Treasure Records/Rounder; www.rounder.com.
Forging sometimes rough-hewn but always soul-stirring five-part harmonies, The Dixie Hummingbirds celebrate 75 years of musical testimony by rocking out on classic and original gospel tunes such as "Nobody's Fault" and "I've Been Born Again." All 11 tracks surge with spiritual uplift and joy. Only Ira Tucker Sr., who joined the group in 1938, when he was 13 years old, qualifies as a near-original member, but the more recent recruits acquit themselves with sanctified conviction. The Hummingbirds' name might well be familiar to several generations—the group formed in 1928 in Greenville, South Carolina; peaked in gospel popularity in the 1950s; crossed over briefly to a new crowd with a 1966 Newport Folk Festival appearance; and became nearly ubiquitous on pop radio in 1973 when they sang on Paul Simon's "Loves Me Like a Rock." But no previous introduction is necessary to have your spine tingled by this triumphant return. And while the songs' overall message is clearly Christian, the fervor of the singers' devotion will appeal to any ardent bhakti yogi, just as the passion of their performances provides a window onto a universal spirituality that seekers of all persuasions will appreciate.
Derk Richardson is a longtime YJ contributor who also writes about popular culture for
SFGate (www.sfgate.com), Acoustic Guitar magazine, and other publications.