In a concert streamed online tonight, Josh Garner announced that this weekend was baritone/pianist Tyler Vestal’s final weekend with Freedom. Garner said that Vestal was leaving on good terms and with the group’s blessing. At the close of the concert, he called the church’s pastor (Charles Kirby), Jerry Goff, and one or two other men from the audience up to pray for God’s guidance on the next steps in Vestal’s life.Read More
- Singing News is removing the Horizon Individual and Horizon Group categories from the Singing News Fan Awards. (Hat tip, DBM). [EDIT, 3/16/13: Broken link removed.] They are adding five categories: Non-Performing Songwriter, New Traditional Quartet, New Mixed Quartet, New Trio, and New Soloist. Two observations: First, last year’s Horizon Award winners, Wilburn & Wilburn, wouldn’t be eligible in any of the four categories. Second, it is rather interesting to see the award sub-divided this many ways; just taking the least competitive category, how often does our genre see a new high-profile soloist? If you define high profile as someone who you would expect to see as a top five nominee for the overall Favorite Soloist award within a decade, we might have one high-profile new soloist every five years.
- Michael Lott is the new piano player for the Mike LeFevre Quartet. (Former fellow Diplomats band member Corey Pearson congratulated him on Facebook yesterday.)
- Difference Media has signed a distribution deal with EMI CMG. Artists recording under the deal will include Canton Junction, The Hagees, and Aaron & Amanda Crabb.
- Drummer Zak Shumate is leaving Ernie Haase & Signature Sound, to join the Isaacs.
- Legacy Five posted a video preview of their new band. Lead singer Scott Fowler will pull double duty, also playing bass guitar.
Several Southern Gospel concerts will be streaming online this weekend:
- Saturday, 6 PM Eastern: Tribute Quartet, Lake Gibson Church, Lakeland, Florida.
- Sunday, 9:45 AM Eastern: The Weatherfords will be live-streaming Lily Fern Weatherford’s final concert in Florida.
- Sunday, 6 PM Eastern: Freedom, Lake Gibson Church, Lakeland, Florida.
Legacy Five bass singer Matt Fouch recently interviewed Legacy Five tenor Gus Gaches. This interview includes a couple of questions I submitted:
Also worth watching: Several videos of the Cathedrals’ 1999 Singing News Fan Awards acceptance speeches have been posted to YouTube: Ernie Haase for Favorite Tenor, Glen Payne for Favorite Lead, Scott Fowler for Favorite Baritone, George Younce for Favorite Bass, Roger Bennett for Anthony Burger Award (Favorite Pianist), and Favorite Male Quartet.
It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!Read More
3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.
1: Production Quality: The Bilderbacks have been touring for at least fifteen years. Through the years, they’ve had a number of charting hits and started the transition from upper regional group territory into national recognition. This album will certainly help that transition; it was produced by Paul and Tré Corley for their new label, Activate Records. From arrangements to instrumental and vocal performances to post-production, every aspect of this album was done at a national group’s caliber.
2: “I Can See the Lights” / “Faith Looks Up”: The album’s two opening tracks are its strongest.
3: Lyrics: It’s refreshing and all too rare to see lyrics included in a project’s layout. Including them here was a big plus.
:1: Song selection: The album doesn’t really have any major flaws. So that leaves the only thing that would have made it stronger would have been more strong songs.
The only noticeable flaws aren’t in the disc itself, but the liner notes: Group members aren’t credited, and the website is listed incorrectly (pointing to a defunct .com version when the correct version is www.thebilderbacks.net).
Credits: Produced and engineered by Paul and Tre’ Corley. Mixed and arranged by Tre’ Corley. Recorded at Oak Tree Studios in Hendersonville, TN. Musicians: Blaine Johnson (piano), Scott Sanders (steel), Jeremy Medkiff (acoustic and electric guitar), Jason Hardin (bass), Tre’ Corley (Drums, Piano, Keys, Orchestration, Programming).
Group Members: Euel, Marsha, and Blake Bilderback.
Song List: I Can See the Lights (written by Euel Bilderback); Faith Looks Up (written by Marty Funderburk and Donna Brooks); Vessel (written by Tre’ Corley and Shawnel Corley); Legacy (written by Marty Funderburk, Barbara Fairchild); Warming Up (written by Carroll McGruder); Things Change (written by Sam Corley III); I’m Movin’ (written by Marty Funderburk and Deborah Bailey); Just Speak His Name (written by Euel Bilderback and Tre’ Corley); Brand New Day (written by Tre’ Corley); My God is Real (written by Euel Bilderback).
Pure Heart is a mixed quartet from Chickamauga, Georgia, led by husband-and-wife team John Thomas (bass) and Sheila Thomas (alto). Their niece, Jessica Vaughn, sings soprano; her husband Stuart is the group’s lead/baritone.
The production quality is toward the upper end of what you would expect from a regional Southern Gospel groups. The tracks were recorded by Paul Corley at Oak Tree Studios, so they are professionally recorded. But they’re certainly lower-budget / less elaborate than other recent Corley productions (like The LeFevre Quartet’s latest).
The album’s most strongest moment jumps out as a standout on first listen: “Dead Bones Rise,” based on Ezekiel 37, was written by and features bass singer John Thomas. A bass singer like Tim Riley, Jeff Chapman (Kingdom Heirs), or Paul Harkey (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound) ought to jump on this song and bring it to, respectively, Gold City, Kingdom Heirs, or Ernie Haase & Signature Sound. It would, at a minimum, be an album and concert favorite, and it wouldn’t be hard at all to imagine it as a radio hit with the right arrangement.
Other strong moments include lead singer Stuart Vaughn’s solo on “A Reflection of You” and the nicely executed a capella arrangement of “He Leadeth Me.” The album contains eight other original songs and one more a cappella hymn (“It is Well With My Soul”).
Group Members: Jessica Vaughn (soprano); Sheila Thomas (alto), Stuart Vaughn (baritone/lead); John Thomas (bass).
Credits: Tracks recorded by Paul Corley at Oak Tree Studios. Vocals produced by John Thomas and recorded at Potter’s Wheel Studios in Chickamauga, Georgia. Musicians: Not credited.
Song List: Lord, Gimme A Pure Heart (written by Don Greene); Come to the Cross (written by John Thomas); Safe in the Rock (written by Gordon Bellcase); It is Well With My Soul (written by Horatio Spafford and Philip P. Bliss); Dead Bones Rise (written by John Thomas); Into the Father’s Arms (written by Sheila Thomas); A Cool Drink of Water (written by John Thomas); A Reflection of You (written by John Thomas); Stepping Stones (written by John Thomas); Do Not Be Afraid (written by John Thomas); He Leadeth Me; An Altar of Prayer (written by John Thomas).
When we see a great emcee at work—a Jim Hamill, George Younce, Roger Bennett, or Gerald Wolfe—we tend to assume that they must have been born with special talents.
But it is easy to forget the number of years each of the four spent in as a non-emceeing quartet member. Roger Bennett spent almost twenty years with the Cathedrals. Gerald Wolfe spent five years with the Dumplin Valley Boys and a year and a half more with the Cathedrals. Both had the opportunity to study the man who may have been the single most effective emcee of his generation, George Younce, at work every weekend.
But consider Younce, who spent around twenty years watching other emcees at work before stepping up himself. If I’m not mistaken, Danny Koker—not George Younce—was the original Cathedrals emcee, so Younce didn’t even start emceeing until four years into the Cathedrals run.
Hamill, also, spent twenty years on the road before becoming an emcee. Younce and Hamill were both Weatherfords and Blue Ridge Quartet members and heard emcees Earl Weatherford and (as I understand) Elmo Fagg, respectively, hone their craft in front of diverse audiences. Hamill also performed with the Oak Ridge Boys and with the Rebels, among others, prior to his Kingsmen years.
Undoubtedly, great emcees are born with some skills that translate well to effective on-stage communication. But the greatest, it seems, put in years of observing other effective emcees at work before reaching the level of greatness that inspires a new generation.
Are there exceptions? There may be a few. Michael Booth wasn’t the original Booth Brothers emcee. (That would have been, as I understand, his father, Ron Booth Sr.) But he didn’t spend that many years observing before taking the reins. There are undoubtedly others. Yet it seems that many of the greatest spend years observing other great emcees before diving in for themselves.
This raises another interesting question: Which great emcees of the next generation are currently paying their dues, quietly watching a master at work? Pat Barker? (He’s probably cut out to be an emcee.) Doug Anderson? Scotty Inman? Josh Singletary?Read More
Dixie Echoes tenor Craig Thomas announced on Facebook yesterday that he is leaving the group:
Well this post comes with a heavy heart. I have decided to come off the road with the Dixie Echoes and resume my other work at my construction company. I want to thank Scoot and Randy for understanding my need to do this and for allowing me to live out my dream. I will miss the singing, the traveling and most of all the fans. I want thank Scoot, Randy, Ben and Jordan for some great times and wonderful singing. I love you guys and may God Bless your ministry. You are all true men of God.
This now leaves four major groups (Dixie Echoes, Gold City, Mark Trammell Quartet, Inspirations) which are either looking for tenors or haven’t announced their new tenor yet. It must be a good time to be a tenor looking to make the jump to the big leagues!Read More
Though motivational speaker Zig Ziglar passed away last November, his organization is still going. The Ziglar organization is featuring the Booth Brothers on a free webcast this afternoon; you can sign up here (hat tip, Travis). It will be in an interview format and will be presented by Zig’s son, Tom Ziglar.Read More
This is the fifty-third entry in a series on Songs from the Books of the Bible.
Southern Gospel songs focus on many of the highest themes known to mankind—songs of Salvation, the Cross, the Resurrection, and eternity. But critics claim that they focus on these themes to the exclusion of other Biblical themes which are appropriate and perhaps necessary to address in song.
For how many chapters in II Thessalonians can we find Southern Gospel songs addressing their themes?
- II Thes. 3:13: Cheer the Weary Traveler (Cathedrals, Kingsmen, Rebels Quartet) (allusion)
- II Thes. 3:13: Hold On, Weary Pilgrim (Melody Boys Quartet) (allusion)
What others come to mind?Read More
- We’re continuing to post the latest updates on Tracy Stuffle’s stroke recovery here.
- Former Skyline Boys lead singer Toby Siler has launched his own group with his wife and children, The Siler Family.
- Shannon Terrell, who toured with John Lanier in River Song (the group, not the record company), passed away this week after a battle with cancer.
- Worth Reading: The ClearBox blog, mentioned earlier this week here, has a new post up: What is the Fair Market Value of a Song? It’s as if they read this comment. (Perhaps they did!)
Ever thought you’d see legendary Dixie Melody Boys bass singer Ed O’Neal doing a little choreography? Well, make sure you watch this video to about the 1:47 point:
Also, don’t miss Kyla Rowland’s rendition of a song she wrote that has also been recorded by the Mark Trammell Trio/Quartet, “Loving the Lamb”:
It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!Read More
3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.
1: Vocals: With the possible exception of the Keith Waggoner/Dan Gilbert/Doran Ritchey/Royce Mitchell lineup, this current version of Liberty Quartet offers the strongest vocal performances of the group’s history. The group has had several recent lineup changes; tenor Phillip Batton replaced Waggoner shortly before their 2011 mainline God’s Been Faithful (reviewed here) came out, while lead singer Doug Wiley replaced Gilbert shortly after the album’s release.
Most of the album’s tracks come from God’s Been Faithful; in a sense, especially since the original soundtracks from the album are the only musical accompaniment, this album revisits God’s Been Faithful with vocals from the new lineup, plus applause and a little talking between the tracks.
2: For All My Sins, featuring tenor Phillip Batton and 3: Welcome to Heaven, featuring lead singer Doug Wiley: That the album’s two strongest moments come from its two rookies says more than a little about the vocal strength Liberty Quartet will be carrying forward into their next mainline.
:1: Live piano: Previous Liberty Quartet baritone Doran Ritchey also played piano on a number of songs in each Liberty Quartet program. Since his departure, the group’s live programs have been soundtrack-only. This live album is solely pre-recorded soundtracks with live vocals; as a live album, it would have definitely been stronger if the group had brought in a guest live pianist, at least for a couple of tracks.
Also, it would have been nice to see songwriter credits included with the packaging.
Group Members: Philip Batton (tenor), Doug Wiley (lead), Jordan Cragun (baritone), Royce Mitchell (bass).
Credits: Produced by Jordan Cragun, Royce Mitchell, Larry Vinyard, and David Mills. Directed by David Mills. Assistant Director: Suzy Burros. Edited by Troy Watters. Audio Engineering by Alex Adamitis.
Song List: Up And Away; Roll On Jordan; Not Givin’ in to Givin’ Up; For All My Sins; 39 Chapters Later; Peace Like a River; I Made it Mine; Who Can Do Anything; God’s Been Faithful; Jesus Saves; Welcome to Heaven; Up and Away Reprise.