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

Random Findings

June 08, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Driven, Palmetto State Quartet, Promise, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Stamps Quartet

1. Promise Trio has been looking for a full-time tenor since their original tenor, James Bell, left to join the Army late last year. A couple of weeks ago, I posted some videos of a concert they did with fill-in tenor Daniel Rivera, and the feedback was largely positive as to the sound. To quell any rumors, however, Rivera says he will not be joining the group:

I just wanna thank everyone for being so supportive of me and the people who have helped me get where I am with singing and everything. As of right now, I am coming off the road from full-time traveling and singing. God has been so good to me! Even though I am young, I have had a lot of trials in my life, especially with my health. I am thankful that God has given me the gift to sing and share His word and the gospel! But as of right now, I have to put traveling aside and focus on getting my health back together. I will be continuing my ministries at my church in South Holland, IL.

Again, I thank God and everyone for everything! I say all this because I had posted a status like this after I had left my last group, but I continued my ministries and helped another full-time group with filling in a vacant spot for them, hence the reason why I post again. I know God’s plan is always perfect and I believe coming off the road from singing is part of His plan. I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know it’s something good! I love u all and thanks for being so supportive! My new solo album will be coming out soon! Basically will tell my life story. Hope ya’ll will like it! 🙂

According to a post on Promise’s Facebook page, an announcement is forthcoming about a new full-time tenor singer.

2. Diana Brantley has posted some videos of a concert from Palmetto State from a couple of weeks ago. Mike Allen and Larry Strickland were absent, but former group baritone Rick Fair filled in on bass. Here’s a video of “All Hail The Power” that gives a good taste of the vocalists’ sound, as well as that of the group’s piano player Casey Martin. It’s interesting how the group has rearranged the song; it was originally a song that gave baritone David Darst all the solos. Currently, it is divided among Jeremy Easley, Paul Lancaster, and David Staton. This kind of thing makes me interested in future arrangements of Palmetto State’s material:

3. Also in the interesting video category, here’s a “behind the scenes” clip of Driven Quartet in the studio listening to a cut from their upcoming project. It may sound familiar to some viewers; that’s because it’s a revival of a track that is found on the 1984 album The Prestigious Cathedral Quartet, which was tenor Danny Funderburk’s second release with that group. It is only fitting that his son, Jason, be the leader of the group that brings it back. Also, it looks like Wesley Smith is Driven’s official tenor, though I have seen no press release yet. Here is the final choruses of  “I Would Not Be Surprised:”

On a side note, that must have been a LONG day in the studio! 😉

Bonus video: The big news in Southern Gospel this week was the major change in the Dixie Echoes. Though departing member Michael Helwig sang tenor for the quartet, he has sung lead or baritone in several other places, including the Stamps Quartet. However, I came across this clip a while back that features Michael on the tenor part for the Stamps, albeit in what appears to be a fill-in situation. Here’s their rendition of “Rainbow of Love:”

Palmetto State Quartet Gets An Overhaul

February 27, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Palmetto State Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

If you’ve been to the Palmetto State Quartet website in the past few days, you may have noticed that both the site and the group have gotten a revamp. David Staton just posted the above picture to his Facebook with the caption, “This is the new Palmetto State.”

Pictured from left to right are Mike Allen, David Staton, Casey Martin, Paul Lancaster, Larry Strickland, and Jeremy Easley. Be on the lookout for a press release soon. I will post my thoughts on the change once the press release goes out.

Update: That was quick. Right after I hit the publish button, I received this:

PSQ Partners to bring Southern Gospel Music to Wider Audience

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The historic Palmetto State Quartet announces the newest incarnation of this enduring vocal ensemble that defies the quartet label. The group assembles not four, but five vocalists, and breaks out of any traditional mold by refusing to define its members by vocal part. The diverse lineup includes: Mike Allen, a fixture on the popular Gaither Homecoming television series, who had never signed on officially with any one group until now; Jeremy Easley, the X-Factor season-one, top-15 finalist (male vocalist ages 15–30 category) who received a standing ovation from Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Nicole Scherzinger, and L. A. Reid; Paul Lancaster, longtime Palmetto State member and former member of the Mullins, winner of two Dove Awards with gospel music siblings, the Martins; Casey Martin, popular keyboardist for an array of secular and gospel artists, brings a soulful influence and plays an integral part in the PSQ presentation; David Staton, Grammy-nominated songwriter, singer, producer, and adroit industry thought leader; and Larry Strickland, who sang with the famous Stamps Quartet in the ’70’s when they backed up Elvis Presley, and has been seen on the OWN network show, The Judds.

“Ask any of these guys and they would tell you that singing with other great singers causes you to step it up. And once in a while you hit this magical combination where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” according to Strickland. Besides their stellar talent, each member brings a unique new audience to the gospel music they love and its message they cherish.

With so many tie-ins to pop culture that cross musical genres, this group is uniquely positioned to attract and influence new listeners. This will be welcome news to music promoters and presenters of gospel music globally. Not since Strickland’s Elvis days with the late J.D. Sumner and the Stamps has there been another vocal group that has featured two great bass singers.

Most recently, PSQ has been touring with the Judds, singing backup to Wynonna’s powerful voice and introducing southern gospel music to a whole new audience.

“We are not interested in anyone labeling us a ‘super group’. What we hope is that churches will leverage whatever we’ve been blessed to do in order to reach out to various crowds that typically aren’t planning to come to church or a gospel concert,” said Staton. And with some strategic use of traditional advertizing and social media, church leaders may be surprised the number of first-time attendees who drop in to check out the great music and happen to hear some very good news. The members of Palmetto State are committed to effectively sharing the gospel in a clear, compelling manner and consider that their top priority.

Palmetto State is booked exclusively through the Becky Simmons Agency at +1 615.595.7500 or Info@BSAworld.com.

It should be noted that Mike Allen was with the Poet Voices as a member several years back, and was with The Prophets Quartet during their short revival period, so the statement that he has never officially signed on with anyone until now isn’t entirely true.

When I saw the new group picture over the weekend, I had wondered what the deal was with having two bass singers (Larry Strickland had been the group’s bass up to this point.) I had wondered if maybe Strickland was taking a Jim Hamill/Eldridge Fox type of role with the group and handing bass singing duties mostly to Mike Allen. This five-man revamp, however, is interesting; Palmetto State has been a quartet its entire existence, and while the Gaither Vocal Band did make the transition to five vocalists, they have never been a Southern Gospel quartet in the traditional sense with their vocal arrangements; truly, more of a vocal band with four (now five) part harmony.

I was intrigued by the fact that the point was stressed that they would “refuse to define members by vocal part.” This would make it interesting in terms of arrangements; lots of part swapping among the vocalists. I would imagine that we’ll be hearing Strickland and Allen trade off on the bass vocals quite a bit, but it’s anyone’s guess how the three others will end up configured on a given song. David Staton sang lead with The LeFevre Quartet from its inception until last year, and Jeremy Easley held the tenor slot with that same group for a time. Paul Lancaster has a versatile enough voice that the possibilities are numerous as far as where each vocal will stack.

While the group may not be interested in “being labeled a ‘super group,'” Strickland has definitely brought together a lineup of talent that many may think of them that way. The problem with super groups, however, is that they don’t always stick together for one reason or another (see the Ron Blackwood Quartet of a few years ago). I, for one, am hoping to see this one pan out, and am listening with interest for what these vocalists will produce.