Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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First Look: Ian Owens with Soul’d Out Quartet

November 17, 2012 By: Aaron Category: First Look, SG Artists, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet, Youtube

Thanks to Youtube user r52003, we have our first glimpse into the new lineup of Soul’d Out Quartet. The group recently hired Ian Owens, formerly of the Cumberland Quartet, The Imperials, and Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, as their new bass singer following original bass Matt Fouch’s move to Legacy Five. There is a full playlist here, but I will post just a few videos here that highlight Owens’ mark on the group’s sound. My two cents’ worth comes after the videos:

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First Look: Paul Harkey With Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

October 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, First Look, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

Youtube user EHSSQfan1 has posted a ten-minute video featuring songs from Paul Harkey’s first night with the quartet. Harkey’s features on “Scars In The Hands Of Jesus” and “Old Rugged Cross” are instant standouts, and, like his predecessor Ian Owens, he had a funny moment getting used to the choreography. Hearing the sound from his debut makes me look forward to how this lineup will gel.

Blackwood Brothers Hire Butch Owens

May 31, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Blackwood Brothers, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Jimmy Blackwood and the Blackwood Brothers made the announcement of their new bass singer following weeks of fill-ins and auditions. Butch Owens is stepping into the bass position following the departure of Randy Byrd. He has already been in the studio working on the quartet’s next Daywind release. Owens is no stranger to Southern Gospel music, having sung with groups such as The Stamps Quartet, The Anchormen, The Florida Boys, The Blackwood Quartet, and, most recently, a second stint with The Songfellows Quartet. His son is Ian Owens, bass singer for Ernie Haase & Signature Sound.

Here are a couple clips of Butch singing with The Blackwood Quartet (Mark Blackwood’s group) a while back:

CD Review: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – Here We Are Again

January 27, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4.5 stars

Producer: Wayne Haun
Label: Stow Town Records
Website: www.erniesigsound.com

Buy Project Here

It’s been said that, in Southern Gospel music, the only thing that is more certain than the Truth that is sung about, is change. Ernie Haase & Signature Sound are not immune to that fact; since their last project of original material (2008’s Dream On), the group has said farewell to longtime lead singer Ryan Seaton and bass singer/founding member Tim Duncan. Devin McGlamery filled the vacancy left by Seaton, and Cumberland Quartet/The Imperials bass Ian Owens came back on the road following Duncan’s departure. Though McGlamery was featured on a table project (Influenced II: Spirituals and Southern Classics) and a mainline release (A Tribute to the Cathedral Quartet) in 2010, this is his first “original” project with the group, and Owens’ first effort with them period (unless you count background vocals on George Younce with Ernie Haase and Signature Sound).

With this latest release, fans are hoping to see a return to the creativity and energy that was found with the group’s 2007 hit effort, Get Away Jordan. The follow-up release, the aforementioned Dream On, had several strong songs with lasting value in the group’s repertoire, but was overall just… missing something. I’ve made the observation that it was “sleepy” (pun somewhat intended!).

I am happy to report that Here We Are Again brings back the spark, in spades.

Take, for instance, the opening track. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” starts with the sound of an old projector reel, and then launches into a classic spiritual that EHSS injects with its trademark “SG quartet music with a kick” style, much like they did with “Someday” to open Get Away Jordan, complete with an “instrumental” break in the middle that has the quartet mimicking a band with their voices. This track sets the tone for the rest of the project, and flows nicely into an original upbeat tune, “Singing In The Midnight Hour,” which serves as a vehicle for baritone Doug Anderson to show off some of his soulful vocals. The other most creative tracks undoubtedly come in the form of “Every Time,” a wild Ernie Haase feature in the vein of “Happy Birthday, Anniversary Too” (except more bearable, and twice as hyper), and “Any Other Man,” which adopts a Third Day-esque rock sound and has already piqued interest around various SG blogs and message boards.

The big question is, how are the “new guys” doing in the new group? The answer is, quite well. Lead singer McGlamery takes the feature on the group’s latest single, “I’ve Been Here Before,” as well as solos on “Love Carried The Cross” and “Stand By Me,” the latter of which he absolutely nails his part on. These songs spotlight his development since joining the group, seeming to bridge the gap between his sound as lead for the Dixie Melody Boys and his more modern sound he attained with Karen Peck & New River and brought to EHSS.

Speaking of “Stand By Me,” that is indeed the song that really got EHSS started back in 2003 with a project of the same name, and it was actually the first track I’d heard on the project since I went right to it, wondering if it was actually the same one. Ian Owens is a different type of bass than Tim Duncan; he’s not all about the low notes, and has a smoother higher range that makes for a killer blend. On this particular track, he takes the EHSS signature and effectively makes it his own, giving it a soulful swagger that reminds me of a Black Gospel group like the Fairfield Four. Other highlights for him include his standouts on “I’ve Been Here Before,” which serve to show that his lower range has been brought out and developed nicely in the year since he joined the quartet, and “I Believe,” which he has sung regularly in concert since his Imperials days, and has become his “signature” with this group.

The other vocalists also have a strong showing. A big ballad about Christ’s sacrifice (“Love Carried The Cross”) calls to mind a ballad the Haase-era Cathedrals would do, especially with Haase’s delivery on the last verse. “Sometimes I Wonder” sounds like a song that would have fit seamlessly into Doug Anderson’s solo project, and pianist Wayne Haun even gets a full-fledged feature on “You Are Welcome Here.” The whole group comes together for “Thankful,” a softer, orchestrated tune that I’d imagine would be used near the end of a concert, but doesn’t really jump out on CD.

People who have written the group off since the lineup changes took place are doing themselves a disservice. This lineup can hold its own with any previous iterations of the quartet and has developed very nicely, and has produced a top-notch project. In fact, I will go out on a limb and rank this project as the best collection of songs they have released to date, with Get Away Jordan at a close second. I’d encourage anyone who may have been a fan of the previous lineups to purchase a copy of Here We Are Again; you just may be pleasantly surprised. Here We Are Again receives 4.5 stars.

CD Review: Three Bridges – Christmas Must Be Tonight

December 21, 2011 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, Three Bridges

Rating: 3 stars

Producer: Rick Sandidge
Label: The Mansion Entertainment
Website: www.threebridges.net

This trio gets the distinction of being the only group to have a Christmas project come across my desk for review this year. I was looking forward to hearing another CD by Three Bridges, since I was so impressed with their last effort, and after reading a review of this particular one at Musicscribe shortly after receiving the project in the mail, my interest was even piqued.

Kicking it all off is the upbeat, light rock-tinged title track featuring lead singer Shannon Smith. This style seems to be the one that the group clicks the most with. The song takes three perspectives: a traveler going to see the newborn Jesus, the shepherds on the hillside, and someone dreaming on the night of Jesus’ birth. Though the lyrics do seem random in this way, the song ties them together well, and this is one of my personal favorite tracks.

The Drifters’ arrangement of “White Christmas” comes next, reuniting Smith and tenor Jeremie Hudson with their former Imperials partner, Ian Owens, as a guest bass vocalist. Though it would have made it impossible for the group to do this song live had Owens gotten the feature as the original arrangement dictates (the bass got the first verse and standout lines on the chorus in The Drifters version), part of me wishes he had gotten it instead of being confined to background vocals. Baritone Elliott McCoy takes those features instead, with Hudson taking the second verse. Owens shows up at background vocals again on “Mary Had A Baby.” The sound on both of these tracks sounds remarkably like the later versions of The Imperials, especially when Smith and Hudson start ad-libbing on “Mary Had A Baby.”

Other high points include “Mary Did You Know,” which follows the Gaither Vocal Band arrangement pretty closely but showcases the beautiful high harmony of the group, an uptempo arrangement of “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” that is probably the most unique I’ve heard in quite a while, a mellow Hudson feature in “He Came Here For Me,” and another unique arrangement of a classic carol in “Noel.”

As a whole, Christmas projects are something that I can take or leave. Unless they offer something different from the stuff that usually permeates the airwaves this time of year, you can count me out. Three Bridges offers enough interesting arrangements and songs that haven’t been recorded by everybody and their brother that it has earned multiple plays on my iPod and in my car. Though not every song is a solid choice, this CD is a fine effort. If you’re a Three Bridges fan, or just want another Christmas collection to play every year, Christmas Must Be Tonight is a good choice.

Youtube Roundup – 6/29/11

June 29, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG Music, The Melody Boys, Youtube

While working on a review for an upcoming project, I went to Youtube, among other resources, to see if I could find out whether or not some songs were previously recorded by another group. I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to an advent of technology like that site, I’m fascinated and usually get a bout of ADD, following a rabbit trail through the “Suggestions” sidebar. Somewhere in all of that, I stumbled across some recent footage taken at an Ernie Haase & Signature Sound concert in Bloomington, Illinois. The videos themselves aren’t as high quality as some out there, but they are still enjoyable, and many of them feature songs I’ve not heard the group do since Ian Owens joined on bass earlier this year. Check them out:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfOxLsZMvT0

Someday – I haven’t heard the group do this opener to their 2007 Get Away Jordan project in quite a while, and Owens is settling quite well into the bass role for the group. For some reason, his backing harmonies on the first chorus remind of London Parris, which would be a high compliment to pay any bass singer.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIoHSi9BBKo

Here We Are Again

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz9BA5NoKX4

Glory To God in the Highest – I really like the change they’ve made to the second verse of this song. The trade-off between Owens and lead singer Devin McGlamery is something I don’t believe I’ve heard utilized in any other rendition of this song, and while I’m sure the bass could carry the verse all the way through as it was originally done with Tim Duncan, the change of vocals make it unique to this lineup.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jx5GZWDn5A

I Pledge My Allegiance

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ukXth-L7gw

The Old Rugged Cross

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4jUdl_AC0Q

Step Into The Water

And finally, on a completely unrelated note, here’s a video of the Melody Boys in one of their best lineups singing a pretty difficult song to pull off (and singing it well!):

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GMdjMvQ-bUk

Tim Duncan Departs Signature Sound; Ian Owens Named As New Bass

January 18, 2011 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

By now, it has made the rounds in the Southern Gospel blog: Tim Duncan has left Ernie Haase & Signature Sound after eight years as their bass singer. The press release at Singing News reads:

NASHVILLE, TN (January 17, 2011) – Tim Duncan, bass vocalist of Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, is stepping down after eight years with the quartet.

Tim states: “After 8 years of service to Ernie Haase & Signature Sound I have been feeling in my heart that my time has come to an end. I’m sad on one hand yet excited on the other hand. Ernie & the boys are like brothers and always will be. I covet your prayers.”

Ernie Haase states: “I realize changes are inevitable, it always brings a challenge as well as new opportunity. We will always be grateful for Tim’s contribution to the group over these past years. We love Tim and wish him and his family great success.”

Ian Owens will replace Tim Duncan. His first date with the group will be January 21 in Portland OR.

Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be a situation where the speculation can turn ugly as to what happened to cause the change; the press release features statements from both parties that indicate there is no bad blood. As Haase stated, change is inevitable. Tim Duncan became one of my personal favorite basses in his time with the group, and his sound improved during that tenure. His contributions to the group’s sound leave some big shoes to fill.

That brings me to Ian Owens. You may remember him from his time with the Cumberland Quartet, but most will remember him as the young man who stepped in when Armond Morales, longtime bass singer for The Imperials retired. Indeed, Owens possesses a voice that has the smooth tones of Armond’s, but with a deeper, lower range. It is interesting to note that, in an interview hosted on Daniel Mount’s blog, Ernie Haase was asked to put together a “quartet of tomorrow.” Owens got the bass spot in that group. Owens’ sound differs enough from Duncan’s that it will be intriguing to hear how the group’s sound as a whole changes.

For a preview of Ian Owen’s voice, here’s the Imperials singing “Arise, My Love.”