McCrary Sisters – Our Journey

January 01, 1970

(McC Records)


Those of us spending our time in the secular world haven’t
kept up with the Gospel music of the last 30 years or so. Go back to the ‘50s
and ‘60s, and even into the ‘70s, and the vibrant vocal expressionism and
thrilling emotional highs of so much music of the African-American church can
preach to both believers and unbelievers alike. After that, however, Gospel
singers started aping the r’n’b sounds rather than influencing soul. It turns
out that adding sex to Gospel is exciting, but removing sex from r’n’b is
mostly pretty tepid.


But of course there had to be some more interesting music
being made that preaches the Word. This brings us to the McCrary Sisters, four
daughters of the late Rev. Samuel McCrary, who was an original member of the
Fairfield Four. Regina McCrary spent six years singing background for Bob
Dylan, starting back in his famous Christian period of 1978 through 1980. She
and Ann McCrary have turned up on recent albums by Buddy Miller (Universal United House of Prayer) and
Patty Griffin (Downtown Church).  Deborah McCrary and Alfreda McCrary Lee have
stayed out of the recording and touring spotlight over the years. There is no
mistaking, however, the joys these four women have when they start singing


Our Journey is
Gospel music which offers fresh perspectives on the Church experience, but
which is almost guaranteed to appeal to those who merely seek musical
enlightenment. They open with a remarkably moving arrangement of Dylan’s
“Blowin’ In the Wind” which builds on a simmering bed of funk and which
features the powerful blending of all four voices. For the rest of the record,
they take turns singing lead, with each sister showcasing a dynamic and
gorgeous individual style.


Buddy Miller plays guitar and produces the McCrary version
of his wife Julie Miller’s “Broken Pieces,” given a solid new take by Alfreda
McCrary Lee. Patty Griffin stops by as an honorary sister on Ann McCrary’s
gorgeous “Know My Name.” Most unexpected of all,
r’n’b/country shouter Delbert McClinton duets with Regina on her “Other Side of the Blues (Since
I Met You,” a raucous romp of a hard blues song with the twist that it’s God
who has replaced those bad feelings in their lives.


But the guest stars are just tiny decorations on the cake,
as the McCrary’s provide all the flavor necessary.  Regina
actually co-wrote “Give Him My All” with Dylan, and she sings the heck out of
it. Deborah McCrary mostly sticks to harmonies, but her lead turn on the
traditional “Dig a Little Deeper” shows they learned well the a capella stylings of her father’s day.
Ann’s lead on “Bless ‘Em All” is a joy to hear, as she magically tries to find
common ground between those of all faiths (and none, though she sings “Atheists
have nothing to do,” which seems a little removed from the spirit of the
song).  Alfreda’s lead on “Shine a Light”
is tender and warm; Regina has a blast belting
out a jump blues called “Bible Study.”


The McCrary Sisters make their religion sound inviting and
downright fun, though one can be a non-believer and enjoy the record, too. The
music is rootsy but entirely original and creative, the vocals are masterful,
and the songs catchy as can be. Our
is a trip one can imagine taking frequently.


DOWNLOAD: “Blowin’
In the Wind,” “Other Side of the Blues (Since I Met You),” “Broken Pieces, “Dig
a Little Deeper” STEVE PICK

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