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Mitchell's Christian Singers Vol. 2 (1936-1938)

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Album Review

Document's second album devoted to the a cappella quartet known as Mitchell's Christian Singers opens with the remaining titles from a session that took place in April 1936 (except for "Go Ye Prodigal Son," which has gone missing) and concludes with the first four sides cut in July 1938. As is the case with each of the four volumes presented by Document, the music is dependably excellent throughout. Special mention should be made of lead tenor William Brown, a skilled vocalist whose shifts into falsetto added artful emphasis. Given the nearly complete absence of composer credits, it's impossible to gauge the quantity of "originals" in the group's repertoire. Most importantly these men managed to preserve on record an extensive catalog of African-American religious melodies prevalent in and around their home town of Kinston, NC during the first half of the 20th century. The blues element is strongly present in each singer's choice of harmonies and intonation. This is especially noticeable during "I Want Somebody to Tell Me" which, unfortunately, is one of the scratchiest recordings of the entire album; most of the original 78 rpm platters used in the creation of this series are much "cleaner" sounding. The topical and thematic range is characteristically rich and rewarding, with "Come on Ezekiel Let's Go ‘Round the Wall" landing in the Old Testament; "Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit" suggestive of a Beatitude; "Lord Have Mercy" standing firm as a modern African-American Kyrie, and "I Don't Care Where You Bury My Body" signifying unwavering faith and spiritual unity. Note that "We Want to Have a Talk with Jesus" was the song with which the original quartet won a singing contest in June 1934. It was that triumph that led directly to their first recording date two months later.


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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Mitchell's Christian Singers Vol. 2 (1936-1938), Mitchell's Christian Singers
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