Kellan Monroe Departs Beyond The Ashes

Kellan Monroe, via his Facebook page, has announced his departure from Beyond The Ashes after 3 years with the group.  From his post:

As of May 1, I have stepped down from my position with Beyond The Ashes.  The past three years have been nothing short of incredible and I am forever grateful that God allowed me to live my dream!  I sang with the greatest guys in all the world, on stage and off.  I am very excited about this new season and direction in my life and thankful for all God is doing.  Thank you to Anthony Facello, Dustin Doyle, Dusty Wells, Rob Estep and all of the BTA team who helped me grow, learn, and love like Jesus.  Your impact on my life is invaluable.

Thank you to the countless friends, fans and family I made on the road for your love and support!  Keep up with the guys and watch God do some amazing things in the ministry of BTA.  Love y’all!

This will create an interesting shift in the sound of Beyond The Ashes.  The recent addition of Dustin Doyle, with the departure of Monroe’s unique baritone voice, means that the sound of the group will have almost completely changed in the last couple of years.  I really enjoyed what Kellan brought to Beyond The Ashes, and wish him well in his new direction, and also best wishes and prayers to Beyond The Ashes as they search for someone to replace Kellan Monroe.

Review: Beyond The Ashes – Living In The Moment

This is the first release on Ernie Haase and Wayne Haun’s StowTown label for Beyond The Ashes, and also marks lead singer Dustin Doyle’s first mainline project since joining with tenor Anthony Facello and baritone Kellan Monroe.  Wayne Haun produced this album for Beyond The Ashes.

Tracks:

  1. So Amazing To Me – Written by Wayne Haun and Rachel McCutcheon, the CD gets off to a bit of a mellow start with this smooth ballad that has a bit of a pop/R&B feel.  Anthony Facello has the melody line with Doyle and Monroe underneath him for the first verse and chorus.  Facello sings the second verse solo before being rejoined by the other vocalists for the ensuing chorus.  The lyric is structured and reminiscent of something that would come out of the modern P&W movement.  There’s some really nice harmony and chord progressions on the bridge.  I’m a sucker for a major 7th chord.  The first two lines of “Amazing Grace” end the bridge with a key change and repeat of the chorus.  It’s a good way to start.  Fairly subdued, but with flashes of what’s to come on the disc.  8.5/10
  2. Living In The Moment – Fans of rock music may recognize this Jason Mraz tune that was penned by Mraz and Richard Nowels.  Dustin Doyle is given the lead on this tune, and it’s a great fit for his voice.  This is a midtempo song that has a bouncy pop feel.  While the song is not an explicit gospel message, it is a good message about worry that puts to mind the listener of the words of Christ to not worry about tomorrow.  Dustin has the verses solo, with Facello joining on the last line or two of the verses and Monroe joining on the chorus.  This style fits the group well, and shows off their smooth blend.  The fact that it is a secular song may turn some people off, but I really like it, and it fits the group perfectly.  9/10
  3. Oh The Thought That Jesus Loves Me – Originally recorded by The Collingsworth Family, this song from Wayne Haun and Lyn Rowell and is given a similar acoustic ballad treatment here.  Beyond The Ashes may have actually slowed the tempo just a bit from the Collingsworths version.  Anthony Facello and Dustin Doyle trade off on the melody line through the first verse and chorus.  The key changes and Monroe takes the second verse as a solo.  Doyle takes the third verse and makes a strong debut.  He’s got a strong voice, but can sing incredibly smooth as well.  The chorus has a fantastic smooth sound.  9/10
  4. No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace – Anthony Facello and Rachel McCutcheon contributed this midtempo pop flavored ballad.  Facello takes the solo on the verses and keeps the melody through the chorus.  Anthony has really developed into a top notch tenor vocalist from his days with Heaven Bound and the Journeymen.  This is another solid tune that has a neat key change at the end of the bridge.  It would actually make for a good radio release.  It shows their progressive style without being too far “out there.”  8.5/10
  5. Peace In The Midst Of The Storm – Written by Stephen Adams, this is a soulful ballad that features Dustin Doyle.  Doyle will likely make a lot of fans with this song.  It could very well become a sugar stick for him.  The first verse is fairly subdued with some nice vocals from the group in the chorus.  After another fairly subdued second verse, the key goes up a half step and Doyle shines on the third verse.  It’s actually one of the more traditional sounding cuts on the disc, but it’s a good performance.  The only little quirk I have is the ending is fairly plain and a bit abrupt.  Minor quibble on a nice song.  8.5/10
  6. Walking With My Eyes On Jesus – Rachel McCutcheon wrote midtempo song that returns to the bouncy pop/R&B feel that again features Dustin Doyle.  Once again, Doyle shines on this tune.  It’s a catchy tune and lyric that will get stuck in your head.  Solid song.  8.5/10
  7. I Can’t Do This By Myself – Joel Lindsey and Wayne Haun penned this ballad that features Anthony Facello.  It’s a nice lyric that reminds us of our inability to live a life pleasing to God in our own strength.  The chorus features some nice harmonies from the trio.  The last couple of lines have a unique rhythm to them, almost as if there is a line of lyric missing.  It’s still a very solid cut that wouldn’t sound out of place on a  Brian Free and Assurance album.  9/10
  8. Where The Gold Begins – Kellan Monroe is featured on this tune from the team of Carl Cartee, Joseph Dustin Daniels, Allen Stanford Dukes, David Blake Neesmith, Aaron Daniel Tomberlin, and Nathan Timothy Tomberlin.  It’s an acoustic pop flavored midtempo tune.  Once again, this song fits Kellan’s voice perfectly.  It’s a story song about an elderly saint’s last moments on Earth and first moments in Heaven.  I love the line that directly compares the two locations, “I’ve finally reached the place where gravel ends, and gold begins.”  Monroe’s voice has a gritty edge to edge that communicates well in this style.  Don’t miss this song, it’s a definite highlight of the disc.  9.5/10
  9. When Love Whispers Your Name – This song comes from the pens of Ernie Haase and Joel Lindsey.  Dustin Doyle is featured on this moving ballad.  I love the touch of the first verse starting with just Doyle’s vocal and solo piano.  There’s no high ending, nothing incredibly flashy, but Dustin does a great job putting the right amount of emotion in this tender lyric.  Another very solid song.  8.5/10
  10. Your Love Comes Shining Through – Wayne Haun and Jimmy Yeary contribute this bouncy little tune featuring Dustin Doyle.  This is another pop styled tune that works very well for the group.  It’s another really catchy tune, from the piano on the introduction to the end of the tag.  This is a song that leaves your toe tapping and smile plastered on your face.  Doyle’s lead vocal on this song is spot on.  This would also make a great radio choice.  9/10
  11. Over For Good – The disc concludes with this song from the songwriting combo of Marcy Each, Karen Gillespie, and Kimberly Walling Ford.  The soulful sound comes back on this tune that features Dustin Doyle.  Once again, while the vocals are very much soul influenced with pop stylings, the track is fairly standard fare for SG listeners.  Doyle does a great job on this song that concludes the CD with a great performance.  9/10

Overall: 9  There may not be a huge, knock your socks off song on this album, but there also isn’t one that will have you reaching for the skip button.  Beyond The Ashes has really found their niche on the pop/R&B progressive end of the Southern Gospel spectrum, and the addition of Dustin Doyle has solidified their spot.  Mark it down, Dustin Doyle will be recognized as one of the genre’s top lead vocalists, and sooner rather than later.  Anthony Facello has developed a nice strong, full tone with a lot of soul in the tenor spot, Doyle is a star in the making, and Monroe has one of the most unique baritone voices in SG music.  These three guys are all outstanding vocalists, and producer Wayne Haun really brought out the best in them on this album.  While there may not be the one great song on this disc, it’s chock full of very good songs, the performances are exquisite, the arrangements well done, and this is one of the strongest CDs I’ve had the opportunity to review in quite a while.  Don’t miss out on this CD, it is a job well done!

So What Did I Miss?

A lot, apparently.  I go on a cruise for a few days, then take a few to catch up on everything else and look what happens.

  • Stephen Hill passed away.  Hill had been a mainstay of the Gaither crew for quite a while now, and will be sorely missed.  Condolences to his family and friends.  Hill now knows in full the joys of the Savior and Heaven he sang so faithfully about.  His memorial service was yesterday.
  • Dustin Doyle was announced as the new lead singer for Beyond The Ashes.  Dustin’s brother Darren sang with Perfect Heart briefly before they disbanded, and he is actually a friend of my Sunday School teacher.  I’m glad to see him getting a shot with a full time group the caliber of Beyond The Ashes.
  • Dianne Wilkinson is releasing an autobiography (of sorts) called Dianne Wilkinson: The Life And Times Of A Gospel Songwriter.  Fellow blogger Daniel Mount worked on the book with Wilkinson, and the book came out of a series of interviews that Mount did with Wilkinson.  It will be available in hard copy through Amazon, and digitally for the Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Apple iPad and iPhone, and the Kobo e-reader, among other formats.
  • Palmetto State signed with Song Garden and are working on a new project due out this fall.

Anything else???

Casey Rivers Leaves Beyond The Ashes

Beyond The Ashes has announced the departure of Casey Rivers from the group.  Rivers is heading home from the road to spend time with his family, especially with the soon arrival of his third child.  I hate to see Rivers go, as the group’s sound was so unique, and Rivers played a big part in that sound.  No announcement yet as to who the new lead singer will be, but the press release states the announcement is soon forthcoming.  Here is the press release text, with quotes from Casey Rivers and group owner/manager Anthony Facello:

Beyond The Ashes lead singer, Casey Rivers, has expressed his departure from the group.  While parting is sweet sorrow, this decision is based on his growing family and the kind of season change that comes along with it. Casey and his precious wife, Doni, will be welcoming baby number three in just a few short months.

Anthony Facello (ministry leader and tenor singer) shares, “Saying goodbye to Casey is truly like saying goodbye to a brother.  He is and will always be an intergral part of all God is doing in our midst. He will remain in our lives as our brother in Christ and friend, and that will ease the ache of this transition a bit, but still in all, it’s tough to let him go. We do completely support his heart, gifts, and all that God has for him in this season of change.  And, at the same time, we are seeing God move in incredible ways in bringing us a new singer and we are excited about what’s ahead. No one can replace Casey, but that’s the wonderful thing about God’s plans. While Casey is being faithful and blessed in his new ministry endeavors, God is opening a door for someone new to share in ministry with Beyond The Ashes.  I love how He works!”
Casey expressed his departure from Beyond The Ashes with this open letter; “For more than three years now I have been blessed to be one of those three singers that make up what many have come to know as Beyond The Ashes.  Saying goodbye to family, and all I’ve grown accustomed to, is not an easy thing, but nevertheless, a new season has come for BTA and for me.  I am 100% supportive of my brothers, and I know they are of me, as we all begin this new journey we’re embarking upon.  Also, to pacify any wondering minds,  I just want to clarify that I am leaving on an incredibly good note. After much prayer and discernment, I decided this was the best decision for me and my growing family.  Most of all, I’m confident that it is God’s will for us.  Thank you Anthony, Kellan, Dusty, Rob, fans, friends, and most importantly God for the awesome ride!  Love you all…”
An announcement about the new lead singer for Beyond The Ashes is coming soon!  They covet your prayers during this time of transition and hope to see you all on the road soon.
To learn more about Beyond the Ashes or to schedule them for your music event, visit beyondtheashesonline.com.  You can find them on Facebook at facebook.com/beyondtheashes and on Twitter @beyondtheashes1. You can also see them on YouTube at youtube.com/user/BeyondTheAshesTV and purchase their music on their website and on iTunes.
Best wishes to Casey Rivers and to Beyond The Ashes in their times of transition.

Review: Beyond The Ashes – Treasures Unseen

Beyond The Ashes is a trio consisting of Anthony Facello – Tenor, Casey Rivers – Lead, and Kellan Monroe – Baritone.  This is their latest CD on Vine Records.

Tracks:

  1. The Coming Of The King – Written by the dynamic songwriting duo of Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey, this song was originally recorded by Brian Free and Assurance on their acclaimed It’s So God CD.  What this version lacks in the uber-high arrangement from the Assurance version, it more than makes up for in energy and pure soul.  The version here by Beyond The Ashes seems to be an earthier, more gritty soul version.  It’s a great, energetic way to start off the disc and showcases the group’s ability to sing with some soul.  8.5/10
  2. What I Have I Give – Written by Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey, and Depp Britt, this is a very pop sounding, midtempo tune.  Casey Rivers has an incredibly soulful voice and the funky arrangement on this tune plays to voice incredibly well.  If you’re a straight-laced kind of SG fan, chances are you won’t like this much at all.  Fans of the more progressive side of SG will flip for it.  I love it.  9.5/10
  3. Treasures Unseen – This is a tender ballad from the pen of Ann Ballard.  The instrumentation is fairly simple with a piano driving the track with organ and bass guitar added lightly through the first chorus.  The understated track brings out Facello’s vocals on the verse and the group harmonies on the chorus.  It’s a great song with a tremendous lyric about storing up treasures in Heaven.  There’s a really nice cascading harmony that leads into the second chorus where drums and acoustic guitar get added to the track.  It’s a very stripped down track that focuses the listener’s attention on the vocals and message of the song.  Another great track.  9/10
  4. Whenever We Pray – Rachel McCutcheon contributed this flowing, anthemic ballad.  All three vocalists get solo lines in the verse before coming in for full harmonies for the chorus.  This is one of the most traditional styled songs on the CD.  It’s not quite the standout of the previous tracks, but it’s still a very solid song.  7.5/10
  5. Guilty of Love – This is another fairly traditional ballad by Wayne Haun and Lyn Rowell.  Anthony Facello again steps up to sing the verses of the song, and the chorus features some smooth harmonies from the trio, with some atypical chord progressions thrown in for good measure.  The background harmonies behind Facello on the bridge are notable well done.  This is another solid track.  8/10
  6. Test Of Time – This is a driving country tune written by Joel Lindsey, Wayne Haun, and Ty Herndon.  Casey Rivers steps up to deliver the lead on this song.  Rivers has a voice that just oozes emotion when he sings.  This song could conceivably see some crossover play on mainstream country radio.  Another solid cut.  8/10
  7. Tough As Nails – This is another song from the pens of Lindsey, Haun, and Britt.  It also returns to a traditional SG big ballad style.  This song wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Mercy’s Mark CD during Facello’s tenure with the quartet.  It’s a great song, performed very well by the group.  This one would probably appeal to a large number of SG radio listeners.  8.5/10
  8. We’ll Soon Be Done With Troubles And Trials – This old Cleavant Derricks standard is brought up to speed in a very bluesy arrangement.  While it’s pretty standard fare for the first half of the song, there’s a inventive bridge in the middle that leads to a key change and a repeat of the chorus.  There’s a bit of a Michael Buble meets Beale Street blues meets Rock and Roll guitar feel to it.  The track and arrangement breathe new life into an old classic and provide a definite highlight of the album.  9/10
  9. I Can’t Even Walk Without You Holding My Hand – Another classic follows, this from the pen on Colbert and Joyce Croft.  It retains a bit of a black gospel feel with the prominent B3 organ, but it’s done in a little more of a flowing, subdued fashion than most.  In this way, the power of the lyric really is able to shine through.  It’s not as in your face as the previous cut, but it’s still a nice cut.  I like the chord progression on the line “Down on my knees/I learn to stand”, it’s a little bit different than the straight progression.  8/10\
  10. When I Look Upon My Savior’s Face – This is another tune from Wayne Haun and Joel Lindsey.  This is another ballad that features Kellan Monroe.  It’s a very understated track and arrangement that again allows the strength of the lyric to be out front.  It’s a very pretty song that doesn’t have a high ending, it doesn’t rely on any gimmicks in the music.  It’s just a powerful lyric that is delivered well.  8.5/10
  11. God Sees The Heart – The album concludes with a song contributed by Ernie Haase, Benji Gaither, and Sue C. Smith.  It returns to a more progressive country tinged the sound similar to “Test Of Time.”  Again Casey Rivers takes the lead on the verses and really shines.  He shows some nice upper range and incredibly soulful tones.  It’s a nice way to close the album.  8/10

Overall: 8.5   Most SG fans will be familiar with Anthony Facello from his days with Heaven Bound, The Journeymen, and Mercy’s Mark.  Listeners probably aren’t nearly as familiar with Casey Rivers or Kellan Monroe, but if this recording is any indication, they soon will be.  Producer Wayne Haun, along with Beyond The Ashes have put together an album that makes quite an effective announcement of the group in the SG world.  Their press release states that they have a bold goal to combine the best aspects of Contemporary Christian and Southern Gospel music.  This album is definitely a big step in accomplishing that goal.  “What I Have I Give” would sound right at home on CCM’s KLOVE network of radio stations, while several songs would find a nice home on SG’s Solid Gospel network.

These guys have incredibly expressive voices that can tear into a driving pop or country style song, but can also mellow out the sound and sing some smooth harmonies on a more flowing ballad.  I’d love to hear them explore more of the pop/soft rock style sound like “What I Have” on subsequent albums, as I thought that was a great sound that they never really went back to on any of the other tracks on the disc.  That being said, this is a great project by the group.  If you like your music with an edge, you will DEFINITELY want to check out Beyond The Ashes.  Great job!

Casey Rivers Joins Beyond The Ashes

It has been announced on facebook by Beyond The Ashes that Casey Rivers has joined their group.  You may remember Casey from the popular television reality show Nashville Star where he was first runner up in 2006.

For more information on Casey visit: http://www.caseyrivers.com

For more information on Beyond the Ashes visit: http://www.beyondtheashesonline.com

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