Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Justin Wells Joins the Lesters

Justin Wells has joined the Lesters as their newest male vocalist. After Ginger Pitchers and her husband decided to leave the group, the Lesters announced they were looking for another male singer and to hire for the first time in the group's history someone outside the family.

Here's what the Lesters had to say about Justin joining their group in one of their email newsletters:

We are pleased to introduce Mr. Justin Wells as the newest addition to The Lester Family.  Justin has been involved in ministry most of his life, and the during the last three years has been on staff as Worship Leader at the Church of the Nazarene in Science Hill, Ken.  He is 30 years old and married. His wife's name is Angie, and they will be moving to St. Louis over the course of the next couple of months.  To allow ample time for all involved, Justin will remain on staff at the church until January 6, 2013, and then will begin his part with our team beginning the week of January 7, 2013.  In the weeks to come, I will be having Justin write an article for the LesterGram and that will allow him to introduce himself and Angie even more personally to you.  Friends, they are the "Real Deal!"  We can hardly wait to see what God has in store for this ministry, and we certainly hope that you will continue to pray for us during this time of transition.  (We do want to take this time to thank the many individuals that applied for the position.)  I'm sure it goes without saying, as this has been a very difficult time of waiting; but God once again proved himself to be faithful and we can't praise Him enough for all of the things He has done.

Justin did join the group Sunday, Oct 28 in Kentucky. Here's a song from that concert below. From this, I think he's a great choice and blends well with the group. Let me know what you think!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Through the Night - The Perrys - CD Review

The Perrys' latest album, Through the Night, was one of the most anticipated releases for me this year. It's unusual to be familiar with the album's songs before you have a copy in hand, but this was the case for me. I think that's why I couldn't wait to get it! I heard many of the songs before I got the CD either in person at a concert or via the NQC webcast. In any case, I was not disappointed in the least when I got my actual physical copy!

This is the second project the Perrys have recorded with the lineup of Tracy Stuffle (bass), Libbi Perry Stuffle (alto), Joseph Habedank (lead) and Bryan Walker (baritone).

Here's a breakdown of the songs:

"I Got a Hold of God This Morning" - This up-tempo Kyla Rowland song gets the album off to a great start. Stylistically it reminds me of "This Old Sinner Testifies." This song was chosen as the first single from the project. 

"Whosoever Will" - This song features Joseph and was also written by him, Joel Lindsey and Wayne Haun. Joseph does an amazing job on this story-song ballad. I think the song really hits its stride at the bridge with Bryan adding to Joseph's strong lead vocals, and then all group members coming in strong on the last chorus. It brings a lot of power to end the song on. 

"Everywhere I Go" - This will be a familiar song to many gospel fans. Tracy gets the feature with this song, and knocks it out of the park. Even though it's a song that's been done a lot, the Perrys' version is one not to be misssed.

"Through the Night" - Libbi takes the solo on the title cut of the project. She shows why she's been voted the fan favorite alto with her performance on this song. It is a Perrys' song all the way that was penned by Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey. It's such a great song lyrically about praising God through the hardest of times.

"He is Good to Me" - This song is not your typical Perrys' song, but I think it's a great fit with the album. This Joseph Habedank and Wayne Haun song is a fun up-tempo number that gives the project more variety in song styles.

"Too Good to Not Be True" - Bryan shines on this song written by Joseph and Adina Bowman (his mother-in-law). Lyrically this is my favorite song on the project! The song tells the story of the woman at the well from John 4, and talks about how God and His love for us is too good to not be true. Such a powerful song!

"The Blood and its Power" - Libbi gets the feature on this song that focuses on the cross, Jesus' shed blood for us. The song was written by Kyla Rowland and Chris Binion.

"One of These Mornings" - This is another great uptempo song that Bryan gets the feature on. It's definitely one of my favorites from the project. I can see it being another great choice for a single, and it's another great one to see them sing live.

"Unspoken Request" - This is not to be confused with the McKameys' song of the same title. I absolutely love the concept of this song. I think so many of us can relate to having been someone's "unspoken request" at one time in our lives. Joseph and Libbi are both featured on this song.

"When He Spoke" - I'll confess I was not familiar with this song. The Perrys recorded it during the Mike Bowling/ Nicole Watts years, and decided to rerecord it hoping to give the song the attention it deserved. I have since looked up the original version, don't worry! :) The first version was great, but I'm so glad that they made the decision to recut the song for this project. Not only did it give newer Perrys fans the chance to hear the song for the first time, but it is such a great song and does deserve another go at the spotlight. Joseph takes the first verse, and Bryan and Libbi bring it home on the second verse. It is a great power ballad, and one of my favorite songs from the project!

Joseph Habedank has shown not only how strong of a lead vocalist he is on this project but also songwriter with three cuts on the album. Joel Lindsey was a writer on four of the songs. Kyla Rowland, Wayne Haun and Jeffrey Bumgardner each had two.

The Perrys have really put out some top-notch albums recently with their last several projects being so strong. I think this album is no exception and only adds to their exceptional line of projects. For me, I think they surpassed Blue Skies, their previous album, with Through the Night. The song selection is incredibly strong, so that I find myself listening to the CD from start to finish which doesn't happen often. I think it's definitely one of the best projects that has been released this year. It's a must buy!

Song List -

1. "I Got a Hold of God This Morning"***
2. "Whosoever Will"
3. "Everywhere I Go"
4. "Through the Night"
5. "He is Good to Me"***
6. "Too Good to Not Be True"***
7. "The Blood and its Power"
8. "One of These Mornings"***
9. "Unspoken Request"***
10. "When He Spoke"***

***- Personal favorites

Review Copy Provided

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Tim Lovelace

Hope everyone has had a great week! I did! But then again my week did start out with hearing Mark Trammell Quartet on Sunday night and then hearing Mark preach on Monday night. If you ever get the chance to hear Mark Trammell preach, I highly recommend it! It was a great message and two amazing services!

Here's a classic clip for this week's Fun Clip Friday. Bill Gaither asked Tim Lovelace to learn and sing a song during on the Gaither tapings. It's probably not a new clip to a lot of you, but definitely worth watching again!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Night of Testimonies - Mark Trammell Quartet - Concert Recap

The Mark Trammell Quartet was in concert in DeWitt, Ark. on Sunday, Oct. 21. Since the church was in revival, their concert was a little different with half singing and half group members' testimonies. Mark was the speaker for the revival the rest of the week. Sunday night was such a great service where all members of the Mark Trammell Quartet opened up and shared their hearts.

Here's a list of what they sang:
  • "Leave Your Sorrows and Come Along"
  • "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus" - Eric Phillips featured. This is one of my favorites from Lifetime, so I was glad to hear them sing it live.
  • "Echoes From the Burning Bush"
  • "I Thirst" - Pat Barker featured. Pat makes the case every time I see them that he's one of the best bass singers in southern gospel. 
  • "Boundless Love" - This was the first time I'd really heard Nick featured with the group. I think this has been one of the smoothest group transitions, and he fits like a glove with the other guys.
  • "Loving the Lamb" - First standing ovation of the night
  • "Testimony"
  • "The King is Coming" - The entire church was standing during the third verse. It was the most powerful song of the night. Their version of this song is probably my favorite one I've ever heard!!
After the last song, Mark said that he would let each member give his testimony.

Eric Phillips spoke first saying that he was saved two years ago in September 2010. When he was six years old, he said a prayer, but it didn't really mean anything. He had grown up in a Christian home with his dad singing gospel music. He himself had sung gospel music for 11 years before he was saved. He said that he had doubted his salvation a lot, but it was one day two years ago when he really began feeling convicted at a church service. He wasn't able to focus and wondered what everyone would think. However, he reached the the point where it didn't matter. He walked out of the church after the service, but went right back inside in search of pastor. He knelt with his pastor in the pastor's office and was saved. He talked about the peace that he felt in that moment and how he had never experienced the kind of peace that he had at that moment.

Nick Trammell gave his testimony next and said that his story was very similar to Eric's. He too had grown up in a Christian home with his dad singing gospel music. His dad and Eric's dad had even sung together. He also knelt and said a prayer when he was little, but it didn't sink in what he was asking. When he was 18 years old, he began to feel convicted about his salvation. It was a Sunday afternoon, and he told his mom that he needed to go to church that night and get saved. His mom called his dad, who was on the road at the time. Mark told her not to let him leave the house. He led Nick down the Roman Road over the phone, and Nick prayed to receive Christ.

Before Pat Barker started sharing, he asked how many in the audience had grown up in a Christian home. A lot of the congregation raised their hands. He said that he too had, growing up a CDK, choir director's kid. When he was 7, he prayed the prayer but nothing happened. And his road took a much different turn. He said that he wasn't a bad kid growing up just a little mischievous. But without the conviction of the Holy Spirit, he went down a bad path when he got older. He shared that as a 19-year-old church choir director, he fell into some bad decisions. He said, "Once you fall, it's easy just to keep falling." He went on to serve at another church as choir director, youth director and Sunday School teacher still far from God. He said that he was eventually fired from the church, and that the sin had taken over his life. When he was 25, his mother gave him a Bible. He opened it up to James, and found this verse: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves" (1:22). He said that the last part, deceiving yourselves, really hit home with him and he realized his need for salvation. He went back to his home church that he grew up in and told the pastor that he needed to be saved. He said not to think that you've done something that can keep God from loving you. He ended his testimony by quoting "I'm Free," which is at the end of "The King Is Coming" on their Lifetime project. "I'm free from the fear of tomorrow. I'm free from the guilt of the past."

Mark then shared his testimony before giving a short devotional to end the services. He said he was saved on a golf course on July 13, 1988. At the time he was singing with the Cathedrals which was the #1 quartet. He wanted for nothing, blessed with a great wife, son, home and job, but he was miserable. He could play church really well. He had said a prayer with his lips, but didn't mean one word of it with his heart. That morning of July 13, God started dealing with him. The Cathedrals had sung at a crusade the night before and the sermon had convicted him. Tom Eliff, the preacher, said before you do anything, you must settle the question of your salvation. He told God if He was telling him that he was lost that God would let him play golf with the preacher the next day. And the next day when the preacher got to the course, he and Mark ended up in the same four-some. At the third tee box, he got out of the golf cart and said, "Bro. Tom, I need to do something. There's one thing you don't know about me." He said that Bro. Tom could tell something wasn't right. Mark told him that if he died right now, he would go to hell. The preacher led him down the Roman Road, and Mark knelt down in the golf course asking Christ into his life.

I appreciated so much each of those men sharing their stories and testimonies. It takes so much courage to stand in front of people and share when you've been down the wrong path and when you've just been playing church. Your courage and willingness to share so that He was glorified through your stories did not go unnoticed. Thanks to the Mark Trammell Quartet for such an incredible evening!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ian Owens Joins Soul'd Out as New Bass Singer

Ian Owens has joined Soul'd Out Quartet as its new bass singer. Matt Fouch left Soul'd Out in August to join Legacy Five. 

Soul'd Out released this:

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.

Ian Owens also added this statement:

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!!

When Ian announced his resignation from Signature Sound, I wasn't sure if he had decided to come off the road for a while or what his next step would be. I'm glad to see that he will still be singing. Look forward to seeing this new lineup of Soul'd Out!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pure and Simple - Gaither Vocal Band - CD Review

The more I hear from this lineup of the Gaither Vocal Band, the more I like. Their latest album, Pure and Simple, is definitely one of the best albums of the year. The production and quality of the album is by far the best I've heard all year.

However, with a 15-song album, there are bound to be a few "skip songs." While I enjoy more than the  usual 10 songs, I think it would have been better overall to choose the top 12-13 songs and have a much stronger project. Vocally, there's not a weak song in the bunch, but some songs just don't seem to fit quite as well.

Instead of going song by song, here's a list of standout points for me:

  • "Rasslin' Jacob" - This is a fun up-tempo song to start the project. This song was the only noticeable time that you could hear Bill Gaither in the mix, which I thought was interesting. On most other songs, his bass vocals don't stand out.
  • "Come to Jesus" - This for me is THE best track of the album. David Phelps delivers incredible vocals on this song. The song stylistically is such a blend of different styles, and the harmonies are so spot on. 
  • "Glorious Freedom" - I was not familiar with this hymn at all before hearing it on this album, but after hearing it, I wondered why it wasn't more well-known. Thanks to the GVB for bringing attention this song! Another great song with Phelps featured.
  • "The Love of God" - This song has been done a lot in recent years it seems, but I never get tired of it. Mark Lowry and Wes Hampton both get features on this song. The arrangement is pretty stripped down to allow the vocals to shine through.
  • "Rumormill" - This song doesn't fit well for me. On a 15-song project, this would be a song I would cut. 
  • "I'll Pray for You" - This is not to be confused with the well-known song by the Whisnants. Wes Hampton does an incredible job and delivers on this song with one of the best vocal performances of the project.
  • Michael English's features aren't standout tracks for me, which is a shame, because I love his voice. However, none of the songs he was featured on really stood out with me. It was nothing to do with his vocal performances, because he's one of the best leads, but the songs just didn't click with me. 

Overall the blend and vocals of this Gaither Vocal Band lineup make it a must-buy CD this year!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - SamCam

This week's Fun Clip Friday post is dedicated to SamCam! If you haven't been following Kelly Nelon Clark on SocialCam, you have been missing out. Sammy, the Nelons' dog, has quite the following on SocialCam. He even has his own shirts saying "I'm a fan of SamCam." Apparently he's even been doing some radio interviews and a meet and greet lately according to one of the videos!

Check out a couple of videos from this week below! Hope everyone has a great weekend! And be sure to follow Kelly Nelon Clark on SocialCam for more from Sam and all the Nelons!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

When Lyrics Speak - God Knows How Much Mercy I Need

"But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I've been amazed lately at the strength some people have shown when going through trials and circumstances I can't imagine having to face. They're going through some of the hardest storms imaginable, but are praising God through it all.

I would love to say that I would be the same way, but you never know until faced with the hard times. I do know that God promises to always be there. God tells us clearly that we are going to face trials and difficult times (John 16:33), but He also promises to never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He knows how much we can take, and He promises to walk beside us. God will give us the strength, the peace and the mercy that we need.

The Mark Trammell Quartet song, written by Dianne Wilkinson, "God Knows How Much Mercy I Need," tells us this same principle.

"Now when heartache comes my way
I can hear my Father say
We'll walk together through the dark til we see light

God knows how much mercy I need
No matter the struggle or the trouble I see
When I need a fresh supply
I know He'll be passing by
God knows how much mercy I need.

I've read it in the Psalms
Mercy follows me along
And will all the days of my life
I could never go so far
God can't reach me with his arms
And keep me sheltered til the storm passes by."

When we are faced with the uncertainties of life that will most certainly come, it's comforting to know that God will be beside us. He will give us the mercy to get through the situation.

I've been inspired lately by these friends who have shown incredible faith and peace through life's most difficult circumstances. But they have seen first-hand how God grants them peace in the midst of the storm and how he provides the strength they need.

What a blessing to think that no matter what happens in life, God will always be there. He knows what we will face, and He knows how much mercy we need to make it through.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dianne Wilkinson - The Life and Times of a Gospel Songwriter

When you start reading Dianne Wilkinson - The Life and Times of a Gospel Songwriter, it's easy to picture yourself sitting across from Ms. Dianne at restaurant and you're listening as she's telling stories about her life. The book is from her own words, and I love that charm about the book.

Of course, I was familiar with Dianne Wilkinson, but as I started reading I didn't realize exactly how many of my favorite gospel songs she had written. And I was excited to discover that she was a native Arkansan, like myself!

 The first 23 chapters cover the stories of her life, growing up in Arkansas, getting her start in gospel music, her job working in medical records, her marriage and her friendships in the industry. 

There are so many fun stories in the book about how she got started and pitched songs to groups. She makes it clear that's she's not shy when pitching her songs! I loved reading about her relationship with the Cathedrals and how her songwriting was a mainstay on their albums. She had a very special friendship with Roger Bennett and that's evident that he was a great influence on her life. 

She also opens up about difficult times in her life, including her husband's battle with cancer. She lost him when he was only 43 years old. She talked about seeing him make the journey to Heaven and the awe that was in his face as he passed away.

The last chapter, which probably makes up a third of the book, lists many of her songs and descriptions of how she wrote them and how the artists found them. As fans, so many times when songs touch us and speak to us, we don't think about the birth of the song and what it took for the songwriter to write the song. To me, it's always so interesting hear how the songs came to be whether it was a line from a sermon or a personal testimony.

One of the things I love the most about the book is that after many years working in the industry, she makes it clear that she is still such a fan of this music! It's clear how grateful and humbled she is that she's been able to write songs and be such a successful songwriter in Southern Gospel.

Dianne wrote the book with the help of Daniel Mount. It was at his suggestion that the book came to be. He conducted several interviews with her and helped structure the book, but still very much made it come from Dianne and her own words.

Southern gospel fans will love this book. It's likely that you, like I did, will learn more about some of your favorite artists and discover that many of your favorite gospel songs were written by Ms. Dianne Wilkinson!

The book is available for purchase from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fun Clip Friday with Tribute Quartet

Happy Friday to everyone! Today's Fun Clip Friday is a song from Tribute Quartet, "Homesick Angel." This is one of the standout songs from their latest project Our Anthem

For my fellow Arkansans, Tribute will be in Hot Springs next Thursday, Oct. 18. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I'll be able to make it. But if you're in the area, I would definitely recommend going!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

When Lyrics Speak - If I Can Help Somebody

Arkansas had a tough loss this week. On Sunday I got a text message from a friend telling me that a local news anchor had been killed in a car accident the night before. It came as quite a shock. For me, it was not only that a TV news personality had died, but that a college friend had lost her husband. After an initial shock of this can't be happening, my heart just ached for her. He was only 32, and their baby girl is not even a year old yet.

This week has been full of the news reporting on his life and memorializing him. So many songs have come to my mind for this situation. But one thing that kept being reiterated yesterday at his service was the impact that he had on so many people. Most people only knew him through their television screens, but his reach was apparent. And his faith was evident.

Death is hard no matter the age. But whether we have 82 or 32 years on this earth, what are we doing to help people? Are we reaching out to those around us? Most of us don't have the widespread effect of being on television, but we have so many people that we come in contact with every day. We don't even realize the effect we may be having on some people. It really made me stop and evaluate how I can make more of a difference for His Kingdom with my time. God reminded me that we are not guaranteed tomorrow. 

I thought about this classic Claude Hopper song, "If I Can Help Somebody." If we can help somebody, then our living will not be in vain. It's not about having a massive reach, though if you're in a role to do so, that's great. It's about reaching out and helping those around us. It's about trying to make a difference by investing in the lives of your loved ones, neighbors, coworkers and church family.

"If I can spread love's message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain."

Remember we are not guaranteed tomorrow. What are we doing today to help people, to show the love of Christ and to make a difference?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Our Most Requested Live CD Review - Greater Vision

Greater Vision's latest project Our Most Requested Live is full of fan favorite songs. Greater Vision fans will be well acquainted with each song on the project. The CD was recorded in Morristown, Tenn. and Temple, Texas.

While most of the songs have been previously recorded, it's the first time they've been recorded with the lineup of Gerald Wolfe, Rodney Griffin and Chris Allman. The blend of this lineup of Greater Vision is just incredible, so it's great to hear all these Greater Vision favorites with these three.

The only song that was not previously recorded is "Hallelujah Square" which features Chris. It's a song that was done by the request of Tony Greene not long after Chris started back with the group. And I think it's been a popular request since then. It's definitely a vocal highlight of the project.

Other highlights for me are "He'll Carry Me" and "Til the Storm Passes By." And of course, there are the always favorites, "He's Still Been God" and "My Name is Lazarus." Those two never get old for me.

Since it's their most requested songs, fan will definitely find their favorites on the project. I didn't find myself skipping through songs like you do on a lot of CDs.

Unlike other live projects, there's no talking between songs, no setting up the songs or story telling. I'll be honest it's one thing that I missed. I enjoy all of that when seeing and hearing groups live, and I was hoping to get a taste of that on this project.

However, the number of strong performances make this a must-purchase for southern gospel fans. Greater Vision fans will definitely not be disappointed!

Track List:
1. Introduction by Dr. Charles Stanley
2. "I Could Never Praise Him Enough"
3. "He'd Still Been God"
4. "Common Garments"
5. "With All the Many Miracles"
6. "He'll Carry Me"
7. "He's Still Waiting by the Well"
8. "Faces"
9. "Just One More Soul"
10. "A Pile of Crowns"
11. "Hallelujah Square"
12. "Til the Storm Passes By"
13. "My Name is Lazarus"

Review copy provided

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fun Clip Friday - Help Out the Browders

The Browders like a few artists have recently are working to raise funds for their new recording. The deadline is tomorrow! And they are 80% funded! So for today's Fun Clip Friday, watch the video below of them talking about their new record and how you can help!

I first got to see the Browders in Branson at the beginning of September, and really wasn't familiar with them before that. They are a great group and could use your help! They have a lot of great incentives if you choose to donate, from an early copy of the CD to them cooking you dinner to a private concert!

If you are interested in donating to them, go to their kickstarter campaign website.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Singing News Fan Awards 2012

Well, the Singing News Fan Awards are over, and there are no big surprises again this year. Congratulations to all the winners:

Mixed Group - Collingsworth Family
Soloist - Ivan Parker
Horizon Group - Wilburn and Wilburn
Horizon Individual - Jordan Wilburn
Tenor - Michael Booth
Alto - Libbi Perry Stuffle
Lead - Ronnie Booth
Baritone - Jim Brady
Soprano - Kim Hopper
Bass - Eric Bennett
Band - Kingdom Heirs Band
Musician - Jeff Stice
Trio - Booth Brothers
Young Artist - Phillip Collingsworth
Male Singer - Ronnie Booth
Female Singer - Kim Hopper
Quartet - Triumphant
Songwriter - Rodney Griffin
Album of the Year - Songs From the Heart by Triumphant Quartet
Song of the Year - "She Still Remembers Jesus' Name" by Booth Brothers
Favorite Artist - Booth Brothers

Earlier in the day, Mike Holcomb won the Norcross Templeton Award, and Ralph Dean was named Promoter of the Year. And the awards were handed out for Favorite DJ:
  • John Whisnant (small market)
  • Lottie Squires (medium market)
  • Gregg Hutchins (large market)

Mixed Group was the only big difference from last year, but it wasn't that big of a surprise considering how the NQC Music Awards went a few weeks ago. Also, this was the third year in a row that a Collingsworth has won Young Artist, so not a big surprise.

I didn't really expect Jordan Wilburn to take home Horizon Individual. I thought it would be either Jeff Hawes (Karen Peck and New River) or Bryan Walker (The Perrys) since they are with more popular groups.

One of the most touching moments came from Jeff Stice's speech for Favorite Musician. He really was surprised this year, and it shows you that even after winning the same awards for several years it still means just as much.

I'm not really sure why all the awards weren't presented at the main ceremony this year. I know it tends to run long, but I'd rather see them all given out at one ceremony. The award winners at the early ceremony don't get as much recognition with a different ceremony.

I know there are some mixed reactions about the Fan Awards being so predictable year after year. I'll be honest I'm one of those people who really doesn't like the predictability of the awards. And after complaining about it so much last year, I decided this year not to vote for anyone who won the year before. It's not that I don't enjoy the groups or individuals who repeatedly win or want to see them recognized, that's not it at all. They are very deserving of the awards. But I decided that I had no right to complain about the predictability of the awards if I didn't vote differently myself. 

I realize that it shows the loyalty of fans and the staying power of artists for the same groups winning year after year. And after hearing many of the speeches today, you see how much it means to the artists and how they don't take it for granted. 

What do you think? Do you like the predictability? Would you rather see different people win each year?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lifetime CD Review - Mark Trammell Quartet

The Mark Trammell Quartet releases Lifetime, the group's first project with Nick Trammell as lead singer. It's also Eric Phillip's first project since his return to the group at the end of 2011. Lifetime is a solid project from the first note to the last, and one that you should definitely add to your music collection.

First, I love the concept of this album. All songs were handpicked because of a special meaning in Mark Trammell's life. "Footprints of Jesus" is a song that he can remember singing with his brothers at a revival his dad was preaching. Mark mentions the influence the Couriers had on him at his first National Quartet Convention where he heard them sing "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah" and "I Sing The Mighty Power of God" Every song has a story like that that Mark tells in the CD insert.

The album is paced well with alternating the more uptempo songs with slower songs. It's strong from beginning to end. With an album built around the songs of Mark Trammell's Lifetime, these aren't new songs, but the song selection is not your typical table/ hymns project either. Many of the songs are medleys or at least include parts of another song in them. The arrangements flow so well though. "Too Much to Gain to Lose" contains the chorus of "We Shall Behold Him," and "Footprints of Jesus" includes a part of "Where He Leads." There is one new song in the album, "Way Past Ready," which was written by Rodney Griffin. The sound of fits right in with the album though, and if you didn't know better you would think it was an older song.

Lari Goss is the producer of Lifetime along with Mark Trammell. Lari's orchestration and arrangement is very evident, and I think it's some of his best work.

Mark Trammell proves that he's still the best baritone in the business with standout performances on the "The King Is Coming Medley" and "Too Much to Gain to Lose." Their rendition of "The King Is Coming" absolutely blows me away.

While new lead singer Nick Trammell doesn't have a feature on the album, his vocal presence is evident and brings all the parts together. Tenor Eric Phillips does a beautiful job on my favorite hymn, "Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus." Pat Barker gets a feature on the "Golden City Medley" with "Touring That City." And one of my favorites on the album is another Pat feature, "Wonderful Time Up There." I love seeing them sing this song live. Pat also tackles "We Shall Behold Him," not your typical bass song, but it works wonderfully.

Lifetime is the quartet's best project to date, in my opinion. It's definitely one of the "must-have" albums that's been released this year!

Song List:
1. "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
2. "'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus"**
3. "Way Past Ready"
4. "Golden City Tour Medley"**
5. "Wonderful Time Up There"**
6. "Too Much to Gain to Lose"**
7. "Meet Me Over on the Other Side"
8. "Footprints of Jesus"
9. "I Sing the Mighty Power of God"
10. "The King Is Coming Medley"**

** Denotes personal favorites

Review copy provided

Monday, October 1, 2012

Ian Owens Leaves Ernie Haase & Signature Sound; Paul Harkey Joins

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound announced today that bass singer, Ian Owens, is leaving the group. Paul Harkey will join the group as their new bass singer. Here's the statement from the group:

For the past two years the EHSS team and fans have been enriched by the voice and personality of Ian Owens. Ian has announced that he will be pursuing other interests (both musical and personal) and we fully support him and wish him great success. Ian's last date with EHSS will be October 13th, 2012 in Sunnyvale, TX. Come out and support Ian and please pray for Ian and his wife Megan as they follow this new path. 

We will miss Ian dearly. He is a funny, FUNNY man who has become a great friend and that will never change. We will update you at a later date with all information concerning Ian and his plans. 

Our new bass singer is a young man you are going to love. His name is Paul Harkey. We will fill you in on all of his information soon. Pray for EHSS as we navigate through this transition time.

Paul Harkey joined LeFevre Quartet in mid August. He was with the Anchormen immediately before that. So it not only comes a surprise that Ian is leaving but also that Paul is joining the group after not being with LeFevre Quartet for that long.

I have been an Ian Owens fan for a long time since his days with Cumberland Quartet. I hate to see him leave EHSS, but I wish him the best!