Pat Barker To Leave Mark Trammell Quartet

Every once in a while, theres a news story that comes around that is hard to believe. Mark Trammell has announced today that Pat Barker, bass vocalist with The Mark Trammell Quartet and a fan favorite across our industry, has tendered  his resignation and will be departing the group. Trammell has released the following statement.

pat-barker-leaves-roadThere are some things in life that you just cant imagine ever having to do. What I’m about to say is one of them. After much prayer, fasting, and seeking the mind of God, our beloved bass singer Pat Barker has tendered his resignation. He is much in need of being at home with his precious family. While it grieves our hearts, we must honor his decision and begin the process of moving on with God.

We are once again reminded that the only thing that doesn’t change is Jesus. A new chapter in the life of MTQ. And, a new chapter in the life of the finest, most Christlike man to ever travel on a quartet bus. Pat has stated that he will be with us until early May and then will be going home. I would ask that you not only pray for us as we begin the process of looking forward, but also pray for Pat, Kesha, and their three sweet children. Pray that God will give them direction, peace, and spiritual strength. Auditions will begin as soon as possible. If interested, please email a brief resume, recent photo, and two songs to mark@marktrammellministries.com. We will schedule auditions after reviewing this information.

Thank you in advance for your prayer and support during these days ahead. God is STILL in control.

Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell Quartet

This is definitely one of the most unexpected personnel changes to take place in a long time. Barker joined the group in 2010, officially making the group a quartet and endearing himself to Gospel Music fans around the country. I have personally enjoyed getting to know him and wish both he and his family nothing but the best. Keep Mark and the guys in your prayers as they start the auditioning process.

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CD Review “Unashamed” by Brian Free & Assurance

Brian Free & Assurance are undoubtedly the kings of the progressive movement in Southern Gospel Music. They have distinguished themselves not only in their sonic production, but also in their selection of material. Brian Free knows what he’s doing when it comes to selecting material. BFA have recorded songs with a message that will encourage & inspire their audience, but also challenge them as well.  Since 2007, Ricky Free has produced all of the groups recordings and the resulting projects (Real Faith, Worth It, Never Walk Alone, Nothing But Love) have been some of the finest music BFA has ever produced. Some may say it would be impossible for a group to continuously release recordings where each is better than their previous effort, but BFA does just that. Unashamed is notable as this is the debut recording for new baritone, Mike Rogers (who replaced long time baritone Derrick Selph last year), whom had previously sang lead with the Dixie Melody Boys. Not only is Rogers is an excellent fit for the groups blend, but he enhances it with his great range. 

The recording kicks off with a fantastic song “God Of Possibilities“, featuring lead singer Bill Shivers. Though he is not the winner of any major fan awards,  there is no doubt in my mind that Bill is the best lead singer in Gospel Music. His consistency over the years, vocal range, and sheer power is what makes him stand out. The second cut is the title cut, “Unashamed“, featuring Brian Free. The first verse paints the picture of the early Christian martyrs who died for their faith, and the chorus makes the proclamation,

“I will share the Gospel and I will live the truth,

all I say and do will glorify his name.

Even though it costs me everything, it’s a price I’ll gladly pay.

For the cause of Christ, I’ll live my life unashamed.”

The third cut is the first Mike Rogers feature, a great song written by Ronnie Hinson and Ricky Free, “Tell It Like It Was“. This is a kickin’ song, that gets straight to the point and fits in with the concept of being Unashamed in our faith. Rogers does a fantastic job on the verses, one of my favorite lines from this song captures the message in a nutshell “John may have baptized Jesus but he isn’t watered down“. The fourth cut is the first radio single, “Say Amen” which features Shivers. If you don’t want to stand up and do what this song says after hearing, you need to hit the repeat button. I believe this going to be a signature song for Bill Shivers. It’s one of the best songs I have ever heard Bill sing, and he puts his all into it. Expect to hear this song in heavy rotation on your Gospel radio station. The fifth song on the project is a  powerful ballad featuring Brian, “He Still Saves“. I had heard this song previously from Union Street, but BFA have put their own stamp on this one. No one can sing the power ballads quite like Brian Free, and the group blend is absolutely awesome on this one. This is by far one of my favorite songs On this recording.

The second half of the recording starts with another Mike Rogers feature, “Evidence In You“. This is one of the most unique songs on this project musically speaking, it doesn’t really fit in a box stylistically. The opening guitar intro is different than anything I have ever heard in Southern Gospel, but this song is killer. The chorus is one of the best pieces of songwriting you will hear in Gospel Music,

I am the face of God’s forgiveness, I am the evidence of grace.

I am the proof of just how much he loves and how far he’ll go to save.

If he saw something worth redeeming in the mess that I had made,

then I believe theres nothing he won’t do to see the evidence in you“.

Next up is the first feature from bass vocalist Jeremy Lile, “A Little Bit of Me And You“. Lile continues to prove that he is one of the smoothest bass singers in Gospel Music today. The song is a great lyric that reminds the believer that anything good has to be ” a whole lot of God and a little bit of me and you.” Rogers is also featured on another cut, a powerful ballad entitled “One“. This song is a monster ballad, and Rogers absolutely knocks it out of the park with a very soulful, yet powerful vocal on the verses. You will find yourself listening to this one, alot. Next up is another great song, “Where There’s A Will, He Has A Way“. This is a very interesting cut. Brian stated that when he heard the song, he thought it sounded a lot like something Lauren Talley would sing. So he actually pitched the song to her, and she recorded the song with the guys. Brian does the first verse and Lauren does the second and is featured on the rest of the song. This is the first time that a guest artist has ever been featured on a BFA recording, and its a great fit.

The recording comes to a close with a great song, “Before The After” featuring bass singer Lile on the first verse and lead singer Shivers on the second. Once again its another song that musically is out of the box, but absolutely BFA.

When it comes to the science of making great albums, Brian Free & Assurance have got it down. Ricky Free works hand in hand with his father, not just in finding the right material (Ricky co-wrote half the project) but also in getting the right. Brian Free & Assurance are leading Southern Gospel Music in the direction it should go. Unashamed is pushes the boundaries musically (with songs like Evidence In You & Before The After) but still delivers the high quality lyrical content & vocals that we have come to expect from them. I believe the groups blend is better than ever, and Unashamed is their best project to date.

The Kurt Young/Priority Song You Need To Hear!

Kurt Young is a name that is familiar to any Southern Gospel fan who knows their history. He sang tenor for The Cathedrals for a brief, yet memorable period in 1990. Unfortunately, it was memorable for all the wrong reasons.  But before Young climbed aboard the Cathedrals bus, he was the tenor for a young Oklahoma quartet, called Priority. Inspired by more contemporary, inspirational groups of their time (such as The Imperials), Priority were beginning to make a name for themselves in the late 80′s.

In 1988, they recorded their first project with Homeland Records, produced by the team of Bill Traylor & Lari Goss. This project, entitled My Redeemer Lives, will be the focus of an upcoming post. But for right now, I wanted to share with you all what I believe is one of Young’s finest performances, that probably many of you have never heard. In this video, the group is comprised of Young at tenor, Scott Crawley at lead, Brian Yandell on baritone, and Brian Rose on bass. Take a listen to “The Lord Alone Is Worthy“.

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Album Review: “Love Came Through” by The Skyline Boys

The Skyline Boys – Love Came Through

Produced by Jeff Collins

Independent

Since 1995, The Skyline Boys have made quite the name for themselves in the  Southern Gospel genre for putting out quality music. With well over 50 years of experience, bass vocalist and group owner/manager Dennis Powers has assembled some great talent through the years. Their current lineup is one of the finest in the groups history, with the recent addition of lead vocalist Brian Alvey (Talleys, Tribute Quartet) and the return of tenor Jodi Hosterman (Inspirations, Kingdom Heirs). Along with baritone Chris Little, these men have combined for one of the bests blends in the groups history.

IMGLove Came Through  is the debut recording with Alvey & Hosterman, and it is fantastic. The project kicks off with a song written by Alvey, “It Makes Me Wanna Go“. A great upbeat tune, that features the group on the first verse and Alvey on the second, it will also serve as the project’s first radio single. Brian’s former group, Tribute Quartet, recorded this a few years ago, but I really love this cut. Right off the bat, the group displays the solid harmony that is displayed throughout the project. Next up is a great ballad featuring Alvey, the title track “Love Came Through“. It’s a well crafted song lyrically, complimented with a great vocal by Alvey. The groups ties in a phrase from George Amon Webster’s “He Loves Me” on the bridge, going into a key change.  “I’m A New Man”, written by Dianne Wilkinson,  is the projects third song. It features baritone Chris Little on the verses, and he does a great job on this one. Its a wonderful song about the transformation that salvation brings, I especially love the line “I’m a new man because of an old rugged cross“.

I’m Not Saying Goodbye” is a fantastic song featuring bass singer Powers on the verses and is one of the most unique songs about Heaven. The song is written from the viewpoint of one who has lost a loved one. The first verse talks of how much the loved one will be missed, how no one can take their place, and the finality of death,  but the chorus says “I’m not saying goodbye, I’ll see you later, for on Heaven’s shore I’ll see your face once more”. It’s a great Heaven song that will be an encouragement to all who hear it. Next up is an old Stamps Baxter song, “It Won’t Be Long“. Instead of the typical old timey feel that we hear with most of these old songs, the group puts it to a modern arrangement, that has a great groove.

Next up is a classic “He’s All I Need“, featuring tenor Jodi Hosterman. Jodi is one of the finest tenors, with the clearest and warmest tones in our industry. His solo on the verses are nothing short of fantastic. The group turns in a great performance on this one. Up next is a slower song called “Back To The Alter“, featuring baritone Chris Little.  This is a great song that encourages the believer to back to the place where they were first saved.  Bass vocalist Dennis Powers comes back to sing a great song from his own pen, “That’s Enough“.

The last two songs are some of the finest on the project, “Sing It Brother, Sing It” is a tow tapping number featuring Alvey. From the first note, you know this is a great song. Alvey is a fantastic lead singer, who has a commanding presence but can also sing a very tender song with great conviction. The project comes to a close with another great song, “Above The Clouds“. Alvey once again has the lead and sings a very earnest vocal. Theres some outstanding harmony  on the chorus and the song closes out with a high ending, showcasing a fantastic blend.

The Skyline Boys truly have the finest lineup & blend in the groups history, and I believe its among the finest in the industry today. With Love Came Through, the sky truly is the limit for The Skyline Boys. There’s great variety in the song selection, every song is fantastic, and the guys are on top of their game vocally. I have no doubt that Love Came Through will hold up as one of the finest recordings of 2014. I highly recommend adding this project to your library. Be sure to listen to The Gospel Greats this week (weekend of Feb 1st) as The Skyline Boys will be a featured artist, showcasing this fantastic project. To place your order today, click here.

Review copy provided.

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Album Review: The Cathedrals Family Reunion

Cathedrals Family Reunion CoverThe Cathedrals Family Reunion Concert was one of the most anticipated announcements of 2013. The 2 day event took place over a weekend in Ft Worth, Texas this past November. Although the alumni of the group have separately and collectively paid tribute to the Cathedrals legacy through different events (Remember The Music or EHSS Cathedrals Tribute Tour) and have recorded their own tribute projects (EHSS Tribute to The Cathedral Quartet, Mark Trammell Quartet Treasures), this marks the first time that Mark Trammell, Danny Funderburk, Gerald Wolfe, Ernie Haase, and Scott Fowler have all contributed collectively to a Cathedrals tribute project. To celebrate this landmark event, these gentlemen and their current groups (Signature Sound, Mark Trammell Quartet, Greater Vision and Legacy Five) all headed into the studio to record some of the Cathedrals most popular songs, as requested by fans through social media.

The recording kicks off with the classic “Boundless Love“. All of the aforementioned groups sing on this as a choir, which was a great idea. The second verse features all of the alumni on a step out line or harmony part. One thing that I love about “the choir” is it just sounds like a big quartet.  One of the most glaring things about this project to many Cathedrals fans are the alumni who are not involved, the most notable being Kirk Talley. That being said, I was thrilled to see one of Talley’s features “We Shall Be Caught Up“(written by Talley)  from 1983′s Something Special included. It’s without a doubt my favorite cut on the cd. The lineup on this one is Haase on tenor, Fowler on lead, Trammell on baritone, and Paul Harkey (EHSS) on bass. Trammell sings the first verse and is then joined by the group, the group starts the second .with Haase taking a line. Harkey does a superb job on the step out lines on the chorus’ and repeats. Next up is another Kirk Talley composition, “Wedding Music“, with the same lineup (Haase,Fowler, Trammell) and Pat Barker (MTQ)  on bass. Pat is one of our industry’s finest bass singers.  His tone is often compared to George Younce, but Pat’s sings his solo in his own unique way. His performance on this song is nothing short of fantastic.

An interesting addition to the project is “We’ll Work” a  new song written by Haase and the project’s producer (EHSS Pianist & Producer) Wayne Haun. The first verse is unison, with Trammell featured on the second verse. Fowler & Trammell sing the step out lines one the chorus’, with Haase taking over after a key change. This song was one that I could actually hear The Cathedrals doing. The choir comes together to do a great rendition of another Cathedral classic, Dianne Wilkinson’s “Oh Come Along.   Next up is another favorite, “I’ve Read The Back Of The Book”. One cannot think of this song without thinking of Roger Bennett. Not only did he write the song, but he also sang it.  I loved the decision they made to reach back to some old live audio and feature Roger on the first verse. The group (Haase, Fowler, Trammell, Matt Fouch) kicks in and Fowler sings the second verse.

Another one of my favorite cuts is the inclusion of George Younce’s “Yesterday“. It’s not only a great track musically, but Gerald & Ernie do a great job on the first and second verses respectively.  Next up is one of the groups 80′s hits and a Mark Trammell signature, “Can He, Could He, Would He“. The group on this one (Funderburk, Trammell, Fowler, Barker) nailed this one as well, with an arrangement very close to the original. Following that is another fantastic cut of a signature song, Ernie Haase’s “Oh, What A Saviour“, with Trammell, Fowler & Paul Harkey joining him.

The signature songs keep coming with Scott Fowler’s “He Made A Change“, which was also one of  the groups last radio hits, with Harkey on bass. One of the most surprisingly cuts on the project is one of Danny Funderburk’s signature tune, “Somebody Touched Me“. This group is made up of Trammell, Fowler, and Barker on bass. This is the best I have heard Danny sound in years! His vocal sounds great, and I enjoyed this cut tremendously.  The choir makes their final appearance on the project’s next track, “Search Me, O God“. The choir sings the first verse, then George Younce and Glen Payne make their grand appearance. What a joy to hear these two men again! It will definitely be an emotional moment for the listener to hear this cut. Scott Fowler and Gerald Wolfe close out the recording with Gerald’s signature song, “Champion Of Love“.

While there may be many who focus on what the project lacked in terms of song selection or personnel,  this cd is a must have. Kudo’s to Wayne Haun on his production of the project, for making these songs sound familiar to long time fans, but fresh as well to the ear. Each member did a tremendous job, but I specifically want to credit the bass singers on this project (Paul Harkey, Pat Barker, Matt Fouch). They paid respect to these great songs and the group without trying to sound like George. Each singer did a great job of putting their own touch on each performance. The project definitely leaves the listener wanting more, and with another CFR event scheduled for 2014, may we see another recording? Who knows. But that is a great tribute to George, Glen, and Roger, and the musical legacy of The Cathedrals. A must have in the library of any true Cathedrals fan.

Review copy was provided, courtesy of Stowtown Records.

Gaither Vocal Band to Release “Hymns” CD March 4th

shd8777newAfter much wondering, we finally know that the new Gaither Vocal Band “Hymns” cd, which has been highly anticipated by many fans,  will be released March 4th.  It’s available for  pre-order on the Gaither website as well. It was also announced that the project will feature the vocals of Michael English and Mark Lowry, “Hymns serves as the beautiful punctuation at the end of a five-year era with the all-star GVB line-up featuring Bill Gaither, Mark Lowry, Michael English, David Phelps and Wes Hampton”.

I, personally, would like to applaud Gaither and his team for deciding to release the project as is and not making fans wait any longer for this great cd. Fans who decide to pre-order the project will also recieve 2 exclusive downloads that did not make the album, “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” and “The Star Spangled Banner.

Samples from the project can be heard here.

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Southern Gospel Music Hall Of Fame Member “Little” Willie Wynn Releases New Solo Project

One of the most iconic voices to ever come along in Southern Gospel Music, “Little” Willie Wynn has made a name for himself throughout his career as one of the finest tenor singers to ever sing Gospel Music. Willie came to the attention of the Gospel Music world through his lengthy tenure with The Oak Ridge Boys,  from 1958 to 1973. Willie also sang with The Statesmen, and his own groups The Tennesseans and Sweetwater. His heartfelt singing and dynamic delivery made him a favorite of Gospel Music fans throughout his career.    In 2000, He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame with the Oak Ridge Boys. Willie was also recognized for his contributions to Gospel Music and was inducted into the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2011. He’s been called “The Tenor Singer’s Tenor Singer” and “The Man With A Million Friends”.

williecoverFor the first time in a number of years, Willie went back into the studio to record a new solo project. That project, Willie Wynn and Friends, has just been released. Produced by Woody Wright, this recording features new arrangements of many of Willie’s most well known and loved songs,  like Mama’s Last Amen, My Friends, While I’m Here, What You’ve Done For Me, and many others. There are also new songs, including an autobiographical song called The Oak Ridge Boys & Me, featuring the group themselves on background vocals.

 

Also Ponder Sykes & Wright (who first sang together as members of Willie’s group, The Tennesseans) are featured on several songs, along with other former Tennesseans Elmer Cole and Dave Maddox. Bill Gaither, Ben Speer and Gene McDonald provide support vocals, as well as Willie’s great friends Darrell Holt, Gary Clark and J.T. Hicks from the group Sweetwater. The musician crew is a who’s who of some of Nashville finest players.

This is truly a recording that should be in the library of every Gospel Music fan. I’m looking forward to posting the Album Review in the coming weeks. To order this historic recording and hear samples from the project, visit www.williewynn.com.

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Adam Crabb Joins Gaither Vocal Band

 

 

newgvbOne of the most eagerly awaited personnel announcements in Gospel Music was made today, as it was announced that Adam Crabb has now officially joined the Gaither Vocal Band. Gaither said in the press release, “We are thrilled to welcome Adam Crabb aboard as the newest member of The Gaither Vocal Band! Adam comes to us with years of musical expertise, including on-stage and studio work as a member of the award-winning Crabb Family, and as a solo artist and worship leader.  Gaither went on to remark, “For decades now, we have reinvented the Gaither Vocal Band again and again, and in the process we have found some of the most incredible male singers and wonderful human beings on the planet. Adam is a very exciting addition to this 30-year old legacy of excellence.

This is no surprise to many fans, as Adam has been touring with the group for the last few months. As for a fifth member of the GVB, Bill said, “We are taking our time and trying out some wonderful individuals during the next few weeks. You will see some very gifted artists out on the tour with us as we seek the perfect fit. Trust me. You do not want to miss the chance to see what is about to happen as we enter this new season.” 

There is no doubt that Bill Gaither knows talent, so it will be intriguing to see who the fifth member of the GVB will be. Here is a short video with Adam and the GVB performing “Alpha And Omega”.

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Mark Trammell Quartet Announces New Record Label & Project for 2014

Mark Trammell announced today the formation of a new record label, Crimson Road Productions, via a press release emailed out today to the groups mailing list. The announcement means that The Mark Trammell Quartet will be leaving the artist roster of Daywind Records, whom Trammell has recorded with for close to two decades.  In the press release Trammell stated, “In light of the ever changing status of our end of the recording industry and the specialized music interests we have been invited to be a part of.  We feel it is time to yet again stretch our wings and accept the challenge of not only broadening our own horizons but also working toward helping others reach for their dreams.  I have personally enjoyed almost two decades of being a part of the Daywind Family Of Artists and we leave them with nothing but thankfulness.  After 40 years of being in the recording industry, I have some ideas of my own that I would like to try.  Bottom line, we have peace in our hearts that now is the time to begin yet another new chapter in the multi-faceted life of this ministry. Mark, along with long time ministry friend and partner, Jeff Haney will begin the process of developing the framework of the new label effective January 2, 2014.

unnamedThe Crimson Road labels first release will be the new MTQ project, entitled “Your Walk Talks“. The new project will be the first with tenor Dustin Black, and was produced by Trammell, Gerald Wolfe, and Jeff Collins. No release date for the project was given in the press release, but you can pre-order the cd for an itroductory price of $10.00 plus shipping  here.

I had my first opportunity to hear the group with Black on tenor in November and I am looking forward to hearing what Black sounds like on the new material. To pre-order the new cd or  for more information, visit http://www.marktrammellministries.com

 

 

 

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Freedom Quartet Announces Kickstarter Campaign

One of the most unique fundraising tools on the internet is Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a fundraising website, that showcases a majority of inventions and artistic ventures that need financial support from donations by the websites users. The project will have a financial goal, and users donate towards it. There are also rewards for different amounts of donations. If the goal is reached, the artists will receive all the donations, and get to work on making their project a reality. If they do not reach their goal, the artists receives nothing.  Some Southern Gospel artist have taken advantage of Kickstarter, such as the Ball Brothers, Union Street, Steve Ladd, and recently Legacy Five. All of their projects have been funded successfully.

Screenshot (5)The latest Southern Gospel group to join in on Kickstarter is Freedom Quartet, comprised of John Rulapaugh (Tenor), Dale Shipley (Lead), Preston Garner (Baritone), and Burman Porter (Bass). The group is raising money for their first recording, and has set their goal at $5,000. As of the writing of this article, the group is at the half way point and has 4 days left to reach their goal. I have donated personally to this project (as well as Legacy Five’s) and I invite you to do the same! Click here to find out more about the project and to see the rewards for the different level of pledges.

Good luck to Freedom on this campaign, and we look forward to hearing their first quartet recording. If you haven’t heard Freedom Quartet yet, here’s a video of them performing Dale Shipley’s signature song, “Somebody Touched The Lord” from this years NQC. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuQmZk1UX4U

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