Every time an album with religious themes is reviewed, it seems the writer feels the need to clarify his personal position on religion. Reviews of the bitches-and-hos varieties of rap–do they clarify their position on bitches and hos? Regardless, I figure that there’s good music inspired by faith and good music inspired by secular themes.
Everything that Numero puts out is great, but Local Customs: Downriver Revival has to be one of my favorites yet. With a mix of gospel, soul, rock and funk, this album collects recordings between 1967 and 1981 that Felton Williams made in his basement in Ecorse, Michigan–Detroit’s down-river neighbor. Initially they were issued on Williams’ Solid Rock, Cass, Compose, and Revival labels.
The collection is solid throughout, but among the highlights have to be the four tracks from Shirley Ann Lee. They’re all drenched with great vocals and they alternate between frantic, rousing, uptempo numbers and slower ballads. Then there’s the old-school-gospel-like-you-see-in-the-movies of the Gospel Supremes’ “Sinner Man.” There’s lo-fi, home-recording-like songs like the selections from Coleman Family and The Revelations. The compilations winds this way and that, through soul and jazz, funk and rock before ending with a full gospel choir.
The 24 track compilation would probably be worth the price by itself, but it also includes a DVD with 200 sound recordings (demos, sermons, rehearsals, outtakes, etc) and a documentary about putting the collection together.