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The Jones Family Singers

The Spirit Speaks

(Arts and Labor; US: 1 Apr 2014; UK: Import)

Lively gospel troupe impresses for a time

Ray Charles is widely credited with introducing elements of gospel music into pop back in the 1950s, creating the genre of soul (and putting his stamp on blues and rock and roll along the way). 60-odd years later we’ve come full circle, with gospel outfits like the Texas-based Jones Family Singers coloring their lively devotionals with funky rhythms, Motown-esque guitar breaks, and vocal wailing that wouldn’t sound out of place on American Idol. Standout tracks like “Down On Me”, “Made Up My Mind”, and especially the revelatory “Bones in the Valley” utilize a vibrant mix of rock, funk, soul, and blues to augment their heartfelt devotion to God and Jesus, and in so doing make the case that gospel remains as inventive and vital as any other genre of music. Elsewhere, treacly sentimentality oozes in, as in “Leaning on You” and “Preacher Man”. The album starts strong, but the back half suffers from too much cheese and not enough muscle. Still worth a listen for those first few tracks, though.

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DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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