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Mitchell's Christian Singers Vol. 3 (1938-1940)

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Album Review

One thing about Mitchell's Christian Singers: each of their 80 recorded performances is a marvel of devotional sincerity and creative collaboration. What comes across in the third installment in Document's four-volume edition of their complete works is the intensely personal nature of individual and shared spiritual paths. As voices breathe, blend, and contrast within the structure of each song, messages inherent in the lyrics take on substance and depth far beyond the parameters of dogma. Well-known spirituals — represented here by a characteristically robust treatment of "Rock My Soul (In the Bosom of Abraham)" — are relatively scarce in this group's discography, as their repertoire appears to have been drawn from the songbooks used by churchgoers in the immediate vicinity of their hometown of Kinston, NC. "The Saints Are Marching," on the other hand, is clearly recognizable as the old-time devotional jazz standard "When the Saints Go Marching In," and stands tall among their very finest recorded accomplishments. Tracks 12 and 13 ("What More Can My Jesus Do?" and "Mother Dies A-Shoutin'") were recorded live at Carnegie Hall to represent the "Spirituals" in John Hammond's historic "Spirituals to Swing" concert on December 23, 1938. These are the quartet's only known live recordings. Tracks 21-25 come from the first of their last two recording dates, which unlike all of their previous sessions took place in Chicago.


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. 3 (1938-1940), Mitchell's Christian Singers
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