Jordan Cragun Exits Liberty Quartet

Yesterday was another one of those days for changes.  Jordan Cragun announced via his Facebook page that this weekend will be his last with Liberty Quartet (hat tip, Lauren).  After the departure of Doran Ritchey, Cragun admirably filled the baritone part with the group, with a richness and depth to his voice that exceeded his years.  He turned in a particularly strong performance on Liberty’s cover of the Imperials’ “Light At The End Of The Darkness” in concert.  He is going to be taking advantage of some opportunities to minister with his wife, Elena.  Best wishes to Jordan and Elena in their new direction and to Liberty in their search for a new baritone.

A Few Personnel Changes

Over the past few days or weeks there have been a few personnel changes that I haven’t commented on yet.

  • Keith Waggoner departed Liberty Quartet’s tenor position to become the Senior Pastor at his home church.  He will be replaced by Phillip Batton, who has filled in for Keith occasionally in the past.  Keith is probably the best tenor singer the average SG fan has never heard of, due to their remote location in Idaho.  He will be missed, but Liberty should transition very smoothly with a somewhat familiar voice at tenor.
  • Cody McVey has left the piano bench of The Kingsmen to attend college at Lee University.  The Kingsmen are currently accepting auditions by emailing
  • Shaye Smith has taken maternity leave from the Chuck Wagon Gang, and Penny Greene is filling in during the interim.  Greene sang with the CWG for several years previously.

Best wishes to all the departures and arrivals.  I’m sure there will be more in the coming days, as there always seems to be a marked increase in personnel changes as NQC approaches.

SG News and Notes

A couple of things have come down the pipe over the past couple days…

  • The Absolutely Gospel Awards were presented a couple nights ago.  You can find a list of the winners here.  I saw on Twitter that there was a particularly moving tribute paid to Susan Unthank, which was very much deserved.  On a lighter note, by all accounts Madison “The Awkward” Easter and Devin “Socks” McGlamery did a fine job hosting the ceremony!
  • Liberty Quartet, in a video post on Daniel Mount’s blog, announced the departure of long time lead vocalist Dan Gilbert.

Anything else caught your attention this week?

NQC Schedule And Controversy

In recent news, the NQC has announced their main stage schedule here.  This has sparked some pretty heated discussion, as the Board cut down the number of artists on each night, and in doing so, eliminated some artists from the main stage altogether.  By far, the elimination causing the most controversy has been the Dixie Melody Boys.  Complicating matters is the fact that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Dixie Melody Boys, and the group had hoped to stage a “mini-reunion” with their set.

A few of the other omissions are notable to me as well: Soul’d Out, Liberty Quartet and the Ball Brothers.  I really feel like the Ball Brothers represent the future of SG music, so it’s a shame that they won’t be appearing this year, Liberty is the best quartet the average SG fan has never heard, and Soul’d Out is the reigning Horizon Group of the Year.  The 50th Anniversary of the DMB is the most unfortunate situation though, and I hope that the NQC Board will find some way to get them a slot to allow them to celebrate such a milestone.

That being said, look, the NQC Board is also really in a no-win situation here.  Every year we hear complaints about how attendance is dwindling, and how the evening concerts continually run into the wee hours and are way over the scheduled time.  The “stop light” and fines have helped some, but the concerts still seem to run long.  Credit the NQC for trying to address the situation.  The only real way to do so is to cut back the number of artists on the main stage each night.  In doing so, someone is by necessity going to have to be left out, and the artists and fans be upset by their omission.  If it’s the DMB, their fans would be upset, if it’s the Pfeifers, their fans would be upset, or the Primitives, or whoever it is.

My suggestion somewhat dovetails with Kyle’s above, but I’d suggest setting aside 2-3 slots that are reserved for a single slot for the “second-tier” artists, and let them rotate years.  Maybe one year you have the DMB, Primitives, and Chuck Wagon Gang, then the next year you have Liberty, Ball Brothers, and HisSong.  You could even merge the two suggestions and allow the groups without a prime time slot to have the “opening” slots that year.

Either way, the NQC Board is at least trying something, and there’s something to be said for that.  I’d rather see them trying new ideas than to be content to turn a blind eye and let the status-quo continue.

NQC ’10: Wednesday Recap

There still wasn’t too much chatter, though several blogs have decent roundups available.

  • Several artists attended the GVB/EHSS showcase (Daniel Riley, Libbi Stuffle, et al) and all said the showcase was spectacular.  Other bloggers and attendees weren’t quite as impressed.
  • I discovered that enLighten is broadcasting from the NQC live in the evenings, interspersing mainstage performances with interviews.  I heard the Inspirations set, and as others mentioned, the acappella song they sang was particularly good.  They have a much different vocal sound with Campbell, Ragan, and Hosterman.  Solid all the way around.
  • Liberty Quartet had a full set tonight instead of the one song appearance that they made a couple years ago.  Keith Waggoner’s feature song was noted as particularly good.
  • Jeff and Sheri had a notable set as well.  In addition to Morgan, Madison Easter joined in on some harmony vocals as well tonight, which one twitter comment said was a throwback to their sound with Rabbit.
  • Another show of solidarity tonight between Scott Fowler and Josh Cobb.  I’m glad to see this, as it really makes both guys look good.  Cobb and Fowler shared an embrace at center stage after their groups had been part of a larger singalong of “Boundless Love”, where more than one person praised Cobb’s vocals.
  • Buzz of the Night Award:  Speaking of Gold City, they debuted two songs off their soon to be released mainline CD.  One was an unnnamed cover of an old Dixie Hummingbird tune, “It Won’t Be Long”, and the other was Josh Cobb singing “I Stand Redeemed.”  Both went over extremely well, with “Redeemed” drawing the crowd to its feet.

Complete NQC Schedule Released

The NQC has released their full schedule for NQC 2010, you can find the master schedule here.  Noticing in the evening concerts that the Collingsworth Family, Crist Family, Ball Brothers, and Liberty Quartet all are making mainstage appearances.  Nice to see these up and coming groups continuing to get some love from the NQC!

Review: Liberty Quartet – The Journey

This is the latest recording from Liberty Quartet from Boise, ID and features Keith Waggoner, Tenor; Dan Gilbert, Lead; Jordan Cragun, Baritone; Royce Mitchell, Bass with Doran Ritchey as pianist, though Doran has since left the group to join up with Phil Cross.  While this is an independent release, it was recorded at Crossroads’ Studios.


  1. The Journey – This celtic flavored midtempo number was written by Doran Ritchey and Jim Davis and is a fine way to start the album.  I particularly the way they mix up the use of unison and two part harmonies in addition to the full four part quartet harmonies.  I also love the harmonies on the bridge.  This is a solid opener with nice vocals.  8.5/10
  2. He Came Down To My Level – Dwight Liles’ classic is given an acoustic, driving country feel, and even features a mouth harp prominently in the track.  It really gives the song a unique feel from other versions.  Bass singer Royce Mitchell is featured on the verses and he does a stand up job on them.  The vocal arrangement on this song is quite different than any other one you’ve probably heard, and that’s not a bad thing.  Mitchell gets the opportunity to smack some nice low notes on the last chorus when the harmonies are inverted.  I like the way Liberty made this song their own.  9/10
  3. I Made It Mine – Jordan Cragun gets his first feature on this Doran Ritchey penned tune.  It is given an acoustic/mountain midtempo feel.  Cragun’s voice really fits this story type song, and the vocals on the chorus are incredibly smooth.  This song really features some great singing.  This style isn’t normally my favorite, but this is a good song.  8.5/10
  4. I Love Living In Grace – This Rodney Griffin tune is given a big band jazz type feel, and this is Liberty at their best.  The verses feature some great four part harmony.  These guys know how to sing, and they excel with the jazzy songs.  Smooth vocals and some bass echoes from Royce Mitchell on the second chorus are highlights.  The key changes and Keith Waggoner takes the melody on the chorus from Dan Gilbert.  This is one of my favorite songs on the CD.  9.5/10
  5. Till There Was Jesus – A classic from W. Elmo Mercer is given a soft jazz treatment by the group.  As I said above, Liberty excels with this style.  The track features some nice jazz piano playing.  This is a great performance with some nice harmonies and chords.  Royce Mitchell gets the second verse as a solo and shows off some nice vocals.  The cascading harmonies leading into the second chorus are breathtaking.  This is a simply amazing track.  10/10
  6. God Made A Way – John Robinson and Twila LaBar contribute this driving country song.  Dan Gilbert is featured on this tune and shows that he is a more than capable lead singer.  Solid quartet harmonies highlight this track.  This is just a solid, solid song.  7.5/10
  7. He Came To Me – This ballad by Jeff Bumgardner is given a slightly progressive feel, and is the only song to feature tenor Keith Waggoner.  Keith is a very underrated tenor that has a nice full, smooth sound.  I really like the syncopated rhythm that shows up in spots in the chorus.  Powerful lyrics and smooth harmonies make this song another highlight of the disc.  9.5/10
  8. The Welcome – Doran Ritchey is featured on this song that he penned.  It’s an acoustic ballad, that has some great harmonies.  The message of the song is very strong as well.  I also really like the percussion on the track, it’s very well done.  Solid tune.  7.5/10
  9. Too Long – This Doran Ritchey tune is given a fairly straight ahead quartet reading by the group as it bounces along.  The chorus features a few solo pickup lines from Royce Mitchell.  There is some really nice close harmony in the chorus that is easy to miss if you aren’t listening closely.  Mitchell also sings the verses as a bass solo.  This is an enjoyable song.  8/10
  10. He’ll Come Through – This straight ahead mid to up tempo song was written by Doran Ritchey.  Dan Gilbert is featured on the verses here and he provides some smooth lead vocals.  Smooth quartet harmonies highlight the chorus.  This is another solid song.  The round like tag on this song is worth mentioning as well, it is very well done.  7.5/10
  11. In The Day Of The Lord – Jim Davis and Joel Lindsey penned this ballad, and Jordan Cragun does a fine job on the first verse.  The first chorus features almost a call and response feel from Cragun and the rest of the quartet in unison.  Cragun then sings the second verse.  The quartet comes in with nice harmony on the second that also features some nice quick cascading harmonies.  A bridge in unison builds the intensity to the last chorus again featuring smooth harmonies from the group.  This song fits the quartet like a glove, they really need to continue recording songs in this style.  Great job!  9.5/10
  12. Welcome To Heaven – Phil Cross’ classic originally recorded by the Singing Americans closes out the disc.  Lead singer Dan Gilbert really puts his own spin on the song, and doesn’t try to sound like Michael English (or Clayton Inman, for that matter).  I applaud him for resisting the temptation to try and do something that wouldn’t really fit his style.  As it is, he makes the song his own while still showing off some nice range, and there are some subtle differences in the harmonies on the chorus from the original version.  They have some nice passing tones as they change chords that really add a lot to the song.  This is very well done.  9.5/10

Overall: 8.5 Liberty Quartet has produced a very fine album with The Journey.  The group does a great job of selecting songs that fit their voices well.  They have the creativity and ability to add a lot of variety to their recordings without pushing their vocal ranges out of their comfort zones.  The tracks are all very well done, and the vocal performances are great.  These guys know how to sing, and how to sing correctly.  It continues to baffle me why they haven’t been signed by a major label yet, they most certainly have the talent and creativity to be an asset to any label’s roster.  Jordan Cragun has fit in nicely with the group’s sound, Royce Mitchell is an excellent bass singer, Dan Gilbert is a quintessential quartet lead, and Keith Waggoner has one of the finest tenor voices you’ll ever find.  This is a very good CD that you really need to check out.  Great job guys!

Note: This CD was supplied at no cost to the reviewer, however, this fact in no way influences the above review.
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