Sister Elizabeth Eustis

Walk With Me

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New Orleans gospel and spirtual icon Eustis recorded these 13 tracks at the second Mt. Olive Baptist Church, but only four songs were previously released on a 45 rpm disc. The remaining material has been unissued until now. Though not as powerful as Mahalia Jackson, Eustis carries her mantle proudly, and soprano Alverta Mills is quite a formidable second voice on a much more stratospheric level. Dismissing her role as any kind of blues singer, those inflections are definitely present courtesy of the ragged-sounding, but definitely black bottom-hued pianistics of Richard Peterson. Organist Ruby Mae Summers is more in the background, and John Joseph plays unobtrusive bass. A steady, stomping foot beat signifies several of these songs, including "In My Home Over There," the palpable swing of the brass-band tune "Just a Little While to Stay Here," the famous "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho," and the definitive "Lord, Lord, Lord, You Certainly Been Good to Me" with a modified and improvised second line. "The Last Mile of the Way" parallels "Yes Indeed," "Faith & Grace" reflects a low-key blues, "Old Rugged Cross" has a low-down blues feel, and "Walk With Me" is straight 12-bar. Eustis sings Jackson's "He Knows My Heart" in "Closer Walk With Thee"-fashion, and speaks the message of the very slow "It Is No Secret," instead of singing it. Eustis wrote three of these tunes. "My Heart Is Fixed Alright" uses boogie piano phrases, "A Sinner's Plea" is a cool, slow waltz, and "The Silent Communion of Prayer" is again, slow and again, spoken not sung. Aside from the historical aspects of this recording, it is the contralto voice of Eustis that is most compelling and impressive. She's not as powerful as Jackson, who could be, but she stands on her own as one of the top five premier church singers, and this CD documents her legacy.

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