Can’t Turn Me Around
Coming 2020 | Bible & Tire Recording Company
Bible & Tire Recording Company
“Down In the Water”
Music Maker Relief Foundation
Nobody’s Fault But My Own
9.20.20 | Bible & Tire Recording Company
“I Made It Over”
Jam In the Van
Bio – Dedicated Men of Zion
The Dedicated Men of Zion came up out of this singing land of eastern North Carolina, around the city of Greenville and its small neighboring town of Farmville. Each trained in the church and the home, the group’s four vocalists – Anthony Daniels, Antwan Daniels, Dexter Weaver, and Marcus Sugg – share the bond of that upbringing and another more literal bond of kinship (they’re all family now through blood or marriage).
Theirs is a community dense with talent and legendary impact on the origins of gospel, funk, R&B, soul, and jazz; a place where the sounds of Saturday night and Sunday morning couldn’t help but jump their lanes. The group’s own backgrounds tell that story. Anthony Daniels, the eldest of the group, led a career in R&B down in Atlanta, backing up the likes of Bebe Winans, Toni Braxton, and Elton John. Antwan Daniels, the youngest member and son of Anthony, was playing keyboards and organ in church while simultaneously injecting his hip-hop production work with traditional gospel roots. But the church was always the backbone. Weaver, whose grandmother managed several gospel groups around Greenville, had sung with elder quartet groups for years, running into Anthony Daniels around the sacred soul circuit. When they both found themselves without a group, Weaver turned to Daniels and said “I don’t know what you’re gonna do but if you do something, I’m on board with you. I want to be with you.”
In 2014 Weaver and Daniels, with Antwan on keys, came together to form the Dedicated Men of Zion’s original iteration, along with singers Trevoris Newton and Darren Cannon. The group was quickly gaining a following in eastern North Carolina when Newton suddenly passed away in 2018. The loss of one member was soon followed by Cannon’s departure. The arrival of Marcus Sugg re-completed the group. Sugg, who had grown up singing in church choirs and a little on the side during a stint in the military, was soon to be Anthony Daniels’ son in law.
It was with this new vocal lineup that the Dedicated Men of Zion caught the attention of the Music Maker Relief Foundation while performing in a church concert organized by Music Maker and the Glorifying Vines Sisters, the longstanding Farmville gospel institution of Anthony Daniel’s mother and aunts. Joining Music Maker’s artist roster of roots musicians from across the South, the Dedicated Men of Zion began reaching new audiences not yet clued in to the rhythmic, electrified, sacred sounds of the rural southeast. Sacred Soul, being the music of personal and collective survival, even secular audiences were catching the spirit of joy and determination. The message, for Anthony Daniels, was always that “if He did it for me, He’ll do it for you. Just keep praying and love one another.” In troubled times, there’s a need for a hopeful word and a testimony that there is a way.
Through Music Maker, the group connected with the newly founded record label Bible & Tire Recording Co., helmed by producer Bruce Watson of Fat Possum Records. Watson had been listening to the hard-praising drive of country gospel coming straight from the church which he’d later coin as “sacred soul”. His new label was delivering that genuine soul sound beyond the church circuits from which it came. The gospel music coming out of those small rural Black churches was in fact the headwaters of much of the commercial music made over the last half century, and Watson was ready to bet that mass audiences, already familiar with the sounds of classic soul, would discover a hunger for gospel’s emotional truth and purposefulness.
The Dedicated Men of Zion’s, Can’t Turn Me Around, was recorded in Memphis at Watson’s Delta-Sonic Sound in 2019. Backed by Watson’s all-star studio band, the recordings bring great depth to the incredible harmonies that soar above. The album marks a moment of clarity for the group. By embracing their roots, they knew they were pointedly taking a right turn where some of their peers had veered left in a race to make gospel sound like anything other than what it was back in the day: soul music. Each track on Can’t Turn Me Around comes from that overflowing heritage of sacred soul. Tradition sets a high standard of excellence. What more can new artists pour into that cup? The Dedicated Men of Zion accepted that challenge with the seriousness of their raising and the joy of spiritual inspiration. With their second album they get back to where they came from – soul and the salvation of harmony. In Anthony Daniels’ own words, “You want to live, get to where the root is. Get close to the root.”
–ZOE VAN BUREN
Bio – The Sensational Barnes Brothers
For Chris and Courtney Barnes — aka The Sensational Barnes Brothers — old school gospel comes as naturally as falling rain. They’ve sung together all their lives, but with their new eponymous debut album, the first release of the Bible and Tire Recording Co. label, things are clicking for the duo like never before.
Produced by Bruce Watson of Bible and Tire Recording Co./Big Legal Mess Records at Delta-Sonic Studios in Memphis, all of the songs on the record were chosen from the oft-forgotten 1970s catalog of the Designer Records label. This deep well of material will be featured more in future releases by Bible and Tire, created to spotlight the rich, living traditions of raw Southern gospel. For now, the Designer catalog is made new by the unique chemistry of this brother team. Along the way, they’re joined by a cast of tastefully gritty players like Will Sexton, Jimbo Mathus, and George Sluppick, not to mention Chris and Courtney’s brother Calvin, all of whom bring the tough soul-stomping sound of Memphis into the current era.
And for the Sensational Barnes Brothers, the new album also expresses an unbreakable bond with the past: their own father, Calvin “Duke” Barnes. The one song he guests on could well have been written by the Barnes family themselves. For there, in a nutshell, are all the bonds that hold them close.
“Son, just keep on, keep doing what you’re doing. Let it be good,” sings the father on one track, and his grown boys, standing close by, echo his words. “Let it be good.”
Chris Barnes was a little stunned to hear the song as they combed through hundreds of Designer tracks with Watson one day. “We were listening to the song and the guy on the recording sounded just like my daddy. I was like, ‘We gotta do this song!’ And the message really stuck out to us.”
“You can hear all the conversations he used to have with you through that one piece of music,” adds brother Courtney. It’s a poignant moment, for only three months after the brothers invited him to sing on their album, Duke Barnes passed away.
“You’re always counting your days, learning how to number your days,” reflects Courtney. “Count it all joy, and we’re thankful for the life that he lived and that he gave.”
And give he did, as Duke made his way through the world with his beloved wife Deborah. She was the daughter of Rev. James L. Gleese, and music came to her even more naturally. Yet though she had studied piano and voice diligently, she wasn’t prepared when the phone rang in the Gleese household one day. “Hello, this is Ray Charles,” said the voice on the line. She answered the call and for a time became a Raelette, one of the background singers for the genius of soul, before love, marriage and children demanded that she leave the touring life behind.
But that didn’t stop her from counting it all joy. Indeed, Duke and Deborah Barnes became a sought-after duo around Memphis, especially in the Seventh Day Adventist community, singing at concerts, church events and weddings. Over the years, flowers blossomed in their garden, by the name of Calvin, Jr., Chris, and Carla. “And I was the one who came regardless,” laughs Courtney. “Up there it was like, ‘Y’all gonna keep acting like you’re acting, I’m gonna send somebody!’”
By the 1990s, the four youngsters, their diverse musical talents steadily encouraged and coached by the parents, were assembled into a performing group known as Joy. “We performed a lot,” recalls Courtney. “My mom and dad would sing first, and we would be the background. Then in the next set it flipped over to where the children would do our thing, and that would be the Barnes Family concert.”
The family carried on as musical collaborators for years. Indeed, they still play and sing together, even with their father gone. “Eventually we let the name Joy go,” says Courtney. “We started singing together as just the Barnes Family. And in 2015 we released an album, Family Tree, with the four of us and Calvin’s wife Mischa. Now Chris and I are doing the Sensational Barnes Brothers as a duo, and I really enjoy it! But we’ve always sung together. We’ve been a part of different groups and played in different bands — just a lot of different connections and entities.”
This is an understatement. Chris and Courtney, on drums, percussion, and vocals, also front Black Cream, which is reinventing the classic power trio sound in a very funky Memphis style. Chris also sings background vocals for former Bar-Kays singer Larry Dodson, and Calvin, Jr., for his part, is a gifted instrumentalist, singer, and producer. Sister Carla, the only sibling to have left Memphis, still sings. Music is clearly a family calling.
And now, as the Sensational Barnes Brothers, they are bringing it all back home to music they grew up with. Says Courtney, “This new record is more edgy. Our parents taught us how to harmonize, to be more controlled. So this record opens us up. It’s more raw. I’m usually not a squaller, unless I’m excited.” It’s hard to believe when you hear uptempo rockers like “I Made It Over” or the horn-driven “I’m Trying to Go Home,” even when the impassioned singing is echoed with honeyed background harmonies augmented by Liz Brasher and longtime Barnes friend Billy Thompson III.
Notes Chris, “It allowed us to step outside of ourselves, with this free flowing, rugged, edgy kind of music. It’s gospel, but it’s not necessarily for just a Christian audience even. You can sing this at festivals and parks, anywhere. And this type of gospel for us was natural, because we heard this music growing up.That’s what made it so fun, being able to mimic what we heard back in the day and bring it to life.”
Courtney chimes in, “Even today in our church. You got older people there, and they go into some stuff where only the organist or the piano player know it. And yet even then, it’s dancing music.” And so, inspired by their shared past, fueled by harmonies that resonate with both their blood and their kindred souls, the brothers see themselves singing, playing, and dancing for a long time coming.
Bio – Elizabeth King & the Gospel Souls
“Going through your trials, I guarantee you, trouble gonna come and you need something. Music soothe your mind. You still be in pain but you can sleep,” says Elizabeth King of the power of gospel music, during a conversation upstairs at producer Bruce Watson’s Delta-Sonic Studio in her hometown of Memphis, TN.
This first reissue from the D-Vine Spirituals Recordings showcases King, who has an incredible ability to simmer and then raise the heat. The gospel hit from King’s pen, “I Heard the Voice” is only the tip of the iceberg. Witness her intensity on “Jesus Is My Captain,” with a wah-wah guitar grooving, which also drives the funky “Wait on the Lord.” “Down Here Waiting” is the very definition of a Memphis backbeat. “I Found Him” finds her singing, “I found him to be my hellhound chaser. I found him to be my midnight rider.” The traditional “I’ll Fly Away” is done here a la Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” fast and joyful.
Born in Grenada, MS, King grew up in Charleston to a mother who taught her to sing. “I would sing hymn songs,” she says. Often ill as a child, she turned to song as a way to get through. As she grew up, she learned to interpret them in her own style. She laughs as she says, “I like to move when I sing.”
Married and moving to Memphis in 1960, followed by a short stint in Chicago (“I couldn’t get used to the weather or how they went to church”), then back to Memphis, King first joined the Gospel Souls in 1969 after seeing them in concert. (The male vocal band had previously been on Halo Records and Designer Records, the latter catalogue explored in several exemplary Big Legal Mess releases.) She had always envisioned being backed by male singers. She was told, “If they got jealous wives, I wouldn’t.” But it worked out. She says, “I stayed 33 years with them.”
Producer Juan D. Shipp, a gospel DJ-cum-label impresario, thought he would get a richer sound than the gospel music studios in common use in Memphis at the time when he stumbled on Tempo Studios downtown, which became his go-to. “It was a compact studio but boy did it sound good,” Shipp recalls, continuing, “You had to walk up the stairs to it.” He first recorded King and the Gospel Souls in 1972, issuing “I Heard The Voice” (which was later sub-leased to the Messenger label).
Shipp continues, “When you come to the studio, I worked the devil out of you to make it what it should be. We were working at ‘I Heard The Voice.’ I said, ‘Sing it like you making love to God.’ That song skyrocketed. It was 5½ years at #1. Nobody could sing it like the original!”
Shipp brought in Lynn Askew on guitar and musicians affiliated with Tempo Studios for the rhythm section and keys.
Working a day job for a florist, she was in a serious car accident that inspired “I Heard The Voice” B-side “Waiting on the Lord.” King says, “I had no feeling in my body. I couldn’t do nothing but pray. The fire department had to cut me out of it. I thought about it that day, that song.” She still has pain in her body every day.
When the single was released, it caught on quickly. “I was riding down Union Ave.,” says King. “Rev. Shipp, he was on [the radio]. I say, ‘What,’ turn up the radio real loud. A guy from Memphis was at the red light. I said, ‘It’s me!.’ Every day, look like every twenty minutes, they was playing it. The phone started to ring. It kept us going everywhere.”
In order for King and the Gospel Souls to tour, but keep their day jobs and church commitments in town, they would hit the road on weekends, playing Saturday night and Sunday evening, eating after each concert, and driving back to Memphis in time to be at work by 8AM Monday morning. Plus, King would attend church services during the weeknights and work on choir rehearsals on Tuesday nights.
The band was once asked to perform for inmates at the Tennessee State Prison farm near downtown Nashville, TN. “Everything was on lockdown ‘cause womens was fighting. I was so scared. You talk about somebody singing that day: I sang!,” says King.
The last two songs on this collection are sung by Walter Boone (on “So Soon”) and John Powell (“on This Man”), lead singers of the band before King joined. Even with her on board, they would take a solo or two at longer concerts.
King went on to raise 15 children and still sings in church, as well as on WMQM-AM Memphis on Saturday mornings around 10AM.
Askew later worked in construction, painting, and as a mechanic, but tragically died on the job.
King says she hopes this recording keeps people focused on the soul, saying, “You need joy. If you mind got joy, if you keep your mind set on Jesus, he give you perfect peace.”