Eric Phillips Departs Mark Trammell Quartet

Eric Phillips has announced his departure from the Mark Trammell Quartet.  Phillips, who is resuming his law enforcement career, had rejoined the group in December 2011 and was the original tenor for the Mark Trammell Trio.  The group is accepting auditions for a new tenor singer.  You can read the press release, including the address for auditions, here.  Best wishes to Eric and his family as well as the MTQ as they search for a new tenor.

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Nick Trammell Joins Mark Trammell Quartet

Clayton and Scott Inman.  Randy and Scoot Shelnut.  Rick and David Fair.  Tim and Daniel Riley.  Add one more father/son combo to the list.  It was announced last night via Facebook that Nick and Jessica Trammell are departing Jessica’s family group, The Browns.  The couple recently celebrated the birth of their first child, and Jessica is coming off the road to take care of baby Tessa.  Nick Trammell is joining his father’s quartet as lead singer replacing Dustin Sweatman, who has accepted a job as the Renaissance Program Director of Choirs at Bethel University here in West Tennessee.  These changes will all take place after NQC, though the new lineup will debut a new recording during the convention.

In this instance, I’m very much interested in the sound of the group.  The other father/son duos mentioned above all have fairly distinctive sounding voices.  Nick Trammell has a voice and style that is very close to his father’s, especially when compared to his father’s voice at the same age.  It will almost sound like Mark is singing with his younger self!  The press release from Mark, available here, also hints at the group hiring a full time pianist after NQC.

Best wishes to Dustin in his new duties, and to Nick and Jessica as they have welcomed a new baby at home, and to Nick as he stands beside his father to share the good news of the gospel!

Eric Phillips Rejoins Mark Trammell Quartet

When it was announced that Joel Wood was leaving the Mark Trammell Quartet, one name stood above others as the person most desired to see take the open tenor position: that of former Mark Trammell Trio tenor, Eric Phillips.  Today in a Facebook post, that wish became reality.  Phillips rejoins the group after serving as a police officer in Gadsden, AL for the past two years.  It’s great to see Phillips back with the group, his voice just had an “it factor” alongside of Mark and Dustin Sweatman, and it will be interesting to hear him with the bass foundation that Pat Barker provides.  Santa came early this year!

Singing News Curse 2010

One of the common jokes about SG is that we have our own version of the NFL’s “Madden Curse”, the “Singing News Curse.”  With just one cover left for the year, let’s review the status of the curse for the year, shall we?

  • January: Dixie Echoes (Pat Barker departs)
  • February: Crist Family (no changes)
  • March: Brian Free & Assurance (Randy Crawford departs)
  • April: Greater Vision (Jacob Kitson departs)
  • May: Hoppers (no changes)
  • June: McKameys (no changes)
  • July: Mark Trammell Quartet (no changes)
  • August: Gold City (Roy Webb, Josh Cobb depart)
  • September: Blackwood Brothers (no changes)
  • October: Kingdom Heirs (Billy Hodges departs)
  • November: Booth Brothers (no changes)
  • December: ????

Unless my math skills have dulled over the years, that’s 5 out of 11.  It’s interesting to note of the groups that haven’t had changes, 3 are primarily family based groups, which tend to experience less turnover by nature, and one has been in existence less than a year (Mark Trammell Quartet).  That leaves us with two established non-family groups that have been stable since their cover appearance, and 5 that have experienced changes.  I’d say the curse is still alive and well!

NOTE:  This post is solely intended to be read in a good-natured, tongue-in-cheek manner.  If you have not read it as such, please check the batteries in your sarcasm meter.  🙂

Concert Review: An Evening To Remember

Last Friday night, my wife and I attended one of the Cathedrals Tribute series concerts, that are promoted as “An Evening To Remember.”  Quite so.  The concert was held at a fairly large church in Olive Branch, MS.  The balcony area was empty, but the main floor of the sanctuary was pretty much full.  My guess would be 400 or so in attendance.  We were a bit surprised that there weren’t more people, as I said, no one was in the balcony area at all.  There was no opening group (thankfully), and the concert lasted for nearly four hours.

First on stage was Danny Funderburk.  I’ve had to guess at a couple of these song titles, but the guess does at least make sense, and here is his set list:

  • The Offer Still Stands
  • He Set Me Free
  • Rise Up And Walk
  • Everybody Praise the Lord
  • You’re Still God
  • Statue Of Liberty

Danny may not have the range that he used to have, but his voice is still strong and pure.  Most of his solo stuff is pitched more in a lead or baritone range, so much so that Christy leaned over and said “I thought he was a tenor singer??” at one point.  That was a bit of a shock to us, as I’d not really heard much from Danny since his Perfect Heart days, save a couple of Silent Power cuts and a Royals cut here and there.  However, Danny still has that ability to connect with his audience, and still can convey his message in song like few others.  He used a video presentation with “Statue of Liberty” that was very well done, and added a lot to the impact of the song.  Danny has had a lot of major health issues over the past 4 years or so, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that he is still standing on stage and performing at a high level.  It was good to see and hear him again.

Next came the Mark Trammell Quartet, whom I was looking very much forward to seeing.  I’d not seen Mark since his Gold City days.  Here is their set list:

  • Gentle Shepherd
  • Hallelujah I’m Going Home
  • How Big Is God
  • Leave Your Sorrows And Come Along
  • Loving The Lamb
  • I’ll Have A New Life/Everybody Will Be Happy Over There

MTQ hit the stage with Dustin Sweatman at the piano and Mark playing bass.  “Gentle Shepherd” was incredibly smooth.  Pat Barker has really made a name for himself with “How Big Is God”, and could soon be likened to Ernie Haase and “Oh What A Savior” in that he has taken an “oldie” and turned it into a signature song all of his own.  He really does an outstanding job on it, and has a tremendously expressive bass solo voice.  After that song, Dustin got up from the piano for the next two.  “Loving The Lamb” is absolutely huge.  Great lyrics, great arrangement, great performance.  Barker’s bass foundation really completes the song, and Mark absolutely sings the fire out of it.  Easily one of the highlights of the night, but so was the next song.  Mark said “I’ve got 3 minutes left and I don’t know what to do with myself…”, and at this point Legacy 5 had made their way to the stage and were sitting down in some chairs off to the side.  Mark said he’d had a request for an old Cathedrals tune, left the mic for a minute and spoke with Dustin and Pat, then Dustin started into the Cathedrals’ classic medley of “I’ll Have A New Life/Everybody Will Be Happy Over There.”  The crowd ate it up, so they encored it and Legacy 5 joined in on the encore.  It was a great moment.

Obviously Legacy 5 hit the stage next.  After some humorous banter between Mark and Scott, L5 got their set going.  Here is the set list for them:

  • Strike Up The Band
  • I’ve Been Changed
  • Wonderful Grace Of Jesus (piano solo)
  • I Stand Redeemed
  • Life Will Be Sweeter Someday
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness

“Strike Up The Band” is a great, high-energy song for Legacy 5 to hit the stage running, so to speak.  Glenn Dustin’s performance of “I’ve Been Changed” is fantastic, and Tim Parton is a true piano guru.  Gus does well with the reinvented version of “I Stand Redeemed”, and it’s a great feature for his full-voiced tenor style.  He has really fit in well with Legacy 5, and has taken them to another level.  “Life Will Be Sweeter” is another Cathedrals tune that popped up before the actual “tribute” started, and they do well with it.  “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a typical Goss epic ballad, and was another one of the night’s highlights.  I came away incredibly impressed by Legacy 5, their sound with Gaches has really gelled.

Sitting in the headliner slot was Greater Vision.  I was very excited to get to hear them so soon into Allman’s return tenure with the group.  Their set list included only one “recent” GV song, the rest have been around for quite a while:

  • I Could Never Praise Him Enough
  • He’d Still Been God
  • Tell Me The Story Of Jesus/I Love To Tell The Story
  • You Better Hurry Up
  • Hallelujah Square
  • My Name Is Lazarus
  • It Pays To Pray

I hadn’t heard Greater Vision in concert since the mid-late 90s at the beginning of the Waldroup era.  Chris Allman has either been stuck in a time warp, or had his voice cryogenically preserved.  He sounded amazing, like he just stepped out of 1994.  My earlier comments about Pat Barker and “How Big Is God” could easily be repeated here for Allman and “Hallelujah Square.”  One advantage to a previous member returning to a group is that it does not take long for the sound to gel, and that is the case here.  They’ve just kept going without missing a beat, and are vocally top notch.  I also really liked the pacing of their set, it was pretty much high energy from the get-go.

After an intermission, Gerald, Scott, Mark, Danny, and Glenn performed their tribute to the Cathedrals and shared some stories along with the singing.  Here is the set list:

  • Plan Of Salvation
  • Master Builder
  • There’s Something About That Name
  • I Will Serve Thee
  • Somebody Touched Me
  • Movin’ Up To Gloryland
  • Heavenly Parade
  • Boundless Love
  • Wonderful Grace Of Jesus
  • Daystar
  • Champion Of Love

“Plan Of Salvation” was pretty predictable to start out this portion of the concert, but the predictability in no way compromises the effectiveness.  Gerald played for Danny, Scott, Mark, and Glenn, and those four have a really nice blend.  Glenn Dustin deserves some praise here.  His performance was very reminiscent of George Younce, without being an obvious imitation of George.  His approach to the song was similar to George’s, without mimicking Younce’s vocal stylings.  In George’s absence, no one could do a finer job on the song than Glenn Dustin.  “Master Builder” was as great and exciting as ever, and the next two songs “Something About That Name” and “I Will Serve Thee” featured some really smooth harmonies.  Danny gave a great performance on “Somebody Touched Me.”  I mentioned that he’d lost some range over the years, but listening to this song took you back 20 years or so.  “Movin'” provided some nice comedic fodder.  First, Pat Barker had written out the words for Glenn Dustin, and had purposefully mixed the lyrics up.  At one point, Gerald took over singing bass for Glenn with Tim Parton moving to the piano, and in “retaliation”, Glenn started pulling the slack out of Gerald’s mic cord, with the unexpected result of nearly changing Gerald from a bass to a soprano!  Gerald quipped as he avoided the cord, “You about made me jump 2 octaves!”  After the laughter subsided from ALL parties, Gerald stayed on bass vocals for an acappella rendition of “Heavenly Parade.”

Dianne Wilkinson was in attendance that night, and so the guys paid tribute to her by singing her monster hit, “Boundless Love”, and again, you’d have thought you were listening to the Travelin’ Live album.  “Wonderful Grace of Jesus” was delightfully disastrous, then Gerald, Mark, and Danny provided another concert highlight with an incredible performance of “Daystar.”  “Champion Of Love” concluded the night with everyone on stage for the finale.

This was one of the most enjoyable concerts that I’ve ever attended.  Gus Gaches told me afterwards that a lot of what went on during the Cathedrals tribute was spontaneous and unplanned, but that was what they all enjoyed about these concerts.  The artists are truly having as much fun with it as the audience is in listening.  If you get a chance to attend one of these, do not miss it!  You’ll laugh, cry, and have the time of your life!  Thanks guys for a wonderful evening!

SN Cover Trivia

Nate brought something interesting to my attention this morning via email.  The Singing News cover artist for July is the Mark Trammell Quartet.  This means that Pat Barker has now been on the SN cover twice this year, but with two different groups (Dixie Echoes in January, MTQ in July).  Off the top of my head, I can’t come up with another singer who has graced the cover of the magazine with multiple groups in the same year.  Can any of you?

An Evening To Remember Concert

My wife just ordered my Father’s Day present: tickets to the Evening To Remember concert in Olive Branch, MS on June 18.  This is one of the series that pays tribute to the Cathedrals with Legacy 5, Greater Vision, the Mark Trammell Quartet, and Danny Funderburk.  Any readers been to one of these concerts?  I’m assuming that the first half features the individual artists, and the second half is the Cathedrals tribute, would that be correct?  How long do these normally last?  I’ll be tweeting, taking pictures, and doing a full concert review, so be watching for it!

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