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

Ian Owens Joins Soul’d Out Quartet

October 23, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet

In one of the more surprising moves of the year, the quartet announced today that they have made a big hire similar to the one that took place when they picked up Bryan Hutson after the departure of Tanner Stahl.

Since the departure of long time bass singer Matt Fouch, in mid August, Soul’d Out Quartet has been diligently seeking God and following his leading in the attempt to find the right person to be our bass singer. Despite having met many great people through the audition process, we (the men of Soul’d Out) had made the decision to remain a trio unless God provided the absolute right fit for our team and ministry.

Soul’d Out Quartet is thrilled to announce that God has provided us with the right bass singer!! We are so excited to have Ian Owens joining the Soul’d Out family! You may have heard Ian’s name before as the bass singer for Gospel Quartets such as “The Imperials” and “Ernie Haase and Signature Sound.” Ian has 12 years of full time ministry in gospel music and we are so pleased that this chapter of our lives brings us together to proclaim the Good News!! Ian’s first appearance with Soul’d Out will be on November 9th, 2012. We ask for your prayers for both Ian and the current Soul’d Out members as we transition into this new and very exciting time. God has great things in store for this ministry! Come and see us when we are in your area and welcome Ian aboard! Dusty, Michael, Bryan, Rick and Matt.

Ian also had a personal statement in the press release:

“After spending a weekend on the road with Soul’d Out Quartet, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that joining their team is God’s will for my life. I am very excited to have the opportunity to spread the Word of God with such strong men of faith and integrity! Matt, Bryan, Dusty, and Michael all have such a sincere and earnest desire to see souls won and lives changed. I absolutely can not wait to be “pounding the pavement” with these awesome men! However…..I’m scared I may not be much of a bass singer for them if I’m always hoarse from laughing at them! They’re funny!!”

My “big hire” comment refers to the level of popularity within Southern Gospel that Owens possesses. He gained quite a following in his time with Ernie Haase & Signature Sound (and, with some fans, during his tenure with The Imperials), much like Bryan Hutson gained with The Kingsmen. A second hire of this caliber in a row can only do good things for the popularity of the group.

Besides that aspect, this is also a good move vocally. In the eight years that previous bass singer Matt Fouch was with the group before his move to Legacy Five earlier this year, he developed a unique sound that combined solid low notes with a rich upper register. Owens developed his lower range quite nicely with EHSS, and has an upper register that has received favorable comments. His sound will continue what Fouch brought to the table with the group, while carving his own niche.

Owens had the task of following Tim Duncan in EHSS, and while he certainly developed quite well to fill that role, I’m looking forward to hearing him as he takes the mantle of a bass singer that is more similar to his style.

CD Review: The LeFevre Quartet – But For The Cross

September 29, 2012 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music

Rating: 4 stars

Producer: Tre’ Corley, Paul Corley, & Rick Sandidge
Activate Records

Song titles: But For The Cross; Come And See; I’m So Saved; The Wedding Song; Put It Right There; We Are The Church; Saved By The Blood; The Blessed Hope; Someday Soon; I’ll Let You Lead Me; Standing On The Daily Promises

The LeFevre Quartet’s newest release comes in at an interesting point in their discography, as it is their first truly new release since 2008’s Nothin’ But Good. Since that time, the group has released a Christmas table project, a classics table project, a live release that combined songs from the classics album and Nothin’ But Good, and another recent table project that featured new recordings of both LeFevre Quartet songs and a couple that tenor Harold Reed brought over from The Kingsmen. Over that time period, the group has also morphed into a basically completely new quartet. Baritone Mike LeFevre is the only vocal member remaining from the lineup that produced the 2008 mainline release under Canaan Records. The vocalists now stand at tenor Reed, lead singer Jordan LeFevre (who stepped from behind the drums and sound board after David Staton’s departure), baritone Mike, and bass Paul Harkey.

Despite all the changes, the group continues the interesting arranging and strong song choices found in Nothin’ But Good and further refines those attributes. The title cut is a great example of this; a powerful song about the impact of the Cross, featuring an orchestrated sound fused with more modern elements, and an arpeggiated chord placed near the end of each chorus. Right off the bat, the group highlights the fact that their ensemble sound is the strongest it has been in their history.

Each of the group members has at least one strong feature. Newcomer Paul Harkey is featured on the first verse of the new single, “I’m So Saved,” an upbeat tune from the pen of Dianne Wilkinson that immediately grabbed my attention. Harkey is also spotlighted on “Saved By The Blood,” and a jazzy tune with a familiar sound entitled “I’ll Let You Lead Me.” Jordan LeFevre’s first full effort from the group gives him a chance to shine with the smooth “Come And See,” which got a strong reception at NQC 2012, as well as verses on “But For The Cross” and “I’m So Saved. His father, Mike, takes the first verse of the title cut, and gets a full feature on the “We Are The Church.”

Fans of Harold Reed’s days with quartets like the Dixie Melody Boys, The Florida Boys, and The Kingsmen may be thrown for a loop if they are expecting that same traditional sound. Reed is taken out of what may be considered his “comfort zone” on this project, but he pulls it off with aplomb. While “The Blessed Hope” does fit into that traditional vein, his lead on the final part of “I’m So Saved” is definitely outside the box. He is also put out front on “Put It Right There,” another “different” song for him that parallels a father and his drug-addicted son with the crucifixion of Jesus. The lyrical content is something that is not usually found in a Southern Gospel song, and it is one of the strongest songs on the project.

While not every song on the project is a home run (“Someday Soon” didn’t fit with the rest of the material, and “Standing On The Daily Promises” seemed clichéd), it is strong enough to be worth the wait for a new mainline release from the group, and sets a good reference point for the LeFevre Quartet to build from. But For The Cross receives 4 stars.

Youtube Spotlight: The LeFevre Quartet

July 16, 2012 By: Aaron Category: Concert Reviews, LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Music, Youtube

The LeFevre Quartet came to Concord, VA for a concert last Friday night, and I was glad to be able to attend. This was my first time hearing the group since the addition of Harold Reed at the tenor position, and I was not disappointed. This is arguably the strongest lineup the quartet has had yet, and I am looking forward to hearing their upcoming debut project for Activate Records. Here are some clips of the evening:


New Kingsmen Clip

June 25, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Music, The Kingsmen, Youtube

It was posted on Facebook today that The Kingsmen were at Crossroads Studios working on their next release. One of the songs was “Oh What A Savior,” and apparently, new tenor Chris Jenkins nailed it. No studio videos have surfaced yet, but here’s a concert video of that same song from last week. (Trust me, even though everybody and their brother has done this song, it’s worth it):

Update: Just as Daniel Mount promised in the comments, studio videos are surfacing. Here’s “Without Jesus,” showing off a smoother side of the Kingsmen. You may remember that song from The Kingsmen’s Proven Time and Time Again project, released with the Jerry Martin, Bryan Hutson, Parker Jonathan, and Ray Dean Reese vocal lineup:

The Kingsmen Hire Chris Jenkins

May 09, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

(l-r) Ray Dean Reese, Bob Sellers, Randy Crawford, Chris Jenkins, Brandon Reese)

After a fill-in period that once included Ernie Phillips, and a guessing game this past weekend on Facebook that built some excitement, the Kingsmen have finally announced their pick for the tenor position:

The Kingsmen are pleased to announce the addition of Chris Jenkins as our new tenor vocalist.

Chris, 25, has been singing in various ministries and groups since his teenage years, most recently tenor vocalist for the Vintage Quartet since 2010. Prior to joining The Kingsmen, Chris worked as a loan officer and banking manager for the last six years.

“I am so thankful that God has allowed me to do what I have always loved to do,” says Chris. “I could not be more excited about joining a group with such a legacy and rich history as The Kingsmen.  I have been a fan of The Kingsmen since I was very young. I look forward to seeing what the future holds with this great quartet, especially this line-up of individuals as they are top-notch vocalists. It is a real honor to follow in the footsteps of some of my heroes.”

Chris will begin touring with the group immediately. In fact he has been filling in with us in recent weeks. Chris, along with his wife Kimberly, and two children make their home right outside of Greensboro, in the Piedmont area of North Carolina.

Chris is looking forward to meeting many friends and fans of The Kingsmen as he begins this new chapter in his life. To find out when the Kingsmen Quartet will be in a city near you please visit us at www.kingsmenquartet.com, and also visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kingsmenquartet

I have been excited about the possibility of this hire ever since I learned that Chris was filling in after Ernie Phillips came back off the road. Jenkins has already impressed me with his work with the Vintage Quartet, and I am glad that he has been given a platform with such a well-known group. I would encourage anyone in the “bring back Ernie” camp to give this guy a chance; Jenkins bring a sound to the table that is a throwback to the Ernie days of the group, while still having the modern flair the group has adopted over the past few years.

I am looking forward with renewed anticipation to the release of material featuring this lineup of Chris Jenkins, Bob Sellers, Randy Crawford, and Ray Dean Reese.

No videos of Chris with The Kingsmen have surfaced yet, but here’s a clip from the Vintage Quartet:


Ernie Phillips With The Kingsmen…. 2012?

January 29, 2012 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG History, SG Music, The Kingsmen, Youtube

Ever wonder how some of the legends of yesterday that are no longer “in the spotlight” sound today on a more modern song? Here’s one of those legends: Ernie Phillips. One of the more famous tenors to come along in the history of the Kingsmen, and Southern Gospel in general (remember his big ending on “Love Lifted Me” on Live… Naturally?), and the father of Mark Trammell Quartet tenor Eric Phillips. Since the departure of Harold Reed for the LeFevre Quartet, Phillips has been filling in for The Kingsmen. Here he is taking one of Reed’s signature songs while with the group, “God Saw A Cross.”

If this doesn’t make the case for why The Kingsmen should try their hardest to get Phillips out there with them full-time, I don’t know what does. (Well, this and the fact that, from what I hear, he can still do those sky-high endings!)

Update: Daniel Mount informed me this morning that there had been more videos from this concert uploaded since this post went up. I’ll post a few more, some of which also highlight new lead singer Bob Sellers. Even if Ernie Phillips doesn’t turn out to be the man for the job, this is still an interesting look at one of the legends still toting the mail!







Kingsmen Looking For New Tenor

December 26, 2011 By: Aaron Category: LeFevre Quartet, SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen


Change has hit The Kingsmen yet again. The group announced the departure of tenor Harold Reed today, and he is making the move to The LeFevre Quartet. From Brandon Reese:

The Kingsmen announce the departure of tenor Harold Reed.

“I have been blessed to sing with one of my favorite Quartets for the past 4 1/2 years and now I feel it is time for me to start the next chapter in my singing career and join The Lafever Quartet,” says Harold. “Sometimes the Lord tells you it is just time and I will truly miss Ray and the rest of the guys but I am comfortable knowing we will remain in contact.”

“The Kingsmen will be celebrating 55 years of music ministry in 2012. Through those years we have had the most talented and enjoyable team members but more importantly good Christians work with our organization,” says Brandon Reese. “Harold is no exception. I know God is in control and has a plan for The Kingsmen. We are more committed than ever to spread the gospel in song all throughout 2012 and beyond.”

For consideration of the tenor position please send all info and demos to: ray@kingsmenquartet.com or brandon@kingsmenquartet.com

Harold is replacing the departing Jeremy Easley. I was very impressed with Easley in the couple times I saw him in a live setting and am looking forward to seeing where he ends up. I have no doubt he’ll be singing in some capacity!

I had a hunch that this move might happen when I saw Harold filling in with the LeFevre Quartet on TBN the other night. I’m very interested to see who The Kingsmen might hire; their tenor part is notorious for being demanding, especially on the older material. Perhaps a young, upcoming talent that hasn’t really been widely heard yet will take the spot.

For a taste of how the LeFevre Quartet will sound, here are their two songs from their TBN apperance. Bass singer Brandon Barry was out in the hospital and Mike Allen was filling in. The addition of Reed gives them a different sound than they are used to, but it’s still good.

Bob Sellers Joins The Kingsmen

December 16, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, The Kingsmen

In a move that has been much speculated on and expected, Capstone Quartet lead singer Bob Sellers has come in as the new lead singer for The Kingsmen. Here’s the press release:

The Kingsmen are pleased to welcome Bob Sellers to the quartet, filling the vacancy created by the departure of BryanHutson. “I am so excited to become a member of the legendary Kingsmen Quartet family,” says Bob. “I’m thankful for this opportunity that Ray and Brandon Reese have given me, and I look forward to meeting every single Kingsmen fan.

“The first song I recall singing with my mom and sister in our little country church was ‘A Place Where The Hungry Are Fed,’ so it is a dream come true to now stand on stage with the group that introduced that song and so many other great songs to Gospel music. I will work with all that is within me to continue the proud tradition that is The Kingsmen Quartet and, most importantly, to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in song effectively. I cannot wait to see what God has in store!

Bob’s first concert will be in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada on December 31, 2011.

Sellers has filled in for two Kingsmen singers recently: the first was Bryan Hutson a couple months ago when he had to be away for a funeral. Most recently, he was filling in for Randy Crawford when he was out for his heart operation. Here’s a taste of what he sounds like, singing “For God So Loved” with the Capstone Quartet:

For a taste of his sound with The Kingsmen, here’s “Look For Me At Jesus’ Feet.” Hat tip goes to my friend Andrew Graham for this find:

If the videos are any indication, Sellers will be a great fit.

Bryan Hutson Joins Soul’d Out Quartet

December 14, 2011 By: Aaron Category: SG Artists, SG Industry News, SG Music, Soul'd Out Quartet, The Kingsmen

At long last, the word has finally come out. The “mystery man” that is coming to the group after the departure of Tanner Stahl earlier this month is none other than Kingsmen lead singer Bryan Hutson. Here’s an open letter from Hutson on this move:

I want to thank the many friends that I have made while being involved in Gospel Music as well as Worship Ministry. You have embraced me since I began singing with my brother in “The New Generation” in 1985. I started traveling fulltime with “The Heartland Quartet” in 1993. Your continued support, love and encouragement through both my tenures with “The Kingsmen” is deeply appreciated. In early November, I decided to follow God’s leading and give my resignation with “The Kingsmen.”

January of 2012 will mark a new chapter in my gospel music career. I will be joining one of America’s best new groups, “Soul’d Out Quartet”. In fact, the group was awarded “Horizon Group of The Year” (Favorite New Group) in the Singing News Magazine Fan Awards in 2010. Matt Rankin (lead), Dusty Barrett (tenor), Matt Fouch (bass) and Michael Howard (piano) make up “Soul’d Out Quartet”. I will share lead vocalist duties with Matt Rankin. SOQT is a solid quartet who sings straight ahead Southern Gospel Music with a progressive sound. I’m very excited to see what God has in store for our future! Over the past several years, I have developed a friendship with members of the group. I believe the men of “Soul’d Out” are men of integrity and have a heart for ministry that mirrors my own passion. I know my friends and family will love the music and ministry of “Soul’d Out” as much as I do.

My wife, Yvonne, and I have been seeking God and wise counsel about this decision and feel that this is a door God has opened. The tour schedule for “Soul’d Out” is a better fit for me as a husband and father. This opportunity will also allow us to reach our long term goals as a family.

I joined my all time favorite group “The Kingsmen” in 1996 under the late Eldridge and Greg Fox. The 5 years that I spent learning from the Fox’s, the late Jim Hamill and Ray Reese were some of the best years of my life. Upon returning for my second run with “The Kingsmen” in 2007, we have seen lives changed through our music. I want to thank Ray and Brandon Reese and “The Kingsmen” for allowing me to be a part of the continuing Kingsmen legacy.

I would like to ask for your continued support, encouragement and prayers for my family and both groups. I am looking forward to seeing each of you at upcoming “Soul’d Out Quartet” concerts. Please check our website for upcoming performances: www.souldoutquartet.com

In His Will,

Can’t argue with that. Family is often a reason for changes made in a singer’s career, and I am glad that Hutson didn’t beat around the bush in stating that as the reason. I also appreciate that he didn’t simply say, “I want more time with my family.” He was open and transparent and explained the move well. Not that every singer has to live in a glass house, but it’s a refreshing change from the usual cliches. The classiness is also admirable; both the group he is going to and the group he is leaving get equal treatment, and it’s nice to see a singer that is making a move from one quartet to another have good things to say about their former employer.

The Kingsmen have also put out a press release:

From The Kingsmen

Bryan Hutson will be leaving the Kingsmen this December and will be joining Soul’d Out Quartet.

Brandon Reese states, “In November, Bryan came to me and stated that he felt it was time to make a change in his professional career. He also told me that he had been seeking God’s will in an opportunity to stay home more with his family. I commended him for letting the Lord lead in his life. The door opened for Bryan to join Matt Rankin and the rest of Soul’d Out (who are based out of Columbus, OH) and as many of you know is only an hour or 2 from where Bryan grew up in Batesville, IN. Bryan stated to me that joining Soul’d Out is perfect for the long term goals of his family and until then will maintain his residence in Asheville, NC with his wife Yvonne and four children Alexa, Jake, Bailey and Jordan. I, along with the other Kingsmen members, wish to thank Bryan for his two tenures here and his continuing friendship.”

I am planning on seeing Soul’d Out in January, and I am looking forward to hearing how the group’s sound changes with Bryan on board. Hearing Matt Rankin and Bryan Hutson swap parts will be interesting for sure! Be sure to check out the group if they are near you; I have a feeling the future for this quartet is very bright!

Update: Soul’d Out Quartet has also issued a release on the change:

We would like to inform everyone that Tanner will be leaving Sould Out Quartet and will be pursuing other interests. He will be missed by many and SOQT would like to thank Tanner for being part of this ministry for four and a half years. We ask that you pray for Tanner and his family as he is starting a new path. We believe that God has orchestrated this change and we pray that he will continue to bless Tanner as well as SOQT.

Coming the first of 2012, Matt Rankin will be assuming the baritone position and Bryan Hutson, a Kingsmen Quartet icon, will be taking the lead. We are excited that God has placed us together and we look forward to seeing how the Lord blesses the new line up. As always, the heartbeat of the ministry is to reach the lost, encourage the saints, and make a difference in people’s lives.

We will be releasing two new recordings after the first of the year. Coming the first part of January will be a hymns and old songs CD called “Soulace.” Then a brand new CD with all original songs called “What the World Doesn’t Know” at the end of January. We are very excited about both of these projects and we pray they will spiritually affect the lives of those who listen.

CD Review: The Kingsmen – Missing People

November 07, 2009 By: Aaron Category: CD Reviews, SG Artists, SG Music, The Kingsmen

Rating: 4.5 stars

Producer: Jeff Collins
Label: Horizon Records
Website: www.kingsmenquartet.com
*This project was purchased directly from the artist. This detail had no bearing on the final rating.

Buy This Project

1. Missing People – Right off the bat, the title track shows that The Kingsmen are sticking with the “today” sound that they adopted on their previous effort, When God Ran. Like the title track of that album, Bryan Hutson gets the feature on a beautiful song. This one carries the message that up in Heaven, no one is missing. Given the recent cases of shootings and people going missing here in Virginia, this song strikes a special chord with me; it is very timely and relevant.

2. Someday – A driving, country-flavored quartet number jump-starts the CD here. Lead singer Phillip Hughes sings the verses, with longtime bass singer Ray Dean Reese getting some standout lines and a nice low note at the end. This song is one of those sings that bridges the generations of Kingsmen fans; it’s just “traditional quartet” enough to please long-time fans, while simultaneously being modern enough for the younger crowd.

3. They Went To Pray – A swinging tune that gives tenor singer Harold Reed the feature on the chorus. Reese shows a higher end to his range on the second verse, and the group hits some interesting chords on the final chorus. At first listen, this song didn’t stick out, but I enjoy it the more I hear it.

4. Mountain Of Grace – Lead singer Phillip Hughes carries this beautiful ballad. The first verse and chorus are done with piano as the only instrumentation. When the orchestration kicks in, it is just as good. This is easily one of the best features that Hughes has ever gotten.

5. When It’s All Said And Done – Another throwback to the classic Kingsmen sound, this brand new song by Dustin Sweatman and Scott Inman does a great job of capturing the fact that this lineup of The Kingsmen can “bring it.” The upbeat, toe-tapping tune is sure to be a hit when sung.

6. Cheer The Weary Traveler – This arrangement of the Southern Gospel classic doesn’t stray too far from the one that the The Rebels Quartet did in 1970 on The New Sounds Of The Rebels, save for the turnaround at the end. The turnaround features tenor Harold Reed hitting some super-high notes in the same style as Ron Booth did on the original take.

7. God Saw A Cross – Harold Reed gets the solo on what is perhaps the standout ballad of this project. This song from the pen of Rodney Griffin says that for every fault of mankind, God only saw a cross. This will be considered a Kingsmen signature for years to come.

8. He Picks Up A Beggar On The Way – It’s back to the hard-driving country sound, this time featuring Bryan Hutson. Hutson sounds a bit like Arthur Rice on some of his lines here, which is never a bad thing!

9. God Knows – In his final feature of the album, Phillip Hughes get a slow country ballad that tells us that God knows our problems and cares about them. The country style fits Hughes’ very well, and this song really brings that fact to the forefront.

10. He Is The Only One – The final true song of the album is another slower one. Nothing really sticks out about it, but there are some good harmonies throughout.

11. Reprise: Someday – The second track is revisited, giving it a piano-and-bass treatment, with another nice low ending note from Ray Dean Reese.

Final Thoughts: In a trend that started with Good Good God and was very evident with When God Ran, The Kingsmen have molded their sound into something that can hold its own with the legendary Kingsmen lineups of the 70s and 80s. Each vocalist on this project gets a song that is tailored to their voices and brings out the best in them, which makes for a solid project.

Bottom line: Like I said earlier, this lineup bridges generations with its sound. The past couple of projects gradually brought the Kingsmen back to their place as one of the top quartets, and they can only get better if they continue in this vein.