Mark Trammell Quartet Hires Randy Byrd

Mark Trammell has just announced the hire of their new bass singer: Randy Byrd of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. Randy brings quite a back-story of God’s grace to share that some folks may not be familiar with. He touches on it in the official press release, but if you want more detail, I highly recommend taking a few minutes to check out this archived interview he did with Daniel J. Mount. It’s an amazing story of youthful pain and rebellion culminating in a beautiful display of God’s grace.

I also admire Byrd’s humble honesty in this press release, saying outright “I am not and cannot be Pat Barker.” This is particularly gracious considering that Barker is a good bit younger than Byrd, and it reflects the legacy Barker left behind him in his comparatively short tenure on the southern gospel stage.

Here is the full announcement:

After three months and 36 candidates for the position, Mark Trammell has announced today that Randy Byrd will be the new bass vocalist for the Mark Trammell Quartet. Mark shares, “We are thrilled with the overwhelming inquiry about this position. And after much prayer and consideration, the group collectively feels that Randy is the man for this season of our ministry.”

Many of you will remember Randy from his recent years with the prestigious Blackwood Brothers Quartet. He also logged some miles with our friends the Mike Lefevre Quartet and the Songfellows. Randy relates the following upon receiving confirmation from Mark.

“At 12 years of age, I heard The Cathedrals sing There is a Fountain and I was hooked!! I told my mother that night after hearing George Younce, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a bass singer.’ God has blessed me and allowed me to sing with some of the best in the business. Three years ago my dream started to fall apart. Between my flesh and Satan’s attacks it seemed my life was over. I am thankful today that in spite of my faults and failures, God never took His hand off of me. Everything that Satan robbed from me, God has restored! I am beyond excited to join The Mark Trammell Quartet! I am living proof that God IS faithful!! Pat Barker is a dear friend. I am not and cannot be Pat Barker. But I can work at being the best version of me that God can use and I gladly accept that challenge.”

Please join us in welcoming this wonderful man to the Mark Trammell Quartet!!!

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Guest CD Review: “Hymns, the A Cappella Sessions” by The Nelons

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[Editor's note: This is a guest post by Brian Fuson of Fuson's Findings.]

Out of all the groups on the road today, it would be hard to find a group with a greater heritage than The Nelons. It all started when Rex Nelon took over the management of The Lefevres. After Eva Mae Lefevre’s retirement,  the group was renamed as The Rex Nelon Singers in 1977. Towards the end of The Lefevres, Rex’s daughter Kelly joined the group. Together, this father and daughter duo led The Nelons to the top of the Gospel Music industry. After her father’s passing, Kelly continued to lead the Nelons through a new millennium. The group consists now of Kelly Nelon Clark, her husband Jason Clark, and daughter Amber Nelon Thompson singing soprano, with youngest daughter Autumn supplying additional vocals.

When you consider the group’s rich history and all their accomplishments, it may come as a surprise that this project marks a first for The Nelons. “Hymns: The A Capella Sessions” is the very first a cappella recording in the group’s long and illustrious history. United together with super-producer/arranger Lari Goss, the family has recorded one of the finest a cappella projects in the history of the genre.

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Monday Morning Humor: Classic Songwriting Spoof

In this rare clip from a 1952 episode of the Colgate Comedy Hour, Donald O’Connor and his underrated partner in comedy Sid Miller have the Tin Pan Alley blues. Try and try as they might, the next “White Christmas” is eluding the starving, freezing would-be hit-makers. They proceed to spoof the classic genre in side-splitting style.

“Beethoven said in order to write great music you gotta suffer.”

“So?”

“We gotta suffer.”

I have marked off the ending of the skit before they segue into some impressions pairing up famous actors, but that skit is pure gold too, so if you like you can hover ’til you see an “x” and click ‘n’ drag to keep watching (or just go here and skip forward). If you know anything about old movies, you’ll love their takes on Edward G. Robinson + Lionel Barrymore, Ronald Colman + Peter Lorre, Bing Crosby + Barry Fitzgerald, and Jimmy Cagney + Jimmy Stewart. Donald’s Bing and Stewart are spot-on and it’s all quite wonderful. Plus, 50s product placement: “Ah Bing my boy, I tell you from the bottom of my heart, your voice is as fine as Fab, as brilliant as Halo, and as powerful as Ajax.”

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Announcing Two Weeks of Guest Posts

Work and study commitments are leaving me with less free time, so I have enlisted the capable aid of fellow young bloggers Brian Fuson (Fuson’s Findings) and Lauren of Southern Gospel Views From the Pew to fill in the gaps here for the next two weeks. I’m sure you will appreciate their passion for and knowledge of this music as much as I do!  There will still be a light video on Mondays (look for a vintage songwriting spoof next week), and then Brian and Lauren will each contribute one guest post per week, reviewing some music and offering concert reports. Lauren plans to catch both Brian Free & Assurance and the Whisnants. I will continue to moderate comments, so please feel free to leave your thoughts under their posts. I know they’ll appreciate it. Check out their own sites too while you’re at it!

Thanks for your continued readership. See you at the end of July!

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Smackdown: Adam Crabb vs. Michael English, “Please Forgive Me”

A limited edition recording of the new Gaither Vocal Band has been leaked to Youtube. The report is that this table project will not be sold in any common retail outlets, so if you happen to grab a copy at a concert, congratulations! There’s no new material, just slightly different vocal arrangements over pre-existing tracks for songs like “My Lord and I,” “Why Me, Lord?” and “The Baptism of Jesse Taylor.” One of the songs being re-done is “Please Forgive Me?” Of course, this is a Crabb Family original, but the Gaither Vocal Band’s arrangement upped the vocal ante several notches. It’s interesting to hear Adam Crabb take over what has now become a Michael English signature tune. Take a listen to the new lineup’s take on it. Update, July 31: Or don’t, now that the copyright police dogs have sniffed out and broken this link.

As an extra little bonus, here is some live footage of the current lineup on the dramatic breakdown:

Now refresh your memory on Michael English’s version. Which do you prefer?

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CD Review: The News is Out, by Driven Quartet

Driven Quartet is a young men’s group currently signed to Chapel Records. They’ve been around for a while, even if you may not recognize their name. Their roots run deep in southern gospel, and lead singer Jason Funderburk is the son of legendary Cathedrals tenor Danny Funderburk. In 2009, David Bruce Murray said their self-titled record was the best non-label release he had heard that year. Now they have returned with a new project. Click below the fold for my review. Continue reading

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Monday Morning Humor: Barney Fife Recites the Preamble to the Constitution

Well, technically the 4th celebrates the Declaration, but it’s become a tradition for celebrating the legacy of America’s independence in general, so here’s Barney Fife’s classic stab at reciting the Constitution’s preamble by heart:

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Youtube Find: Gospel Music in India

Folks may not know that there is a thriving community of Indian Christians who sing many of the same old American praise choruses and gospel songs we do. I was first introduced to this phenomenon at the wedding of a friend who married a young Indian man after meeting him at Moody Bible College. His father serenaded the couple and chose a Maranatha praise chorus. At the reception, a family friend performed the Scott Wesley Brown wedding song “This is the Day” with his younger brother—another blast from the 70s past.

Recently, I was looking for a good cover of a John W. Peterson song and found not one, but two covers originating in India. That led me to find more videos of one particular family who recorded a family hymn sing. They could have stolen my hymnal! Songs they cover include “There is Power in the Blood,” “Heaven Came Down,” and “Because He Lives.” The young man has also uploaded some guitar/vocal videos with more gospel covers, including “This World is Not My Home” and “I Just Keep Trusting My Lord.” It’s very heart-warming to see several generations gathered around to belt out the old hymns. In the words of another hymn:

Thee let old men, thee let young men, thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens, with glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring, evermore and evermore.

Enjoy a few of my favorite clips! Continue reading

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Old Paths Quartet Receives Two BMI Awards

Crossroads has just sent out this press release. Congrats to the Old Paths! This must be a nice encouragement as they’re still struggling to recoup their recent financial losses.

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With two BMI® awards and three #1 hits, the Old Paths have exploded on the scene as a leading presence in Christian radio.

At the 2014 BMI® Christian Music Awards this month, two Old Paths singles, “Battle Stand” (written by Rodney Birch) and “The I Of the Storm” (written by Kenny Kuykendall), received Citations of Achievement for being among the most-played songs on U.S. Christian radio.

In the last two years, three of their singles have reached the #1 position on the Singing News Radio Airplay Chart: “Battle Stand” (December 2012), “God’s Great” (June 2013), and “Long Live the King” (July 2014).

Their success is poised to continue with their new single, “Love Them To Jesus,” already the #1 top add on the August 2014 Singing News New Releases chart. The song was inspired by Old Paths baritone/manager Doug Roark’s testimony. “Over 20 years ago,” he shares, “I was a drug dealer/addict outside of Atlanta Georgia when an old preacher man loved me to Jesus. He didn’t condemn me or judge me; he just took me in and showed me the love of Christ. The songwriter Rodney Birch came to hear us one night, and after hearing my testimony, came back to us with this great song.”

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Who Should StowTown Records Add Next?

As of yesterday, Triumphant Quartet has joined the ever-growing ranks of old and new artists to fill out the StowTown Records roster. This particular choice makes sense given Wayne Haun’s involvement in arranging and writing for StowTown in the past. It seems like a win-win either way you slice it, given StowTown’s ground-breaking marketing and Triumphant’s enduring popularity with fans of the traditional male quartet.

With the Perrys and now Triumphant, StowTown has snagged two of the biggest ticket draws in the business, proving they’re more than just a launch-pad label for up and comers. They’re becoming a force to be reckoned with alongside other major distributors like Daywind. So, the question is—who will Ernie sign next? Who do you think he should sign next? I have a few thoughts, but I’ll let you speculate in comments.

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