The Old Paths began as a trio in 2003 with a great sound but when they transformed into a quartet sometime later, this sound led them to the top of the charts. “Battlestand” and “Love Them to Jesus” made the group popular until 2015, when the momentum of the group formed by Tim Rackley and Douglas Roark ground to a halt.
“Changes in life come at times when we least expect them,” explains Daniel Ashmore, bass singer with the Old Paths since 2011. “When we felt the Lord leading us to come off the road, we didn’t know where we would end up or how we would get there. I can remember feeling led to come off the road and wondering how my wife and I would make it. God had already done some amazing things through the ministry of the Old Paths and all of a sudden, he told us to go home. The hardest part about coming off the road was trusting that God would provide and open the door for the next step in my life. It was also difficult to see how God could continue to use me without singing on a normal basis. It is easy to have faith when everything is going well, but even harder when that faith is put to the test.”
The group’s faith was certainly put to the test when Tim Rackley’s daughter, Brianna, underwent a kidney transplant in December, 2014. Just a few months later, the Old Path’s tenor, Jeremy Peace, left the group. In mid-2015, the group announced they would be retiring in December, 2015. Health issues and family obligations, as well as the knowledge that the Lord was asking them to hit the pause button, caused the members to decide to park the bus for awhile.
“My wife and I just trusted God with His leading and just as he has always done, he provided more than I could’ve imagined,” Ashmore states. “He opened up a door for me to have a job where spiritual growth and serving others is encouraged. This, in turn, led to opportunities to talk with people on a everyday basis. Spiritually, it helped me learn to trust God even more and once he did as he always does – provide – my faith in him grew stronger. Coming off the road also provided the rest and refreshment that I needed at that time in my life. During the time off the road, God grew me personally in ways I didn’t know I could grow. God gave me a deeper passion to reach the lost through witnessing. I don’t know that I would’ve grown the way I did had we kept singing when the Lord told us to come off the road. God used that time off the road to do a work in me that he could apply when we hit the road again.”
As for the Rackleys, things have come full circle for their daughter. “Brianna is now 21 years old and since her kidney transplant she is doing ‘super fantastic,’” says father Tim. “The Lord has really been real in her in all different ways. She is attending her first year of college and since back on the road I tell folks the best part is she has her first job.”
“I am so excited to be back doing what I loved to do and that is singing the Gospel of Christ,” Tim continues. “I also am glad that I get to see the friends we have met over the years before we stopped in December of 2015. The biggest thing that has changed since we stopped touring in 2015 is I got more sleep since I was home every week and with being on the road every week you don’t sleep as much.”
Despite missing family and sleep, all of the Old Paths are enjoying being back on the gospel road again. With the addition of tenor Steve Ladd in 2018, the group has hit the refresh button on their sound.
“We have always been blessed to have incredible singers in this group and Steve is no exception to that,” says Ashmore. “He is such a joy to travel with and he’s just another regular guy like us, with the same goal as we have, so he fits right in. He sings with passion and that’s one of the things we like most.”
“Having Steve Ladd now has definitely changed the group’s sound,” Rackley agrees. “Steve is a versatile singer and has the ability to sing all different styles which is good for me, so I am able to sing harmony more often than before. We still will keep the traditional four part quartet harmony but now will be able to do different types of songs.”
For Ladd, the transition to full time with the Old Paths (TOP) seemed the right thing to do. “We had been doing select concerts for the past couple years and I got to really know the guys and their heart for what we do. I’ve been a soloist for almost nine years and was content in doing that along with several quartet dates a year. When they approached me about going full time this year, I prayed about it and felt it was time to be in a group again. Not a better bunch of guys to travel with. People really love TOP and I’m proud to be a part,” asserts Ladd.
“Steve is definitely a fit and has a humor side to him I never knew existed,” says Rackley. “Doug and Daniel were already like my brothers because we still stayed in touch by going out to eat and by phone while we were off the road since 2015.”
At press time, Doug Roark was still recovering from recent health problems, but was eager to rejoin the group. (Editor’s note: This article was published in the March 2019 edition of SGNScoops Magazine.)
“Doug is the life of the group.” states Steve Ladd. “He has so much energy on stage and is a great baritone and emcee. He loves people and it shows on and off the stage.”
“Tim is an incredible lead singer and has a heart for what we do,” Ladd continues. “He’s also the one that takes the longest to get ready for a concert. Daniel is a great bass singer but is all about telling people about Jesus. Everywhere we eat or hang out on the road he’s telling someone about the Lord.”
Ashmore agrees that he has a renewed sense of the necessity of telling others about Jesus. “I do feel that my approach to singing and ministry has changed. I feel like God has grown me in so many ways since I first started singing with the guys. I can remember thinking (that) singing (was) the only avenue to reach people, but God did a work in me while I was not singing that gave me more of a focus on relationships and interactions with people.
“The singing and music is just the foundation that gives me the platform to share Jesus with others,” continues Ashmore. “I have always desired for people to come to Christ and be encouraged through the songs we sing, but God intends for us to reach people by any means necessary. We meet so many people because we sing, and not just at concerts. During our time off the road, God really impressed upon me the need to take every opportunity to talk with people anywhere, not just those who come to hear us sing.”
For those who do come to hear the group sing, they will be enjoying new music.
“I’m excited for people to hear the new album, ‘It’s Real,’” says Ladd. “We are proud of how it turned out and feel we are finding our sound with this new music. ‘Come Sunday Morning’ is one of my favorites on the project.”
“When it Comes to Jesus,” written by Rodney Birch, is Rackley’s favorite. “(Birch is) no stranger to the Old Paths recording, since he has written three of our No. 1 songs. The line of the song that just speaks, is “all our fears turn to faith and our troubles just vanish away.” That has definitely been the truth in my family recently because it was faith in Jesus that got us through every step of the way.”
Greg Bentley of Crossroads Music, says, “‘It’s Real,’ by the Old Paths, is just that, “real!” We worked closely with the guys in picking what we felt were the best songs for this new album and I think we hit the nail on the head. The messages in the songs and the delivery the guys did vocally are heartfelt and delivered with passion that comes from believing what you are singing.”
Bentley is enjoying the addition of Ladd to TOP. “No doubt Steve Ladd has brought a fresh new energy to the group,” he agrees. “Recognized as one of the best tenors in our genre, Steve has brought his edgy style with him to the group. The mixture of Steve’s style and the foundation of Doug, Tim and Daniel have made them even stronger than they were before. It’s hard to top multiple No. 1 songs, but the Old Paths have raised the bar one more time.”
One cut off of the EP that might head up the charts is Ashmore’s favorite, “The God I Know.” I really like all the songs, but this one speaks to me the most because of the message,” Ashmore confesses. “I talk to so many lost people in the course of my daily life that argue ‘God doesn’t care because He allows suffering to go on.’ They don’t understand that the reason for suffering is a result of sin, but they also forget that God made a way for them to have eternal rest in heaven through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This song answers the question of whether God cares. The God I know sent his only son to bear the sins of the whole world and offers forgiveness and rest to anyone who calls on His name.”
Rackley is fully aware of the effect that physical suffering can have on someone and on their family. However, he knows that with his daughter’s journey through health issues has ultimately made them all stronger, and helped him cling even more to his favorite scripture, Isaiah 41:10, which reads: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
“This has got my family through since Brianna became sick and all through her transplant, also ongoing in the days ahead,” says Rackley. “The verse was brought to our attention right before Brianna’s surgery by a nurse that was taking care of her. She said the Lord told her to write that verse on the nurses message board in Brianna’s hospital room.”
The journey his family has been on to date has definitely made a difference to Rackley’s testimony. “I feel I am able to minister more effectively to people that are going through health issues and share that they have hope and the Lord can heal!’ Rackley continues, “My most important reason to sing is to reach people that only music could reach with the gospel. Some people will never go to church but they would attend a concert to hear good four (part harmony.)”
The Old Paths definitely deliver good quartet singing, with some likening their latest release to the harmony of the Beatles. Their motive for getting back on that bus every week is for much more than the great delivery of a well-written song.
Daniel Ashmore is determined to keep his focus, and that of TOP, on Christ. His favorite verse, Colossians 3:1-4, states: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”
“This verse has meant so much to me lately,” says Ashmore. “Things seem to move so fast in our busy lives and at times our gaze and focus can drift away from Christ. It is my hope that I will continue to seek those things which are above because of Christ, who is my life and the reason I have life. If I can do this, I will remain steady through everything I face.”
By Lorraine Walker
First published in the March 2019 edition of SGNScoops Magazine.