Kingdom Heirs’ pianist departs

Once again, the Kingdom Heirs are in the market for a pianist. This announcement was posted on their website today:

There are times when decisions are made and everything goes according to plan, and then there are times when they don’t. Back in January we hired Joseph Cox as the new pianist for The Kingdom Heirs. As of today, Monday March 12, we are again searching for a new pianist. To the simple point, things just didn’t work out for us or Joseph. He is a wonderful young man with a ton of talent and a promising future. We are thankful for the time we have spent together and we wish him the best. We will continue on using split tracks along with the bass and drums until a replacement is found.

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2007 Singing News Fan Award Nominees: Round 1, My Picks

Here are my nominations in the first round of the Singing News Fan Awards:

Group – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Male Singer – Mark Trammell
Female Singer – Libbi Perry Stuffle
Horizon Group – Ball Brothers
Horizon Individual – Randy Byrd (Blackwood Brothers)
Musician – Stewart Varnado
Young Artist – Joseph Habedank
Songwriter – Dianne Wilkinson
Song of the Year – “Once Upon a Cross” (Mark Trammell Trio)
Album of the Year – “Come Thirsty” (Perrys)

Who are your picks?

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Dove Awards nominees announced

David Bruce Murray at MusicScribe has a good summary and commentary on the Dove Awards nominees. [EDIT, 6/7/12: Broken link removed.] He does make a point about how the artists on the Torch project could claim to be Dove Nominated Artists now, though (as he well says) that would be a stretch. The artists on that NQC Special Event project, incidentally, were:

Lauren Talley, Scott Inman, Annie McRae, Adam Crabb, Jeremy Peace, Josh Feemster, Derrick Selph, Jeremy Lile, Nick Succi, Brandon Reese, Jason Selph, Amber Thompson, Jeff Snyder, Kelly McRae, Christian Davis, Ricky Free, Matthew Holt, Jeremy Brown, Paul Smith, Chris Weaver, Matt McFarland, Aaron Crabb, Jason Crabb, Dusty Barrett, Justin Ellis, Micah Schweinsberg, Lori Sikes, Zach Smith, Autumn Thompson, Avery Wolfe, Scott McDowell, Randy “Scoot” Shelnut, Jr., John Rulapaugh, Lance Moore, Josh Singletary, Aaron McCune, Andrew Ishee, Jim Mahalick, Jessica Harrison, Amber Balltzglier, Katy Peach, Joseph Habedank, Jason Waldroup, Anthony Facello, Josh Garner, Chris West, Stewart Varnado, The Crabb Family, Lauren Talley, Stephanie Brown, Eddie Harrison, Josh Simpson, Troy Peach, Terah Penhollow, Kelly Bowling ; Ed Leonard, Crystal Burchette, Mike Speck, Rick Shelton, Melody Van Nuss

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Vote in the Diamond Awards

The 2007 Diamond Awards are now open for nominations and voting. The rules can be found at this link. (Just in case the javascript popup isn’t working for everyone else, I gave the direct link so you don’t have to analyze the html to find it for yourself.) [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link appears to be down, and has been removed.]

This award program is sponsored by the SGN Scoops magazine / e-newsletter. I recognize that it is hardly the most prestigious award program out there, but I filled it out and posted my guesses partially just for the fun of it and partially because they have a few categories which will no longer be in the Singing News Fan Awards.

1. J.D. Sumner Living Legend Award: I went with Mark Trammell. The requirements of a 25+ year career and of significant contributions fit him perfectly. Nobody else can match his resume, either–25 years with stints in Southern Gospel’s four biggest groups (three quartets and a trio), before starting his own ministry and trio.

2. Group of the Year: Ernie Haase & Signature Sound barely edged out the Perrys. I wanted to vote for each, but ended up deciding for Signature Sound because they’ve pretty much had a banner year, while the Perrys had to spend some time rebuilding after Loren Harris left and Nick Trammell joined.

3. Trio of the Year: The Mark Trammell Trio, easily. Be watching for more great things with their upcoming radio single, the anthem “Once Upon a Cross.”

4. Duet of the Year: Left blank.

5. Soloist of the Year: Christian Davis. The award “recognizes male or female performers who record as a solo artist.” Even though he tours with a group, Davis indisputably recorded a solo project this year. Since this was the first Southern Gospel solo project I enjoy as much as I enjoy group projects, it was an easy choice.

6. Male Vocalist of the Year: Eric Phillips.

7. Female Vocalist of the Year: Olivia Collingsworth.

Why on earth did I vote for Olivia? Simply because I can–and because I do like her solos with her family. In the Singing News Fan Awards, I’ll probably vote for Libbi Perry Stuffle as I always do. I originally planned to vote for Libbi here, but then the idea struck.

8. Song of the Year: “Walk Away Free” by the Perrys, far and away the best song the Perrys recorded in 2006. The only other song I seriously considered was “I Have Been Changed” (Legacy Five, Glenn Dustin solo). But in the end, the subtle work of genius (transposing from G to C then back again) in the second verse of “Walk Away Free” put it over the top.

9. Video of the Year: “Coral Ridge Live” – Blackwood Brothers. I had to choose between this video, with great visuals but somewhat less-than-top-notch audio, and Legacy Five’s “Live in Music City,” with great audio but less-than-top-notch visuals. Since it’s a video award, and the focus is on the visuals, I went with the Blackwood Brothers. (Plus, their email update referred me to these awards, and I wanted to find at least one category in which to vote for them.)

10. Album of the Year: Come Thirsty by the Perrys. Signature Sound didn’t release an album in 2006, and the Mark Trammell Trio didn’t release an album of new songs. So I went with this one by default.

11. Songwriter of the Year – Kyla Rowland. I could have gone with either Dianne Wilkinson or Kyla Rowland on this one.
12. Instrumentalist of the year: Stewart Varnado. If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know I think very highly of his abilities. It’s one thing to accompany a group with the help of a London Philharmonic soundtrack; it’s another thing to do what Stewart does every night, and carry the entire show himself with a bit of help from Scoot Shelnut on bass guitar.

13. Sunrise Award: Ball Brothers. If you visit their website and listen to “Mercy Said No” on their main page audio player, you will know why I picked them. [EDIT, 11/8/10: The link appears to be down, and has been removed.]

14. Best Artist Website: I take this category seriously, and don’t just vote for the websites of my favorite groups. From a website design perspective, the two frontrunners were the Dixie Echoes and Triumphant Quartet websites. The added bonus of an exhaustive history section sealed my decision to go with the Dixie Echoes’ site. I might add that this website is designed and maintained by my favorite instrumentalist, Stewart Varnado.

15. Favorite Industry Website. This is a category in which my website is (I believe) eligible, so I won’t disclose my vote in this category.

16. Favorite Christian Comedian: Gerald Wolfe. His sense of timing is impeccable, and he can read an audience like few others.

17. Bluegrass Gospel Artist of the Year: Lewis Family. I don’t really have a favorite, so I just put the Lewises down. I like listening to them for a change of pace once in a while.

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Singing News Fan Awards revisited

Much has been made of the fact that Singing News has eliminated many categories in the Fan Awards. I must admit, I don’t really like the fact that the favorite Male Quartet, Mixed Quartet, Trio, Bass, Baritone, Lead, and Tenor awards were dropped. But I haven’t quite been able to find a way to express my feelings…until now.

Now I am not a sports fan, but many of you are. Just suppose that the rankings for favorite football team were eliminated. Suppose the rankings for best baseball team were eliminated. Suppose the rankings for best basketball team were eliminated. Instead, all the rankings were combined into one overall ranking, “best team.”

Wouldn’t that be much better? That way, rather than spreading the awards around into so many different categories, thereby diluting their impact, we could just point to one team and say that it was the best sports team in the United States.

But wait a minute, you might say. The different teams all play sports, but they do it in very different ways.

And that thought, applied to Southern Gospel, is my point precisely.

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Statement from Jim Cumbee on Fan Awards

When it was first posted on a message board that Singing News would be dropping many of its Fan Awards, I emailed Jim Cumbee, who is now at the helm of the Singing News, to see if I could confirm or deny the rumor. My email stated:

There is a report going around that the only Singing News Fan Awards for 2007 will be in the following categories: Group, Male Singer, Female Singer, Horizon Group, Horizon Individual, Pianist, Young Artist, Songwriter, Song, and Album. I noticed it on the SoGospelNews message board, and made a post about it on my blog, Could you confirm or deny this report?

Also, if the report is true, is your decision set in stone? Or would hearing from fans who wanted some of the most popular categories retained (bass, baritone, tenor, lead, trio, mixed group, male quartet) make any difference?

Thank you for your time.

Jim Cumbee responded by confirming the report. He gave four reasons for the change:

  1. We are going from 20-something categories to about 10 in the belief that fewer categories make for stronger awards, a faster-paced awards show and more excitement during the awards ceremony.  I want the Singing News Fan Award to have value to the artist, their record company and their booking agency.  If everybody is a candidate for something, ultimately the entire award process is diluted.  That won’t be the case anymore.
  2. If voting patterns mean anything (and I think they do), we are seeing LESS interest in the “part awards.”  You are wrong in saying that the part awards are “some of the most popular” — if you follow voting patterns.
  3. My belief is that the industry doesn’t need to be defined by gender composition (male quartet vs. mixed group) or by number (quartet vs. trio).  A southern gospel group is a southern gospel group.  Let’s let the fans decide which ONE is their favorite.  In the same vein, why segregate tenors from baritones, bass singers from lead singers?  Too many “fan favorites” negates the very meaning of “fan favorite.”  Who is your favorite singer? period.
  4. By having fewer awards, the dynamics of the voting get a lot lot lot more interesting.  The folks that watch these things (like you) will find this year’s awards much more interesting.

He also commented about his commitment to maintain the traditions and heritage of Southern Gospel music; he said, “that will never ever change under my watch.”

He concluded by expressing his commitment to help the genre grow, and ‘expand its credibility and visibility.” He believes a “faster award show with fewer and more competitive categories facilitates that.”

There you have it, in his own words.

If you want to share your thoughts with the Singing News management, email addresses for Danny Jones and Jerry Kirksey can be found on this page, while Cumbee’s is on this page. There is also a thread on the Singing News Forums where the issue will be discussed. [EDIT, 11/6/10: Regrettably, the links seem to be broken, so they have been removed.]

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No more Bass of the Year or Favorite Mixed Group?

That’s the story making the rounds today in Southern Gospel music. According to a post made by Rick Hendix at the SoGospelNews message board, the only Singing News Fan Awards for 2007 will be in the following categories: Group, Male Singer, Female Singer, Horizon Group, Horizon Individual, Pianist, Young Artist, Songwriter, Song, and Album.

If the report is accurate, there will be no more awards for favorite soprano, alto, tenor, lead, baritone, and bass, and no more separate awards for favorite male quartet, favorite mixed quartet, and favorite trio.

I’ve sent an email to Danny Jones at the Singing News asking him to either deny or confirm the story. I also asked if input from the fans might make any difference. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few categories go, but I would definitely miss the awards I mentioned above.

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Vote in CCM Readers’ Choice Awards

I will admit to having what can at times be an offbeat sense of humor. Feel free to join me in casting votes in CCM Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards. (EDIT: 8/5/2011: Broken link removed) All votes must be cast by October 13.

Most of our picks are in the “other” (write-in) category and would probably have no chance of winning. But there are one or two top-level nominees that could make it (such as the Gaither Vocal Band).

Here are a few of my picks:
1. (Best Band) Other-Kingdom Heirs
2. (Best Duo or Group) Gaither Vocal Band (Why not? Even if they might not be my favorite group, at least they have a chance!)
3. (Best Male Artist) Other-Gerald Wolfe
4. (Best Female Artist) Other-Libbi Perry Stuffle
5. (Best Artist) Other-Ernie Haase
6. (Best New Artist) Other-Nick Trammell
7. (Best Album) Other-Ernie Haase & Signature Sound – Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
8. (Best Independent Artist) Other-Dixie Echoes
12. (Best Worship Artist) Other-Talley Trio
13. (Best Inspirational Artist) Michael Card
16. (Best Producer) Other-Wayne Haun
17. (Favorite Songwriter) Diane Wilkinson
18. (Best Song) Walk Away Free-Perrys (Yes, it’s that good)
20. (Best Album) Come Thirsty-Perrys
21. (Best Live Performance) Ernie Haase & Signature Sound (of course!)
22. (Best Festival) NQC (of course!)
23. (Most Underrated Artist) Bill Shivers (isn’t he?)
25. (Comeback Artist) The Blackwood Brothers
26. (Best Record Label) Daywind
28. (Best Book) Murray’s Encyclopedia of Southern Gospel (sure, it came out in 2005, but who would know the difference?)
31. (Best Guitarist) Kevin Williams
32. (Best Drummer) Dennis Murphy (Kingdom Heirs)
33. (Best Bassist) Mark Trammell
34. (Best Keyboardist) Stewart Varnado
35. (Best Vocalist) Guy Penrod (who knows; he may have a chance)
36. (Best Artist Activist) Gerald Wolfe

Maybe if a good number of Southern Gospel fans drop by, there might be a few surprises!

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Go figure…

Southern Gospel online magazine has their Southern Gospel Music Awards online voting taking place right now. (EDIT 8/6/11: Broken link removed). In the “Favorite Male Soloist” category, the top five nominees are Kirk Talley, David Phelps, Ivan Parker, Guy Penrod, and Michael Combs. Guy Penrod?

For whatever it’s worth, I’m casting my vote for Guy Penrod, for no reason in particular other than that I’d be amused to see what happens if he wins.

I also voted for Karlye Hopper for favorite junior artist. I did not know that she sang at all, but perhaps the Hoppers have started training her to sing alto to be ready whenever Claude and Connie retire.

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