Along with jazz and blues, gospel has been a wellspring of unique and diversified musics. From the field hollers of the cotton plantations and the sagging wooden churches of the rural South coursed a rich, joyous stream of sound that continues to form new tributaries today, marking the U.S. as a world leader in popular song and providing this country with one its finest and most consistent exports across the decades.
Thanks to filmmaker George T. Nierenberg and producer Hugh Fordin, we now have a priceless documentation of some of the leading figures in the gospel field, in the forms of a movie and its soundtrack album of the same name, "Say Amen, Somebody." The two-record set centers on the work of 78-year-old Mississippi shouter Willie Mae Ford Smith and Georgia Baptist revival worker Thomas A. Dorsey, but it also features many of their fellow travelers in the heady, hearty gospel world, among them the Barrett Sisters, Zella Jackson Price and the O'Neal Twins.
These voices make a joyful noise indeed, whether paying tribute to redemption in a stirring, soulful soliloquy (Price's "I'm His Child"), or whimsically contemplating the vagaries of sin (the Twins' "Jesus Dropped the Charges"). Excellent liner notes by Chris Albertson will lead you through the history of the singers and their songs, and the music itself will lead you back to the spiritual font from which it flowed. An imperative for anyone who claims pride in the special beauty that is the American sound. VARIOUS GOSPEL ARTISTS -- "Say Amen, Somebody" (DRG SB2L 12584). Documentary film now showing at West End Circle.