Catching Up

I was out of town on business last week, so there were a few things that came out then and in the time since that I wanted to mention:

  • Jeff Steele is recovering from a serious fall and possible stroke. Be in prayer for Jeff and his family.
  • Gordon Mote is leaving the Gaither Tour as tour pianist.  The GVB is currently seeking a new pianist.  Mote had the unenviable position of following the late Anthony Burger, who was larger than life as a pianist.  Mote did so by carving his own niche and he will be missed on the tour, though he will be appearing on Gaither special events.
  • I’m working on new reviews for the Nelons, Mercy’s Well, and the Dills, so be watching for those coming soon.
  • There’s a video making rounds of the Kingsmen with Chris Jenkins singing “The Judgement.”  It’s a very promising sound…
  • I’d appreciate your prayers tomorrow, May 30, as my wife heads in for surgery to remove about half of her thyroid.  I’ll be out of pocket for the next 2 days at least, as the surgery requires at least an overnight stay in the hospital.  If all goes well, we should be home on Thursday, but she has a recovery period of 2-3 weeks, during which time I will have to be Mr. Mom.  Prayers for my sanity will be much appreciated!  :-)

Kingsmen Name New Tenor

The Kingsmen have named their new tenor to replace the departed Harold Reed: Chris Jenkins, formerly of the Vintage Quartet.  Jenkins has been filling in with the group for the past several weeks, after previous fill-in Ernie Phillips came back off the road.  Here is the text of the press release:

The Kingsmen are pleased to announce the addition of Chris Jenkins as their new tenor vocalist.Chris, 25, has been singing in various ministries and groups since his teenage years. Most recently he was the tenor vocalist for The Vintage Quartet, joining that group in 2010. Prior to joining The Kingsmen, Chris worked as a loan officer and banking manager for the last six years.”I am so thankful that God has allowed me to do what I have always loved to do,” says Chris. “I could not be more excited about joining a group with such a legacy and rich history as The Kingsmen.  I have been a fan of The Kingsmen since I was very young. I look forward to seeing what the future holds with this great quartet, especially this line-up of individuals as they are top-notch vocalists. It is a real honor to follow in the footsteps of some of my heroes who have passed through the ranks of The Kingsmen.”Chris will begin touring with the group immediately. In fact he has been filling in for them in recent weeks. Chris, his wife Kimberly, and two children make their home right outside of Greensboro, in the piedmont area of North Carolina.

I will admit to not being familiar with Jenkins, but the input from other bloggers has been very positive.  I’m looking forward to hearing him with the group!  Congratulations to both Chris Jenkins and the Kingsmen!

SG Quartets: Walking In Memphis

As was announced on Daniel Mount’s blog today, plans are moving along for an all male quartet event called the “J.D. Sumner Quartet Show” in Memphis, TN to be held June 19-22, 2013.  This is the brainchild of several quartet leaders and concert promoters, and is being held in conjunction with the 15 year anniversary of Sumner’s death, in the city where he and James Blackwood started the National Quartet Convention in 1957.  James’ son Jimmy is one of the organizers of this event, along with Stewart Varnado of the Dixie Echoes.

I was just in the auditorium of the Cook Convention Center, known as the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts, for a business meeting a couple of weeks ago and it’s a beautiful facility that seats about 2,100 people, give or take.  There is also an exhibit hall attached to the facility that should rival Freedom Hall’s in Louisville.  The facility sits on the north side of Downtown Memphis with entrances on both Main St., and Front St. overlooking the Mississippi River.

The event has a website here, and a Facebook page here.  The initial lineup of groups already committed is extremely strong, with names like Brian Free and Assurance, Ernie Haase and Signature Sound, Gold City, The Kingsmen, The Dixie Echoes, and Triumphant Quartet, among others.  Also, there are plans underway to add more “up and coming” type quartets to the lineup as well.

If you can’t tell, I’m very excited about the possibilities of this event coming to my hometown, and I’ll see you all there!

2012: A Look Ahead To The Year In SG

First let me say that I hope you all had a very happy New Year’s celebration.  As we begin 2012, let’s take a look ahead at what is awaiting us in the SG world in this new year.

Several groups are making a fresh start in 2012.  The Kingsmen, The Lefevre Quartet, and Soul’d Out Quartet all experience personnel changes over the past couple weeks.  The Kingsmen have a new lead singer in Bob Sellers, and are currently without a tenor, so their sound will undoubtedly change a great deal this year.  The Lefevre Quartet added Harold Reed to the tenor slot, after just recently adding Jordan Lefevre to the lead slot of their group, so it will be interesting to watch and see how this affects the group this year.  It could become quite a catalyst for them.  Soul’d Out is also poised to make waves with the addition of Bryan Hutson as baritone vocalist.  Hutson brings a top notch voice to a quartet that had been quietly making strides, and as recently as yesterday made news as a new Crossroads artist.

Ernie Haase and Signature Sound are due to release a new CD next month called Here We Are Again.  There have been discussions surrounding the group over the past few months regarding their regression of sorts to a retro-music themed group, so this new studio album is garnering anticipation to see if the group becomes trendsetters again as they were with projects like Dream On.

Gold City finally released Somebody’s Coming late last year.  While reviews have been glowing thus far, a lot of eyes will be on the group to see if they finally can achieve some stability and build on what is most assuredly a good foundation with the latest recording.  I’m anxious to see what they come up with next, and am very anxious for a stable lineup and a studio album with songs selected for said lineup.  There is a world of potential still remaining for the group.

Last but not least, will this be the year that someone FINALLY covers the song “Lucas McGraw”???  :-)

Harold Reed Departs Kingsmen, Joins LeFevre Quartet

News has broken this morning that Harold Reed has departed the Kingsmen and is joining the LeFevre Quartet. This is the second tough loss for the Kingsmen in about as many weeks, as Bryan Hutson recently announced his departure as well. Harold will make an immediate impact on the LeFevre Quartet, bringing a top notch sound to their tenor slot. I will be very interested in hearing their new sound. The Kingsmen are asking for auditions, if you are interested email ray@kingsmenquartet.com or brandon@kingsmenquartet.com. Best wishes to Harold, the Kingsmen, and the LeFevre Quartet in their transition periods.

Bob Sellers Announced As New Kingsmen Lead

The Kingsmen have just sent out a press release naming Bob Sellers as their new lead singer.  As I understand it, Bob has been filling in with them recently while Randy Crawford has been dealing with his heart issues, so that should lead to a fairly smooth transition.  Here is the text of the press release:

The Kingsmen are pleased to welcome Bob Sellers to the quartet, filling the vacancy created by the departure of Bryan Hutson. “I am so excited to become a member of the legendary Kingsmen Quartet family,” says Bob. “I’m thankful for this opportunity that Ray and Brandon Reese have given me, and I look forward to meeting every single Kingsmen fan.

“The first song I recall singing with my mom and sister in our little country church was ‘A Place Where The Hungry Are Fed,’ so it is a dream come true to now stand on stage with the group that introduced that song and so many other great songs to Gospel music. I will work with all that is within me to continue the proud tradition that is The Kingsmen Quartet and, most importantly, to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ in song effectively. I cannot wait to see what God has in store!

Bob’s first concert will be in Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada on December 31, 2011.

Be sure to go check out the Kingsmen when they are near you and welcome Bob to the group.  Congratulations to Bob and the Kingsmen.

Bryan Hutson Departs Kingsmen, Joins Soul’d Out

Bryan Hutson has announced his departure from the Kingsmen, and will be joining Soul’d Out Quartet.  Here is an open letter from Bryan:

I want to thank the many friends that I have made while being involved in Gospel Music as well as Worship Ministry. You have embraced me since I began singing with my brother in “The New Generation” in 1985. I started traveling fulltime with “The Heartland Quartet” in 1993. Your continued support, love and encouragement through both my tenures with “The Kingsmen” is deeply appreciated. In early November, I decided to follow God’s leading and give my resignation with “The Kingsmen.”

January of 2012 will mark a new chapter in my gospel music career. I will be joining one of America’s best new groups, “Soul’d Out Quartet”. In fact, the group was awarded “Horizon Group of The Year” (Favorite New Group) in the Singing News Magazine Fan Awards in 2010. Matt Rankin (lead), Dusty Barrett (tenor), Matt Fouch (bass) and Michael Howard (piano) make up “Soul’d Out Quartet”. I will share lead vocalist duties with Matt Rankin. SOQT is a solid quartet who sings straight ahead Southern Gospel Music with a progressive sound. I’m very excited to see what God has in store for our future! Over the past several years, I have developed a friendship with members of the group. I believe the men of “Soul’d Out” are men of integrity and have a heart for ministry that mirrors my own passion. I know my friends and family will love the music and ministry of “Soul’d Out” as much as I do.
My wife, Yvonne, and I have been seeking God and wise counsel about this decision and feel that this is a door God has opened. The tour schedule for “Soul’d Out” is a better fit for me as a husband and father. This opportunity will also allow us to reach our long term goals as a family.

I joined my all time favorite group “The Kingsmen” in 1996 under the late Eldridge and Greg Fox. The 5 years that I spent learning from the Fox’s, the late Jim Hamill and Ray Reese were some of the best years of my life. Upon returning for my second run with “The Kingsmen” in 2007, we have seen lives changed through our music. I want to thank Ray and Brandon Reese and “The Kingsmen” for allowing me to be a part of the continuing Kingsmen legacy.

I would like to ask for your continued support, encouragement and prayers for my family and both groups. I am looking forward to seeing each of you at upcoming “Soul’d Out Quartet” concerts. Please check our website for upcoming performances www.souldoutquartet.com .

In His Will,
Bryan

Brandon Reese of the Kingsmen has sent out this press release as well:

Bryan Hutson will be leaving the Kingsmen this December and will be joining Soul’d Out Quartet.

Brandon Reese states, “In November Bryan came to me and stated that he felt it was time to make a change in his professional career. He also told me that he had been seeking God’s will in an opportunity to stay home more with his family. I commended him for letting the Lord lead in his life. The door opened for Bryan to join Matt Rankin and the rest of Soul’d Out (who are based out of Columbus, OH) and as many of you know is only an hour or 2 from where Bryan grew up in Batesville, IN. Bryan stated to me that joining Soul’d Out is perfect for the long term goals of his family and until then will maintain his residence in Asheville, NC with his wife Yvonne and four children Alexa, Jake, Bailey and Jordan. I, along with the other Kingsmen members, wish to thank Bryan for his two tenures here and his continuing friendship.”

While I hate to see Bryan leave the Kingsmen, as I’ve always loved him in the lead singer position with the group, Soul’d Out is one of the top up and coming quartets in Southern Gospel today.  The arrival of a vocalist with the talent and reputation of Hutson may be just what  sends them over the top into the upper tier of quartets.  Prayers and best wishes to Bryan, Soul’d Out, and the Kingsmen as they begin the search for a new lead singer.

Review: The Kingsmen – Grace Says

This is the latest release from the Kingsmen, and the first to feature Randy Crawford in the baritone slot.  Other personnel are Harold Reed, Bryan Hutson, Ray Reese, Cody McVey, and Brandon Reese. For this review, we’re going to do something a little different.  My co-contributer Nate and I are going to do a joint review for the first (but hopefully not last) time.

Tracks:

  1. Back To Grace
    Nate: Nice lead by Randy Crawford to reintroduce him as a member of the Kingsmen.  This song has a nice country feel. Reminds me of something Mid South would have done in the early 90s. Good way to start off the album.

    Wes:  The project starts with a mid to uptempo country flavored tune.  Randy Crawford takes the lead, and I agree with Nate, it’s a nice way to bring him back into the Kingsmen fold and reintroduce him to fans.  This has a pretty modern country feel to it, a bit different from the typical Kingsmen sound.  The vocal blend is nice and smooth and there are a couple of nice chord progressions thrown in from time to time.  It’s a nice solid start to the disc.

  2. Oh What A Hallelujah Day
    Nate: Fun convention style song. I really like how the first chorus starts with just piano accompaniment. Even when the drums and bass join in, the instrumentation is still basic, putting most of the focus on the vocalists. I also like how all 4 singers trade off on the melody. This takes me back to their recording “The Old Time Way” from 1998.

    Wes:  I think I might have chosen this as the first single.  It’s a great archetypal Kingsmen song that features some nice vocals.  I love the piano only chorus at the beginning, and the basic understated track for the rest of the track.  All the vocals get a solo line at some point, and Crawford sounds a bit like he’s channeling Parker Jonathan at times.  It’s a really fun song that probably goes over well live.  I love the 6th chord on the end.

  3. I Knew It Was Him
    Nate: When the musical intro for the song started, I predicted hearing Bryan Hutson’s voice coming in but was surprised when it was actually Harold Reed. I’ve enjoyed Reed’s solo lines since his days with the Dixie Melody Boys. He has a big range and had a very pleasant sound in the medium zone and it’s nice to hear that being displayed in this song. He carries verse 1, chorus 1, verse 2, and verse 3 by himself until the rest of the group comes in on chorus 2 for a nice buildup at the 2:32 mark of the 4:25 song. A bridge to the 3rd chorus ends the song. I can see this going over well in a live setting. I’m probably being nit picky but I could have done without the final band bumps at the 4:17-4:19 mark. Seemed unnecessary to me in listening to the recording anyway. I’m sure it will go over better in a live setting where at that point in the song it would be covered by applause and maybe babies being tossed from the balcony.

    Wes:  Harold Reed is starting to make a bit of a reputation for strong tenor ballads with the Kingsmen, starting with “God Saw A Cross” and continuing with this strong flowing ballad.  There are some nice chord progressions in the chorus, and Reed shows off his smoothness in his lower registers on the verses.  The song is a solo until the second chorus.  There’s a couple of key changes before that point, and actually three verses.  This song should go over well in concert.
  4. That’s All I Need
    Nate: Nice country flavored song featuring Bryan Hutson. Glad they didn’t go with the predictable “key change to a tenor lead” treatment that most songs of this tempo receive. There is some nice timing and movement in the choruses by all of the vocalists making for a tight sounding group. For the first recording from these personnel, they seem to have gelled quickly.

    Wes: This is the first single from the project, and it’s a very solid uptempo tune that features a country flavor.  This is a pretty typical Kingsmen song, and Bryan Hutson shines on the lead line.  There’s a bit of an odd pause on the last line of the chorus, but that’s a really minor quibble.  Unless I miss my guess, this will probably have some staying power in their set list.  It’s a good showcase of the current lineup.

  5. Grace Says
    Nate: I was hoping for a smooth ballad featuring Randy Crawford, similar to what he would have done in his first tenure with Brian Free & Assurance, and this would be it. I wish Harold Reed was a little smoother in the choruses but that’s the only negative I can think of in this song, and it’s a very minor one. The message is beautiful. This is a song I am planning on singing at my church when the soundtrack becomes available.

    Wes: Randy Crawford steps up to sing this ballad that has a bit of an inspirational type of feel.  Crawford has done well on this type of song, even going back to his BFA days.  He and Hutson have similar style voices that really sound good together, and this song typifies that quality.  It’s a really great lyric and a smooth sounding vocal performance.  I really like this song.

  6. Ordinary Man
    Nate:  Hutson gets this song, which sounds very much like something 4Him would have done. A departure from the sound The Kingsmen have been known for over the decades but goes well with the direction they have taken in the past few years since 2008’s When God Ran. I love this message. It would be perfect for a Men’s retreat, Ordination service, etc.

    Wes: “When God Ran” was a major step outside the typical Kingsmen box, however, it was a musical risk that paid off as the song has been huge for the group.  The group has taken another musical risk of a similar magnitude with this song.  It’s a blend of Brian Free & Assurance and 4Him.  Bryan Hutson has the lead and just as he did on WGR, he turns in a spectacular performance.  It’s a big risk, but to this reviewer, it works and is easily a highlight of the recording.

  7. I Can Hardly Wait
    Nate:  If you were looking for the classic uptempo Kingsmen sound, here is it. I can easily picture the lineup of Chris Collins, Tim Surrett, and Parker Jonathan singing this song alongside Ray Reese in the mid 90s.

    Wes: This is smart.  You’ve stepped way outside the box with “Ordinary Man”, so now you follow it up with a classic “three chords and a cloud of dust” Kingsmen style tune.  It’s a good way to remind the listeners that this is still the Kingsmen that they know and love.  Nate is right, it’s right up the alley of the Collins/Surrett/Jonathan/Reese era.  It could easily fit alongside of “Ridin’ High.”  This will be a huge concert hit.

  8. If Not For The Love Of Christ
    Nate:  Looks like they are doing a good job of keeping the features even between Crawford and Hutson. They share the lead duties on this cut. Randy covers verses 1 and 2, Bryan does a nice job on verse 3.

    Wes: Previously done by the Oak Ridge Boys on their From The Heart project, the Kingsmen version is fairly similar to the Oaks, but given a little faster tempo.  This could be considered a sacrilege as much as I like the Oaks, I actually prefer this version.
  9. After The Sunrise
    Nate:  Speaking of the classic Kingsmen sound! I can really picture Jim Hamill belting this from the stage. Ray Reese is featured in sections of the chorus which up to this point in the album is the most he has been heard. This song is complete with a false ending into an encore with a high tenor and low sliding bass ending. This is a song I can picture the tenor taking the ending even higher in concert. Steel guitar fans will love this track.

    Wes: Once again the classic Kingsmen sound finds a place on this album.  This vocal lineup is similar to the Martin/Hutson/Jonathan/Reese lineup in that you get the energy of the classic Kinsgmen but with stellar, precise vocals.  Make no mistake about it, these guys can really sing!  This is another highlight of the CD.  This will be the song that gets the audience on their feet and babies thrown in the air.  Typical Kingsmen, and that’s a good thing!

  10. Loving Shepherd, Gracious God
    Nate:  Nice smooth song that could pass for an old hymn. Ray finally gets a verse to himself. Typically when I think of bass singers that can carry a nice smooth solo, Reese doesn’t come to mind, but he does a fantastic job on this song.

    Wes: This is a very pretty acoustic driven song.  As many reviewers have stated, Reese’s vocal on the second verse is very moving.  It’s a short verse, but it definitely packs a punch.  Paired with the acappella break toward the end that is incredibly smooth, this is a great song.  It doesn’t have a high ending, it doesn’t build to a dramatic climax, but it’s a moving song that allows a smooth vocal performance to accentuate a very pretty lyric.

Summaries/Rating

Nate:  9.  The first thing I noticed about the cover was how far Cody McVey was standing from the rest of the group and I thought “he could be cropped out pretty easily if he left the group.”  Looks like I called that one!  With the exception of Good, Good God this is the first Kingsmen CD I have heard in its entirety since their days as the Carolina Boys.  I was a big fan of Phillip Hughes with the Anchormen and The Melody Masters Quartet but never thought he blended well with The Kingsmen.  I think this is probably the smoothest sounding top 3 vocal positions they have had in the group since the Martin, Hutson, and Jonathan days.  I feel the baritone and lead duties are being shared very fairly between Hutson and Crawford.  I was curious as to how it would be handled since both men are very capable of carrying the solo duties in their own right.  I personally enjoy a wide variety of music so the range of styles represented in this project was well received on my part.  This CD has me already looking forward to the next release and will make me want to get everything they put out like I did from 1992-2002.  I hope this combination sticks together for a long time.

Wes:  9When God Ran was a turning point in the Kingsmen’s career.  While their followup project, Missing People, was a good recording, I don’t think it equaled its predecessor.  This project does.  In fact, in some ways, this may even be a superior project.  I personally prefer the vocal sound with Crawford to the sound with Hughes.  While there are some stylistic risks on this project, most notably “Ordinary Man”, it’s not too much different than what you used to hear when Randy Miller was in the group.  The difference being at that time, the group experimented with a more soulful sound to give Randy a chance to sing and shine.  These days, it seems to be more of a Inspo/Contemporary lean.  What is mildly surprising to the average SG fan is that this group of Kingsmen can pull that sound off quite well.  Bryan Hutson and Randy Crawford have a good sound together and I expect them to develop the same kind of chemistry that Joseph Habedank and Bryan Walker have developed with the Perrys.  Harold Reed does a fine job as the Kingsmen tenor, especially with the new musical direction, and Ray Reese continues to solidly hold down the bottom end.  “Loving Shepherd, Gracious God” may be one of the most poignant vocals he’s ever put to record.  This is an excellent CD and a big step forward for the Kingsmen.

Concert Reminder: The Kingsmen

A friendly reminder for Memphis area readers: The Kingsmen will be in concert tonight at 7:00PM at Faith Baptist Church in Atoka, TN.  No admission charge, but a love offering will be taken.  Come on out for a great night of Gospel music with one of SG’s most legendary groups, The Kingsmen!

Upcoming Concert: The Kingsmen

Friday night, Sept. 30, my church (Faith Baptist – Atoka, TN) will be hosting the Kingsmen in concert at 7:00 PM.  As always, no admission, there will be a love offering.  If you are in the Memphis area, come on out for a great night of SG music.

Also, as normal, there will be a concert review here next week, and I’ll also be live blogging on Twitter via the blog’s Twitter account.  The last time I saw the Kingsmen, Jeremy Peace and Tim Surrett were still in the group, so yeah…it’s been awhile.  I’m looking forward to this one!

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