Friday News Roundup #219

Worth Knowing

  • Songwriter Arthur Smith, who wrote songs like “I’ve Been With Jesus,” “The Fourth Man,” and “I Saw A Man,” passed away on April 3. He was 93.
  • Carolyn Reese, wife of Kingsmen Quartet bass singer Ray Dean Reese, has had several medical concerns over the last few months. Earlier this week, she was in ICU, with tests being run; the Kingsmen posted earlier this week that she has been doing well enough to be moved to a regular room. They will post the latest updates at their Facebook page.

Worth Reading

This week’s Letter to the Editor: Among the many responses to Pat Barker’s decision to come off the road, this one stood out:

I still recall my disappointment following Tracy Crouch’s departure from the Dixie Echoes. I thought no one could ever fill his shoes. By the time Pat Barker left, I realized that he had left them larger than he found them. Throughout his time with the Mark Trammell Quartet, Pat Barker has not only been my favorite bass singer, but also my favorite artist in the genre. While I will greatly miss him, I admire his willingness to put his family first. – Michael Mount

Worth Watching

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Pat Barker leaves Mark Trammell Quartet

Pat Barker exciting the audienceIn a statement posted on Singing News, Mark Trammell has announced that bass singer Pat Barker is leaving the group.

There are some things in life that you just can’t imagine ever having to do. What I’m about to say is one of them. After much prayer, fasting, and seeking the mind of God, our beloved bass singer Pat Barker has tendered his resignation. He is much in need of being at home with his precious family. While it grieves our hearts, we must honor his decision and begin the process of moving on with God.

We are once again reminded that the only thing that doesn’t change is Jesus. A new chapter in the life of MTQ. And, a new chapter in the life of the finest, most Christlike man to ever travel on a quartet bus. Pat has stated that he will be with us until early May and then will be going home. I would ask that you not only pray for us as we begin the process of looking forward, but also pray for Pat, Kesha, and their three sweet children. Pray that God will give them direction, peace, and spiritual strength.

Bass singers interested in auditioning for the open position can email a resume, recent photo, and two songs to

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Upcoming Southern Gospel Releases: April 2014

This list aims to be inclusive of Daywind, Crossroads, Horizon, Sonlite, Gaither Music Group, Stow Town, New Haven, Difference Media, Song Garden, Mansion, and major independent group releases where known.

April 2014

  • 4/1: Because He Lives: Favorite Easter Songs, Gaither Homecoming Friends (Gaither Music Group / Capitol)
  • 4/8: Into His Presence, The Perrys (Stow Town / Provident)
  • 4/21Unashamed, Brian Free & Assurance (Daywind / New Day)

May 2014

  • 5/20: This Is What It’s All About, Mark Bishop (Sonlite / Crossroads)
  • 5/20: Decade, The Old Paths (Sonlite / Crossroads)

Is this list missing anything significant, especially among major independent releases? Let us know!

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A Change in Posting Schedule

When this site launched, I decided to put up a post every weekday (and some Saturdays). Early in this site’s history, I missed a day or two—once when the Eastern power grid went down and power was out for more than twenty-four hours! I think it has been five or six years since I missed a day.

That’s good, to a point. But there’s a downside: There are days when I’ve written a post just to keep the streak going. That’s not the most effective use of your time, and I apologize.

Some posts—like last Tuesday’s—could have just as easily been one line in a News Roundup. If something can be communicated just as effectively with one sentence, then it probably should be.

From this point forward, I plan to post only when I have something to say. That should still come out to several posts per week most weeks, and certainly, there will be weeks when every day will have a post. But I won’t waste your time just to keep a streak running.

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Friday News Roundup #218

Worth Knowing

  • Longtime Diplomats bass singer Joe Brown has returned to the group.
  • Blackwood Quartet member David Mann is coming off the road due to voice issues. In an open letter, he commented: “My windpipe was full of mold that, I later found out, I had been breathing in from a mold infested vehicle. This problem had collapsed a portion of my airways, and prevented me from using more than 1/3 of my lung capacity.” On doctor’s advice, he has decided to pursue non-musical lines of work, at least for the next several years.
  • Roger Talley entertained the audience at a recent Talleys concert in Norway by coming on stage dressed in the costume of their Olympic curling team.

Worth Reading

On Monday’s “Creating Trends” post, Pat Barker posted insightful thoughts on the relative merits of gimmicks and the songs to back them up:

I was told by one of my managers in the early days of me traveling that most Gospel music fans were also wrestling fans. In those days I was still trying to be “High Church” in my presentation because that is how I was taught. The problem was that it wasn’t getting past the first row. His point was that most of the fans want a gimmick. They want something they can identify with every time they see you. That is true.

The dilemma is presenting the gimmick with class so it doesn’t come off as hokey or “local group” for lack of a better term. A gimmick can be anything from an old man to two microphones. It can also be a white flag or a passionate piano player. There has to be something that brings the people to the concert night after night.

Here, in my opinion, is where many groups miss the boat. YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE SONGS TO BACK UP THE GIMMICK! Glen was always the old man, but they didn’t have their greatest success till We Shall See Jesus. Brian Free was always precious, but Midnight Cry was their launching pad. Gerald has always made fun of Rodney, but Lazarus, to this day, has to be sung night after night. Thank God that at the end of the day, whether you like wrestling or not, It’s all about the song. That’s the way it should be and I hope that’s the way it always will be.

Worth Watching

One bass singer, Legacy Five’s Matt Fouch, interviews another, the Mark Trammell Quartet’s Pat Barker:

Also of note: Reality TV stars The Duggar Family attended a recent Collingsworth Family concert. They invited the Collingsworth Family over after the concert, and filmed and posted a video of the Collingsworth Family singing “God Bless America” a cappella in the Duggar’s living room:

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Audience Response

We’ve all heard a tenor or bass singing out of his natural range, a worn-out comedy routine, or a challenging song attempted by someone who isn’t able to do it justice. I cannot tell you how many things I’ve heard justified with this line: “But the audience responded well.”

Here’s a little secret: (Most) audiences are rooting for the person who is on stage to succeed. If a tenor is pushing the absolute limits of his vocal range, going for a note he probably should have left in the practice room, most audiences aren’t hoping that his voice cracks and he totally flubs the high ending. Even if an audience has heard a joke (like the “sister tenor” joke) so many times that it’s no longer funny, they’ll probably laugh to be polite.

The best emcees recognize that audiences will respond favorably to a lot of things. But they don’t use that as a crutch. Instead, they keep the big picture of what their group wants to accomplish in that concert in mind—edification, entertainment, ministry. Then, from the wide variety of things to which audiences respond positively, they utilize the ones that most effectively take them toward their desired result.

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The Grand New Hymns

Lee Black has written or co-written numerous Southern Gospel hit songs, including the #1 Brian Free & Assurance hit “I Want To Be That Man.” But he doesn’t only write Southern Gospel hit songs; he also writes modern hymns on the side. Here is an example:

Here’s another.

Lee hasn’t been the only one writing songs reminiscent of the grand old hymns. Dianne Wilkinson has written several through the years, from “Of Thee I Sing” (Greater Vision) to “I Am Free” (Mark Trammell Trio) to the recent “Man of Sorrows” (Mark Trammell Quartet). When “Man of Sorrows” came out earlier this year, I noticed a comment criticizing the song for not sounding like a traditional Southern Gospel big ballad. I didn’t reply, since online arguments are usually futile and counterproductive, but I did think, “It wasn’t written to be a big ballad; it was written to be a hymn.” There’s no point in criticizing a dog for not looking like a cat!

There is and should always be a place in our genre for doctrinally sound, Biblically rich lyrics with majestic melodies. To their credit, Southern Gospel has always found a place for the grand old hymns. We need to make sure we also have a place for the grand new hymns.

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Creating Trends

Every good group needs great vocalists and great songs. Great groups have one more thing: They either do something nobody else does or do it better than anyone else. Many of these can be described in ten words or fewer. Four examples:

  • Statesmen (50s/60s): Modern harmonies and an energetic live delivery
  • Isaacs (90s/00s): Gospel bluegrass with tight family harmonies
  • Bill Gaither Trio (60s/70s): Group members writing enduring classics for every record
  • Gold City (80s): Cutting-edge progressive Southern Gospel

The point isn’t to be unique for the sake of being unique; those acts are novelty acts.

If a group does something innovative and is successful, others will eventually copy the unique factor, and perhaps even the songs. Regional groups, and sometimes a few groups on the national scene, are content to jump on the bandwagon of the currently successful trends. The great groups create those trends.

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Friday News Roundup #217

Worth Knowing

  • Old Paths bass singer Daniel Ashmore got married last Sunday. The Old Paths posted a photo gallery of Daniel and Katelyn Ashmore’s wedding here.

Worth Reading

On Wednesday’s post, several artists left their thoughts about the value of meeting fans at the table before a concert:

Pat Barker (Mark Trammell Quartet):

When I went to see the Cathedrals, most of the artists were at the table before the concert. If they can be at the table, then anyone can be at the table. George was the only one who stayed backstage. It did make it exciting to see him for the first time on the stage. My point? Both sides are right. It comes down to fan perspective.

When we do multi artist dates, we are usually the only ones at the table minus Mark. I hear it more times than not, “Where are the other groups? Are they too good to come in”? I think 30 plus years ago the groups were seen as stars so it was ok to stay backstage because that’s what stars do. Now, the artists are see as family. If you don’t come to the table, you’re seen as too good to shake hands with the “regular people.” Plus groups are missing a great opportunity to sell. We do alot of product sales before the concert. These days, when it’s hard to get people to the table, every little bit helps.

Matt Fouch (Legacy Five):

Most of L5 is at the table at least 45 minutes, usually 1 hour, before the concert begins. It give people an opportunity to stop by and chat for a few minutes. Intermission is usually too busy to hold a conversation. After the concert, most of our guys are headed to the bus to get changed to start tearing down equipment. Like one other person said, it really is what the artist wants to do. We choose to be available pre-concert and intermission. So, come early and say HI 🙂

Several other artists and fans offered thoughts, here.

Worth Watching

Bluegrass band Balsam Range—the current home of Kingsmen/Isaacs alumnus Tim Surrett—takes on the Kingsmen classic “When I Wake Up To Sleep No More.” Of particular note is a hilarious comedy bit at the 3:15 about what bluegrass bass singers have to do to sing low.

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