The good news last night was that three class gospel groups provided an outstanding evening of basic American music at Carter Barron. The bad news was that there weren't enough people in the area to fill more than the first dozen rows or so at the free concert.

When the Dixie Hummingbirds, a classic harmony quartet of long-decades standing, got their steam up, as they did on every number, their momentum was that of a loaded freight train rolling down a mountain. A veritable rhythm machine, their voices were a perfect balance of raucous baritone and trilling tenor, from Irish tender to barge captain rough. Their choreography had the grace of ballet and the precision of a Swiss watch.

Inez Andrews, who preceded them, combined a soaring voice, dramatic presence and ringing conviction that called the flock home on every selection.

The Tabernacle Echoes, who opened the program, featured several commanding voices out of its 16-member choir, including Patricia Dennis and Richard Swain, supported by the pew-rocking piano of John Watson and Harold Sutton. The latter's put-your-hands-together vocal on "Since I Found the Lord" was a call-and-response exchange with the riffing choir.

Lucille Banks Robinson Miller of WYCB radio emceed in the grand style that the occasion deserved.