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

CD Review: Beyond The Ashes – Living In The Moment

April 01, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Beyond The Ashes, CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music

Beyond The Ashes - Living In The MomentRating: 5 stars

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

Song titles: So Amazing To Me; Living In The Moment; Oh, The Thought That Jesus Loves Me; No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace; Peace In The Midst Of The Storm; Walking With My Eyes On Jesus; I Can’t Do This By Myself; Where The Gold Begins; When Love Whispers Your Name; Your Love Comes Shining Through; Over For Good

Download Project Here

Beyond The Ashes is a trio that has been on an upward climb in Southern Gospel music for the past couple of years. Started by Anthony Facello, former tenor of groups such as the Heaven Bound, The Down East Boys, The Journeymen, and Mercy’s Mark, the group has steadily built a fan base since around 2007. The group started under the name Anthony Facello & Crossroad before changing their name to Beyond The Ashes in 2008. With their release on Vine Records, Treasures Unseen, the trio began to make a name for themselves with successful radio singles such as “Whenever We Pray.” After signing with Ernie Haase & Wayne Haun’s Stow Town Records, they released an independent project made of covers entitled Loving What’s Begun, which was also the first project to feature the current lineup of tenor Facello, lead Dustin Doyle, and baritone Kellan Monroe. This lineup gets their first real chance to show themselves with this release.

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I appreciate a group that has a distinctive sound. Facello’s is a tenor voice that is instantly recognizable, but Beyond The Ashes is comprised of voices that set them apart even from the other groups he has been a part of. Each voice has a similar soulful quality that meshes well with the others. This is used to good effect on close harmony songs like “So Amazing To Me” and “Oh, The Thought That Jesus Loves Me.” You may have guessed that the latter is a cover of a Collingsworth Family song, and BTA’s version holds its own in a way that doesn’t make it feel like a cover. Facello himself gets a standout track on the project with a song from his own pen, “No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace.”

Speaking of distinctive voices, this album is a highlight reel for new lead singer Dustin Doyle. Doyle gets the lion’s share of features here, and his singing style lends itself well to the “traditional Gospel with a twist” feel of “Peace In The Midst Of The Storm,” as well as the Jason Mraz pop tune “Living In The Moment.”

In reviewing this album, I discovered that Beyond The Ashes may have established a knack for picking catchy songs; I’ve had a harder time getting most of these songs out of my head than possibly any other project I’ve reviewed. Songs like the bouncy “Your Love Comes Shining Through” and the aforementioned “No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace” or the title track have a way of embedding themselves in your head, and you’ll more than likely find yourself humming them from time to time. For any Christian music, this can be a good thing; the message in these songs is important, and they’ll be grasped more if the listener catches on to the music well. If Beyond The Ashes can continue picking songs of that nature, it certainly won’t hurt.

Treasures Unseen may have put the foot in the door for Beyond The Ashes, but Living In The Moment has the all-around quality that can potentially solidify their place on the Southern Gospel map, and that’s why it receives 5 stars.

Dual CD Review: Southern Selections Volume One & Two by Mercy’s Mark

March 06, 2008 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, Garry Jones, Mercy's Mark, SG Artists, SG Music

Slow news days here in the SG realm, so I thought I’d post a review of two projects that probably are the two lesser-known Mercy’s Mark projects. These were the only two table projects released by Mercy’s Mark.

The group was (and maybe still is) having a “going out of business” sale, with CDs for only $5. I took advantage of this deal and completed my MM discography with these two projects. These two copies were recorded with the original lineup: Anthony Facello at tenor, Josh Feemster at lead, Garry Jones as baritone, piano player, and producer, and Chris West rounding out the bass.

Southern Selections Volume One
I believe this was released a short time before their first mainline self-titled release, and I think the group was still trying to find its sound. How, you ask? Well….

1. When They Ring Those Golden Bells

The album opens up with a piano solo from Garry Jones. No other instrumentation except the piano is heard, and it showcases Jones’ great ability at the keys.

2. Whosoever Will

This track sounds like the Mercy’s Mark of the mainline release, until they reach the chorus. Anthony Facello’s tenor sounds whiny, which was a major surprise considering his great vocal ability.

3. Sheltered In The Arms Of God
I was greatly disappointed in this Facello feature. His tenor once again sounds whiny, and he tries to over-sing his lines far too much. I found myself hitting the skip button about 30 seconds into the track.

4. I’ll Take The Old Highway
One of the few songs I actually liked on this album. This song reflected how the group’s sound would improve over time.

5. Going Home
Phenomenal bass feature from Chris West on this old Bill & Gloria Gaither song. This song had me wishing that West would find himself another group to sing with; this guy is just too good not to! His ability is absolutely outstanding for his young age.

6. Some Glad Day
Similar to the familiar MM sound, but Facello’s tenor starts to stick out a little too much, but not glaringly as in the aforementioned tracks.

7. Climbing Up The Mountain
The group rolls out an old song, in the four-guys-and-a-piano style. Good up until the end, when they just repeat the same “Up The Mountain” phrase to the point of annoyance.

It Is Well With My Soul
Josh Feemster (another awesome young talent that needs to find another group!) gets the lead on this old hymn. Outstandingly arranged by Jones for a powerful take on this classic.

9. Jesus Is Coming Soon
The group puts forht a very modern take on the Oak Ridge Boys/Inspirations hit. I find myself hitting the repeat button on my iPod for this one.

10. Going Going Gone
The album closes out with one of my favorite tracks. It starts with a bass feature from West, who rocks the subwoofers on the last note of the verse. Feemster takes the lead on the second verse, and this project finishes out strong.

Final Rating:
The group hadn’t quite found its niche, but there’s a couple songs on here that are good.

Southern Selections Volume Two
This album was much better than its latter volume. The group had definitely established itself by this time, and the result is a great table project from a great quartet.

1. Where Is God
Awesome song. Great way to open the album, and they pull it off sounding like pros.

2. Gonna Be Movin’
The guys “modernize” this old Cathedrals classic, giving Chris West the feature. You might remember this one from The Cathedrals’ “Travelin’ Live” project.

3. When I Knelt The Blood Fell

An Anthony Facello feature that proves that he had greatly improved since the first volume. Only a minimal amount of over-singing occurs, and this ballad ends up being a great track.

4. Plan Of Salvation
Another Cathedrals classic gets covered, with piano as the only instrument. Chris West does George Younce justice on his solo lines, as he did in the aforementioned Cats cover.

5. The Prodigal Son
Nothing really wowed me about this Feemster feature. Not bad, but not really great either. It rather comes across as a “filler” track.

6. Life Will Be Sweeter

Yet another Cathedrals tune is covered, and the guys modernize this one too, for a great result.

7. Lord, Feed Your Children

Garry Jones turns in a great feature on this slow song. One of my favorite songs on the album.

8. I’m Gonna Walk Everyday With My Lord
Great quartet song that has West rockin’ the low end on the chorus, and doing none too shabby on his solo line either. I love this track!

9. I’m Free
A slow song featuring Feemster on the first verse and Facello on the second. Pretty good.

10. I’m Too Near Home
The album closes out with a good ol’ foot-stomper. As the last notes fade out, I realized that that was the very last anyone heard of this lineup. A nice close-out to a good debut lineup.

Final Rating: ****
This was a much better album than the latter. Definitely recommend it for all quartet fans.

EDIT: Updated some information posted in error. Thanks to Kyle Boreing for pointing those out.