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Mitchell's Christian Singers Vol. 1 (1934-1936)

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Album Review

When this fine little a cappella vocal harmony group from Kinston, NC made their first recordings in August 1934, they were still using their original billing, with their manager's surname tacked on for good measure. Working under pressure, Mitchell's New Four Singers cut 16 master takes in an exacting marathon rehearsal and recording session that lasted a full 18 hours. Among the first songs they chose to record was "Them Bones," a wonderful set of variations on the old favorite "Dry Bones." The recording captures what they must have sounded like when they sang the tune at an audition for a talent scout back in Kinston earlier that summer. Clearly the song had significance for them as it is one of the few that they recorded more than once. In addition to well-known melodies like "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "They Scandalized My Name," and "Gonna Shout All Over God's Heaven," the quartet drew upon a broad repertoire characteristic of devotional singing in the southeastern United States. Any song they took on was calmly reinvented as a weave of interlocking vocal components in which improvisations were solidified into carefully presented group ritual. This amazing collective discipline was already well-established before they started making records, and it graced every one of their recording dates beginning in August 1934. Their next session took place in April 1936, and resulted in 12 titles, seven of which close out this collection. Now billed as Mitchell's Christian Singers, the group would ultimately produce some 80 recordings, all of which have been reissued by Document.


Genre: Blues

Years Active: '30s, '40s

A survey of Carolina-based gospel groups active during the first half of the 20th century reveals a regional style and repertoire worthy of closer examination. The a cappella quartet known as Mitchell's Christian Singers was based in the city of Kinston, which is situated in eastern North Carolina by the Neuse River, named for the area's erstwhile inhabitants, the Neusiok Indians. Although this excellent vocal harmony group cut more than 80 sides during the years 1934-1940, none of the members opted...
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