Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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CD Review: Mark Trammell Quartet – Your Walk Talks

February 06, 2014 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 starsYourWalkTalks_CD

Label: Crimson Road Productions
Website: www.marktrammellministries.com

Song titles: Don’t Stop Running; God’s Been Faithful; When the King Comes To Claim His Throne;  Thanks to Calvary; I’ll Go Over Jordan Someday; Man of Sorrows; Your Walk Talks; To Know He Knows Me; I’ll Take It To The Grave; I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

The Mark Trammell Quartet has had quite a time since their last release of new songs (Testimony in 2010. They’ve released three projects of mostly older material since). The lineup on Testimony included tenor Joel Wood, lead Dustin Sweatman, baritone Mark Trammell, and bass Pat Barker. During the span from then to now, Wood left and original tenor Eric Phillips rejoined the group. Sweatman came off the road and Mark’s son, Nick, stepped into the role. Phillips then left the road again, and the group was left looking for a tenor. After a trial run, Dustin Black was eventually named as the new guy.

Despite these transitions, the group has not rested on its laurels. This project serves as a debut for two things: a new sound/lineup for the group, and the birth of a new record company in Crimson River Productions.  With stakes as high as these, one would be forgiven for wondering if this project collapses under the weight of its own promise. It does not.

The wait for truly new music from the Mark Trammell Quartet has been long (four years), but worth it. While the better-known projects in the group’s discograpy have been pretty ballad centric, this one only has one such track in “Man of Sorrows.” That is certainly a strong track, but one will probably think of the upbeat songs when recalling this CD. “When The King Comes To Claim His Throne” and “I’ll Take It To The Grave” are two major standouts, one telling of the milennial reign and the other celebrating the joy and peace that we have forever in Christ. On the other end of the tempo scale, “God’s Been Faithful” and “Thanks to Calvary” are worth mentioning. The latter is the George Younce signature, and while it doesn’t stray too far from the original, it is a fitting tribute in the context of the recent Cathedral Family Reunion.

I have alluded to the “new sound” that debuts with this project, and that’s one of the reasons I appreciate this release. The difference is most evident with the tenor part. Though no one could truly duplicate the sound the group had with Eric Phillips, Joel Wood was a hire that had a similar tone, so the group’s sound never really wavered from what it used to be. Dustin Black, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Phillips made the MTT/MTQ unique because of his through-the-roof notes and consistently high harmonies; Black makes them unique by having a different sound from any tenor on the road, and while he is not as stratospherical as Phillips, his blend with the group is smoother. His feature at the end of the project, “I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way,” is a perfect showcase of this, though “I’ll Take It To The Grave” sounds like one they would have done with Phillips.

MTQ continues their line of strong song choices and a recognizable sound with Your Walk Talks, and this will undoubtedly be seen as one of the best quartet releases in 2014. It receives 4 stars.

MTQ Blog Tour Stop #4: Pat Barker

January 15, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

ywtblogtour_fbcoverpatThe Mark Trammell Quartet has quickly become one of the finer quartets in this genre of music, with a journey that began before they added a bass singer. I started paying attention when they released the Once Upon A Cross as a trio, and I have continued to appreciate their strong song choices and their ability to hold that standard even through personnel changes.

I got the chance to catch up with the bass singer for the quartet, Pat Barker, and ask him about the group’s latest effort:

Aaron Swain: What is your favorite song from “Your Walk Talks,” and why?

Pat Barker: My favorite song is “Your Walk Talks.” I was on the Alaska cruise when Rodney (Griffin) and Babbie (Mason) went into the piano bar and wrote that song. They came out to the table and immediately pitched it to Mark. I loved the hook from the beginning and the arrangement is perfect. Mark does a perfect job on the solo, even throwing in a little Jake Hess just for fun.

AS: “Thanks To Calvary” was a signature song for George Younce, and your admiration for him is no secret. What went into the decision to include that song?

PB: “Thanks to Calvary” is a “George” song, no doubt. He is the greatest, and will always be the greatest.

I have had the honor of doing Remember the Music concerts along with Glenn Dustin and Matt Fouch the last few years. It has been a dream come true. More recently, I got to be a part of the Cathedral Family Reunion. At a RTM concert, someone in the audience requested “Thanks to Calvary.” I had never sung it, but I knew the song. Something special happened, and we literally didn’t know what to do next. It became a permanent fixture at the RTM concerts, and was added to the CFR concert as well. Gerald Wolfe was the one who suggested that we put it on the album. My testimony is the story in that song, so it is an easy one to sing. I love that song.

AS: Other than Mark Trammell, you are the only member that has been with the group from the beginning of their “quartet” days. With the other two parts changing over this time period, how do you think the sound has evolved, and do you feel that the change is reflected with this project?

PB: Lots of things have changed. Losing (Dustin) Sweatman was a tough loss. He brought a lot to the table with his piano skills and his ability to win the crowd over. He was also a big help in the studio and picking songs. I still miss having a piano on stage, but Nick (Trammell) has taken over beautifully on lead. He is also a great songwriter, which shows up on this new album.

With the loss of Eric (Phillips), we not only lost an incredible tenor, but I lost my buddy. We bonded very quickly, and that relationship continues, but not as much as I would like. When Dustin (Black) came on board, I knew it would be a challenge for him. I could not be prouder of someone musically than I am of him. There is no other tenor that he sounds like, and I, for one, welcome the change. His solo at the end of the project is one of my favorite cuts.

Thanks, Pat, for a great interview!

I’ll echo Pat’s sentiment about “Your Walk Talks.” At first listen, it just sounds like a bouncy little ditty, but there are very true and applicable lyrics in such a fun song. Another that has taken up residence on my “most played” list is “I’ll Take It To The Grave.” The team of Rebecca J. Peck and Dianne Wilkinson penned a great song with that one, and I’m glad to see it get a fine quartet treatment.

Head over to Musicscribe for the next stop on the MTQ blog tour as Diana Brantley interviews Dustin Black!

Youtube Find: New Mark Trammell Quartet Songs

August 05, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Mark Trammell Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

In yet another find coming from user iamredeemed1, here’s some videos of the Mark Trammell Quartet in a concert that took place the same night as the Tribute Quartet concert mentioned earlier. As revealed in these clips, the group is staging songs from their new Daywind release, Testimony, which was produced by Lari Goss. I remember having a conversation with a couple of the group members a couple months ago, and they stated that this release would not predominantly feature the typical big, orchestration-driven sounds usually found in a Goss production (although they are certainly present on some tracks.) Judging from the clips, they were right. It actually sounds rather like something that any given lineup of the Cathedrals with Mark Trammell might have recorded.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhjyk8KU0fQ

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZF0WD3Z3X0

(more…)

Mega-Roundup

June 28, 2010 By: Aaron Category: Danny Funderburk, Gaither Vocal Band, Gold City, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, Mark Trammell Quartet, NQC, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

It seems that when I went on vacation, the Southern Gospel world decided to go on overtime with newsworthy items. Here’s some of the things I missed out on:

1. Check out Daniel Mount’s short interview with Gold City tenor Josh Cobb. In it, Cobb mentions two of his features on the upcoming mainline release from the group. The first is the song that he is probably most recognized for from his Legacy Five days, “I Stand Redeemed,” which he mentions Gordon Mote has arranged this time around. The second is a Michael English song from the early 90s, “Heaven.” With a singer well-known for performing the song producing the project, it will be interesting to see just what he brings out of Cobb for that particular track.

2. The master schedule for NQC 2010 has been posted. A quick perusal shows that up-and-coming groups like Liberty Quartet and The Ball Brothers have finally made it to mainstage, and there is a showcase highlighting young artists called “Legends of Tomorrow” that has a Wednesday afternoon slot. That will be worth going to, especially if it is like the “Torch” video that was released a couple years back.

3. Speaking of legends of tomorrow, check out this clip of a recent Remember The Music concert: A quartet comprised of tenor Danny Funderburk, lead Scott Fowler, baritone Mark Trammell, and bass Pat Barker sing “Movin’ Up To Gloryland,” and this is the first time I’ve seen an instance where Glenn Dustin didn’t take the bass on the song.

At a Mark Trammell Quartet concert I attended a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Joel Wood and Dustin Sweatman beforehand, and both of them mentioned how, since Barker had joined the group and gotten his own mic, he had adopted a George Younce style of bass singing that showed a lower range he didn’t get to display often with the Dixie Echoes’ two-mic style. I certainly noticed it during that concert, but this clip is by far the greatest evidence of that fact. Whether intentionally or not, young Barker’s tones and placement are very reminiscent of those of Younce’s, especially here. This well-rounded bass will only improve with age.

4. My friend Andrew Graham attended a recent Kingsmen concert, and got several videos. You can view the four that he posted at his Youtube channel, but the one that perhaps best highlights the impact that Randy Crawford is having on their sound is this clip of a song originally led by Phillip Hughes, “Mountain of Grace.”

5. I noticed that Wes Hampton posted the track list and features for the upcoming Gaither Vocal Band project, Greatly Blessed, on his blog. Interestingly enough, ChristianBook.com also has a preview of five songs from the new project here. The first three songs were already featured on the latest GVB videos (although, the studio versions have added instrumentation), but about halfway through the preview comes two new songs. Check out the heavily orchestrated Crabb Family cover, “Please Forgive Me,” featuring Michael English. The vocal lead-in is stunning, and the entire arrangement sounds like it will be stellar.
Update: Looks like a preview for the entire project is up here.

6. As a last-minute addition to this roundup, Greater Vision just posted a sneak preview of their upcoming project at their Facebook page. It’s a re-recorded version of “You Were Faithful Yesterday” from their 2009 project, Not Alone, released with Jacob Kitson. The difference is almost indiscernible until the second verse when Chris Allman takes a solo. This says good things about both Kitson and Allman; Kitson’s vocal style is close to that of the stellar Allman’s, and Allman’s ability to seamlessly blend after so many years is impeccable.

CD Review: Mark Trammell Trio – Always Have A Song

September 20, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Mark Trammell Trio, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Label: Daywind Records
Producers: Dottie Leonard Miller & Wayne Haun
Website: www.marktrammellministries.com

1. I Know That I Know – The album opens up a very standard SG-sounding song that, while probably not meaning to be, is an affirmative answer to the opening track of Greater Vision’s new project (a song called “I Want To Know That You Know”.) The track does a great job of displaying MTT’s great three-part harmony.

2. Loving The Lamb – Soft piano and orchestration open up this ballad, a song style that the group showed they are really good at on their last project, Once Upon A Cross. Mark Trammell gets the first solo of the project on the second verse. This track is a long one, clocking in at 5:10, but it does not drag at all; rather, the song builds to a majestic finish. I understand that this is the first single off of the album; this could very well be the next “Once Upon A Cross” for the guys.

3. Called In, Called Up, Called Out – This track’s chorus reminds me of “Moving The Hand Of God” on the group’s previous album, but the tempo is a bit faster. The second verse once again features Trammell.

4. What Good Would A Crown Be – Dustin Sweatman is featured on this song from the pen of Rodney Griffin. I like the perspective of the song; many times, an SG tune speaks of us getting to heaven and wearing a robe and crown, etc. Griffin gives us a different, thought-provoking point, asking the question, “What good would a crown be in the presence of royalty?” Dustin does a great job on the delivery.

5. Safe On The Glory Side – Tenor Eric Phillips sings this song that is one of my favorites of the project (and a hit at concerts nowadays.) A country-style instrumentation drives this toe-tapper, and Eric gets let loose near the end with some high notes. Very catchy, a different sound for the group, and would probably do well on radio.

6. If God Said It, I Believe It – This jazzy tune features the group in unison on the verses, with Dustin Sweatman’s solo lines interspersed. Nice little song, but nothing that sticks out immediately.

7. At The Whisper Of His Name – Eric Phillips steps out front for this slow song. I found myself hitting the skip button halfway through; the tempo dragged just a bit.

8. I Always Have A Song To Sing – The album’s title track is a fast track with some cool piano work at the beginning. Mark Trammell displays some of his higher range on the second verse, and the track sounds like something from Greater Vision’s songbook.

9. If Only Just A Few – This is my absolute favorite song on the album. Mark Trammell delivers one of his finest performances ever on this powerful slow song. I thought that he was displaying his higher range on the previous track, but I was blown away in the final moments of the track. Trammell hits some awesome notes that most other baritones only dream of hitting, getting into the low tenor range! He proves why he’s one of SG History’s best baritone singers.

10. Coming Out And Moving In – The project closes out with another standard SG sounding track. Once again, great harmony. Good choice to close the album.

Final Thoughts: The Mark Trammell Trio hit their stride in 2006 with Once Upon A Cross, and this project continues that trend. Sure, there’s one or two songs I didn’t care for, but that was the opinion I had of the last album as well. Every position in this group is filled with stellar vocalists, and Mark Trammell is only getting better with age! I was very pleased with this effort.

Next Review: The Mike LeFevre Quartet – Nothin’ But Good