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.”

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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)
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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.”

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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?”

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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.

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