moment goes to Ernie Haase & Signature Sound tonight. On the final chorus of “We Shall See Jesus” and an encore of “Boundless Love,” Ernie brought up Scott Fowler, Gerald Wolfe, Mark Trammell, and Danny Funderburk. This mini-Cathedrals reunion made the whole “tribute” atmosphere of Signature Sound’s set come full-circle.

3. Who is the Todd Allen Family, and why have we not heard of them sooner? Though their NQC-themed parody of “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year” was as cheesy as they come, the harmony was delightful. More, please!

4. I noticed something interesting today in both the Gaither afternoon event and the GVB’s set tonight. Both times, on the final song, Bill brought up Gene McDonald to sing with the Vocal Band, giving him his mic and not singing while McDonald was doing so. Could this be a glimpse into the future? We shall see; it’s conceivable that Bill could semi-retire and still travel with the Homecoming Tour, and even sing the occasional song, but hire McDonald as the new GVB bass. Oh, what could be…

CD Review: Gaither Vocal Band – Greatly Blessed

August 13, 2010 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Bill Gaither, David Phelps, & Michael English
Label: Gaither Music Group
Website: www.gaither.com

Buy Here

This project was purchased directly from the artist. This fact has no bearing on the final rating.

1. Better Day – The project starts off with a song that will be familiar to those who have seen the last DVD that the Vocal Band put out, as it was the title track. There are a few subtle differences in vocal arrangement and instrumentation from the live version, which make it more than just the studio version of a song that was previously introduced in a live setting. This track displays the smooth harmonies of the five-man lineup right up front and whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of the project, which makes it a good choice for an opener.

2. When He Blest My Soul – Like the previous track, this song was already featured on a DVD release. There’s added instrumentation here also, most notably the driving brass section that work with the organ and piano to inject energy into the song. The vocal arrangement is outstanding, most notably with David Phelps and Wes Hampton’s parts interchanging throughout the final chorus. While Gold City is the group that comes to my mind when this song is mentioned, the Vocal Band has a version that is just as good.

3. Love Like I’m Leavin’ – This is the third and final track that has already been introduced elsewhere. Nothing much differs between this take and the live one, but the studio version better highlights some of the vocal subtleties in the group harmonies.

4. You Are My All In All – In the first “new” song on the project, David Phelps’ arranging skills are brought to bear on this CCM classic. A cello brings in the start, and Pachelbel’s Canon in D is interwoven throughout the song with an acoustic guitar and violins. Phelps is featured on the verses, and keeps it pretty low-key for the most part before taking it up into classic power-tenor mode for the final chorus. Phelps’ arrangements are something the Vocal Band sorely missed, and this is a perfect example of why.

5. Please Forgive Me – This Crabb Family hit gets an orchestrated treatment and features Michael English. The emotion with which English sings is evident throughout the first verse and carries throughout the song. Some very smooth harmonies are sprinkled into the second verse, and then after the second chorus, an arpeggiated vocal lead-in brings in a powerful final chorus. This is one of the highlights of the disc, showcasing both the group’s power harmony and how much vocal strength English still has.

6. Greatly Blessed, Highly Favored – Right off the bat, you get the sensation you’ve heard this song before. That’s because, technically, you have. This Larry Gatlin and Bill Gaither cooperation takes the melody and rhythm of the Gatlin Brothers hit, “All The Gold In California” and changes the words to convey the message of being a “Greatly blessed, highly favored, imperfect but forgiven child of God.” Wes Hampton takes the solo on the verse, and while the song is a definite re-write of a popular country tune, it thankfully manages to avoid the cheesiness factor and stands on its own two feet.

7. He’s Alive – Fans of Don Francisco or owners of David Phelps’ rare pre-Gaither solo project, Journey To Grace, will recognize this track. David Phelps displays that he can tell a story with a lyric like few other singers can, and while the final chorus is half a step lower than his solo take, the wall of five voices give it extra punch, and his suspended high note is no less powerful.

8. Ain’t Nobody – This song displays one of the most unique sounds on the album. This Michael English feature features some very precise group harmonies to start out, with Bill Gaither singing half a beat in front of the group, making for an interesting sound. I can’t quite put my finger on how to describe this track, but funky would be the best term. It’s bouncy, progressive, and different.

9. Clean – David Phelps displays a smooth, soft delivery on this Bill Gaither & Larry Gatlin creation. Wes Hampton is above Phelps on the tenor line, giving the backup lines by the rest of the group a very full sound that really takes the track to the next level.

10. Muddy Water – It’s back to the funky, gritty sound on this one. English’s vocal riffs at the beginning are reminiscent of those of Guy Penrod on the title track of the group’s 2008 project, Lovin’ Life. Gordon Mote supplies some very nice piano riffs throughout, and Bill Gaither’s standout bass lines on the last lines of the choruses are probably the strongest on the project.

11. That Sounds Like Home To Me – This Goodman’s classic hasn’t been covered all that much, so this was a good choice for a song to update. The group gives it a swing feel and the vocals display a tight sound not unlike what you would find on a Booth Brothers project. Michael English takes the first verse (which is only fitting, since he was in the 1982 Goodmans group that sang the song), and Mark Lowry is featured on the second. David Phelps leads an almost-acapella final chorus before the instruments come back in on the last half and bring the song to a soft close.

12. I Know How To Say Thank You – Mark Lowry gets his first full feature on the album with this song that many may know from when it was sung on a Homecoming video by Sarah DeLane and Marshall Hall. Mark’s tones have become fuller and richer with time, and this is one of his finest performances to date. A powerful final chorus brings all five parts in before softening up again for a quiet finish.

13. He Is Here – Wes Hampton takes a song that Kirk Talley is well-known for writing and singing and puts his own spin on it. Wes was a good tenor when he first joined the Vocal Band, but has really come into his own in his time with the group, and even more so in the five-man lineup, and this track proves it. The soaring melody brings out probably his best solo feature in his tenure with the group. A subdued choir in the background closes out the project with a fadeout.

Final thoughts: The past couple of projects that the Gaither Vocal Band had recorded had many people, including this blogger, wondering if Bill Gaither was bringing in the twilight of the Vocal Band and planning to retire. Other than a couple decent songs, there just seemed to be something lacking in the music. A lineup change that led to an unprecedented five members in the Vocal Band and the return of Michael English, David Phelps, and Mark Lowry to the ranks injected new excitement in the group, and the sound was incredible. The first project by the new group, Reunited, was good, but it had people longing for the group to do something truly new.

Greatly Blessed is that something new. Every vocalist is at the top of their game here, and the song selection and arrangements hearken back to both the vocal prowess of Phelps’ days with the group and the creativity of both that era and English’s first run. Part of the beauty of having five people is hearing how the parts are structured on each song; Wes Hampton and David Phelps do their fair share of swapping the tenor part, which make for some interesting background harmonies on each song.

Bottom line: This Vocal Band’s first real product of new material is a breath of fresh air into their discography, as it gives the group a chance to explore with different styles and use the five vocal parts to create a unique sound. There is simply no reason that Greatly Blessed should not get 5 stars.

Jimmy Dean Passes Away at 81

June 16, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Uncategorized

The music and business world was saddened to hear about the passing of Jimmy Dean Sunday.  One of Dean’s most recognizable songs is “Big Bad John” which tells the story of a common working man that gives his life to save his fellow man.  Dean hosted his own TV show known as the Jimmy Dean show.  The younger crowd will know Dean for his sausage, Jimmy Dean Sausage.  This is all amazing for a man that dropped out of high school after the ninth grade.

Dean died in his Henrico Co. home just outside of Richmond, VA.  I had the privilidge of seeing him at a Gaither concert here in the VA area.  He will be truly missed by friends and family.

Bill Gaither gives tribute to his friend here.

As of late, Dean appeared on the Gaither Homecoming Joy In My Heart DVD.  Here are a couple links to those videos.  You can also find clips of Dean on youtube when he was in better health appearing in his TV show as well as other events.

Gaither Vocal Band Taping Set List

July 22, 2009 By: Aaron Category: Bill Gaither, Gaither Vocal Band, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Hat tip goes to Nate at Burke’s Brainwork for this one. Nate had a friend who attended the taping and gave him a set list from memory and in no particular order:

Alpha and Omega

There’s Always A Place at the Table (featuring Wes, Michael, and David)

I Am Loved

I Believe In A Hill Called Mt. Calvary

Loving God, Loving Each Other

Better Day

Mary, Did You Know

He Touched Me

Something About That Name

At The Cross

Hide Thou Me

Low Down The Chariot

Cant Stop Talking About Him (featuring Michael and Wes)

The Love Of God

Lord Feed Your Children

Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go

Worthy The Lamb

Where Could I Go?

I’m Forgiven

Go Ask

God’s Church Triumphant

This is shaping up to be an incredible video project. I noticed that some of the songs on the list are ones I haven’t heard of the new lineup doing in other concerts. It will be interesting to hear five parts on “Low Down The Chariot,” “Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” and “Worthy The Lamb.” “I’m Forgiven” should be pretty cool as well.

I noticed that a lot of the songs will be featured on the Reunited project, “God’s Church Triumphant” in particular. Seeing that made me wonder if they were going for a combo release of Reunited and this video in September (although, it seems to me that would have been pretty early).

The press release on Gaither.com, however, had this to say:

“… The DVD of this Gaither Vocal Band taping in San Antonio is scheduled for release in January 2010. Watch Gaither.com in late November or early December for the chance to put in your order. This is one you will not want to miss! …”

That would put it right around the time of the group’s project of all-new songs. “This is one you will not want to miss” is right!

Head over to Gaither.com for pictures of the night.