Various Artists

Southern Journey, Vol. 8: Velvet Voices

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Recorded mostly in Virginia in 1960 (two recordings were made in St. Simon's Island, GA), this documents African-American folk musics of the region, focusing mostly on gospel quartets, although there are also some fife-and-banjo tunes. This has to count as one of the more accessible installments in the Southern Journey series; the singing is up to the level of what you'd expect from most gospel acts with record deals, but the execution is less slick and calculated. The Peerless Four even use electric guitar, piano, and drums, sounding less like folkloric discoveries and more like contemporary (circa 1960, that is) R&B-influenced gospel; the Bright Light Quartet feature light, rhythmically propulsive guitar accompaniment that fleshes out the sound in an ingratiating fashion. The result is more buoyant, jubilant gospel than you're likely to find on more commercially minded spiritual recordings, from that or any other period. Six of the 20 tracks are previously unreleased. Of the unreleased items, Charles Barnett's "Run to Jesus for Refuge, Run Right Along," on which the 84-year-old creates African-like rhythms by accompanying himself on an overturned metal washtub, is a real standout.

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