Wiseman Sextette

Complete Recorded Works: 1923

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This sobering collection of spirituals and gospel airs represents almost everything recorded by vocal ensembles under the nominal leadership of Reverend T.H. Wiseman. Tracks 1-16 are sung by the Wiseman Sextette, a genteel chorus of four men and two women. These sides were cut in June and July, 1923 and issued on Rainbow Records, an early independent label devoted exclusively to evangelical music and speech. The collection opens with perhaps the Sextette's finest accomplishments: the soothing and mesmerizing "You Better Run," the haunting "Hush (Somebody's Calling My Name)," and "Witness." Spoken introductions on tracks 4, 6, and 13 are by Rainbow Records owner & operator Homer Rodeheaver, who also sings with the group. Using language clearly intended for white audiences, "Lord, I Can't Stay Away" is introduced as "one of the most typical of the real Negro spirituels [sic] and one of the most effective in revival meetings. You will hear it with its quaint minor and all the peculiar turns, just as you would hear it from one of the most primitive congregations of the real South." He introduces "Shine on Me" as "...the song that was sung so much by the Negro soldiers, both in this country and over in France during the war." The spoken intro to "Sign of Judgment" focuses on prophecy and the Second Coming. "Lord, I Want to Be a Christian" is essentially "I Want to Be Like Jesus in My Heart," which was the first recording ever made by Blind Lemon Jefferson, under the name of Deacon L.J. Bates at the Paramount studios about two-and-half years after the Wisemans cut their records. Tracks 17-22 are by the all-male Wiseman Quartet, and were issued on Victor, which accounts for the improved sound quality. Rainbow's recording setup was clearly more ramshackle than Victor's, and Rodeheaver is known to have resorted to a lot of reckless dubbing, so some of the first 16 tracks are at least second generation. This accounts for the misty quality of the playback experience, an authentic playback experience that, in some cases, actually enhances the music. Those who abhor 78 rpm surface noise may want to opt for the Quartette sides, which in any case contain a number of remakes from the Sextette's playlist.

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