Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Dream Quartet - Lead Singer

I had a really tough time with this next position. The lead singer is so vital to any quartet because you have to carry the weight of the quartet on your shoulders musically. You have to be able to blend with the quartet but at the same time be strong enough to step out and take a lead. I think in his heyday Jake Hess was the greatest lead singer to ever walk. It amazed me at how he could fall back into a quartet and be part of the harmony even with how well he over enunciated his words and phrases. But this is not the time or place for me to get off onto him because he has already passed on and we are talking about the living.

In my mind there are about 6 guys that are living that could stand up and take this job: Duane Allen, Shane Dunlap, Josh Garner, Jonathan Sawrie, Dustin Sweatman, and Josh Feemaster. Lets start out with the first mentioned Duane Allen. I think for the younger crowd that are just hearing him in his later days of singing, they have missed out on a lot. I would encourage you to go back and listen to some of the stuff that he was recording in the 70’s because that was when he was in his prime. He was known for such songs as The Baptism of Jesse Taylor (yes before GVB and Guy Penrod) Rhythm Guitar, King Jesus, He, and my personal favorite These Hands. I think the main reason for not picking him is because I know that his best days vocally are behind him.

The next four guys I think I can knock out pretty quickly. Shane Dunlap has always been one of my favorites. I have liked him since his days of N’Harmony. They were one of my favorite quartets for the time that they were together. Shortly after disbanding N’Harmony, he went on to be the first lead singer for Signature Sound. That was also a short lived thing and made his exit the same time Gary Jones left the group. There were rumors that Gary and Shane were going to start a group but for whatever reason that didn’t happen. In my opinion, that group was much better than the group that is together today. Josh Garner is my next. He is most known for his days with the Florida Boys. I was just always impressed with him because he was a throwback to some of the older lead singers. That is one of the reasons I like this next one, Jonathan Sawrie. Most notably he spent some time with the Melody Boys Quartet. In his time there, he served as lead singer, pianist, and arranger. I would love to see him join a group full time but I understand that family is more important to him at this point and he has chosen the greater good. Dustin Sweatman of Mark Trammell Trio would be another good choice. I met Dustin last July out at Steve Hurst School of Music. He and I hit it off pretty quick because we are old school quartet fans. He came though the Ed O’Neal school of singing at the baritone position for the Dixie Melody Boys until he joined up with Mark Trammell Trio. He now sings lead and I believe has a long future ahead of him.

I think the person to take the lead singer position in my dream quartet would have to be Josh Feemaster. I know that he is relatively new to the industry but from what I have heard, I really like him. I think that he is young enough that if he takes care of himself vocally, he will have some longevity if he decides to continue singing in the industry. I know with the unsurity that Mercy Mark has had we don’t know if he will keep singing or not. I believe he has just enough of a contemporary voice to be relevant but he is not constantly trying to pull all of these crazy vocal runs and be a show off. I was recently listening to the Singing American’s LP Live and Alive recorded in 84. At that time, Mike English was the lead singer. If you listen to him then and even his days with the Vocal Band they are two different singers. The singing American days he was a pretty straight forward singer. In his Vocal Band days he constantly pulling these vocal runs and they got old after a while. To much rich cake icing will eventually make you sick.

Join me next time when we will talk about the baritone.

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