Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Sacred Soul of North Carolina [Bible & Tire/Music Maker Foundation, 2021]
Recorded just pre-pandemic, featuring mostly artists from Greenville, the 90,000-strong urban center of the east North Carolina KKK stronghold of Pitt County, this 18-track collection is almost as striking as the same label's 2020 Hanging Tree Guitars. Their forebears go back to the Mitchell Christian Singers, who represented for gospel at John Hammond's 1938 Carnegie Hall Spirituals to Swing do. And indeed, most of these groups--only three solo artists including the woman who closes things out with an unsurprising, unaccompanied "Amazing Grace"--have been at it professionally if not therefore fulltime for 30, 40, 50 years, and their songs tend traditional. But the joyful life of these titles, many of which feel familiar to me even though they don't show up in my iTunes, is convincing, irresistible, a guaranteed up. Credit at least some of their energy to the well-miked drums that back almost every track, particularly Phillip Johnson on "Trying to Make It" and the stalwart Jahiem Daniels on Johnny Ray Daniels's "Somewhere to Lay My Head." A