EAR BLISS REVIEWS by DAN FERGUSON
Gospel music is in the air with this week’s installment of Ear Bliss as we look at the two inaugural releases from the newly christened, Memphis-based Bible & Tire Recording Company. The brainchild of Fat Possum Records co-owner Bruce Watson and with a slogan to “Retread You Soul,” the mission of Bible & Tire Records is to showcase gospel music which in spirit and sound hearkens back to the past. Watson first dipped into gospel waters in 2015 via his Big Legal Mess Records imprint and the superb multi-disc compilation The Soul of Designer Records which was a box set of the old Memphis gospel label’s best material. With Bible & Tire Records, Watson takes the next step. Of the two debut releases for the label, one is a reissue of material originally recorded for the D-Vine Spirituals Recordings label in Memphis in the 1970s by Elizabeth King & the Gospel Souls. The other focuses on a modern duo making music in the old-school 1960-70s style. The songs and music of The Sensational Barnes Brothers as found on the album of the same name is a rousing set that draws from 1970s material originally from the catalog of Designer Records. It’s a beauty! Let’s take a look.
Elizabeth King & The Gospel Souls
The D-Vine Spirituals Recordings
Bible & Tire Recording Company
Like many an artist in the business of performing gospel music, the musical roots of Elizabeth King were in the church. A Mississippi native, it was her mother who taught King how to sing and specifically, hymn songs. It was something that would stick with her from her days of youth to late moves to Memphis in 1960 after getting married, and then Chicago for a few years before retreating back to Memphis. King, who had always envisioned herself being backed by male singers, joined the all-male Gospel Souls group in 1969 after seeing them perform. She would remain with them for the next 33 years. The newly released collection The D-Vine Spirituals Recordings features 10 circa early-1970s selections of King’s early work with The Gospel Souls. The tracks move between hopped-up spirituals and those with a more simmering, soulful groove. King’s greatest asset as a vocalist? Her ability to move so effortlessly from fire-and-brimstone singer in one moment to deep soul singer the next. The collection begins with the steady groovin’ “I Heard the Voice” on which King straddles the fire and the soul. It also demonstrates how in the pocket The Gospel Souls were as a vocal group accompanying King. Frankly speaking, groove is all over this collection which even if it is all in a spiritual vein, makes for one great soul record. A little booty-shakin’ is not out of the question, either, when King & The Gospel Souls rev it up as on tracks like “Stretch Out”, “Jesus Is My Captain” with wah-wah guitar and all, and “This Man” which features only The Gospel Souls. The hope here is that there’s plenty more from where this material came from. What is a known fact is that the Bible & Tires Records brass are on the case. Recommended. Visit www.bibleandtire.com.
The Sensational Barnes Brothers
The Sensational Barnes Brothers
Bible & Tire Recording Company
“I wanted to create a Memphis-based label that concentrated on recording gospel music and trying to make it sound like it was recorded in the 1960s and 1970s but could also reissue stuff.” So says Bruce Watson, the head of the newly minted Bible & Tire Recording Company in a recent interview with The Memphis Flyer publication. The former, that being creating new music that sounds old, is exactly what Watson, as producer, accomplishes on the new collection of spirituals from The Sensational Barnes Brothers singing duo. The 11 exhilarating tracks comprising the album are reworkings of songs originally recorded by various performers for the defunct Designer gospel record label in the 1970s. The Barnes’ roots in gospel music can be traced in large part to their late father, Calvin “Duke” Barnes, who along with his wife Deborah Barnes were a sought-after duo in the Memphis area gospel scene and who tragically passed just three months after the brothers invited him to sing on the album. He can be heard accompanying his sons on the song “Let It Be Good.” Recorded at Watson’s Delta-Sonic Sound Studio in Memphis with accompaniment by an ace crew of Memphis musicians (including brother Calvin Jr. on organ), The Sensational Barnes Brothers is a wonderful throwback to the music the brothers grew up on that recaptures that yesteryear sound to perfection with the brothers themselves hitting all the right notes on a collection of tunes with ear appeal beyond just fans of gospel.
It’s big band time at Chan’s Restaurant in Woonsocket (267 Main Street) on Friday night as bandleader John Allmark brings his mighty Super Jazz Octet to the joint for an 8 pm performance. The next evening, Saturday, club favorites The Love Dogs play jumpin’ tunes for your listening, dining, and dancing pleasure.
The near legendary (and often times hilarious) songstress Syd Straw performs at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich (59 Main Street) on Friday night at 8 pm. Looking into next week, revered singer/songwriter Dar Williams comes to the Odeum on Thursday night, also at 8 pm.
British blues guitarist and singer Matt Schofield touches down at the Knickerbocker Music Center in Westerly (39 Railroad Avenue) on Friday night for an 8 pm show.
John Fuzek and Mary Ann Rossoni celebrate 30 years of performing as a duo with a performance at The Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland (549 Broad Street) on Saturday evening at 8 pm. The following evening, Sunday, the BRT welcomes long-time venue favorite Archie Fisher for a 7 pm performance.
The Common Fence Music Series presents Bay Area progressive roots pop band Front Country on Saturday night at 8 pm at the CFP Arts, Wellness & Community Center in Portsmouth (933 Anthony Road). Bluegrass and-then-some will be in the air at the Columbus Theatre in Providence (270 Broadway) on Saturday night with a tempting twin bill featuring Mandolin Orange with the Nashville-based folk punk singer/songwriter Sunny War opening at 8 pm.
It’s a twin bill at The Ocean Mist in Matunuck (895A Matunuck Beach Road) at on Saturday night with Boston-based funk rock fivesome SixFoxWhiskey and Rhode Island’s own funk rockers Northeast Traffic doing the honors. Things get going at 9 pm.
Looking into next week, the road never ends for Bob Dylan who along with his excellent band perform at the Providence Performing Art Center (220 Weybosset Street) on Wednesday evening at 7:30.
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.)