The Dixie Hummingbirds
Music in the Air: 70th Anniversary Celebration
(House of Blues)
First Appeared at The Music Box, November 1999, Volume 6, #11
Written by John Metzger
Paul Simon's musical explorations began not with the African rhythms of Graceland, but on the much earlier There Goes Rhymin' Simon. While that album was not quite as thoroughly enveloped in a singular musical style, it did make several forays into gospel music. In addition, it helped bring the magical sound of The Dixie Hummingbirds to a wider audience. The group first formed in 1928 in Greenville, South Carolina, and it soon hit the rural church circuit along the Deep South. Though the quartet has included more than 19 different members over the past 70 years, no personnel change was quite as profound as the 1938 addition of Ira Tucker, Sr. who still performs with the Dixie Hummingbirds today. Tucker helped bring an emotional edge to the ensemble that later carried over into the music of soul legends Bobby "Blue" Bland, Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke.
Music in the Air celebrates the 70-year anniversary of the Dixie Hummingbirds and highlights the complex vocal arrangements the group has incorporated into its songs. Joining the quartet is an all-star cast of guest musicians that include Stevie Wonder, Bobby Womack, Paul Simon, and Mavis Staples. The group revisits Simon's Loves Me Like a Rock, giving the song an even warmer glow than the original version had. In addition, Staples, Tucker, and new 'Bird William Bright play off each other's vocal solos and fill I Need Thee with a passionate spiritual awakening.
As Isaac Hayes states in the introduction to the album, "The Dixie Hummingbirds are indeed an American cultural institution." When it comes to gospel music, it's truly hard to find a group that has had a greater influence, and as Music in the Air proves, this quartet still sings with a tremendous amount of power and passion.
Music in the Air is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 1999 The Music Box