[27 June 2014]
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.