Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Dixie Melody Boys Hire Doug Pittman

October 06, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

After the departure of Matt Felts to the Lesters, the Dixie Melody Boys began searching for a new tenor. That search came to a close when the group debuted their new singer at NQC. Here’s the press release from their email newsletter discussing the move:

Greetings friends! Fall is upon us and just as the autumn winds bring about changing leaves, so too have the winds of change swept through the Dixie Melody Boys. Following an extensive national search, Ed O’ Neal is pleased to introduce Doug Pittman as the new tenor vocalist for the Dixie Melody Boys. Doug made his debut with the group at the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, TN and wowed the audience with a rendition of the classic, “Little Is Much.” Following a thunderous standing ovation, Doug and the “Boys” brought the house down with “When I Cross To The Other Side Of Jordan.” If you missed the NQC, you can catch these performances on our Facebook page courtesy of some dear friends in the audience.

Doug Pittman is 28 years old and originally from the small town of Eastman, GA. He garnered several awards in the classical world during his high school and college years, including First Prize in the 2008 National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Vocal Competition. Doug has performed both nationally and internationally, including a United Kingdom tour in 2007 and his Carnegie Hall debut in 2010. He only began singing Southern Gospel in recent years, however his roots are deeply tied to it. Doug grew up hearing Southern Gospel every weekend following his father, a drummer for several regional groups, in the early ’90s. While pursuing a degree in music at Brewton-Parker College, Doug formed a Gospel group with a few of his friends. He has sung with that group, Omega Quartet, since it’s inception in 2008 and was the remaining original member.

Ed O’ Neal states, “We auditioned several tremendous singers over the last few weeks, even took a few out on the road with us. I had never met Doug, but the first song he sang during sound check gave me chill bumps all up and down my arms. When we sang that night, it was as if we had all been performing together for twenty years. He’s a fine young man, loves the Lord, and can SING! I knew by the end of the trip I had found my man. Josh Garner is a pro and Aaron Dishman just thrills me with how he has matured as a singer and a performer in such a short time. Add Doug to that mix and I believe this is one of the strongest line-ups I’ve ever had with the Dixie Melody Boys.”

Be sure to keep a watch on our schedule at www.dixiemelodyboys.com or catch us on Facebook so you can come out and meet Doug and all the Dixie Melody Boys at a concert near you.

Here’s a video from Doug’s debut performance:

I’ve been impressed with Doug’s voice since the first time I heard it back when Omega was a college group. They sang a song called “You Are Holy,” and though Doug was using a completely different style and tone to his voice back then, I knew there was potential. A few years passed and I had basically forgotten about Omega until a trio by the same name got on the main stage at NQC 2011 as a featured artist from the showcases. That intrigued me, and then I was blown away by the tenor’s performance on a song called “I’m Coming Again.” As it turned out, it was the same group, and that was the same tenor. Doug’s sound fits the musical direction that the group has taken in their recent work, and just by watching him interact with the guys at the booth, I can tell he fits on a personal level, as well.

As a bonus, here’s the 2011 performance I mentioned:

Mid-Week Roundup 10/30/2013

October 30, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Freedom, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Several news items have popped up in the past few days. Here’s a rundown:

  1. Legacy Five has started a Kickstarter campaign for their upcoming release. With the incentive of various rewards for different amounts of donations, fans can get involved in helping to fund this project. Visit the link for a summary of what the group is doing and the different rewards.

    One thing you can say Southern Gospel music is that even the “top groups” are some of the most accessible artists out there. In how many other genres can you regularly meet the artist at the product table? In a way, something like Kickstarter is perfect for this genre, because it’s a way for the fan to become involved in what the artist is doing with their music, which in turn brings a new sense of that accessibility.

  2. Some have asked where former Dixie Melody Boys lead Donald Morris ended up after leaving the group. Morris and his wife have just joined a family group by the name of the Hoggle Family, and are currently working on a mainline release through AK Music. You may remember that Morris had several songs that he had written cut on the DMB’s The Call Is Still The Same project. He has not stopped writing; all ten songs on the Hoggle Family project are from him.
  3. Freedom Quartet made a splash at last NQC with a lineup of several fan favorites and a new face to most. John Rulapaugh, Dale Shipley, Preston Garner, and Burman Porter are getting ready to release their first project as Freedom Quartet, and you can hear three songs from that project in the player at the bottom of their website: “Somebody Touched The Lord,” “I Believe He’s Coming Back,” and “On A Journey.”

Clips from NQC 2013

September 16, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Freedom, Mark209, NQC, Omega, SG Artists, SG Music, The Skyline Boys

As promised, here are a few videos of some performances at NQC 2013. We’ll start with the “debut” of Freedom Quartet:

Next up is the Skyline Boys, with completely new top parts with the return of Jodi Hosterman at tenor and the newly hired Brian Alvey at lead:

Here’s a trio called Omega from GA. They have been on main stage as showcase winners in the past couple of years. New lead singer Kevin Harry filled in for the Dixie Melody Boys before Josh Garner joined. From what I can gather, this was the lineup’s first time on stage.

Finally, up-and-coming group Mark209 sang a Christmas song a regional showcase:

NQC 2013

September 09, 2013 By: Aaron Category: NQC, SG Artists, SG Music

It’s that time of year again; the National Quartet Convention, which seems to be unofficially considered the “kickoff” of each Southern Gospel music year. Here’s just a few things I’m looking forward to this time around:

  • The Old Paths’ debut on mainstage. They’ve had it coming for quite a while!
  • The revamped Skyline Boys and Freedom as a quartet.
  • The Dixie Melody Boys. Their lineup right now is one to watch.
  • For that matter, I’m looking forward to hearing several groups that have changed members since last year, like Gold City and the Dixie Echoes.
  • The fellowship in the exhibit hall, which is the best part of events like this.

I’ll be headed to Louisville on Wednesday and staying through Friday.

As far as “live coverage,” I’ve decided to take it easy in that department. It’s the NQC’s last year in Louisville, so I’m going to kick back (as much as you can “kick back” at NQC, anyway!) and take it all in. Who knows; I may have a video or two from different things after it’s all said and done, but as far as regular coverage, I encourage you to check out some of the other SG blogs; I’m sure discussions will be taking place there. Of course, the comments section is open here as well!

As always, I’m looking forward to the biggest event in Southern Gospel music, and here’s to a great final year in Louisville!

Freedom Trio Becomes Freedom Quartet

September 05, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Freedom, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

Freedom QuartetIt seems that the NQC season of changes has recently kicked off, with several changes taking place over the past couple of weeks. This one in particular is the one that many were keeping an eye on; since the departure of group co-founder and lead singer Josh Garner for the Dixie Melody Boys, many were wondering where John Rulapaugh would take the group next. I think it’s safe to say that the group bounced back from the shakeup:

Nashville, TN (September 5, 2013) – John Rulapaugh, founder of a group known for its dynamic energy and prowess, Freedom, raises the bar even higher, as he introduces Freedom Quartet.

The quartet’s new line up is the “creme dela creme” of Gospel music.

The new lead singer has an array of accolades and accomplishments and is best known for his days with the group, Perfect Heart.  He is Dale Shipley.  Read more about him at daleshipley.com.

Filling the baritone position for the group is Preston Garner.  Garner is not only a notable vocalist with a vast array of experience. He is also a music minister and worship pastor and has a very clear understanding of leading an audience to the throne of God.

Taking the bass position is one of the most talented bass singers to grace a Gospel music stage.  He is none other than Burman Porter.

Along with the solid and seamless tenor singing of Rulapaugh, this combination is poised to be one of the most cutting edge and impacting Gospel music ministries of the decade.

“The departure of my friend Josh Garner from Freedom’s lineup left a great void, one that could not easily be filled,” shares Rulapaugh.  He continues, “Since the inception of Freedom, it was always our desire to have a great quartet. There have been several opportunities to make that move, but the timing was never right. Over the past few weeks the Lord has really made His plans evident in our lives and we are thrilled with the new starting place He has set for us. I couldn’t be more happy than with the addition of my old friend, Burman Porter, to the lineup of Freedom. Many will remember that Burman and I worked together on two previous occasions; First with The Dove Brothers Quartet and, then, with Palmetto State Quartet. There’s so much to tell about how this decision and direction unfolded…and not nearly enough space here to tell it all. Over the coming days and weeks I will share the details of how this all came to be. If you’re interested in the “back story,” visit and join our website.  You can sign up for free and receive all the latest news from the group.”

The group is partnered with a premiere booking agency, Mountain Top Talent (one entity of the multi-faceted Michael Davis & Associates).  Mountain Top will be heading up their scheduling.

Michael Davis expresses, “John Rulapaugh has done it again by assembling one of the strongest personnel lineups to come along in quite sometime.  The move from trio to quartet will be well received by John’s fan base.  I am very excited about the future of the Freedom Quartet.”

The quartet is looking forward to getting into the studio soon for their first full recording together.

To meet and follow the exciting happenings of this outstanding quartet, visit their brand new website, coming soon, at www.freedomquartet.com.

You can find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/freedomquartet and follow them on Twitter at twitter.com/freedomquartet.

To learn more about all of the artists who call the Dominion Agency home, visit mountaintoptalent.com and michaeldavisandassociates.com. To schedule the Freedom Quartet and other wonderful artists with Michael Davis And Associates, call 828-454-5900 or email michael@michaeldavisandassociates.com.

Each iteration of the group Freedom has been a stellar assembly of talent, and this is no exception. What SG quartet fan hasn’t wanted to hear Dale Shipley in that setting again, or Burman Porter and John Rulapaugh filling the “bookends” of a group again? As far as Preston Garner, here are a couple of clips of him singing baritone with The Supernals in 1997, a group which included SG songwriter Ray Scarborough (“He’s My Song”). Garner is the featured singer on both songs.

safe to assume that this lineup of Freedom will be appearing at NQC. With this lineup overhaul, Harold Reed joining the Diplomats, and the Skyline Boys seeing tenor Jodi Hosterman’s return and Brian Alvey’s debut at the lead position, NQC 2013 is shaping up to have several groups to watch with particular interest. As a matter of fact, Freedom and the Skyline Boys will be appearing on the same side showcase on Friday afternoon. It’s during the NQC Music Awards, but I think this has convinced me to leave that early.

Omega Welcomes Kevin Harry

August 29, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Dixie Melody Boys, Omega, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

DSC03011Some of you may remember Omega from the past couple of years at NQC. The group has secured spots on mainstage as showcase winners, performing before the evening concerts. Longtime member Dustin Simmons recently departed the trio, and they have announced a name that may ring a bell with some: Kevin Harry.

Dahlonega, GA – OMEGA is excited to announce Kevin Harry as their new lead vocalist.

The group began searching for the right fit after the recent announcement of departure from Dustin Simmons. The group will miss Dustin not only as a singer, but as a friend. We know that Dustin is following God’s will for himself and his wife Morgan. We wish him great success.

OMEGA says there was one singer that stuck out in their minds, after he had joined them on the road for a few months last year. “We were excited when the call came from Kevin”, states group manager Doug Pittman. “Kevin has one of the best voices in gospel music today. We are very excited to have him on board. He has a tremendous voice that we are sure will bless people, along with his great spirit.”

Kevin has recently been seen filling in for the Dixie Melody Boys while Josh Garner honored previous commitments before joining the group. Ed O’Neal stated “We needed someone that could jump in and not miss a beat. Kevin did a fantastic job. He impressed not only us, but fans everywhere when he was singing with us. He is a first class singer and will be a great addition to OMEGA”. Kevin will make his debut with the group in mid September.

OMEGA is entering the studio in the next couple of weeks with hopes of releasing both a Christmas CD as well as a new radio Project. To stay updated on everything OMEGA go to www.omegaministries3.com

Check out this post from the announcement of Josh Garner’s DMB hire to see Kevin in action with that group.

Omega has turned some heads with their NQC appearances, and adding a name with some recognition will certainly benefit them. I’m looking forward to hearing good things from them going forward.

Youtube Spotlight: Dove Brothers Band (5/11/13)

May 18, 2013 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Dove Brothers, The Dove Brothers Band, Youtube

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to go hear the Dove Brothers Band for the first time (other than several NQC appearances). This time around was especially unique, because it was a graduation celebration for a friend to both the group and myself, Lynn Pollard, who you will hear referenced from the stage several times in the videos. Congratulations again, Lynn!

I say it was unique because the event was held in the small fellowship hall of a church in Roanoke, VA. The group set up in the corner, and with a small crowd of family and friends in the mix, it made for a very intimate setting, as you’ll see in the clips. I was impressed that the sound was as balanced as it was in that kind of setting.

As always, I’ll let the music speak for itself:

Traveling with a live band obviously has several perks, one of them being that the artist can let the music keep going if he wants to say something during a song. I enjoyed the little bit of background that McCray gave during “Hold On.”

(more…)

David Ragan Departs The Inspirations

April 29, 2013 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Inspirations

Change is in the air once again, as this announcement from the Inspirations lead singer just hit the Internet. From his Facebook page:

Hello friends, I have some unfortunate news. As of Friday, April 26th, 2013, exactly one week after my son was born, I am no longer the lead singer for the Inspirations.

There will no doubt be many questions about this, and I am prepared to answer any of them that you might have. Let me say first that I want to put any potential rumors to rest by stating that I was not fired for any kind of moral issues or anything else of that nature. The decision was mine to make, even though I did not expect to have to make it last week. Needless to say, the past week and a half has been very chaotic for me and my wife.

Singing for the Inspirations was my dream ever since I first saw them in concert when I was 14 years old. I am very thankful that God allowed me to live that dream for the past 4 ½ years. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I have met some of the most amazing, wonderful people in the world, and I have been privileged to experience so many things that many people never get to. I have made so many friends, both artists and fans alike, in the past several years. For all of that I am extremely grateful.

Last week I was presented with a situation that I believed was completely unreasonable. Without getting too specific, there were simply too many irreconcilable differences for me to continue with the group. I was not fired; I decided to leave. It was in the best interests of me and my family to do so, even though it is not something that I had planned before last week. If anyone has any specific questions I have nothing to hide, but I would prefer to answer questions in a personal message rather than on a public post.

To the guys I have sung with, I support you and love you like brothers. I have never, nor will I ever take your friendship for granted. I wish them all the best and hope they can find somebody that sings better than me!

Let me say a huge thank you to all of you who have supported me, befriended me, and prayed for me during the last 4 ½ years. I am very grateful. At this point I’m not sure what the future holds or if I will sing full-time again, but I will keep you all posted. Please continue to pray for me and my wife along with our newborn son as we begin a transition into a new time in our lives. Please pray that I’m able to find employment soon as well.

I love you all and thank God for the opportunity to be involved in the greatest music this world has ever known. God bless you all.

David

I came to appreciate David’s work with the group over his relatively brief tenure with the group, both on and off the stage. On stage, he was a dynamic voice that clearly defined their sound. On top of the Appalachian Gospel sound that the quartet has become known for over the years, you could tell who was singing when the lead singer stepped up to the microphone. Aside from that, I enjoyed interacting with him at the product table. While I have never seen the group in a full concert, I had the opportunity to talk to David on numerous occasions at NQC, and I greatly appreciate his friendly demeanor and the kind words he had to say about this little corner of the web. I wish him well.

Obviously, family comes first, and while you always hate to see them go, it’s completely understandable, especially with a newborn. While some details of the departure are apparently not the most pleasant, I hope that both parties can amicably move forward, and am anticipating good things from both David and the Inspirations with their new vocalist.

Update: Inspirations baritone Jon Epley posted this on behalf of the group:

Hello everyone, this is Jon Epley. First of all, let me say on behalf of all the guys, that we love David and wish the best for him. He is an incredible singer and a good friend. David made a decision that he felt was the right thing for him and his family, and we support his decision. There was no sin or immorality involved, so we can put any of those rumors to rest!

Change is never easy, but at times it is inevitable. We, The Inspirations, will continue to sing about the same Jesus and His great love, and that will never change. We appreciate ALL of our friends and thank you for sticking by us through even the most difficult of times. We hope you will continue to stand by us as we seek the Lord’s will in the search for that one person that God has in mind for us. We know that He always has a plan and covet your prayers in the days ahead.

We know that there are many questions; however, out of respect to David’s privacy and the group’s privacy, no questions will be answered on this public page. On a final note, the last thing David did as administrator of this page was remove his previous post. We did not remove it, that was his decision. Editor’s note: The post referred to here is the announcement above. David posted to his personal Facebook first, then the group’s page.

Once again, thank you all so much for your prayers and support. We love each and every one of you and look forward to seeing you down the road!

I Corinthians 15:58

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! 🙂

Thomas Nalley Joins LeFevre Quartet

December 26, 2012 By: Aaron Category: LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music

By way of announcement from his Facebook page, the news has hit that the LeFevre Quartet is welcoming Thomas Nalley into the tenor position for the group after the departure of Harold Reed. Nalley has spent the past two years as tenor for Providence Quartet, a group featured as a showcase winner on main stage at NQC 2012, and his first date with the group will be this Saturday.

In a recent conversation with a friend, we got on the subject of Providence Quartet, and Thomas Nalley in particular. Some video clips were sent back and forth, and I wondered why we haven’t heard more from this guy before. I enjoyed the fact that he seems to know his limits, resulting in less “forced” sounding tones. Look for Nalley to turn some heads with this group, especially once the group can solidify and carry on with a new bass singer (no word on a pick for that spot yet).

Here’s some clips of Nalley with his former group. Included is their NQC appearance: