Saturday News Roundup #173

Worth Knowing

Worth Watching

Clayton Inman had to miss a recent Triumphant Quartet concert, so Jeff Stice sang “The Old White Flag” in his place. Jamie Minchey captured this priceless moment on SocialCam, here (hat tip, Lauren). This has to be one of the funniest things that ever happened at a Triumphant concert; don’t miss it!

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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Dixie Melody Boys hire Aaron Dishman

Aaron Dishman

Last month, the Dixie Melody Boys announced that baritone Steven Cooper’s would be transitioning to the bass guitar position, after his doctor prescribed several years of vocal rest. Yesterday evening, they sent out a press release announcing his replacement: They have hired Aaron Dishman as their new baritone/pianist.

Dishman had filled in several years ago at the pianist position. “We fell in love with his spirit,” bass singer and manager Ed O’Neal stated. “When this came open, we knew he would be a great fit.”

Tenor and publicist Matt Felts added, “We are excited to have Aaron join us. When he came to audition and sat down at the piano to sing us a song, you could feel God’s spirit. He will add so much to our concerts and I know the fans will love him.”

The Dixie Melody Boys are currently accepting applications for the lead singer position vacated yesterday by Mike Rogers, who moved to Brian Free & Assurance

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Mike Rogers joins Brian Free & Assurance

Mike RogersLast night, Brian Free & Assurance announced that Mike Rogers is their new baritone singer. Brian Free stated:

When I received the audition info for Mike I was very impressed with his vocal ability and the gift to deliver a song. After spending some time with him, his wife Bekki and daughter Coraline at my home, I knew he was the one God had sent to be a member of our family. I love his heart and the love he has for people. He will be a wonderful addition to BFA.

Having over 300 people apply for the job, it was a hard decision due to all the talent I heard. I want to thank each person who took their time and effort to apply for the position. I am truly honored that so many wanted to be a part of our ministry. I know God has a place and time for you to use your talent for him.

Mike Rogers added:

The warmth and humility from Brian and the guys when I auditioned made me feel this was truly a God-thing, and confirmed for me that I wanted to be a part of their ministry. BFA is very family-oriented, which means a lot to me. Ministry is important, but after God, family is top priority. Quartet music doesn’t get any better than BFA. They are top notch, and I am honored to join them.

Rogers is the latest graduate of Ed O’Neal University. He was introduced to Southern Gospel when he joined the Dixie Melody Boys, ten months ago. (The day his hire there was announced, we interviewed him, here.)

Dixie Melody Boys owner Ed O’Neal commented, “We wish Mike and his family the best.” Tenor/publicist Matt Felts added, “Change can be hard but also exciting. History has proven that every time a singer has left, God has brought us another great addition to the Dixie Melody Boys. We know God has someone coming that will be the right fit for years to come.” The Dixie Melody Boys are accepting auditions at

UPDATE, 5/25/13: The Dixie Melody Boys have issued this press release:

As many of you read last week, Mike Rogers resigned as our lead and will join Brian Free and Assurance in June. We will miss Mike. He has been a blessing to us and we know he has a bright future wherever God leads him in the future. We have begun to search for a new member of our team. This is truly an exciting time for our group. Over the last two years, we have been blessed to see the Dixie Melody Boys rise back up to the top of Gospel music. We are currently in the studio working on a new project that is sure to be a milestone recording for us. This album will be finished released shortly after the addition of a new lead singer. Last week, we announced that we have hired Aaron Dishman as our new baritone and piano player. With Steven Cooper moving to bass guitar, we know the fans will love seeing us add live music back to our program.

Ed O’Neal has set the standard in Gospel music for having the very best talent in his group through the years. We plan to keep that tradition alive for many years to come. Working for a true legend like Ed is a special opportunity. We are currently seeking the very best person available for this posistion. Our producer and Executive VP of Song Garden Music Group David Staton had this to say. “This is a rare opportunity for a singer. The Dixie Melody Boys are iconic and the next lead singer has a chance to become part of something special. This next album will allow them to make their mark on Gospel music as a great vocalist. The Dixie Melody Boys are set to be the group to watch over the next decade.” … 

We will be accepting applications at We look forward to hearing some great singers. We covet your prayers through this process and your support for the group.

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Debra Talley injured; R.C. Talley passes away

As multiple online sources have reported, Roger and Kirk Talley’s father R.C. “Red” Talley passed away this afternoon. He had been ill for some time. He was preceded in death by his wife, Connie Talley, in 2010. The visitation and funeral will be on Monday.

It’s never a good time for a parent to pass away, but some are decidedly worse than others. Debra Talley is currently in a Nashville hospital with a concussion. Her chair fell off the back row of the stage at yesterday’s Gaither Homecoming video recording.

Please keep the Talleys in your prayers!

UPDATE (5/23): Debra has been released from the hospital and is on the mend.

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Joseph Habedank leaves The Perrys

Yesterday afternoon, The Perrys announced on their Facebook page that Joseph Habedank is leaving the group. Habedank offered this statement:

After 10 years of having the great privilege to serve with the Perrys, I have decided to step down as Lead Singer at this time. Libbi and I talked earlier this week, and while I would never want to abandon her in such a great time of need, sometimes The Lord has other plans. There aren’t enough words for me to express how truly grateful I am for both Tracy and Libbi giving me the opportunity that they have. They are like parents to me and I love them dearly. I will miss them. 

To the Gospel Music community, thank you all for loving and accepting me over the years. I never dreamed that The Lord would allow me to feel so loved by the fans of Gospel Music. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

As for my future, only The Lord knows what He has in store. I am confident of this one thing tho; I am absolutely nothing without Him and I only want His perfect will for my life. My wife, Lindsay, and I both covet your prayers in this time of transition. We love you all. 

With a grateful heart,
Joseph Habedank 

Libbi Perry Stuffle added her own thoughts:

While it saddens me that Joseph is leaving, we definitely respect his and Lindsay’s need to reevaluate their lives and future. He has been like a son to me and Tracy. Although he is leaving our group, we will always consider him part of our family. 

As for the Perry’s, we will continue on. It is my plan to be back on the road as soon and as much as possible. I don’t have all the answers right now, but God is in control. Thank you for your love and prayers for me, Tracy, Jared, Bryan, and Leah; and your continued support of the group.

In His Grip,

At the time of the stroke, Joseph Habedank was nearing ten years with the group. Besides the length of his tenure, his stature as a songwriter (multiple #1 hits and a Song of the Year) played a major role in audiences accepting the Stuffle-less Perrys. But at the time of the stroke, Bryan Walker was the rookie in the group; he’s now the senior member at the programs far enough from Nashville that Libbi can’t make it. So Bryan, Leah, and Habedank’s replacement face a steep road ahead and will need our prayers.

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Song Snapshots #18: Bless Your Holy Name Again (Lesters, Three Bridges)

Ben Storie spent ten years honing his songwriting skill while traveling in a Southern Gospel group with his wife before moving to Nashville to pursue songwriting professionally. After three years with little success, he decided to make a last-ditch effort, recording demos for about a dozen songs and passing them out at a National Quartet Convention one year.

“I gave it to anybody and everybody, including Daryl Williams,” he recalls. “I had met Daryl several years before, because my family’s group had done some of the same events as the Daryl Williams Trio.”

He continues: “I didn’t hear anything from anybody. That was my last-ditch effort; financially, we had to make some decisions, so we ended up moving back home, where we had come from, in Oklahoma.”

For the next six months, he kept submitting songs to different artists and publishers. One Tuesday, he got a polite no-thank-you letter. “I honestly don’t even remember exactly what happened,” he recalls, “but I just made the conscious decision that I would no longer pursue writing as a professional goal. It was one of those moments where I told my wife and the Lord, ‘I get it. This is not meant to be. I’m wasting a lot of time and resources and energy and this is not the direction You have for me.’ And I settled it in my soul.”

“I don’t know how to describe it,” he continues. “It wasn’t dramatic; it was just one of those moments where I made peace with it. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; I had walked away and laid it down. I knew that if I wrote again, it would be just purely for personal enjoyment.”

That Friday night, he got a call from Daryl Williams: “Ben, I’ve had a chance to listen to your music, and the stuff that you’re writing is already good enough to be published and for artists to be interested. You just need someone to connect you.”

Not only did Williams introduce him to Rick Shelton at Daywind Music Publishing, he also co-wrote eight to ten songs with Storie over the next several months. “He was just very, very gracious to mentor me and encourage me. What looked like the end of the road became the beginning of my songwriting story, professionally.”

One of the songs they wrote together was “Bless Your Holy Name Again.” “We set out to write a Southern Gospel praise and worship song,” he recalls,” something that would have a chorus that was very congregational in nature.”

“We wanted to communicate a praise and worship thought that a Southern Gospel artist and a Southern Gospel audience could identify with and want to sing,” he adds. “A lot of Southern Gospel artists want to have a point in their concerts where they invite audiences to join in singing a worship song together to the Lord. At that time, I think we were thinking that the Gaithers had the market cornered on congregational-type songs; we wanted to write one of those. It’s something that would still flow in a traditional worship service with a fresh melody and a fresh lyric.”

Three Bridges, the Lesters, and David McVay all ended up recorded the song; the Lesters used it as a concert opener. “It really is fun when you you write a song and it kind of takes on its own life and gets cut by several artists,” he concludes. “It is cool to hear through the grapevine that someone else has recorded this song and has breathed a new life in it.”


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Saturday News Roundup #172

Worth Knowing

  • Monroe Hopper, one of the original members of the Hopper Brothers and Connie, passed away yesterday morning.
  • Little Jimmy Taylor passed away late Wednesday evening. He was pianist for the Rebels Quartet from 1952-1969 and from 1972-1974. He also wrote the song “Dear Jesus, Abide With Me,” cut by the Rebels Quartet in 1960, the Blackwood Brothers in 1961, and numerous other groups in the early ’60s.
  • On Tuesday, Beyond the Ashes baritone vocalist Kellan Monroe announced his departure from the group on his Facebook page. He said that he is “very excited about this new season and direction in my life and thankful for all God is doing,” but did not specify his future plans. A video was posted to Facebook of former Freedom baritone Tyler Vestal filling in at a concert last weekend—intriguing given that Freedom and Beyond the Ashes are on polar opposite ends of the Southern Gospel spectrum.
  • A new Homecoming video recording will be taped next Tuesday. It is being billed as “our first-ever all-women’s Homecoming!” This, however, refers only to the vocalists; Bill Gaither will be there to host, and current Boxcars / former Isaacs member John Bowman mentioned on Facebook that he will be part of the live band, playing fiddle and mandolin. A 90-minute selection of what will ultimately result in a two-DVD taping will be aired live for members.

Worth Watching

Here’s a video of Inspirations bass singer Mike Holcomb singing tenor:

(That’s a B-flat above middle C at the end—a note that most lead singers don’t even try to hit!)

Worth Discussing

It’s open thread Saturday—you decide!

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CD Review: Living in the Moment (Beyond the Ashes)

Beyond the Ashes - Living in the Moment3:1 Reviews offer three highlights of an album and one area that could have been improved.

After singing with groups like Heaven Bound and the Journeymen, Anthony Facello joined Garry Jones’ Mercy’s Mark Quartet as a founding member in 2004. Shortly after he left that group in 2006, he started his own group, Anthony Facello and Crossroad. (They would later be renamed Beyond the Ashes.)

Beyond the Ashes carved out a spot on the Southern Gospel spectrum that moved the markers and left groups like Brian Free & Assurance or the Crist Family, by comparison, labeled as “moderately progressive.” Through a couple of personnel changes, they have maintained a consistent progressive trio sound. They spent several years with Vine Records (run by Wayne Haun and Kevin Ward); Living in the Moment is their debut release for Stow Town Records (run by Wayne Haun and Ernie Haase).

Their diverse influences show in their song selection. They cover songs from artists as diverse as the Collingsworth Family (“Oh, the Thought that Jesus Loves Me”) and pop singer Jason Mraz (“Living in the Moment.”) It doesn’t seem that Mraz, who co-wrote the latter song, intended it as an overtly Christian song; he describes himself as a syncretist who doesn’t “follow any type of religious doctrine or any type of rules that any one religion creates”; however, the case can be made that the song’s lyrics, including “peace in my heart / peace in my soul,” “I’ve let my past go past / and now I’m having more fun” and “wherever I’m going, I’m already home / I’m living in the moment” allow room to be interpreted within a Christian context.

Perhaps to counterbalance the lyrical risk in the title track—many of the other lyrics on the album cover familiar turf in familiar ways: No sin is greater than grace. Jesus gives us peace in the storm. Jesus loves us. Love whispers our name. Love comes shining through.

Fans of progressive Southern Gospel are likely to enjoy Living in the Moment. If your tastes run more middle-of-the-road (Perrys, Triumphant) to traditional (Dixie Echoes, Blackwood Brothers), it is unlikely to be your cup of tea. But even then, you may well enjoy several individual tracks, like “Where Gold Begins” and “Oh, the Thought that Jesus Loves Me.”

Traditional or Progressive: Very Progressive.

Group Members: Anthony Facello (tenor), Dustin Doyle (lead), Kellan Monroe (baritone). (Note: This review was written before Kellan Monroe’s departure, announced on his Facebook page this week.)

Credits: Producer: Wayne Haun. Recorded by Kevin Ward at The Sound Emporium, Studio B Nashville, Tennessee, assisted by Michael Stankiewicz. Additional tracking by Steve Dady. Mixed by Jeff Pitzer. Mastered by Alan Silverman. Musicians: Jason Webb (piano, keyboards, B3 organ), David Huntsinger (piano, B3 organ), Virgil Stratford (piano, B3 organ), Gordon Mote (piano), Hans Nelson (keyboards, programming), Duncan Mullins (bass guitar), Craig Nelson (bass guitar), Mark Hill (bass guitar), Kevin Ward (bass guitar), Danny O’Lannerghty (bass guitar, acoustic bass), Ricky Free (drums & percussion), John Hammond (drums & percussion), Steve Brewster (drums & percussion), Zak Shumate (drums & percussion), Kelly Back (electric and acoustic guitars), Dave Cleveland (electric and acoustic guitars), Joel Key (acoustic guitar), Scott Sanders (steel guitar, resophonic guitar), Jeff Pitzer (accordion), Randy Miller (harmonica), Wayne Haun (orchestrations).

Song List (songwriters in parentheses): So Amazing to Me (Wayne Haun; Rachel McCutcheon); Living in the Moment (Jason Mraz; Richard Nowels); Oh the Thought that Jesus Loves Me (Wayne Haun; Lyn Rowell); No Sin Greater Than God’s Grace (Anthony Facello; Rachel McCutcheon); Peace In the Midst of the Storm (Stephen Adams); Walking With My Eyes on Jesus (Rachel McCutcheon); I Can’t Do This By Myself (Joel Lindsey, Wayne Haun); Where the Gold Begins (Carl Cartee; Joseph Dustin Daniels; Allen Stanford Dukes; David Blake Neesmith; Aaron Daniel Tomberlin; Nathan Timothy Tomberlin); When Love Whispers Your Name (Ernie Haase, Joel Lindsey); Your Love Comes Shining Through (Wayne Haun, Jimmy Yeary); Over For Good (Marcy Each, Karen Gillespie, Kimberly Walling Ford).

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Mark Trammell Quartet hires Dustin Black

The Mark Trammell Quartet just announced that Dustin Black has accepted the position of tenor. Black grew up in Saginaw, Michigan, and is the first Yankee the group has ever hired. When he started filling in, he was so new to the genre of music that he underwent a ninety-day trial period so that both Black and the group could be certain he was the right fit before the hire was finalized.

Mark Trammell comments: “We are SO excited about Dustin coming on board and we look forward to what is in store for both Dustin and MTQ. I am still convinced that God knows exactly what we need and when we need it. … He is a brand new face to gospel music and has already made many new friends across the country with his winning smile and warm personality. He has proven to be a true Christian Gentleman in every way. I was immediately impressed with this young man and his ability to just be one of the boys. Dustin had only been to one gospel concert prior to walking on our bus. It was a Gaither event in California a few years back while he was finishing his Masters degree in music at West Coast Baptist College.”

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