The Como Mamas

Get an Understanding

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The Como Mamas are a trio of gospel singers from Como, a tiny town in Panola County in northwestern Mississippi. Ester Mae Smith, Angela Taylor, and her sister Della Daniels have been singing together since they were children. The trio appeared on Daptone's excellent compilation Como Now, a collection of a cappella gospel tunes recorded and produced by Michael Reilly using Mount Mariah Church as a studio. The Como Mamas performed three selections on that set. Like its predecessor, Get an Understanding is recorded a cappella and was cut front-to-back in a single morning at the church. This trio of voices provides more than enough sound for any listener; musical instruments would have been an intrusion. The throaty, raspy vocals of Smith lead the group's; her voice is earthshaking in its intensity; its expression one of coming right through the heart of worldly hardship -- aka the blues -- and plowing right on through it to the glory of the heavens. Taylor and Daniels voices provide pronounced rhythms, soulful harmonies, affirmative cadences, proclamations, and exhortations that push Smith's own conviction ever forward, through the lyrics and into the world of sound itself. Well-known spirituals "Peace of Mind," "Meet Me at the River Jordan," "I Know It Was the Blood," and "Soon I Will Be Done" are rendered with grainy rawness and stylistic panache, and embody not merely the history of Black gospel, but also the blues and rhythm & blues. No matter one's spiritual beliefs -- or lack of them -- she would have to have sawdust in her veins in place of blood not to be deeply moved by what is on display here. The term "soul stirring" doesn't begin to touch it. For those who seek the sounds of traditional gospel, à la Dorothy Love Coates and Clara Ward, or have been curious about gospel at its best, Get an Understanding is for you.

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