Aaron Swain's blog about Southern Gospel Music, News, and other items of interest in the SG world.
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Things I Missed (3/1/14)

March 01, 2014 By: Aaron Category: Gold Harbor, Legacy Five, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Hoggle Family, The Inspirations

1. The Inspirations lineup has finally settled. The group has had a series of fill-ins lately, but it was announced this week that the new lineup sees the return of Dallas Rogers at tenor, Matt Dibler at lead, and Melton Campbell at baritone, with Jon Epley moving down to the bass part. The band remains the same.

Here’s a clip of the new Inspirations in action:

2. Legacy Five bass Matt Fouch’s “On The Couch With Fouch” has become a favorite series for Southern Gospel fans. Here’s the latest installment with guest Scott Inman of Triumphant Quartet:

Next week, I plan to have two CDs reviewed: The Hoggle Family’s self-titled release, and You Are My Song by Gold Harbor.

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! 🙂

The Inspirations In The Studio

April 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Inspirations

Hat tip goes to Daniel Mount for recording (and posting) these two clips of The Inspirations at work on their next release through Crossroads. Interestingly, both songs featured are updated recordings of past Inspirations songs. The first one is a fairly recent radio hit, “In The Twinkle Of An Eye,” which was found on their 2004 release, What a Day. I particularly enjoyed watching baritone Jon Epley’s reaction to Mike Holcomb’s low ending on the verse:

 

The next song is quite a bit older; over thirty years old, in fact. “It Won’t Be Long” was recorded on the 1980 album Singing in the Smokies.

 

What strikes me about both of these “covers” is that, with this lineup, it doesn’t feel that way. The hiring of Jodi Hosterman changed the sound and dynamic of the group, and while they are still maintaining the classic sound that makes them “The Inspirations,” the vocals are versatile enough that they can do different things with the harmonies on these older songs. It makes more of a mark on them than it would have if the Dallas Rogers lineup had gone back and re-recorded them; in that case, it would have just sounded like the old group recording it with modern technology. I’ve enjoyed hearing the harmonies changed up even in these short clips, and I am looking forward to the final product.

Bring ‘Em Back: “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” and “Reach For The Sky”

September 05, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Music

I’m the type that likes to have music playing while I’m working on something, like homework or a blog post, for example. Recently, I had my iTunes library on shuffle, and two songs came up that I had heard several times before, but this time around, they really grabbed my attention. The first one is the third track on the Singing Americans’ highly popular Black and White project. It’s a ballad that starts out soft with the whole group harmonizing, with Rick Strickland’s tenor coming out front a little on the first chorus. Michael English takes the second verse, and it really kicks off. Strickland turns on the after-burners and seems to sing in the stratosphere after the key change on the final chorus.

Here’s a clip of the second verse and chorus:

They Can’t Take That Away From Me

For a group that could bring this one back, I nominate Gold City. I think Dan Keeton has the power and range to handle the demanding tenor part, and giving the English solo to Craig West is a no-brainer. Plus, having Tim Riley play around with the bass part on it would be worth hearing! Other possible groups: Triumphant Quartet, The Old Paths, The Inspirations. (an Inspirations arrangement would be VERY interesting.)

The other song that got me was “Reach For The Sky.” The opening track for Palmetto State Quartet’s Thank God For A Song project, it was one of the strongest songs, and let PSQ fans know that Burman Porter’s succession to Aaron McCune’s spot was a great fit. The whole song features Porter with some of the lowest bass singing I believe I have ever heard him do. He was a solid bass with the Dove Brothers, but something about his sound with Palmetto State was a lot more robust and had more depth, and this song is a perfect example. Check out the first two choruses and a verse:

Reach For The Sky

The obvious choice for this one? The Dove Brothers. With the recent rehiring of Porter to the group, they would be the group that would bring this song back best. I’m sure that they’d have a killer arrangement, especially with the live band. Other possible groups: Gold City, Kingdom Heirs.

Feel free to share other groups you think could bring these back!

New Inspirations Baritone Revealed

December 27, 2010 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Statement of Faith, The Inspirations

If you look at comments on the various SG blogs these past couple of weeks, speculation and question has abounded as to who would be taking the baritone spot in The Inspirations following the sudden departure of Melton Campbell. That question was answered this morning via Daniel Mount: it is Jon Epley. Epley formerly sang baritone with Jacob Kitson (former Greater Vision tenor) and Jacob’s brother Joe in the new trio Statement of Faith. He announced this on his Facebook, but look for an announcement from the Inspirations group in the coming weeks.

I haven’t posted a review of Statement of Faith’s debut project on this site (yet!), but I will say that Epley will be a great fit with the Inspirations. He is a great singer, and, as Daniel Mount mentions, also plays piano, so he can fill in if Martin Cook should ever have to miss a date.

Be looking for an announcement about a new baritone for Statement of Faith soon!

CD Review: The Inspirations – The Son Came Down

November 23, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Inspirations

Rating: 5 stars

Producers: Martin Cook & Jeff Collins
Label: Horizon Records
Website: www.theinspirations.com
*This project was purchased directly from the artist. This detail had no bearing on the final rating.

Buy This Project

The Inspirations are a group that has carved a unique niche and developed a consistent sound in its history in Southern Gospel music. (Think the Dixie Echoes.) Before this project was recorded, the group got both a new lead singer, David Ragan, and a new tenor, Dallas Rogers. The latter came after long-time tenor, Archie Watkins, resigned from the group to take on a less hectic solo schedule. The obvious question here is this: how does two such changes impact the sound of the group?

The answer is, the group still sounds the same, but younger.

In hiring Dallas Rogers, the group hired a tenor that sounds like Archie Watkins when he first started with the group. The comparison is arguably strongest in the re-cut of a song that originally featured Watkins, “Thank God I Made It.” Roger’s vocal style and timbre is eerily similar to the elder tenor’s, and that fact helps keep longtime fans of the group happy.

As far as the project goes, the group has found a new spring in their step with their past few projects. They’ve picked songs that fit the group well and are stellar selections. It really started with “I Have Not Forgotten,” then “The Rose,” and now the title track for this project. I have a feeling that will be the next big hit for the group.

The project as a whole lets every vocalist get the spotlight. Dallas Rogers gets a big feature on a new song called “Dealing With Gold,” popping a few higher-end notes I wasn’t expecting. Baritone Melton Campbell sings a Joseph Habedank offering called “Stone’s Throw Away” that seemed tailored for his voice. Bass singer Mike Holcomb shines on both “Heaven Knows Where I’ve Been” and his solo verse on “The Son Came Down.” New lead singer David Ragan gets a feature on the latter as well, and he injects some young blood into the group just like Rogers.

Bottom line: Like I stated earlier, The Inspirations are steadily improving the quality of the material they put out. This project is a great way to introduce the new lineup to the world and show them what they are capable of.