The sixth volume in Daptone's gospel series is a return performance by the Como Mamas, a trio of gospel singers from the tiny town in Panola County in northwestern Mississippi. Ester Mae Wilbourn, 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, and their debut full-length date, Get an Understanding, in 2013. Whereas the former album was cut front to back in a single morning in a church, Move Upstairs was captured live at the Daptone House of Soul studio in Brooklyn. Here, the powerful pew-rocking trio is backed by the Glorifiers Band, a studio quartet of label session players: organist/pianist Jimmy Hill, bassist Bosco Mann, guitarist Thomas Brenneck, and drummer Homer Steinweiss. While the amplified accompaniment adds the groove quotient to the Como Mamas' interpretations of deep catalog gospel standards, it doesn't distract from the power and interplay of these voices deliver on their own. Whether it's in the swaying, gutbucket R&B stroll of the title track, the backbeat-driven pulpit funk of "Count Your Blessings," or the deep blues call-and- response of "99 and a Half Won't Do," the effect is the same: Electrifying. The reading of Dorothy Love Coates' nugget "He's Calling Me" offers an arrangement style akin to that of the early Staple Singers, as deep Delta blues and post-Thomas Dorsey gospel entwine: it's raw, immediate, and cannily musical. Back-to-back praise numbers "I Can't Thank Him Enough" and "So Good to Me" showcase startlingly different sides of the Como Mamas' persona. The former is tough soul-gospel with staggered chorus lines underscored by a muted rims hot snare and blues guitar licks; Wilbourn's throaty moan in the latter is buoyed by Daniels' and Taylor's responsorial assents in every line, creating a swing feel, and it's framed by Hill's swelling organ and Mann's bumping bassline. On "Glory Glory Hallelujah," the Como Mamas are a cappella save for an entrancing bass drum. Move Upstairs is an excellent complement to its predecessor. The Como Mamas are among the most rhythmically innovative and effortlessly creative singers in Southern rural gospel. The presence of the Glorifiers adds an exclamation point as gospel music's past and present are seamlessly united. This is nothing less than essential for fans of American roots music.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek