Where is Eric Phillips On Your Top Ten?

Hello all. By now if you’re a fan of southern gospel you know that Eric Phillips has rejoined the Mark Trammell Quartet. This is nothing short of momentous for SG fans everywhere. I thought pigs would fly before Eric came back, but lo! A levitating porcine creature appears even now outside the window.

I am actually not thoroughly familiar with Eric’s voice, but the little I have heard impressed me. His voice is a little warmer and more natural than his equally beloved father (who could also do some beautiful singing). His consistency is widely acclaimed. He makes it look so easy. And yet, he’s not quite among the handful of tenors everybody’s constantly talking about (Phelps, Funderburk, Free, etc.) Why is that, do you think? And while you’re answering, let me know if he would make your personal top ten, and if so where he would land. I would be interested to see who he beats.


28 thoughts on “Where is Eric Phillips On Your Top Ten?

  1. Andrew

    He’s a top 20 tenor right now. Not all time. He can deliver a ballad and deliver a “Kingsmen” ending when the song calls for it. All-time, he’s above average – perhaps 70th percentile. But he joins a group where everyone is a top 20 at their respective position, significantly improving the group as a… group.

  2. I would rank Phillips, Trammell, and Barker all in the top three at their respective positions, and Sweatman in the top ten.

    In fact, get me off the record, and there’s no telling if I might not go farther. 🙂

    1. Andrew

      I like the group – but I have a hard time putting them that high (if such a rank is appropriate/necessary). You can’t think of 3 tenors better than a guy whose been off the road for two years?
      Barker may be top 10 (maybe) and perhaps Trammell (he surely is top 10 all-time). Sweatman is underrated but not top 10.
      Regardless, its an exciting move for the group and I’m looking forward to their potential to become a tier-one group.

      1. Barker would easily be my favorite member—on my personal favorite basses list he could well be #1.

        Trammell seems almost universally acknowledged as the genre’s best baritone, so I’m a little surprised to see you giving a caveat there. Who do you think might be better? (Mind you, I might not disagree because while I like Mark, someone like Doug Anderson is more my stylistic cup of tea.)

        Again, I would have to listen to more of Phillips to figure out where to rank him, but he would probably be in the top ten. As for Sweatman, he’s not an incredible singer, but he might end up in a top ten list just because there aren’t that many current lead singers I really like. 🙂

      2. Andrew

        I’m a HUGE Mark Trammell fan. But he’s not quite the singer he was 20 years ago.
        Off the top of my head, here are 10 (younger) guys that I’d slot above him if I were ranking baritones:
        1. Daniel Riley (Gold City)
        2. Mark Lowry (Gaither Vocal Band)
        3. Scott Inman (Triumphant Quartet)
        4. Jim Brady (Booth Brothers)
        5. Rodney Griffin (Greater Vision)
        6. Bryan Walker (Perrys)
        7. Jeff Snyder (formerly with Crystal River/Greenes)
        8. Doug Anderson (Signature Sound)
        9. Shane Dunlap (formerly with N’Harmony)
        10. Daryl Paschal (Down East Boys)

      3. Andrew

        Not all-time, of course. Mark is top 5 all-time baritones. But not right now. That isn’t intended to diminish his legacy – and he’s a great guy. But, yes, Paschal has a better voice right now. I suppose Rodney is rated higher on my list due to his song-writing ability.

        My point was to say that I think that the group is moving in the right direction – and I’m excited to get to hear them.

        But they aren’t top 3 at 3 positions. That’s setting up the over-hyping that DBM referenced a few weeks ago.

      4. Well, I think that in terms of personal taste I wouldn’t have Mark in my top three right now. And while I like Phillips enough to have him in a top five, there are others I’d put before him (see list below). The only place I’m really going to stand firm is Pat Barker. So we can agree to disagree there. 🙂

    2. Andrew

      Barker is top 10. But top 3? Eric Bennett, Jeff Chapman, Tim Riley. Which one gets voted off your island to make room for him? Barker is a peer with Glenn Dustin, Burman Porter and Stuart Cary – not those 3 studs.

      Phillips top 3? I’m a Brian Free (who still does everything Phillips can do) fan; but what about David Phelps, Chris Allman, Ernie Haase, and Jodi Hosterman – even Michael Booth. Phillips is in nice company with Anthony Facello, Riley Clark, Gus Gaches, David Sutton, Dusty Barrett. But he’s not top 3.

      I wrote last night that both were “top 20.” You could make a case that with their age factored in, they could both be “top 10.” But top 3?

      I just don’t know who gets left out.

  3. coomercove

    Out of current tenors, I’d easily put Eric in the top five of my favorites along with Jeremy Peace, Brian Free, and a couple others from among Chris Allman, Jerry Martin (if he just had more volume to go with his highs), David Phelps, and maybe others I can’t think of right now.

  4. I agree with Andrew that Mark Trammell is not the singer he was 20 years ago. I think he’s improved.

    MTQ’s foundation is the best baritone in gospel music, now or ever, in my opinion. Somewhere in line behind him I would have Danny Riley, Scott Inman, Rodney Griffin, Doug Anderson and Jim Brady. But I’m sure they would all tell you that Mark is the standard.

    I would rank current basses Jeff Chapman, Pat Barker, then Tim Riley, and Eric Bennett fourth.

    There’s such a paucity of great tenor singing out there, IMO. If I had to make a list, it would be:
    1. Chris Allman
    2. Jerry Martin
    3. Eric Phillips
    4. Brian Free
    5. Jodi Hosterman
    6. Wes Hampton

    My clear two favorite leads are Arthur Rice and Gerald Wolfe, in some order. Dustin brings a lot to the quartet musically. He’s not a power lead like Rice or Wolfe, and his voice is not a centerpiece for a quartet, but there are no negatives. He’s solid. I’m sure he would make my top 10 of favorite current leads. David Ragan and Joseph Habedank are somewhere in there.

    1. Gerald Wolfe is still good, but not really as good as he used to be. He uses a lot of vibrato now to make up for it, which sometimes works better than others. I’d say Arthur Rice is clearly better at this point. But my personal favorite would be Jonathan Wilburn at this point, with Joseph Habedank not too far behind. Also, how do you want to categorize Jordan Wilburn’s voice? Lead? Baritone? Either way, he’s a favorite of mine.

      If Guy Penrod were still with some kind of a group, he’d be at the very top, of course, and Craig West would be giving him a run for his money if he were still with Gold City.

  5. Nathan

    I like Eric Phillips. Don’t know very much about him, but I like his voice.
    I would have to put Wes Hampton and David Phelps as the top two on my list, but it’s really hard to pick a favorite between the them. They have such different voices and personalities…

    Closely following:
    3.Gus Gaches,
    4.Chris Allman
    5.Steve Ladd
    6.Danny Funderburk
    7. Jeremy Peace (from Old Paths)
    8. Jerry Martin

    … all I can think of off the top of my head.

  6. For what it’s worth, my personal top ten might look something like this:

    1. Ernie Haase
    2. Gus Gaches
    3. Chris Allman
    4. Wes Hampton
    5. Eric Phillips
    6. Tony Jarman
    7. Brian Free
    8. Jerry Martin
    9. Michael Booth
    10. Riley Clark

    1. Andrew

      You’ve been a SG fan for less than 2 years (2 years that Phillips hasn’t been traveling). You noted in the OP that you aren’t familiar with Phillips but have heard “little things.” Yet you rate him top-5; ahead of Brian Free, David Phelps and Michael Booth?


      1. Actually, what I really meant to say in the initial post was just that I couldn’t remember what Phillips sounded like because I hadn’t heard enough of him to cement his voice in my head. I then went and refreshed my memory. 🙂 I think he’s more solid than Booth, and he has the virtues of Brian Free with a pleasanter overall tone.

        As for Phelps, I would honestly rate a lot of tenors ahead of him in a personal favorites contest. If it were a “who’s the most technically gifted” contest, David would easily be #1, but that wasn’t the kind of list I’m putting together.

      2. Andrew

        I don’t think he’ll sound different. I thought it odd that you would say that you haven’t heard him much and yet you rank him above the guys who win the awards.
        If you listened to him between your first post and this one – that’s fine. But it did seem strange to say that you hadn’t heard him much and then ranked him so high. The “two years” was relevant because I understand that you’re a relatively “new” fan to SG – meaning that you perhaps you haven’t heard him live in concert. Not that he’s not good in concert – he is. I heard MTT right before he left the group and they put on a great concert. I’m really looking forward to hearing them with a fuller sound.

      3. Well, I said I was “trying to figure out” where I’d put him, so presumably that indicated I was going and listening to his voice in the meanwhile. 😉

        I haven’t heard most of my favorite singers live. Most of the time I’m just going by CDs or live Youtube clips.

  7. matt

    Mark Trammell is unquestionably better now than 20 years ago. Listen to some of the early recordings with the Cathedrals, and compare with more recent recordings. He was no slouch back then, but he has only matured. And kept that awesome range, and unique tone to his voice. You don’t mistake him for anybody else.

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