Down in the hills of Arkansas, nestled among the curvy roads, sits the small town of Oxford…and I have to tell you, the folks down there at the Oxford Baptist Church love Southern Gospel Music! Especially quartet music! I’ve attended many concerts at this venue, and always look forward to going back. When I found out that the Mark Trammell Quartet was going to be singing there I was overjoyed! Over the years, I’ve seen Mark Trammell both with his trio and quartet perform at different sings, but tonight would be the very first time I would be privileged to see them in a full concert setting. The word “excitement” doesn’t even begin to explain what I was feeling! The members of the Mark Trammell Quartet (MTQ) are: Joel Wood singing tenor, Dustin Sweatman fulfilling the lead spot (as well as playing keyboard), Mark Trammell supplying the baritone position (as well as playing the bass guitar) and Pat Barker providing the bass vocals.
The pastor’s wife, Brenda, quietly played the piano in the background while the audience waited for the concert to begin. When that time came, Pastor Tom joined her on stage and they sang two songs as a duet, opening for MTQ. Those songs were: I’m Getting Ready To Leave This World and Blessed Assurance, where they shared solo’s on the verses. Then, it was time for the concert to begin!
“If you love the Lord tonight say ‘amen,’” requested Mark, while strapping on his bass guitar. A fairly weak reply responded and Mark repeated the question with more enthusiasm, “C’mon, we’re in Arkansas! – I said if you love the Lord tonight say ‘amen!’” After a much stronger response, the quartet opened their concert with the ballad Gentle Shepherd, giving the atmosphere a worshipful setting. When the last note faded, all eyes turned to Dustin who began playing the intro to Hallelujah I’m Going Home on the keyboard. The audience loved this old quartet song and began clapping to the beat immediately! Before going on, Mark stopped to introduce the group to everyone. After that, Mark asked, “If you’ve seen us as a trio raise your hand…okay, if you’ve seen us as a quartet raise your hand…hmmm, bout’ the same crowd…if this is the first time seeing us live, raise your hand.” Mark continued, “Some people were after me for eight years saying, ‘Why don’t you have a bass singer?’ Now that we have a bass singer, everyone is asking me, ‘Why did you ruin a perfectly good trio?’ Now, I reckon that the people who told me that were Baptist, and I’m a Baptist – so I can talk about Baptist…and we aren’t happy with anything! And if you’re not a Baptist, don’t dare tell anyone that I said that in church!” (Sorry Mark – I told!) LOL. How Big Is God was next on the set and well received with a generous applause. Being sung back to back, Old Convention Song followed…and boy were the guys happy on this one! Pat happily tapped the keyboard (which the act received some cautious looks from Dustin) and Joel let out a “whahoo” at the end of the song. Mark paused a moment and told the audience that the first time he sang that song was when he sang with the Cathedrals and he knows that we know the music because when they sing, they look out and see our smiling faces! Another Cathedral classic, Echoes From The Burning Bush, came next. Towards the end of the number, Pat instructs the guys to “go easy” and the dynamics slim down to a soft harmony and Joel gently hit’s a high note. To which Mark says, “Hold on…that was sick, can you do that one more time?” Joel sighs and repeats the phrase, this time Mark says, “Hold on…they smiled, that means they liked it!” The next time around the audience clapped for the tenor part and Joel said, “Thank you!” to the crowd, then turning to Mark asked, “Can we do that again, that time I liked it!” Finally, at the end of the song, Joel and Pat shook hands and the intro for Wedding Music began. When they came to the line that says “the family is preparing for a wedding” – Pat gestured to the audience indicating that we, too, are the family spoken of in the lyric. And I do have to say, Pat sure did look stunning that night…as he always does. (There you go Pat, I’ll be looking for that check in the mail…LOL!) Anyway, Wedding Music was done back to back with One Drop Of Blood, written by the pen of MTQ’s very own Dustin Sweatman. Something that I’ve noticed with this quartet, especially on this song, is the interaction between the guys. They don’t just stand there and sing to the audience – they sing and intermingle with each other, they always look like they enjoy what they are doing! Introducing the next song, Mark said, “This is another song written by a man from the state of Arkansas…Roger Bennett.” Mark sang the verses solo on That Day At Calvary while the other guys huddled behind him quietly adding background vocals. Once again, the joy displayed onstage was very evident, and attaching some fun to it, Mark lightheartedly pushed Pat on the line, “now I can conquer the sin and the strife ~ the Devil throws at me.” How Long Has It Been followed. I have to say, I’ve heard this song a million times by soloists and other groups, but this arrangement far surpasses anything I’ve heard yet! The harmony was so tight and the dynamics superior! An upbeat quartet song, I’m Ransomed and Redeemed came next, which the group sang as a whole. Joel stood off to the side while the other guys sang the second verse and when a thunderous applause ended the song, Mark said, “Well praise the Lord!” Continuing on, “We’re going to do one more then they are going to come and do something VERY Baptist” (audience chuckles) …“you know what that is don’t you?!” (Speaking of the offering.) Mark went on to tell how they drove nine hours to get there, and how they are very grateful for the bus they had to travel in that weekend. (The transmission went on their own bus.) Last weekend, they traveled in a SUV and a trailer. “Talk about close fellowship!” commented Mark. I’m Standing On The Solid Rock and an enthusiastic standing ovation closed the first half of the concert.
“Boy, wasn’t that good?” Pastor Tom asked while the ushers came forward to take the offering. While the plates were passed, Tom and Brenda sang another duet, He Is Mine, then. invited MTQ back on stage for the second half of the evening. Before they started singing again, Mark gave a short Cd pitch. He informed the audience that since he just wrote a check for $14,000 to pay for the transmission, he was making a “transmission special” for us, tonight only, so we can help make “that check good by Monday!”
“We had a request to do this song,” said Mark and Bloodwashed Band kicked off the second set. The ballad Then I Met The Master featured Mark on the verses and the guys held an awesome note on the end. Testimony (the radio single that has done really well for MTQ) came next. Once again, the audience kept a good clap with the beat on this single. Mark stepped up and said that before they arrived that night he received an e-mail from a gentlemen who said that he was going to be at the concert and requested a certain song. Mark e-mailed the man back and said, “Well, that song particularly features our bass singer, and you know, we feature him a lot.” The guy e-mailed him back and said, “Yeah, but you realize if you don’t sing this song, the tires on your bus will be flat when you go to leave!” Mark casually said, “Now, it’s not my bus…so I don’t care…but I would like to get to Mississippi tonight…” Joel interrupted him and said, “Sing that song!!!” So they did it, and the song was none other than I Want To Know. On the encore, Pat said, “Let’s have some fun!” On a more serious note, Mark asked the question, “How many of you have served or are currently serving in our military, please stand.”
“I am one of the most blessed individuals you have ever seen.” Mark began. “Pastor, I wasn’t kidding you earlier when I was telling you that we were suppose to be here. We may not know until we get to heaven why, but I knew all week long that we were suppose to be in this place…even with the trouble that we’ve had with transportation. I’m not telling you that to get any kind of praise for me, it’s great satisfaction in me knowing that I’m where I’m suppose to be, according to God. It’s my prayer tonight that you can know that as well. For those of you who fought to keep us safe, to stand between us and harms way we want to honor you by singing this song tonight… I’m proud to be an American citizen, born in Searcy, AR, the Untied States of America. I’m even more proud that I have a citizenship in another country, and the only way that you can get in through the gates to get into that country is that your name is written in the Lambs Book of Life, and I’m glad to report to you tonight that my name is there, and I know it is. Listen to this song, as we honor those who have fought so we can come to Oxford, Arkansas tonight and sing about the Lord Jesus, and not live in fear that someone could walk through the back doors and say, ‘get out of here, you can’t do this anymore, we’re locking the doors.’ Not here, not now, and I pray not ever.”
Statue Of Liberty was that song dedicated to those who served in the military. This was the first time I’ve seen MTQ sing this song live, and I’m not sure there are words to describe it!!! Oooh – what power! When they sang, it sounded like one voice…and a very powerful one at that! The song set a very serious tone to the moment, and the audience stood in ovation and gratitude for what the message meant. This song would have closed the evening, but Pastor Tom asked for one more, and they did I’ll Have A New Life with Everybody Will Be Happy Over There. The audience stood throughout the whole song, clapping along in show of appreciation and applause.
Conclusion: This was the very first time I’ve seen the Mark Trammell Quartet in full concert. I’ve attended many sings like Brumley, NQC and other venues where this group has performed, but the full concert that night blew me away! After observing this group in both situations (short set and full concert) I’ve come to the conclusion that these guys are the real deal. All four members put their all into the performance. They are always happy while they are singing, and not one member disconnects from what is happening on stage. MTQ is very traditional in their style, but their execution is top notch. If there is any other group out there that wants to stay with the traditional sound and do their concerts right, this is a quartet to model yourselves after. A traditional quartet displaying lots of energy and enthusiasm on stage – can a quartet enthusiast ask for anything more? Thanks guys (Mark, Joel, Dustin and Pat) for doing such a tremendous job and imparting much joy ~ what ya’ll do makes a difference and affects our lives … you are a great source of encouragement! Keep sharing your “Testimony”!