Accompanying Documentary Film Out Oct. 5 Via Folkstreams

When Tim Duffy of the Music Maker Foundation took Memphis’ Bruce Watson (Fat Possum Records, Big Legal Mess, and the new Bible & Tire Recording Co.) to rural eastern North Carolina to hear sacred soul music, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Days later, Watson left with an album and a documentary film of the quartet singing from the region, a tradition which traces its roots in the region back to the 17th century. The rousing Sacred Soul of North Carolina album (LP, digital, CD) will be released October 15 via Bible & Tire Recording Co. and the Music Maker Foundation, with the accompanying film coming out October 5 via Folkstreams.

The first single, “Have You Tried Jesus” by Little Willie & The Fantastic Spiritualaires, comes out August 18. Video (OK to post).

SoulCountry’s Alan Richards premiered the track and video, calling the album and film “incredible [and] enthralling,” continuing, “Like many of the performances on the Sacred Soul album, the Spiritualaires’ moves as hard and fast as any rock ‘n roll or soul music—or harder… The powerful singing seems to shout back the demons in a region that lives with a legacy of devastating racial discrimination.” Big James Barrett & The Golden Jubilees’ “Use Me Lord” will come out as a single September 3 with “Shake Me” by Bishop Albert Harrison & The Gospel Tones seeing release as a single September 22.

Alice Vines of the Glorifying Vines Sisters brought the artists to downtown Fountain, North Carolina, for the sessions.

“It all started with DMZ,” Watson says. “It’s such a family thing. When the DMZ record went well, it was such a dynasty that it made sense to go out to North Carolina and record the whole scene. No one had done anything like that in a long time.” The timing was serendipitous: the sessions were taped days into the arrival of COVID-19, while it was still isolated in two or three places. Since the tapings in early 2020, Little Willie, leader of the Fantastic Spiritualaires, has passed away from a heart attack.

Sacred Soul of North Carolina is a revelation. Eastern North Carolina proves a repository of the gospel quartet tradition, but with elements of 20th century funk sounds. Dedicated Men of Zion have done an NPR Tiny Desk Concert in conjunction with their appearance at globalFEST as well as an appearance on NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast. They’ve also earned praise from the likes of Brooklyn Vegan and the Philadelphia Inquirer. They’ve also picked up a new fan in Taj Mahal. DMZ is already in the studio with Watson working on their follow-up album. Anthony “Amp” Daniels leads DMZ, and his father Johnny Ray Daniels appears on the collection.

The elder Daniels also appeared on the Music Maker Foundation compilation ‘Hanging Tree Guitars,’ named the top album of 2020 by the “dean” of music critics, Robert Christgau. The all-female group Faith & Harmony absolutely shines. Albert Harrison & The Gospel Tones’ old-school sound would be home in a Mississippi blues festival. The closing a cappella take of “Amazing Grace” by Melody Harper is an absolute show-stopper.

Detailed liner notes by folklorist Will Boone are enclosed with the album.

1. Can’t Turn Me Around – Dedicated Men of Zion
2. It’s A Shame – Dedicated Men of Zion
3. Tell It All To Jesus – The Vines Sisters
4. Somewhere To Lay My Head – Johnny Ray Daniels
5. Glory Glory – Johnny Ray Daniels
6. Tell It – Big James Barrett & The Golden Jubilees
7. Use Me Lord – Big James Barrett & The Golden Jubilees
8. Ask God In Faith – Big Walt & The Faithful Jordanairs
9. Victory – Faith & Harmony
10. We Will Work – Faith & Harmony
11. He’s Coming Again – The Johnsonairs
12. Trying To Make It – The Johnsonairs
13. Shake Me – Bishop Albert Harrison & The Gospel Tones
14. Stand Up – Bishop Albert Harrison & The Gospel Tones
15. I Want To Be Ready – Little Willie & The Fantastic Spiritualaires
16. Have You Tried Jesus – Little Willie & The Fantastic Spiritualaires
17. No Ways Tired – Marvin Earl “Blind Butch” Cox
18. Amazing Grace – Melody Harper

Fourteen of the album’s 18 tracks are previously unreleased and newly recorded for this collection.

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