Goodbye Promise Trio, You Were Great

I know I said at the beginning of my 12 Essential Tracks of Christmas that I would provide a list of 12 more tracks that missed the cut. But since the series didn’t generate that many views, I thought I would dive right back into our regular programming instead, because I suspect y’all are ready to rotate Christmas music out of your mixes right about now. I have to admit that I am too. But feel free to e-mail if you would like to see the list. 🙂

I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to a young trio that recently disbanded after nearly four years in the business. That group is Promise Trio. The pressures of personality, life on the road, and making a profit in a rocky economy doubtless all contributed to the various group changes and the final decision to dissolve. I thought Promise had great potential from day one and remained consistently excellent for the group’s brief lifespan. It was originally founded as Statement of Faith by Jacob Kitson, who stepped down from Greater Vision at Chris Allman’s return. He, brother Joe and baritone Jon Epley (who just had a fantastic year with the Inspirations and now sings bass for them), recorded just one CD in 2010 before Epley was snapped up by the legendary group. However, the song “Masterpiece of Mercy” would later land on a Booth Brothers recording. Youtuber cbcacs has some good footage of a concert by this lineup. Particularly notable is this hilarious but difficult “Southern Gospel rap song,” featuring Epley:

See also their close harmony work on “Shall We Gather At the River”:

Epley was replaced by Jacob’s brother-in-law David Mann, another bright young talent who has drawn comparisons to Mark Trammell. Mann would take charge of the group after the Kitson brothers parted ways in 2011, with Jacob coming off the road altogether. It was at this time that the group’s name changed to Promise. By the time another album was released in September, Joe was gone too (he has since surfaced with Paul’s Journey), and the fresh lineup consisted of David Mann (baritone), T. J. Evans (lead) and Josh Bell (tenor). This garnered critical acclaim, including a rave review from Daniel Mount. Mann was clearly the anchor at this time. His talent and retro tastes are wonderfully obvious on features like “He Is Mine” and “Land of Living.”

After their tenor left to join the military, things got a little confusing. Michael Helwig was there, then he wasn’t. Then in early 2013, T.J. and David shifted parts and hired a new baritone. That also sounded awesome:

But when the Blackwood Brothers Quartet came knocking for David, it was too much for the trio to handle. Which brings us to the present day.

I suppose one could say, strangely, that Promise suffered from being too good—so good that their best singers were “stolen” by bigger name groups, on top of the other normal issues that plague young groups. And because there’s a dearth of young quartet talent, they couldn’t keep re-grouping indefinitely. There are really no profound “lessons” to be drawn from this, just regret that a great traditional young trio has broken up. So thanks for all the singing Promise—you were great while you lasted.


5 thoughts on “Goodbye Promise Trio, You Were Great

  1. Steven

    Hate to see promise disbanding. But the leaving of David Mann really did seem to bring a tough blow.

    My church was blessed to have their ministry multiple times. Actually, we were able to have Statement of Faith AND Promise. They were very good and still one of the favorite concerts that our church has had.

    Interesting story: When Promise came the last time (which was I believe early 2013) the lineup was David, TJ and Dustin Sweatman (from Mark Trammel QT). He was filling in that particular weekend. They had such a wonderful sound.

  2. Careful in saying the Blackwood Brothers.. Billy & Jimmy Blackwood have the name, and David’s singing with Mark Blackwood. I don’t know if they go by the Blackwood Quartet, or Mark Blackwood Quartet, but it’s definitely not the Blackwood Brothers. Not trying to be a know it all, just stating some facts. Happy Hump Day!

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