Album Review: “Together” by 4 One Quartet

Last year, I reviewed a cd by a great male quartet from Michigan , 4 One Quartet. Since then, the group has gone through some personnel changes. Lead singer/group manager Jim Quales and bass vocalist Will Funk are now joined by Dave Randall (formerly of Canada’s legendary Torchmen Quartet), who takes over the baritone spot, while John Croy steps in at tenor. Together is also the groups first recording on the Chapel Valley label, whom they signed with early this year.

image-27The project starts out with JD Sumner’s classic, “God Made A Way”, featuring Funk who does a great job. Next up is a little hymn medley of “At Calvary/Glory To His Name”, which features Randall & Funk on the verses. Things slow down a bit for a great song, “Again”, that features tenor vocalist Croy. One of my favorites on this project is a song Randall wrote, “I’m Gonna Get My Feet Wet”. Dave originally recorded this with The Torchmen several years ago and its great to hear him sing this one again, the guys did a great job on this one.

The guys slow things down again to close out the first half of the recording with “The River”, a praise and worship song that is arranged and delivered with perfection. It’s great to hear a group cover a modern worship song with a tasteful arrangement and solid harmonies. Next up is a song featuring Dave, “Forever Redeemed“, which is one of two songs on the project written by Dianne Wilkinson. Another one of my favorites cuts on the project features Randall, “I Won’t Forget“. Written by Lee Black, Joel Lindsey, and Sue Smith, its an excellent lyric that focuses on the crucifixion and Dave sings it with feeling and conviction. This is definitely a song you will want to hear.

Bass vocalist Funk is featured on another great song, “Come To The Well“, written by Ray Scarbrough. Will shows a bit of his range on this one, a great song about the woman at the well and the invitation Jesus gives to us as well who are “thirsty and dry”. The guys pick up the pace with another great quartet song, “Shout All Over Heaven“. The project comes to a close with another great new song, “When You Say Jesus“, written by Dianne Wilkinson and Marcia Henry. Lead singer Quales is featured on the verse and tenor vocalist Croy is featured on the bridge. It’s a soulful song with some really nice harmony that is a great song to close out the project.

I really enjoyed Together and highly recommend this cd. When you combine great song selection, with tasteful arrangements, and solid vocals, the result will always be a cd that people will enjoy. There’s a little bit of something for everyone on this project, with hymns, classics, and great new songs that will appeal to listeners. Add to that a great quartet blend that is the best in the group’s history, and theres a reason to check these guys out. Dave Randall is an excellent addition and has a great voice with character that is instantly identifiable. I really enjoyed each cut on this project and commend Jim, Will, Dave and John on a job well done. I give this project 4 out of 5 stars.

To pick up your copy of Together, you can purchase your physical copy from the guys here. It’s also available for download on iTunes and other digital music outlets. You can also take a listen to a couple songs below from these YouTube videos.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite Songs: God Made A Way, I’m Gonna Get My Feet Wet, I Won’t Forget, Come To The Well, When You Say Jesus.

Review copy provided.

 

CD Review: “In The Hands of A Carpenter” by Legacy Five

Continuing our reviews of some of the latest cds to be released, In The Hands of A Carpenter is the latest release from Legacy Five on the Daywind label, the first mainline release with new tenor vocalist Josh Feemster, who replaced the groups former tenor Gus Gaches last year.  It was produced by Wayne Haun and the group’s pianist, Trey Ivey.

thumbnailThe cd kicks off with “Deep In My Heart“, a fun group song that features each group member. Next up is the title track, “In The Hands Of A Carpenter“. I was quite surprised to hear the featured vocalist in the title cut was pianist Trey Ivey, but this is nothing new as singing pianists have been a trend with the group.  Both Roger Bennett and Tim Parton recorded songs on the groups projects. Scott Fowler takes his first feature on “I Trust The Cross“, a big orchestrated ballad that has become his trademark. The pace picks up a bit with Dianne Wilkinson & Rebecca Peck’s, “What All The Shoutin’s About” that features both Fowler and tenor singer Josh Feemster. The first half of the project comes to a close with another orchestrated song featuring Fowler, “Still“.

Bass vocalist Matt Fouch is featured on “Who Knew“, a slow, orchestrated crooner style song that’s a bit different from what I expected from Matt. Feemster steps up to take the feature on “Soul Pilot“. Josh was a lead singer during his time with Mercy’s Mark and N’Harmony. Although the verses are pretty low for a tenor feature, the blend is pretty good on this song. This is one of my favorite songs on the project. Baritone Scott Howard is featured on “Lost In God’s Grace“. Other than Fowler, Howard is the only remaining original member. He’s one of the most solid and underrated baritone singers on the road today. Fowler once again is featured on another ballad, “Grace Will Find You“. The album comes to a close with a huge arrangement of “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross“, that features all the members of the group on step out lines.

I saw a lot of posts on Facebook prior to this album’s release from folks in the industry, about how this was L5’s finest project in several years. Unfortunately, I couldn’t disagree more. At first listen, I wasn’t very impressed by what I heard. L5 has truly become one of the most predictable groups around in terms of their song selection. Too many huge orchestrated ballads (all featuring Fowler). As I continued to listen to this album, I realized that the second half of the project was much stronger than the first half.

There are some bright moments on this one; the uptempo songs are done well, and Lost In God’s Grace and When I Survey are good. But the huge orchestrations overwhelm this cd. 7 of the 10 songs on this project are ballads/slower songs,  4 of them almost reach the 5 minute mark. You can only bore a listener so much. Projects like In The Hands of A Carpenter are proof that too many ballads on a project lose a listener. Although I’m sure Legacy Five fans will enjoy this project, I’m rating this one 3 out of 5 stars.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Favorite songs: Deep In My Heart, What All The Shoutin’s About, Soul Pilot, Lost In God’s Grace

Review copy provided by Daywind Records.

Album Review: “Full Sail” by Mark Trammell Quartet

With the passing of the National Quartet Convention last month, a whole slew of new recordings were released. One of them that I have been anxiously awaiting is the subject of today’s review. Full Sail is the latest recording by the Mark Trammell Quartet. This is the first proper MTQ mainline project to feature both bass vocalist Randy Byrd and tenor singer Blake Buffin, last years release Rewind was a new recording of songs from the group’s Trio years with new vocals. This is also the second recording the group has released on their own label, Crimson Road Productions.

store_cds_fullsailThe project kicks off with “All The Way Home”, a nice uptempo quartet song featuring Nick and Blake on the chorus. We then move on to the first ballad of the project, a cover of an old Gaither tune, “My Faith Still Holds”. Mark is featured on this one and I’ve got to say, it may be one of the finest performances he’s turned in since forming MTQ. He sings with conviction, compassion, and excitement. Next up is “Go Show John”, an uptempo song with a country flavor that features Nick. This song is a great example of Nick’s growth as a lead singer, and I enjoyed his vocal. “Treasures In Heaven” slows things down a bit and features Byrd on the verses. The first half of the recording comes to a close with another uptempo song “Already In Canaan Land”, written by Rodney Griffin. I really liked this song and was even more surprised to find Rodney wrote it. It’s a different song stylistically than what I associate with Griffin and the guys do a great job with it.

The second half of the project kicks off with one of my favorite hymns, “He Hideth My Soul”. The guys used Tommy Fairchild’s arrangement that he made famous with the Blackwood Brothers of the late 70’s/early 80’s. Now, Blake Buffin may not be Pat Hoffmaster, but he does a great job on this song. Randy Byrd steps back out front to take the feature on the classic, “Led Out Of Bondage’. While it is a good cut and I enjoyed Randy’s vocal, I wasn’t really a fan of the arrangement as the guys extended it out a bit.

The guys do another cover, this time of The Imperials “More Than You’ll Ever Know”, which features Blake. This one was surprised me quite a bit and Blake did a fantastic job on it. Mark steps up to the mic to do another cover, “God Takes Good Care Of Me“. I enjoyed this song as well, but once again the arrangement really extended the song a bit more than I thought it should have. The project comes to a close with a great Rebecca Peck/Dianne Wilkinson song, “Redeemer of My Soul”.

For me personally, Full Sail is miles better than their last mainline project, Your Walk Talks. One reason this rings true for me is the addition of Blake Buffin as opposed to the group’s previous tenor, Dustin Black. Blake is a true tenor and has a more pleasing tone which is really an added bonus on this project. The guys have a great blend right now and of course, Mark Trammell is a master at picking the right songs for a project. The song selection and vocals for this project are excellent. However, my biggest critique of the project would be that Treasures In Heaven, Led Out Of Bondage, and God Takes Good Care Of Me seemed to drag on just a bit too long, like the arranger did not know how to wrap it up. Overall, Full Sail is a great project and one of the most enjoyable releases of the year for me, I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Favorite songs: All The Way Home, My Faith Still Holds, Go Show John, Already In Canaan Land, He Hideth My Soul.

Review copy not provided.

Kingdom Heirs Announce New Baritone Vocalist

The Kingdom Heirs released an official statement today, the following reads,

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-42-35-amWith the sudden departure of former baritone Brian Alvey, the Kingdom Heirs were in search of a new baritone.  Andy Stringfield, piano player extraordinaire, 
stepped in vocally and has done an exceptional job doing double duty on the piano and the baritone part as we searched for just the right man for the job.
We are so proud and excited to announce that Loren Harris has accepted the position as the Kingdom Heirs baritone!  We welcome Loren, his wife Cindy, and their children Cameron and Kenidy to the Kingdom Heir family.  Help us make them welcome and show our love and support to this wonderful family.

It took a year and a half, but I’m glad to see The Kingdom Heirs hire the right guy. Loren is an incredible singer, he took part in the group’s audition process and seemed to be the best fit of those who auditioned. So needless to say, I was surprised when the group hired Alvey. Unlike his predecessor, Harris has a record of longevity with the groups he has sang with. He is best known to Gospel Music fans from his tenures with The Wilburns and The Perrys. I am very excited to hear The Kingdom Heirs with Loren, his addition makes this group even better!

RIP Steve French 1959-2016

EDITORS NOTE: As of July 2nd, the a news story was posted here by a North Carolina radio station. 

Former Kingdom Heirs co-owner, baritone and emcee Steve French has passed away at the age of 56. The following statement was released today by The Kingdom Heirs on their Facebook page,

Steve-FrenchIt is with heavy hearts that we regret to inform, former co-owner, baritone and emcee, Steve French has passed away. We are praying for comfort and Gods grace. We ask you to please respect the families privacy during this difficult time.”

We here at Fuson’s Findings join the Kingdom Heirs and Gospel Music fans around the country in prayer for Steve’s family and loved ones, and encourage you to do likewise.

In December of 2014 I wrote regarding Steve’s retirement and career, which can be read here. Though he was never recognized for being a great singer, French was a tremendous part of the success of the Kingdom Heirs. Certainly our music would be much different the influence of Steve French and the Kingdom Heirs. Thanks Steve for the great music and memories you’ve given Gospel Music fans, rest in peace sir.

 

Kingsmen Announce New Tenor

The Kingsmen announced the hiring of Joshua Horrell as their new tenor singer. Horrell replaces Chris Jenkins, who departed the group a few months ago to spend more time at home and is now with The Anchormen. The group released the following statement.

13344578_10154312416438939_6062694955053074696_n“Ray Dean Reese of The Kingsmen Quartet would like to welcome Josh Horrell of Rose Hill, North Carolina, to the Kingsmen family as the new tenor vocalist. Josh, age 24, is no stranger to Southern Gospel, coming from a family with a strong musical history. He has been traveling with the Kingsmen for the past month and will transition to a permanent member immediately. He has been received enthusiastically at concerts across the country. The Kingsmen would like to thank all who applied for this position and want to express gratitude to the “Little Giant,” Ernie Phillips for traveling with them and bringing back many old memories while the audition process was taking place.”

I’m familiar with Horrell from his days with Declaration (now Allegiance Trio) and Adoration Quartet, and this move is very surprising to me. In comparison to his predecessor, Horrell is not in the same ballpark as Jenkins as far as range is concerned; but in all actuality not many tenors are. Truth is, Jenkins set the bar incredibly high for the Kingsmen, as it should be in regards to a group of their stature in the industry, and whoever replaced him would have mighty big shoes to fill. I personally would liked to have seen The Kingsmen hire a more proven, veteran tenor with more range, but Horrell is the guy.

With the widespread acclaim that the group’s previous recording “Battle Cry” received from fans and the industry alike (including myself), it will be very intriguing to see what the group will do with their sound now. Here’s a taste of The Kingsmen with Horrell from a recent concert.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F161703797180290%2Fvideos%2F1334601439890514%2F&show_text=1&width=560

Album Review: “Joy Awaits” by The Gospel Harmony Boys

With their smooth four part harmony and unique vocal arrangements, West Virginia’s own Gospel Harmony Boys have been delighting Gospel Music fans since 1952. Their membership roster has included some of Gospel Music’s finest talents, such as Harold Lane, Harold Patrick, Roger Horne, Greg Tingler are just a few names that come to mind. The current lineup is carrying on that tradition in grand style, anchored by the groups long time tenor vocalist Dr. Clacy Williams. Lead singer Scott Brooks, baritone Scott Adams and bass singer Brandon Stone round out the current GHB lineup. Their latest recording, Joy Awaits, was just released last week and is the first recording with this lineup of personnel. The project was produced and arranged by John Darin Rowsey  (The Guardians, Karen Peck & New River) and a GHB alumnus, James Rainey (Singing Americans, Greenes)

13092005_1065474756851443_1552174179884593527_nThe project kicks off with the title cut, “Joy Awaits”, which is a classic sounding quartet song featuring  Brooks. I simply have not been able to stop listening to this song, it’s a quartet lover’s dream come true. In fact, its hard to not hit the repeat button on this one! The second song, “Heaven Is The Place Where Dreams Come True”, is one of two songs you’ll find written by the great Dianne Wilkinson. It’s another great quartet song that showcases the smooth, four part harmony that has been the group’s trademark down through the years. The third track. “Yes He Can”, showcases the group’s two newest members, baritone Scott Adams and bass vocalist on Brandon Stone, on both the first and second verses respectively. Brooks steps up for the feature on “Grace Has A Face”. This has been a popular Christmas song, but it’s appropriate for any time of season and Brooks does a fantastic job on it. The pace picks back up with a great quartet song, “Walking In The Light Of His Love”.

The second half of the project kicks off with a great song, “In The Arms of Jesus”, featuring Brooks. This song was originally recorded by Terry Blackwood during his tenure with Friends IV back in the 90’s. Many lead singers would not be able to pull this song off, but those lead singers are not Scott Brooks. If you’ve never heard this gentleman sing, you owe it to yourself to pick up this project! There’s no doubt in my mind that Mr. Brooks is one of the finest lead singers in Gospel Music today and this song is evidence to that fact. He absolutely hits this one out of the park, and the group’s backing vocals behind him are excellent. Not too many groups on the road today could do a song of this caliber, but the GHB nailed it!

The next track is another one from the pen of Dianne Wilkinson, “The Good News Is”, which features Clacy (It also has a cool introduction from Paul Heil of The Gospel Greats) For nearly 40 years, Williams has consistently been one of the finest tenors in our industry and he is still getting the job done! The other Scott, baritone Adams, takes the feature on a great song, “Thank You For The Sunshine”. Its a slower pace, acoustic song that Adams does a great job on. You can tell a lot about a quartet by their baritone and Adams is a rich voice that is very enjoyable to listen to. Next up is another great quartet song, “Just Think Heaven”. The GHB actually recorded this song back in 1978 and brought it back for this recording. The song has some great harmony that features Clacy on the chorus after the first verse and Brandon on the chorus after the second verse. For a 19 year old bass singer, Stone is doing a great job. I appreciate the fact that he is singing bass in his range, not trying to rattle the subwoofers at every opportunity, yet still singing some low bass. In a day when many young bass singers are trying to sound like George, JD, or Tim Riley, its refreshing to hear a young bass singer just sing.  The project comes to a close with a medley of He Touched Me/How Great Thou Art, featuring Adams on the verses and both Stone and Brooks on the trumpet.

Joy Awaits has been an absolute joy to listen to! In fact, it has not left my cd player at all this week, as I’ve listened through it several times. In my opinion, The Gospel Harmony Boys have one of the best blends they’ve had in recent years. If you’re unfamiliar with this great quartet, now would be a great time to check them out. Joy Awaits is without a doubt a quartet lover’s dream and one of the Top 5 Best CD’s released this year, I highly recommend picking up this cd, you will not regret it!

You can order a physical copy today from the guys here or purchase a digital copy for immediate download here. Be sure to checkout the GHB on Facebook and social media, as well as their website.

Rating – 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Brian’s Favorites – Joy Awaits, Heaven Is The Place Where Dreams Come True, In The Arms of Jesus, The Good News Is, Just Think Heaven.