TRAVAIL is a new company specialising in gospel music. Dave Massey spoke to its co-founder, Pearl Jarrett.
In the mid '80's, 'Gospel' music as a genre was catapulted from the womb of Britain's black churches into the wider awareness of the Christian and secular community. At the forefront of this sudden outpouring of Gospel music in Britain, fully involved in the birth pangs and labour of bringing it forth, was L.C. G .C. Frustrated at the difficulty of finding good gospel recordings, Pearl Jarrett stepped out of L.C.G.C. and, together with her husband, set up 'Travail' - Britain's first, and only, distribution company specialising in Gospel. A trip to the States revealed to Pearl the extent and range of Gospel recordings that were available but she was very much a small fish in a big sea. "I started to talk to these record companies who would agree to see me - there was a lot of scepticism but I found a couple who showed some interest -- so I started with them..." Goliath tottered and fell when Travail succeeded in getting the contract for the Tyscot label, whose signings include The Rev. John P. Kee, an ex-pusher whose run-in with the drugs barons in The States prompted him to hit the straight and narrow. His album with the New Life Community Choir 'Wash Me' is one of the biggest U .S. gospel sellers - also Ben Tankard, president of Tribute records and a successful singer in his own right, has one of Travail's best selling albums. Selling to any outlet willing to take Gospel albums, Travail are finding that 'take up' in the secular market is encouraging too, but even now commercial business sense prevails over specialist tastes, with most shops plumping for commercial albums. British Gospel talent is represented by the 'Inspirational Choir1 and Dave Daniels to name but two, but most British artistes are having to go to The States for record deals and the level of recognition that eventually brings them back to European ears. The 'Billy Ocean syndrome' pervades the British gospel scene. With successful TV. coverage like 'People Get Ready' Pearl is already seeing a new level of interest, but still by far the biggest market lies in Britain's black churches, which is where most of Travail's publicity is focused. However, the message coming through strong and clear both from Britain's gospel artistes and from the pioneers of Travail is, in days to come: 'People Get Ready".
Travail have also developed a fast-growing direct-to-the-public mail-order business and, with upwards of 10,000 names in its computer, has now established itself as a key source for supplying high quality black gospel. A bi-monthly catalogue, listing its new releases, is available to any gospel ran. Pearl is keen that gospel enthusiasts will avail themselves of the service. "We've got some wonderful gospel albums; currently Yolanda Adams has one of the best-selling albums around. We see our ministry as serving all gospel record buyers." The Travail catalogue can be obtained by writing to Travail, PO Box 23, Bromley, Kent BRl 5QY or by telephoning 081461 1618.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.