Joshua Tomlin returning home

Joshua Tomlin sings lead for Cumberland Thunder during a concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg on Dec. 31, 2021. (File photo)

Cumberland Thunder singer-musician going solo to lead Danville benefit concert

By John Herndon,

Joshua Tomlin believes you can go home again and he’s put together what promises to be a great night of worship and praise to do so.

Tomlin, known to Kentucky gospel music fans as a vocalist and guitarist for Cumberland Thunder, will be going solo on Saturday, May 27 at Danville’s First Church of God. The concert, which will feature Tim Readnour as the opening artist, begins at 6 p.m.

Performing a solo concert is not new to Tomlin, but he will be plowing some new musical ground with the concert. “I have performed a small handful of solo dates, but it has been several years ago, and nothing of this magnitude,” he said in an email. “I will be singing, playing guitar and playing some piano. There is a full live band (including some backup singers) that I have put together specifically for this night, and we’ve been in rehearsal since February.”

Continue reading “Joshua Tomlin returning home”

Soul’d Out stays true to mission

Soul’d Out sings during revival services at Capital City Christian Church in Frankfort, April 28. From left are Chris Chavez, Matt Rankin and Jason McAtee.
Spirit-led music, theology-driven lyrics continue to characterize veteran group

By John Herndon,

FRANKFORT, Ky. – We’d never seen Soul’d Out in person before last Friday’s appearance at Capital City Christian Church. Suffice it to say we hope it won’t be very long until the next time our paths cross!

Simply put, Soul’d Out was fantastic!

Soul’d Out was in Frankfort for a weekend revival along with Bob Russell, the former minister of Louisville’s Southeast Christian Church, and his son, Rusty, of Port Charlotte, Florida. It could be described as a 2023 nod to an old-fashioned “meeting” loaded with powerful preaching and music that stirs the soul.

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The song will continue

Jeff Tolbert, center, leads in the finale of Primitive Quartet’s concert with Gold City and The Inspirations at Ashland’s Paramount Arts Center on April 1.
Primitive Quartet’s Jeff Tolbert thankful for the past 27 years, excited about the future

By John Herndon,

ASHLAND, Ky. – Jeff Tolbert will be the first to admit he’s not looking forward to May 20.

That’s the night Primitive Quartet will be performing its final concert, a sold-out affair at Lakeway Performing Arts Center in White Pine, Tenn. The beloved group has said it will continue to sing some, as the Lord leads, but is retiring from the traveling ministry that night.

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Primitive Quartet still shines the light on Jesus

Primitive Quartet sings at Paramount Arts Center, Ashland, Ky., April 1, 2023. From left are Reagan Riddle, Randy Fox, Jeff Tolbert, Mike Riddle and Larry Riddle. (Photo by John Herndon)
Nearing the end of its traveling ministry, beloved group still has a song

By John Herndon,

ASHLAND, Ky. – I will admit, I was choked up more than once as I watched and listened to Primitive Quartet in concert on April 1.

My friend, Paul Belcher, who was promoting the concert at the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, had invited my wife, Stephanie, and me to watch these legendary gospel singers from backstage. It was an experience I will never forget as those three hours allowed me to observe Primitive Quartet up close and personal in a way I never had before. And in my final Primitive Quartet concert, I was reminded in a different way why these men are so beloved.

Larry and Reagan Riddle have been singing together since they and a couple of friends went on that now-famous fishing trip in 1973. A few years later, The Inspirations’ Martin Cook booked Primitive Quartet to travel with his group, which was at the top of gospel music at the time. 

Primitive Quartet sings at the Paramount Arts Center, Ashland, April 1, 2023. The Inspirations look on from backstage. (Photo by John Herndon)
Continue reading “Primitive Quartet still shines the light on Jesus”

Popular singer truly knows ‘God Can’

Bill Sowder, third from left, sings with His Heart in the quartet’s first concert of 2023 on March 19 at Shiloh Christian Church, Columbia, Ky. Members of the group are, from left, Kyle Harris, Jeremy Dickerson, Sowder and Bob Abbott. (Photo provided.)
Sidelined by horse riding accident, Sowder counts his blessings in return to His Heart Quartet

By John Herndon,

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – When he stepped on the stage with His Heart Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church, Bill Sowder hopped around with an energy that would belie the fact that he’s now 69 years old. He moved. He thrust his forefinger toward Heaven. He pumped his fist.

It was vintage Sowder, one of Kentucky’s best-known gospel music personalities.

And it’s certainly not what one would expect from someone who was supposed to just be learning to walk again.

“I tell you, I feel like a million bucks. I might look like a Dollar General store but I feel like a million bucks,” Sowder said shortly before His Heart opened for Triumphant Quartet.

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Just praising and worshiping God

Triumphant in concert at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring, March 16, 2023. From left are David Sutton, Scotty Inman, Clayton Inman and Eric Bennett.
Clayton Inman talks about Triumphant’s newest CD, one that ‘bridges the gap’

By John Herndon,

COLD SPRING, Ky. – There’s not even a group photo on Triumphant Quartet’s latest album.

The album title, “Hymns & Worship” along with the obligatory song titles and credits are there, but nothing else.  Nothing, that is, other than a quote from the Old Testament book of Numbers.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;

The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; 

The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

– Numbers 6:24-26, New International Version ®

It’s more than fitting.

After all, Triumphant Quartet is about praising God and bringing people to a closer relationship to Him.  Nothing more. Nothing less. 

So yes, Triumphant’s newest project might seem to be somewhat different from anything the quartet has done, but the core of what someone hears is the same as it’s always been.

“It’s only different because people come to hear their favorite songs – ‘White Flag,’ ‘Somebody Died for Me,’” Triumphant lead singer Clayton Inman reflected shortly after the group sang before a full house at First Baptist Church of Cold Spring on March 16. “We have those songs and still sing those songs, but we were looking to do something that would bridge the gap.”

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A half-century of  bringing music to the people

Paul Belcher at his desk in his Tellico Plains, Tennessee home. He conducts most of the business for Paul Belcher Concerts from his home.

Paul Belcher ready for a big night in Ashland; Primitive Quartet to perform in Farewell Tour

By John Herndon,

TELLICO PLAINS, Tenn. — Paul Belcher can only laugh when talking about the first concert he promoted. 

He’d booked The Hopper Brothers and Connie for a night of gospel music in his hometown of Detroit and was waiting when the group arrived for the concert. Belcher chuckles as he picks up the story. “To this day, Claude Hopper still tells the story if I am in the audience,” Belcher says. “He says they pulled up to the auditorium and here comes this little fat boy up to the bus and says, ‘I’m Paul Belcher.’

“Claude says, ‘I drove 800 miles for a 17-year-old kid.”

Continue reading “A half-century of  bringing music to the people”

Drew’s dream really is coming true

Drew Laney (left) sings with Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Famer Ray Dean Reese during The Kingsmen concert on January 12. Laney is learning from one of his heroes less than two years after asking Reese for advice on getting started in gospel music.

Less than a year after getting his start in gospel music, Laney learns from Kingsmen legend

By John Herndon,

CRAB ORCHARD, Ky. – Describing Drew Laney’s introduction to the world of Southern Gospel music as fast is akin to saying there’s a little bit of speed at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It would be the monumental understatement. 

Laney, all of 21 years old, has been turning heads since he started appearing on stage with The Kingsmen just before the National Quartet Convention got underway last September in Pigeon Forge. 

“Just who is this kid singing bass beside Ray Dean Reese?”

“Is he here to stay?”

Continue reading “Drew’s dream really is coming true”

Lore Family brings ‘straightforward Southern Gospel’ in first trip to Sand Spring

The Lore Family will be making its first visit to Sand Spring Baptist Church on Dec. 31. In front is Samuel Lore. Second row, from left, are Fayth and Jake Whisnant and Darren and Sandy Lore. (Photo courtesy

Popular group writes most of its music; Sellers looking forward to return trip

By  John Herndon,

They are separated only by about three hours of I-64 pavement. And they are both among the bigger names in their respective areas of service in Southern Gospel music.

So it seems kind of odd that The Lore Family and Sand Spring Baptist Church have never been able to come together for a concert. That all changes on Decemeber 31 when The Lore Family  makes its first appearance at Sand Spring as part of the church’s popular concert series.

The Lore Family will be at Sand Spring along with soloist Bob Sellers in the church’s annual New Year’s Eve concert. The December 31 concert will begin at 7 p.m. and go for a approximately three hours. 

The Lore Family, based in Sciotoville, Ohio, not far from Ashland, Ky., has wanted to be a part of the Sand Spring series for some time. Darren Lore, the founder of the group, says he had contacted Sand Spring “for a few years to get our family into this concert series, so we are thankful the door has opened up. We have been talking to Larry Briscoe (head of the church’s concert series) for quite a while. That’s where we will end the year and start the new year.”

The Lore Family will also be part of Sand Spring’s New Year’s Day services at 8:45 and 11 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 1.

“We are looking forward to being there and it is an honor to be included in such a well-known concert series with such well-known groups throughout the year. We feel very honored and privileged to be there,” Lore says.

Lore says that even though this is his family’s first trip to Lawrenceburg, fans who are accustomed to seeing groups like The Perrys, Gold City and the Mark Trammell Quartet at Sand Spring should feel right at home with what Darren calls the “straightforward Southern Gospel singing” his family is known for.

“We offer a traditional style of Southern Gospel music,” he says. “I bring a piano and my son, Samuel, plays the guitar and we sing traditional Southern Gospel songs.”

Lore says his family routinely sings some well-known gospel classics along with their own songs such as their most recent hit, “I Bring You Jesus” or their first Top 20 song, “He Still Bears the Scars.” 

And Lore says his family spices that straightforward southern gospel with some variety through its concerts. “We do sing some more progressive songs such as ‘The Rock That Never Ages. We do sing some songs that have a different flavor like ‘Joyous News’ that has a jazz flavor to it. ‘The World Needs a Song,’ produced by  Roger Talley, was a little bit more country sounding. The Lore Family, we have our own sound. We sing a lot of our own songs. We don’t do a lot of cover songs.”

Lore enjoys working New Year’s Eve concerts and says the events remind him of the special New Year’s Eve services many churches have hosted over the years. “I was raised on ‘watch night services,’” he says. “At least, that’s what we called them. My wife and I went to the same church Bonser Run Christian Baptist Church, which is similar to the Nazarene Conference. We would have watch night services starting at 7 o’clock praying the old year out and then at 11:50 praying the new year in at 12 o’clock. We would have three or four preachers and singing throughout.”

And the changing of the calendar is a time for something fresh, from a resolution to give up a bad habit to an opportunity to begin a new one. Lore says his family addresses that concept through music.

“Everybody likes renewal. Everybody likes a mulligan in golf. Everybody likes to wipe the slate and start again,” he says. “I don’t make an extremely large list of resolutions….But it is a good point that a lot of people like to start off with a new vision or a fresh start. We have a new single out called ‘You Love, I’ll Judge.’ We are going to be pushing that thought going into the new year, to love more, judge less. Love people where they are at.”

The Lore Family’s journey in gospel music has been one of faith and they believe God has blessed their reliance on Him. 

While the family went full-time traveling at the 2015 National Quartet Convention, their story had begun years before.

“The Lore Family started out when (daughter) Fayth was 10 and Samuel was 9. We sang, ‘I’ve Come Too Far.’ I had taught them this as a trio with me. Samuel was singing tenor and Fayth was singing above him and then Fayth took the lead on the chorus. I was singing lead on the verses,” Darren says. “This was a surprise for my wife (Sandy) who had infertility. We lost a baby at Mother’s Day. We started out at Mother’s Day years later when the kids were 9 and 10 to honor her on Mother’s Day evening at Seventh Street Christian Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Ohio. I was pastor there for 14 years.”

The family began singing covers of popular songs, but about 15 years ago, Darren, who was working as a pharmacy manager in addition to his calling as a pastor, began taking things in a different direction. 

“I started recording some original songs I had written,” he remembers. “I Had written songs all of my life but didn’t let anyone hear them until I was 40. ‘An Absolutely Good Day’ was our first project we recorded at Daywind in Nashville. That was our first radio release. From there, we started our radio ministry in 2009 and we have been consistent in releasing songs ever since.”

The Lore Family is a true family group that has seen its only personnel changes come when the children got married. Fayth married Jake Whisnant on Sept. 18, 2021 and he joined the group two weeks later. “He is not from the Whisnants who sing, but he is from that area of North Carolina,” Darren says. 

Samuel married his wife, Rebecca, in 2019 and she travels with the group on occasion. “She has a full time job and goes behind the scenes. 

The biggest change, however, came when the group decided to step out on faith and go full time in ministry. 

Actually, the decision might have already been made.

“The demands on The Lore Family with revivals and the like made it harder to work the pharmacy schedule, working with other pharmacists,” Darren says. “It got to the point I just needed to make a decision and this is where the Lord led.”

It wasn’t easy. Darren went from a well-paying job with benefits to nothing guaranteed. He says God took care of things.

“We didn’t know if we would be busy or not that first year when we went full-time but in 2016, we did 240 dates,” he remembers. “We probably have averaged 190-200 dates since then. We don’t try to kill ourselves by doing tons of dates.”

Currently, The Lore Family brings the gospel in song and preaching or teaching in camp meetings, revivals, special services and seminars. Sandy heads women’s conferences and will be leading one with Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Famer Karen Peck.

Fayth leads girls’ conferences called True Purpose ministries and in 2022, she ministered to about 300 girls with a dozen saved. She will be leading another conference in 2023 with Lauren Talley.

In addition, The Lore Family works in youth conferences called “Determined.”

But Dec. 31, it will be “straightforward Southern Gospel” at Sand Spring Baptist Church. The next day they will be singing during the church’s morning worship services. “We are known for singing a blend, so we might sing some praise choruses with the church,” Darren says of what to expect on Jan. 1. “We might include ‘Because He Lives’ or ‘How Great Thou Art’ with some of our radio songs. I have found that we can sing on Saturday night to one crowd then on Sunday morning, 75 percent of the church wasn’t there the night before….So there is no crowd alike. There will be a service at 8:45 and there will be one at 11 and they will be different.”

One thing that won’t be different is The Lore Family’s focus on God. “When you listen to The Lore Family, we make it a worship experience, whether we are at Silver Dollar City or at a church,” Lore says. “We just want the Lord to be honored and people to be uplifted and encouraged.”

Bob Sellers sings at Sand Spring Baptist Church during an appearance with The Old Time Preacher’s Quartet in 2019. (File photo by John Herndon.)

Sellers feels at home at Sand Spring

Soloist Bob Sellers has made many trips for concerts at Sand Spring Baptist Church but his appearance with The Lore Family on December 31 will be his first since before the Covid pandemic arrived in 2020.

Sellers is anxious to get back to one of his favorite places to sing.

“I was with The Kingsmen nearly seven years,” Sellers said in a Facebook message. “I’m not sure when Larry (Briscoe) started having signings at Sand Spring, but it seemed like we went there every year. I believe I actually did a New Year’s Eve service there with The Kingsmen one year, as well. 

“I also sang there once with The Old Time Preachers Quartet when I was helping them out. This is my first visit as a soloist and I’ve looked forward to it all year! I love Larry and Barbara both and I have a lot of wonderful friends in that area. I love Kentucky!

“The neat thing about Sand Spring is the built-in crowd. Bro. Larry works hard getting the word out about his concerts and they are always free admission with a love offering received.”

A passion for God, a passion for families

Former Kingsmen, Soul’d Out and Heartland Quartet lead singer Bryan Hutson sings during an appearance at the Highway 62 Jubilee in Jeffersonville, Ind., in August 2022.

Gospel veteran Bryan Hutson teams with his wife in ministry of ‘strengthening marriages’

By John Herndon,

When he took that last step off a quartet touring bus, Bryan Hutson knew exactly where he wanted his ministry to go and where he believed God was leading him.

He’d just finished a successful five-year stint with Soul’d Out Quartet and his veins were still filled with Southern Gospel blood, but it was just time for the gospel music veteran to be devoting his efforts toward a ministry devoted to families.

Since that day in 2016, Bryan and his wife, Yvonne, have been taking Rescue Me Ministries to churches and groups mainly located within a five-hour drive of their home just outside Cincinnati. 

The goal is simple: Strengthen marriages.

Continue reading “A passion for God, a passion for families”

Joyaires’ ministry is aptly named

The Joyaires, Ernie and Debbie Peters, seek to bring the joy of Christ in their
music ministry. (Photo by John Herndon)

After 43 years, joy in Christ continues to be the message they bring

By John Herndon,

You probably won’t find any artist of any genre with a more fitting name than The Joyaires.

They’ve been singing gospel music since 1979, bringing joy to anyone who hears their message about Jesus and the joy that is found in Him.

“We hadn’t thought about what we were going to call ourselves, so we just jotted down a bunch of names,” Ernie Peters says of how the group came up with its name. 

Continue reading “Joyaires’ ministry is aptly named”

Three Bridges might be retiring, but the joy will never end

Three Bridges delivers a high-energy concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, Ky., in August, 2021. From left are Jeremie Hudson, Shannon Smith and Elliott McCoy.

Acclaimed trio entering last month on the road

By John Herndon,

The joy is still there for Three Bridges. It always has been.

And even though the group known for its high-octane songs and concerts will be coming off the road in December, the energy – and joy – will long remain in the memories of gospel music fans.

We caught up with Elliott McCoy, the founder of the acclaimed trio, and tenor Jeremie Hudson at the National Quartet Convention in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., several weeks ago. We were unable to talk with the third member of the group, Shannon Smith, at the time, but he graciously talked about Three Bridges, its ministry and what the future might hold via Facebook Messenger earlier this week.

Continue reading “Three Bridges might be retiring, but the joy will never end”

Spotlight finally shines on Norah Lee Allen

Bowling Green native Norah Lee Allen, whose career as a background vocalist at the Grand Ole Opry spanned more than 40 years, sings during the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Oct. 28, 2022.

Gospel roots anchored Opry vocalist on road to Kentucky Music Hall of Fame

By John Herndon,

RENFRO VALLEY, Ky. — It didn’t take long for Norah Lee Allen’s father to see he had special talent in his family.

“My father was in a quartet. He could tell we were musically inclined, so he formed a trio and we traveled for around 17 years,” Mrs. Allen recalls. “We traveled around to seven or eight different states. We didn’t travel as much until I was a little older but we sang at churches, revivals, concerts and wherever we could.”

The Stuart Sisters, based in their hometown of Bowling Green, became one of the most popular regional gospel singing groups around during the 50s and 60s. They recorded their own EPs and grew to be as busy as they wanted to be.

Continue reading “Spotlight finally shines on Norah Lee Allen”

Cultivating creativity, growing a ministry of outreach

Canaan Coffman sings during one of her family’s sets during Coffmania in Danville on Oct. 22, 2022.

Canaan Coffman debuts as a solo artist with A Night of Worship in her hometown

By John Herndon,

DANVILLE, Ky. – Canaan Coffman knew the day was coming when some changes would be taking place. She just didn’t know exactly what they would be or when they would happen.

That time has come.

Canaan will be introducing her friends and fans to some of her new look with “A Night Of Worship With Canaan In Her Hometown” on Sunday, November 13. The event will be held at her home church, Danville Church of God. The night of worship begins at 6 p.m.

It’s new. It’s different. But it’s not a complete break from her role as a member of her family trio, The Coffmans.

Continue reading “Cultivating creativity, growing a ministry of outreach”

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame to induct seven new members

The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame will be inducting seven new members Oct. 28. (Photo courtesy Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.)

Museum explores all Commonwealth’s roots in all genres

By John Herndon,

When Jessica Blankenship was named director of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame earlier this year, we knew this little gem just off I-75 at Renfro Valley was in for some changes.

Some big changes.  At least in getting the word out about what’s going on at the Hall of Fame.

Let’s just say if you haven’t heard about some of the goings on at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in the last few months, you haven’t been paying attention.

Continue reading “Kentucky Music Hall of Fame to induct seven new members”

Leading listeners to God’s path

Greater Vision sings at Sand Spring Baptist Church on Oct. 6, 2022. From left are Gerald Wolfe, Jon Epley, Rodney Griffin and Chris Allman.

Early detours led Rodney Griffin on road to SGMA Hall of Fame

By John Herndon,

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – Once he tells his story, it’s hard to miss the irony of where the detours along career paths have led Rodney Griffin on his way to a place in the Southern Gospel Music Association Hall of Fame.

“I was trying to get into med school,” Griffin says, remembering his days as a student at Berea College. “As I got into my studies, I saw that my grades were not going to be the straight A’s that are required to get into medical school. Those people were brilliant that I was in class with. “I thought I had better find something else because that is just not my thing.”

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A Touch of Heaven Touching People for 50 years

Primitive Quartet at Sand Spring Baptist Church on September 23. From left are Reagan Riddle, Randy Fox, Jeff Tolbert, Mike Riddle and Larry Riddle.

Primitive Quartet in final months of amazing ministry, still giving God all the praise

By John Herndon,

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. – Little did some fishing buddies know that a springtime camping trip would be the beginning of a career that has been reeling in accolades from almost every corner of the gospel music industry.

But that’s how God has worked through Primitive Quartet ever since April 1973. 

The Primitives have cast their influence through a true-to-their-roots music and a faithful-to-their-Savior faith that has led them to touch more people than could have ever been imagined when the Riddle brothers and Wilson brothers were sitting around a campfire picking and singing.

Continue reading “A Touch of Heaven Touching People for 50 years”

Life is Good for Steve Bridgmon

Steve Bridgmon sings during the Ichthus festival on Sept. 10.

Owensboro native enjoying success on several fronts

By John Herndon,

It’s hard to imagine anyone enjoying life more than Steve Bridgmon these days.

Not just any country music artist. Not just any Christian music artist. Not just anyone in Nashville, from Kentucky or any other designation.

Just anyone. It’s hard to imagine anyone having more reason to smile of late than Bridgmon, the Owensboro native who has built a successful career as a soloist in Inspirational Country music, sometimes called “Christian country.”

Continue reading “Life is Good for Steve Bridgmon”