MLQ signs with Canaan

My first reaction? After months of nothing, Canaan records breaks its radio silence and follows up their ages-ago Hoppers signing to announce a deal with …. The Mike Lefevre Quartet? Huh?

A prominent label like Canaan with the allegedly deep pockets of a powerful parent (Word) could have signed just about any talent out there in sg – the Martins, Lauren Talley, Jason Crabb (with or without partners), Austin’s Bridge (assuming they could be lured away from the Daywind deadend), even the Ball Brothers seemed to make more sense than the Lefevres (I say allegedly because for all the hype and hope surrounding Canaan’s resurrection, so far it’s been pretty weak tea from them). But to sign a second-tier quartet with no franchisable talent and only one recognizable name?

Then I thought about it a while and asked around a bit and maybe it makes more sense than might at first appear. True, the group hasn’t really produced any music that you immediately and indisputably associate with them (here’s the only clip I could find of them on youtube … rather predictably covering a song from Lefevre’s alma mater, Gold City, and not doing a very good job of it at that).

Still, it’s not nothing that Canaan sees potential in them in the A&R sense of the word, which you don’t see much anymore … someone willing to look beyond the current mediocrity and imagine the group as it could be if someone finds them some good songs, helps define their sound, shine ‘em up a bit, make them lose some weight, and do something about David Staton’s ridiculous haircut (and yes, I’m still assuming that Canaan is/will be A Different Kind of Label and that the up side of all the silence is that they’re taking their time and slowly identifying only those acts they really believe in and want to invest in over time … but you wouldn’t be out of bounds to question my optimism).

If you’re Dave Clark running Canaan and you really want a male quartet you can work with, which I assume any southern gospel label would, then you’re not going to look at known quantities like Gold City or BFA – acts that have already established a fan base and a sound. Instead, you’re going to look to the B-list, one-or-two-ho-hum-projects and had-to-publicly-throw-a-fit-to-get-on-the-NQC-mainstage kinda group that isn’t really known for anything in their own right and so can be shaped and molded into whatever with the right kind of direction.

What they do have that’s important to a southern gospel label is, first and foremost, Mike LeFevre. Indeed, he’s pretty clearly the most bankable asset for the group. A storied name in gospel music history and a nice guy, LeFevre is the kind of performer people see on stage and like instantly – you’d buy a car from him, or maybe let him babysit your kids (a friend of mine compared him to Steven Curtis-Chapman in this regard). He has that quality. Plus, and this is no small thing, he has not only a name but the Gold City crowd still loving him (and they don’t forget). As far as the other guys in the group, things are maybe a little dodgier. But there’s enough of the right ingredients in place for the deal to make sense.

That doesn’t mean I’m still not a little skeptical. Male quartets may be the nostalgic core of southern gospel, but they are not on balance where the best and freshest work is being done these days. In fact, I’d wager to say short of EHSSQ, there isn’t a male quartet on the road today that smart money would bet on increasing its market share in the 3-5 years (assuming GVB can’t go on forever).

Nor does any of this change the fact that Canaan really must sign a Lauren Talley or an Austin’s Bridge if they’re going to be known as more than a label of updated throwbacks (and this reminds me: does anyone know if the Hoppers deal included any of the group’s catalog for re-release?). But despite (and because) some of these reasons, the Lefevre quartet could - if it works out - really help round out the label.

PS: Kyle Boreing follows up an interesting sidebar question that this deal brings up: what’s happening with Song Garden, the label that Staton was/is purportedly running?

Update: David Bruce Murray provides another possible dimension to the discussion of why MLQ? Short version: it’s all about Urias and Eva Mae.

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Trackbacks & Pings

  1. Musicscribe Blog » Canaan Records - It’s All About Historical Names on 14 Feb 2008 at 5:29 am

    […] Doug Harrison and others react with questions and surprise at the Canaan Records/LeFevre Quartet deal. I had decided not to comment, but then a thought hit me that I don’t remember anyone else raising. […]


  1. Tony Watson wrote:

    I don’t understand where the “hype and hope” came from regarding Canaan. All that amounted to was some speculation from some on the message boards and forums that Canaan would somehow return to their glory days of SG recordings. I for one never ever thought that would be the case at all.

    What I figured they would do is the smart thing - sign a few groups they believed would be bankable and help them produce good music. It’s more about expanding the market and much much less about resurrecting the Canaan of years gone by. It also gives them a bigger reason to, one day, re-release some of that old stuff that never was on CD.

    I think the LeFevre Quartet, from the few times I’ve seen video clips and the audio clips I’ve heard, is a good group that has a good focus. I know some may not care for their most recent album which is largely P&W songs - but I personally have listened to the audio clips and I think it’s fantastic. It, somewhat like the latest project from Poet Voices, will give them some more artillery for a larger amount of churches, which I’m sure is their larger focus.

    This type of music probably lends themselves to more of what Canaan (or Word) would be looking for.

    As far as David Staton’s hair - easy solution, buy some more (or less actually). he he he

  2. Quartet Fan wrote:

    Doug, sometimes I think you let your personal feelings about a group, especially if they take a stand or make a statement ( ) that you don’t agree with, cloud your statements and opinions of them.

    I agree with a couple of things you say, they should be easier to work with than an already established “big name”, like Gold City. They have name recognition within the industry with Mike.

    Other than that, I think you were more critical than necessary on a quality group.

  3. cynical one wrote:

    Rumor has been floating around that Canaan has been courting groups, at least since NQC. Apparently they finally got a bite.

    Not sure they did any better with the Hoppers project than anyone else would have, so we’ll see what they do with Mike & Co.

    Also, I’m not sure I understand what you meant by “Daywind deadend”, but it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts. I thought Daywind had a pretty good track record.

  4. cdguy wrote:

    From Word’s CEO Van Hook’s history of not caring about s/g (too few sales), I’m sure they’re going very slowly. So now, 8 months after the announcement of the re-launch of Canaan, they have 2 artits — one top tier, one 2nd tier. This whole Canaan thing could be a desparation attempt to get some salable artists in the Word fold. With southern and black gospel being the 2 primary genres that are not being downloaded, s/g may be what Word needs.

  5. Daniel J. Mount wrote:

    I believe the deal with Song Garden is that it was run all along by a family that provided the financial investment. David actually came on before Nick and Robbie left; he was handling radio promotions at that time. The last I heard, he was still doing that, but it had been a while.

  6. Scot Eaves wrote:

    The tenor on YouTube video, Stephen Sigmon, left sometime in 2007. Last I heard, their new tenor singer was Gus Gaches. He was formerly with the Andrus/Blackwood/Moscheo “Imperials” that do Elvis shows.

    Now, they should not to be confused with the Morales/Will/Hiner “Classic Imperials” that sing together occasionally.

  7. Charles Brady wrote:

    I think the entire marketing approach over at Milk & Honey Records is based on the public service announcement that goes… “This is a Test. This is only a Test”

  8. Aaron Swain wrote:

    I agree with #3’s question about the “Daywind Dead-End” statement. Huh? It definitely would be interesting to hear where the “dead-end” came from. With artists like Greater Vision, Legacy Five, and the Booth Brothers on the list, how is it a dead-end?

  9. Kyle wrote:

    Take a look at some of Daywind’s products from about 2000 forward….they have a distribution deal with Word, who (as we all know) is the parent of Canaan…..either way, Canaan and Daywind are under the same umbrella.

  10. Jim2 wrote:

    Sorry, but a distribution deal does not put them under the same umbrella. Daywind has been an independent entity for years and HAD a temporary deal for distribution with Word, but Daywind has always been Dottie Leonard-Miller and her son Ed Leonard. No affiliation with Canaan -EVER - though Dottie’s Distribution company New Day is distributing the Canaanland Revisited project - as well as lots of contemporary and gospel and comedy and kids, etc, from Word Music. Daywind got into the relationship with Word to get road reps, since New Day is all phone reps.

  11. Edie wrote:

    It is my understanding that Daywind no longer has any type of distribution deal with Word.

  12. Charles Brady wrote:

    NewDay (owned by Daywind) does distribute products for Word. They are in this months catalog in fact. It is the only way those of us smaller retailers can get Word products without that huge front end purchase requirement that Word requires. I think it was 50,000.00 last time I checked? (Or was that Provident??) With NewDay I can purchase a couple hundred bucks worth of product at a time (and they still appreciate my business.) Without distributors like NewDay I’d guess 90% of most mom and pop Christian Book stores would be out of business. For the small shop owner NewDay is a onestop that can supply us with most everything we need without having to deal with a dozen or more different companies. If fact most of these distribution companies work with each other. It only makes good business sense for them to do so. They also distribute Provident-Integrity products and a slew of Independent Artists that you’d never be able to track down. NewDay publishes a monthly catalog for retailers that is impressive and includes products from everyone mentioned above plus some!

    Daywind/NewDay a dead-end?? No Way!! They offer artists a real shot at getting quaility distribution on a scale I don’t think is offered anywhere else in Southern Gospel.

  13. Aaron Swain wrote:

    #11: Like the last commenter said, Daywind still does distribute for Word. For example, Brian Free & Assurance’s Real Faith project (their most recent) displays the Word Distributing logo on the back of the cover.

  14. Edie wrote:

    Sorry, let me clarify what I meant to say. It is my understanding that Word DISTRIBUTION no longer distributes Daywind projects. New Day does, indeed, carry Word RECORDS projects.

  15. cynical one wrote:

    Ok, here’s the deal: Daywind & New Day Christian Distributors are owned by the same lady who started the company nearly 27 years ago (that, in itself, is a major feat, in this industry). New Day is primarily a full-line Christian music distributor, carrying products from the 3 major Christian labels (including Word), as well as smaller labels and independent artists who have no distribution to retail of their own. They act as a one-stop for retailers. They do carry other products, as well, but they’re mostly known for music. Daywind is a record label.

    Daywind Records has, for the last several years, had dual distribution through New Day and Word. Most of their (especially s/g, but not exclusively) projects were available to stores through both channels. That agreement with Word has ended. Most of the existing product Word had will still be available from both distributors for a while. New product will not be available from Word.

    Word never had anything to do with Daywind’s A&R, recording process, radio promotions, award nominations, etc. They only dealt with retailers, primarily the chain stores (Family, Lifeway, et al).

    So, Jim2 is correct in stating there is no relationship between Canaan and Daywind. Only that retailers can buy some of both labels’ product from the same supplier.

  16. Aaron Swain wrote:

    Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying!

  17. BUICK wrote:

    Scott (#6), on website is this interesting sentence:
    “Terry Blackwood, lead singer and son of one of the original Blackwood Brothers Qt., and Joe Moscheo, bass singer and manager of that original group, have gotten back together.”

    Wasn’t Armond Morales the bass in that original Imperials group? And didn’t Joe play piano for them?

    I know it seems presumptuous for me to suggest that The Imperials don’t know who was in what position in The Imperials back then but it sure seems to me that they got that wrong on their own website.

  18. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    History is conveniently re-written for the benefit of those telling the story.

    Joe Moscheo didn’t join the original Imperials until Henry Slaughter left. He’s wrong to say he was involved with the “original group” in any fashion. Also, the Imperials have only had two bass singers. One is Armond Morales, who was their only bass singer for the first 39 years the Imperials existed and the other is Ian Owens who currently sings bass. Moscheo was never the group’s bass singer of record. I’m not saying he never sang at all with them, but his primary role was that of piano player.

    What Moscheo, Blackwood and Andrus are doing is no different than it would be if Brian Free, Mike LeFevre, and Ivan Parker billed themselves as Gold City.

    I can’t fully fathom why these old guys want to re-attach themselves to a legacy they ALL left 30 years ago. They’re making it increasingly difficult for their successors to carry on the legacy they worked so hard to build at one point in time.

  19. wackythinker wrote:

    DBM — I’d venture to say those “old guys” have decided retirement doesn’t pay the bills too well, but they can’t agree on how to best recreate the old magic. Or maybe there’s bad blood somewhere, and they don’t want to recreate that old magic together.

    It’s quite obvious to many observers that a lot of people are still cashing in on Elvis, by touting how they were always in his enterage. Frankly, I always though J D & The Stamps sounded better doing their Elvis tribute than they did singing gospel. But it appeared JD was one of those wanting to cash in.

    And maybe there was nothing wrong with making that money off his dead friend. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with Armond, Terry, Sherman, Joe, and the current Stamps making money doing Elvis tributes. There are a lot of other people doing it, too. In fact, there was some Elvis tribute concert at one of the colleges here in Nashville, last week. SOMEBODY made some money off of it. And I’m sure it wasn’t just Lisa Marie.

    And this may be the way some people have to support their gospel habit. A lot of people hold down day jobs (banks, funeral homes, sales jobs, warehouses, phone company, whatever), and preach or sing the gospel for little or no pay on the weekends. That’s always been the case, dating back to the apostle Paul’s tentmaking.

    But whoever writes the bio’s for the websites need to get their facts straight.

  20. David Scott wrote:

    You know, I have no problem with anyone being cynical, that’s your God-given right, and a freedom that we here in this country are blessed to have, but when you start taking personal shots about people’s appearance and weight, you’ve stepped WAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY over the line.

    What these guys look like doesn’t matter a hill of beans to God, and it shouldn’t to you either. If you don’t care for their singing, that’s not a problem, and for the record, they aren’t the best quartet out there in my opinion either, but don’t take personal cheap shots like that.

    If you’re getting paid for writing trash like this, shame on your employer for putting up with it. If I were your boss, you would have been on the unemployment line the day you posted this. You not only need to find a place to pray and ask for God’s forgiveness, but you also owe Mike and the rest of the guys in the group an apology. It is a sad comment on this website when they allow such garbage. God help you!!!!!!!!!!

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