A New Sound With Familiar Flavor
Moriah Peterson, story: photos courtesy of United
A new southern gospel quartet has formed in south central Kentucky with some familiar faces, and while familiarity is plentiful with their music, it's a new look and sound for the four men that make "United."
All former members of the now retired Crossmen, the guys had plenty of ups and downs and mixed emotion on their journeys from The Crossmen to today, but their love for sharing gospel music and their close friendships drew them all back to where their shared roots began.
The Crossmen officially retired in 2016 after the death of lead singer and co-founder Boyce Flener. Their 23-year run performing across the U.S. closed upon Flener's early death from pancreatic cancer, who was only 53 years old. Flener's brother, Scott, the group's tenor and also a founding member, and Darren Lawrence, the group's current baritone, took some time to reflect on what would be best for them and their families. After two years, many phone calls, texts, and a desire to continue sharing music, Flener reached out to Lawrence, and two other former members: Jason Brooks and Darren Doyle.
"I was asked to sing at a local benefit to help a family in need in the fall of 2018," said Flener. "I wanted to help so I committed, but I'm not really a soloist. I reached out to the other guys and asked if they'd be interested in putting a few songs together as a quartet, just for the benefit. They all agreed and we started meeting at Darren's (Doyle) studio to work on some songs."
What was supposed to be a one-night gig to help a local family quickly turned into something more, as renewed friendships strengthened and the desire to make and share music again was rejuvenated.
"We were just having so much fun being at the studio," said bass singer Jason Brooks. "At first, we were probably spending more time laughing about old times than we were singing," he joked. "But as we started digging through songs and putting them together we realized there was more there than a one-time benefit."
Baritone Darren Lawrence said that it was difficult to close the door of making music with the Crossmen and that he needed those two years to reset. He was the longest-running baritone for the group, with 15 years.
"It was tough and I really didn't think much about singing in a group again," he said. "I focused on my family and other things needed at the time, but the time was right when Scott called, and things just started working in the same direction for everyone."
After the local benefit, the guys continued meeting at Doyle's studio, and from there a decision was made to form an actual group, give it a name, and go to work on a brand new album.
"We all got on the same page pretty quickly," said Doyle. "We are all comfortable with our careers, our family lives, and our roles in our own individual churches and none of us wanted that to change. We had the basic idea of let's make our own music, sing when our lives and schedules allow it, enjoy each other, and share our music with others when it works out for everyone."
Flener resides in Morgantown, Lawrence in Bowling Green, Brooks lives in Glasgow, and Doyle, who is also the editor of the Edmonson Voice, resides in Chalybeate.
The quartet is now promoting the upcoming release of their brand new album. They launched their website, Facebook Page, and Twitter account earlier this week.
Work on the album (yet to be titled) began in January of this year and is nearing completion. They have an album release concert scheduled for Saturday, June 8, 2019 at Crossland Community Church in Bowling Green, the location of the former Plaza Movie Theater on the 31W bypass. It's a free admission concert that is set for 7pm.
The album features some obscure cover tunes, one co-written by Triumphant Quartet's Scotty Inman, who is a brother-in-law to Flener with originals from both Doyle and Brooks. The album is being produced by Doyle at Studio DD in Chalybeate.
Singer/Songwriter Gives Behind-The-Scenes Look At Idol Experience
Darren Doyle, story and photo:
Laney Meredith has been impressing audiences with her singing since elementary school. Those audiences have grown as her music and opportunities have also grown, and the 20 year-old singer/songwriter from the Pig community has climbed another rung on her musical ladder as she is now a current contestant on ABC's American Idol.
It's one of the many accomplishments the over-achiever has reached over her young career, which is even more impressive when you consider the 2016 ECHS grad is on track to graduate from WKU this December with a degree in Management, specializing in human resources, with a GPA hovering around 3.9 or so.
The journey to compete on the hit show isn't one that just began. You actually have to go back to last season, where she had a private invitation to audition in Nashville, in front of a few producers from the show. The connection with her Nashville vocal coach and other experiences helped her land what was known as a "VIP Audition," with 9 other contestants. After everyone did their thing, only two of the ten were asked to stay for more competition while Laney and the others went home. She thought that would be both the beginning and end to her American Idol experience; however, she was shocked when they called back a year later. She answered the call with caution, while being giddy at the same time.
"I was contacted by another team member of American Idol and they asked me if I was interested in another VIP Audition," said Laney. "At first I was like, well--I don't know...but then I thought 'what's it going to hurt?' Still, in the back of my mind I was thinking 'it's not going to happen, there are just so many people across America that are more talented than me.'"
That may be so, but after thinking things over with her family, she decided to move forward with the offer and she made her way back to Nashville where she prepared three songs, one of which was an original. She also brought along a guitarist to accompany her and she said she felt pretty good about the audition, despite the obvious jitters and anxiety.
"I'd written on the back of my sheet that I played piano, which is true, but I only play a little bit," she said as she motioned with her thumb and finger. "It's not really a situation that I can just sit down at a piano and play anything you ask on cue. It's something that I have to be really prepared and practiced up. Well, they say, "hey we see where you play piano...why don't you play and sing something for us?"
Knowing she couldn't give excuses, she knew she'd have to come up with something, but what? She wasn't prepared for that.
"I sat down at this piano and I just said "Oh God please help me...I have no idea what I'm doing," she said laughing.
She said she hit a G chord and started singing "How beautiful heaven must be...must be."
"I don't think I was playing the right chords, I don't know...it was the only song I could think of!" It must not have been all that bad because after singing another tune, she was told that she got a "maybe" and was given the classic line, "don't call us, we'll call you."
Weeks went by as Laney said she literally looked at her phone all day, everyday, anticipating the call from Idol, and one day while out in her yard, a producer from the show called.
"She asked me if I was sitting down and some other things but I don't remember because I was freaking out, but she told me I'd be moving on to compete again, this time in a bigger atmosphere, in a bigger city."
She prepared to travel to Denver, CO where she'd have the chance to sing in front of three other judges, Not just random judges, but superstars Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan.
The auditions were held at the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum, formerly known as the Lowry Air Force Base. She and her family arrived in Denver the day before the audition.
"I had to arrive at the venue at 7am, ready to go. Hair, makeup, vocals warmed up, everything ready," she said. The early schedule caused her to begin her day at 4am.
"There were probably around 100 other contestants in Denver and we were all doing the same things, all there for the same reasons. We all did these interviews and there were all these cameras. Every time someone asked me about where I was from, all they wanted to talk about was Pig, Kentucky. After all the interviews, I practiced my songs and I wanted to nail them, you know. I had three ready to go; two with a guitarist and one on piano (she assured me that she was prepared for the piano song this time). They finally called me back for my audition around 7pm that night."
She said she was led through a door where she was greeted by host Ryan Seacrest.
"I saw Ryan Seacrest there and I just thought, 'holy crap, girl, get it together, it's Ryan Seacrest,' but he was super cool, and of course, we talked about Pig, Kentucky. We finished our conversation, he wished me luck, and opened another door and I was just standing in a long hallway, alone."
She said in a few moments, another Idol staffer came in and led her to a large open area (an airplane hangar) where the three judges: Lionel, Katy, and Luke, sat behind a desk.
So what happened? You can tune in Sunday, March 3rd at 7pm central time for the brand new season of American Idol on ABC. While Laney isn't featured in the first episode, she plans to keep us up-to-date on when she will be featured on the show.
The round in Denver was one of the last audition stops before the finalists move on to Hollywood.
by Editor Darren Doyle, (Star Wars Fan):
Coming from the generation of the original Star Wars trilogy and growing up with all of the movies, I have a pretty good knowledge of the entire franchise and consider myself to be a true fan.
Although I was only a year old when the first film, Star Wars Episode IV was released, I saw the rest of the films on the big screen. I've enjoyed all of them, minus a Jar Jar and clone or two...
I received a Millennium Falcon for my 5th birthday and I still have it, along with all my other original Star Wars toys and figures. I wore Star Wars stuff during the dark period between Return of the Jedi and when the new edition, original trilogy was re-released in 1997. So while I'm in no way a movie critic, I know a little bit about Star Wars. (I also forgot to mention that I have a full-sized Darth Vader costume). And yes, I know all this stuff is pretty nerdy.
I was fortunate enough to attend a VIP event on Thursday, December 14, 2017 for a special screening of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," thanks to participating in a scholarship fundraiser hosted by dear friends through SKYCTC. As I said, I'm no movie critic but here are my overall thoughts on the movie without any spoilers, whatsoever. If you would purposely share spoilers I hope you're cast into the pit of Carkoon, the nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc, where in his belly, you will find a new definition of pain and suffering, as you are slowly digested over a thousand years.
The movie WAS all I expected it to be, and I had some pretty big expectations. We see lots of things that are no surprises and we also see some very big surprises. It's emotional, it's intense, and it's everything a real Star Wars fan hopes it would be.
There were two different spots in the movie where I caught myself with my hands on my cheeks, hanging on for dear life, as they were two of the most intense moments I've ever experienced in a Star Wars film. There was more than one time I teared up. I wanted to cheer out loud on more than one occasion, and there was at least two different times where I said "WHAAAAAAAA?"
We see all the major characters: Rey, Kylo Ren, Snoke, Fin, Poe, Leia, Chewbacca, BB-8 and the rest of the droids, and yes, Luke Skywalker. Much of the movie goes the way you might expect while there are also some major plot twists that I don't really think anyone saw coming.
Don't go see this if you're not a true fan...you won't get it. At this point, I'm not sure why you'd want to if you're not familiar with the franchise. By the time the 8th installment comes out in a film and you've never seen number one, you should probably stick with something else.
Bottom line: this movie was well done and I simply can't find any fault in it other than the humor got a tad cheesy in a couple of spots.
As the credits rolled, I was exhausted. The movie grabbed me from the beginning, but not necessarily because it was such a great film, although in my opinion it was great, but because I'm a real Star Wars fan and this is a real Star Wars movie. If you leave the theater and your initial reaction isn't simply "WOW," then you're either not a true fan or you just don't get it. (BTW, I think it's one of the best movies I've seen in a very long time).
And if you're not a Star Wars fan, I get that, too. I get confused when people start talking Harry Potter stuff. I've never understood any of that, never been interested, and there's no amount of fanfare that will interest me in Harry Potter; however, I don't give Harry Potter fans a hard time. I let them do their thing and hope they let me do mine. People don't watch the Harry Potter films for cinematic excellence, they watch them because they're fans of Harry Potter, and it's the same for Star Wars, Avengers, and so on.
The Last Jedi is a perfect setup for episode nine. I can't wait to watch it again in a couple weeks.
Edmonson Voice Staff: photos courtesy of Pauline Lay & Perth Tay Portraits:
Local artist Tylerann Lay (21), of Chalybeate, has shared a passion for drawing since she was a young girl. She's received regional recognition for her work, such as being featured in the 2017 US Bank Celebration of the Arts at the Kentucky Museum on WKU.
All during the month of September, some of her work will be on display at the Edmonson County Public Library.
Check out some of her work below:
Tylerann is a 2014 graduate of Edmonson County High School and received an Associate of Arts degree from SKYCTC. She currently runs her own portrait service called "Perth Tay Portraits," where she creates one-of-a-kind pieces from photographs.
To find out more about Tylerann's art and how she can create art for you, visit her Facebook page by clicking here.
Bring your guitar, banjo, fiddle, upright, or any acoustic instrument and jam.
PROBUS Publishing, a BMI/ASCAP publishing/pitching service on music row owned by former Edmonson County resident Ben Probus, will be kicking off with a ribbon cutting ceremony of the company at the home place where Ben Probus grew up, the newly renovated the, "Grand Victorian Inn," owned and operated by Karin Baldwin-Carroll and Gary Carroll II.
This celebration will feature open Bluegrass jams and Songwriter Jams.
"Those are always a lot of fun to play and network with other musicians and industry professionals," said Ben. "If you feel you wanna stick around, book a night at this Beautiful Bed & Breakfast Bring your guitar or whatever you strum or bow and come on out to the PROBUS Publishing Ribbon Cutting Party."
PROBUS Publishing writer Ronny Vines, who co-wrote Jason Aldean's "Country Boy's World" will be present. The tune sold over 3 million copies from album sales and Vines has number 1's in Bluegrass and Texas music as well.
Also in attendance will be more of the PROBUS team such as the, "Belles of Blue" who will be performing bluegrass and co hosting the event, John McGinnis former FLW Champ, James Fitzstephens of Munfordville, non-typical deer farmer & Turkey Slayer master Rondal England, Ben Probus, owner of PROBUS and founder of Nashville Gig Finder, and Paige Probus, talented singer songwriter and wife of Ben Probus.
Nashville Gig Finder will have a booth where folks can look for gigs and gear access around the country. Thousands of gigs have been booked through the networks and you can learn how to book yourself. NashvilleGigFinder.com
5 Old Dixie Hwy, Park City, KY 42160-7720, United States
When you come to Exit 48 on I-65 turn into Park City,
follow the posted signs or your GPS.
Ben added, "Bring an instrument if you play or sing, bring your ears if you don't. Bring a lawn chair. Bring business cards. Submit a cd of originals if you would like us to review them incase we spot a jewel. We all will be both outside and inside at this event. Huge Lawn, couple stages, jams spread out under shade trees, picken on the porch, you can purchase you a yummy dinner there. It will be great times!"