National Quartet Convention 2011, Day 2

This live blog will be updated through the night.

Moment of the Night

Jeff & Sheri Easter, “Thank You Lord for Your Blessings on Me.” Jeff Easter’s mother passed away five weeks ago; it was already a special moment when Jeff dedicated the song to his father, but when his father came on stage to sing the second verse . . . there aren’t quite words to capture the moment. It takes a deep faith to sing those words in public just a month after losing a wife of more than fifty years.

Runner-up: Mark Trammell Quartet, whole set. A delightful and perfectly paced tribute to the Cathedral Quartet. Mark didn’t say it was a tribute, but he didn’t need to—it stood on its own.

Second runner-up: Chris Allman’s unflappability (see Christmas segment).

Christmas Segment (10:22)

Set List: Love Me Some Snow (Crist Family); It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Greater Vision); I Wonder as I Wander (Matthew Holt); Jesus, Oh What a Wonderful Child (Triumphant Quartet); Away in a Manger (Talleys); I Wanna Hear the Angels (Hoppers); Joy to the World (Legacy Five); Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel (Greater Vision); Hallelujah Chorus (Jeff Stice piano solo); Silent Night (audience)

Highlights: The gigantic red Santa Claus hat which one of Gerald Wolfe’s sons slipped onto his head mid-song! It was also amazing to see Chris Allman sing a pitch-perfect performance of his song despite holding a stack of brightly presents stacked so far above his head that one slipped off and hit his head toward the end. That’s how good he is.

The acapella rendition of “Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel,” also by Greater Vision, was perfect.

Booth Brothers (10:02)

Set List: Look For Me at Jesus’ Feet; Welcome to the Family; She Still Remembers; Since Jesus Came; Trading This Old Cross for a Crown

Highlights: An all-live rendition of “Look for Me at Jesus’ Feet” with Whisnants pianist Eric Ollis on piano.

Whisnants (9:39)

Set List: King Jesus is Coming; Be Not Afraid; Ready to Leave; All is Well; New Day Dawning.

Highlights: Consistently strong throughout; it’s hard to pick a moment that stood head and shoulders above the others.

Showcase Spotlight (9:37)

Voices Won sang “I Was There When it Happened.” They haven’t had a breakthrough hit to move them into the top tier, but they have the tight sibling harmonies to stand out if they get that big song.

Mark Trammell Quartet (9:09)

Set List: Wedding Music; Old Convention Song; Gentle Shepherd; It’s Almost Over.

Highlights: They walk on stage to the strains of “Wedding Music,” and the audience goes crazy. Well, okay, this is NQC, and given the average age, they don’t go crazy, but they definitely welcome it appreciatively! Gerald Wolfe joins on piano for the set.

It was a brilliantly paced and delivered set of Cathedrals songs. Much like a Cathedrals set, almost all the songs were completely live; the closing song had a track. It left the audience on their feet.

(Pat Barker: As to your looks, you look better than I do, but you sing better than you look!)

Click “more” for the rest of the coverage:

Hinsons (8:46)

Set List: Soul Fillin’ Station; He Can; With Him; I Never Shall Forget the Day; The Lighthouse

Highlights: Chris Freeman.

Showcase Spotlight (8:40)

A black man, whose name I missed, opened with a song before sharing his testimony. His mother was sixteen when she found out he was on the way. She resisted family pressure to abort him. He closed with an acapella chorus of “He Looked Beyond My Fault.”

McKameys (8:16)

Set List: I Have a Great Savior; God on the Mountain; The Shepherd’s Point of View; When Faith Steps In; I Made It By Grace.

Highlights: Ever since the McKameys’ latest album came out, I have thought that “I Have a Great Savior” would make an excellent opener. It does. Intriguingly, Roger and Eli Fortner both moved from the instruments to the microphones for this song. It added a nice boost to the lower end.

Did Peg launch into “God on the Mountain” with no musical cue whatsoever? (From the comments: She got a quick guitar strum. Thanks, Jordan!)

Inspirations (7:57)

Set List: God Makes No Mistakes; Why We Came Here Today; I Have Not Forgotten; If You Only Knew

Highlights: Acapella encore to “I Have Not Forgotten.”

Oddly, the piano couldn’t really be heard in the Internet mix until after the first verse—and even then, it was buried in the mix. A new acoustic guitarist and utility vocalist Luke Vaughan were the two primarily audible instruments—making for a decidedly different Inspirations sound than most may be accustomed to.

Showcase Spotlight (7:50)

Eighth Day sang their current Singing News #1 hit “May I Never Get Over the Cross.” (It’s intriguing when, depending on how you put it, the holder of the current #1 hit is on a showcase, or a showcase performer has a #1 hit.)

Jason Crabb (7:30)

Set List: I Saw the Light; Beulah Land; Who Am I; Midnight Cry; Through the Fire.

Highlights: Through the Fire, of course. The Bowlings (with Jason’s siblings Kelly and Terah) and Adam Crabb came up for the big finale.

The Bowlings (7:05)

Set List: What a Friend We Have in Jesus (instrumental); Tears Will Never Stain the Streets of that City; Leavin’ on My Mind; Unclouded Day; Your Cries Have Awoken the Master; I Still Glory in the Cross

Highlights: Jason Crabb and the Bowlings shared the stage for the first few songs, including a solid rendition of “Leavin’ on My Mind.” Kelly Bowling’s testimony recalling the one year anniversary of their return to the stage, following their July 1, 2010 bus crash, was heart-felt and another highlight.

Legacy Five (6:46)

Set List: I Want to Say it Again; A Wonderful Life; Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; God Had a Hand In It; For What Earthly Reason.

Highlights: Trey Ivey’s piano solo of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” was perfectly executed and well-received. While nobody will surpass Danny Funderburk’s original and defining rendition of “For What Earthly Reason,” Gus Gaches’ new cover version does do the song justice.

Jeff & Sheri Easter (6:25)

Set List: God Knows What He’s Doing; Praise His Name; I Get To; Thank You, Lord, For Your Blessings On Me.

Highlights: Jeff & Sheri assembled a live band for the occasion, with Les Butler on piano, regular band members Madison Easter on bass guitar and Kyle Calloway on drums (hat tip, Andrew), and Crabb Family guitarist Lori Sykes. Jeff’s mother passed away five weeks ago; his father, who co-wrote “Thank You, Lord, For Your Blessings on Me,” was present, and Jeff dedicated the song to him. Jeff’s father even came up and joined him for the final verse; it takes an incredible faith to stand on stage and sing those words.

Piano Spotlight

Past Poet Voices / Gold City pianist Channing Eleton offered a brilliantly executed piano solo, “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee”—a true piano solo, with no track. Former Gold City band-mate Adam Borden joined on bass guitar.

Dove Brothers (6:00)

Set List: One Day at a Time; I Recall; Life Will Have New Meaning, Operator; Get Away Jordan.

Highlights: Burman Porter is back! Make that: Burman Porter is BACK! And the energy he brought to the group in his first stint is back; he got such an enthusiastic round of applause when McCray introduced him that McCray switched up the set to feature Burman’s signature song, “Operator.” And when one might think things couldn’t get bigger, they closed the set with “Get Away Jordan.” They got at least a partial standing ovation, which is quite a feat for the first set.

And there’s nothing like kicking off the night with a four-piece live band! Past Dixie Melody Boys pianist Joe Lane (thanks, Brandon!) is filling in on piano.


The opening showcase spotlight was from the Harper Family; their eleven-year-old daughter offered a strong lead vocal on “He Ain’t Never Done Me Nothing But Good.” The Booth Brothers did “He’s So Good to Me,” accompanied by Gerald Wolfe on piano. Then Dean and Kim Hopper, the evening’s emcees, led the audience in a few sing-a-longs. (I was on the phone, but it looked like they were “Love Lifted Me” and “He Lives.”) 

If you’re watching tonight, feel free to join the conversation in the comments! And if you catch this after the fact, jump right in and share thoughts on highlights.

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80 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. I like the Dove Bros tenor’s sound

  2. The piano player is Joe Lane, who spent time with several groups in the late 80s and early 90s, including a stint in the Dixie Melody Boys with McCray.

    • Thanks! Is he permanent?

      • Still haven’t got confirmation on that. Give me a few minutes… I’ll text Joe’s brother. LOL

      • Thanks! McCray introduced him as a group member, with the rest of the band.

      • I sure hope he’s permanent. He played the snot out of that piano!

        Matter of fact, the whole band was on fire tonight. Great set. Burman’s still got it!

      • Thanks Aaron for the kind words. I was shocked that anyone would remember me after 17 years of exile. I hung out a little bit with Brandon, his Dad and uncle. I had a great time. They actually saved me a cab fee and took me to buy a couple of items. Awesome!!

  3. I really like sheri easters singing…

  4. Ok which one of you guys are on the 10th or so row with your laptop? Caught ya…

    • Not me – at least not today!

  5. I’m sure there are others who feel differently, but to me, Jeff & Sheri Easter are the Ultimate Southern Gospel couple. So cute together!

  6. The bass player is Lori Sikes

    • Please pardon my ignorance in this case; is Lori a woman’s name in this case?

      • According to Jason Crabb’s website, Lori Sikes is the bass guitarist (and yes, she is a she).

  7. I’ve heard “turn that around” more this week already than ever before.

  8. Yes…pardon my ignorance is Lori ever a mans name?

  9. I believe Lori is actually kin to Mike Bowling… cousin maybe…anyone know if Mike is there…?

    • Mike is supposed to sing later tonight, right?

  10. Some twitter feeds were requesting prayer for him…not sure what all was wrong but it included at least a hospital visit if not more

    • found this on twitter

      Pray for Mike!! Staph infection in his sinuses. Very dangerous with his wreck injury. Has been put on bed rest… 2 days ago

      • Thankfully, it looks like he’s back!

  11. Look out for a great group tonight around 9:30, Voices Won. You’ve got to love that family harmony.

  12. The Bowling/Crabb set has been the best set so far tonight (IMO of course). 🙂

  13. Peg got a very hurried point of reference in the form of a guitar strum from Roger just before the “God On The Mountain” track began.

    • Thanks! That was so fast I missed it!

    • Listening to the videos again today On Demand rather than live in the concert hall last night, Roger’s guitar cue was even fainter. The tune started seamlessly though, as it always does.

      Also, did anyone notice Peg’s shoe toss? There’s not a really good shot of it on the video feed.

      • Peg’s shoe toss is the sogo answer to Elvis taking off a scarf and throwing it in the audience-the crowd goes wild! I love her.

  14. Daniel I totally agree with you about L5’s version of “For What Earthly Reason”. I love Gus, and personally think he’s the best tenor L5 has had since Josh Cobb. I also thought he did a beautiful job on the other Cathedrals song “Just Because Of You”. I hope they stage that this week as well.

  15. Neat! Given that I’ll never hear the lineup of the Cathedrals that introduced it live, I think it’s likely that this is the best I’ll ever hear live.

    • If you read mine and Yankee’s review of L5’s latest project you will know that I prefer Gus over Danny on this song. That aside I was very glad to see them do it at NQC. Daniel you may get another chance to see it in person as I believe they may be singing it on Friday night…

      Brian they staged “Just Because Of You” Tuesday morning at Chapel, and Gus did an incredible job with that one live. I believe they may do it later this week on main stage.

      • I saw that comment in the review, and, I have to confess, I wondered, “What on earth was he thinking?” 🙂

        It is very good, and I could even envision a case for “as good,” but it was at least one of Danny Funderburk’s all-time finest performances with the Cathedrals – certainly the finest on a slow song. 🙂

        On the other hand, though, “Just Because of You” had a very nice Cathedrals rendition, but not quite signature-song caliber, and while I haven’t yet heard Gus’s rendition, I’m sure it is possible that his could surpass the original.

      • It is Danny’s all-time finest, but I still agreed with Nate. 🙂

      • I don’t think that even Gus himself, or the other guys in the group, would claim that he’s better than Danny’s all-time finest.

      • Naturally.

      • Danny can’t be touched on that one, Daniel. I think part of the mystique rests in the fact that it was featured on one of the most impacting albums of the southern gospel genre. One of those songs the first I heard it, in which I felt that I kinda zoned everything else out, and forgot about melodies, harmonies… I just listened. I can’t always do that.

      • True.

        Now I’m not the sort who will say that he cannot be touched on anything, but that song is certainly one of them!

      • Awesome Nate. I’ll be there Friday & Saturday so I hope they’ll do it one of those nights!

      • Actually a couple of the guys from the group feel it surpasses the original… BTW not Gus… I guess maybe Danny’s version never really grabbed me like it does most everyone else. I have let friends of mine (that aren’t very familiar with SG) listen to both versions, and all of them said that Gus’s was superior. So Yankee and I are not the only ones! 🙂

      • They’re thinking the vocal is better, or that the whole performance, soundtrack and all, is better?

        I was basing my comments on the whole performance.

      • Well the Cats blend is hard to match so as for the entire performance it is close. The track is very good on both but again the Cats is probably a little better. I was trying to convey that the vocal from Gus is just better…

      • I think Gus’s vocal is on par with Danny’s, but I would agree that the Cathedrals’ track is better.

      • I love Gus, but Danny’s version is the best. I think if they would have had a key change on the 2nd verse, and we heard some more power from Gus, hands down it would have surpassed it for me. But having grown up on Danny’s version, its a high standard to me.

      • Nate and I are in agreement that the Cats track and and overall blend are better. We simply thought Gus out-sang Danny. That’s all we meant.

      • One other thought when comparing Danny and Gus is the timespan between the recordings. With the advances in equipment, 20-25 years difference could significantly affect one’s perception as to which was “better.”

      • I think Gus is an exceptional tenor and will likely go down as the best L5 has ever had, but to claim that his vocals on this song are better than Danny in his prime, is ludicrous. I’m sure there are songs that Gus would sound better than Danny on, but I’ve heard both of them many times and I haven’t heard it yet.

      • While I agree that Danny did better on this song, please keep comments positive and constructive. I suppose I’ll leave this one up, but there are more positive/constructive ways to phrase such thoughts in the future.

      • Sorry, I certainly didn’t mean it as a negative to Gus. I don’t believe there are any tenors singing currently who could sing that song (or a handful of other DF songs) and sound better than Danny.

        I certainly think Gus should keep singing it and that his version is fantastic. Just that Danny set a very high bar on it.

      • Don’t worry – you’re a regular enough commenter around here for me to be confident that you didn’t mean it the wrong way. I was just concerned that others would take it the wrong way and over-react.

      • Gotcha, I will go even a step further and say unequivocally that Gus is one of the top 5 tenors who are singing full-time right now. That list is even shortened further when two of the top 5 are in the Vocal Band.

      • Cool!

        Besides Phelps and Hampton, I do think that John Rulapaugh and Chris Allman definitely deserve to be considered in the top 5. I’d have a harder time rounding out the list, though Ernie Haase, Brian Free, and Michael Booth are the most popular and loved tenors on the road and have quite a bit of talent.

      • I do love John, is his group full-time?

        Brian is not my favorite, but he is a freak of nature (meant in the best way!)

        Michael is good and I love him MC work but would have a very hard time putting him in my top 5 on just his tenor singing ability.

        Ernie is fantastic and I think sounds better than he did in his Cats days.

      • John and his wife have had a cabin rental business in Pigeon Forge for several years, and he’s done that on the side between all his other groups. But, essentially and by Southern Gospel standards, they’re treating Freedom like a full-time group, not a weekend-only group.

        I agree, on singing ability alone, Michael might not make top 5, but he communicates a song so effectively that, whole package in account, he’s at least top 10.

      • I was going to stay out of this, but will add my two cents about tenors on the road. I too think that Phelps, Hampton, and Gus are among the top current tenors on the road. I would add Chris Allman to the short list. There are others, but I’ll stop there for now. 🙂

      • Ooh, I got sidetracked and when I came back didn’t see the other posts. Yeah I think Michael Booth has good sound for a Nineor. 😀 He isn’t as high as some, but sounds good. I haven’t heard Haase lately or Free, but they both certainly have had long careers.

      • OK, my top 5 current full-time tenors in no particular order:

        Chris Allman
        Gus Gaches
        Wes Hampton
        David Phelps
        Ernie Haase

  16. Um, excuse my ignorance, but where is Yvonne Hinson these days?

    • She was at NQC, though she didn’t sing there.

  17. The Hinsons have still got it! For someone blessed to be raised on the Hinsons it was awesome to hear them on he mainstage. The only way they could have sounded more like the Hinsons I love (aside from Kenny being alive of course) would be to have Weston singing lead instead of Bo. Bo is good but he sounds more like a younger Ronny than Kenny. By far my favorite set of the night.

  18. Kelly Wright was his name I believe. Works for Fox News.

  19. Thanks!

  20. MTQ knocking it out of the park!

  21. MTQ…just brilliant. ‘Nuff said.

    • They were!

      • Any word on Joel Wood’s position? Is he staying or leaving?

      • This is his final week with MTQ.

  22. Swanny just killed the mood of the last set

  23. Really enjoyed the Mark Trammell Quartet as well!

    • IMO they sound the best they have ever sounded. I think the bass just makes the group!

  24. Inspirations harmony is really good with the new group. Too bad the music mix was not right. Also wish they would sing more accapella.

  25. Does the drummer for Jeff & Sheri Easter just happen to share a name with Mike Hopper of the Hoppers?

    • Jeff & Sheri’s drummer- Kyle Calloway
      The Hopper’s drummer- Mike Hopper

      I don’t know of any similarities other than that they can beat the devil out of the drums. Or so Jeff Easter says.. 🙂

    • Thanks! All I could see was back and side of head shots … wrong guess. Sorry, and I’ll update!

  26. At least you mentioned the Inspirations…you wouldn’t have known they sang reading the other reviews. I’d love to hear more from them…they released either my favorite or second-favorite album of this year so far.

    • I mentioned all the full-blown mainstage sets. (I don’t think I missed one!)

    • I have a respect that they can sing and not forget the words while reading the other reviews. That must take some concentration or just that they have sung so much they can do so in their sleep (or in this case while reading reviews). 😉

    • I knew I forgot something. Sorry Brian. Really Jon Epley with them. Fits in nicely. Great addition.

  27. Daniel thanks again for the review!