The Dixie Hummingbirds - A Christian Testimonial: Their First Album Plus Bonus 45s

Published Monday 14th March 2011
The Dixie Hummingbirds - A Christian Testimonial: Their First Album Plus Bonus 45s
The Dixie Hummingbirds - A Christian Testimonial: Their First Album Plus Bonus 45s

STYLE: Gospel
RATING 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 105941-17711
LABEL: Shout 68

Reviewed by Tony Cummings

When the Dixie Hummingbirds signed with Don Robey's Houston-based Peacock Records in 1952 everything was in place for them to record some of the greatest examples of quartet gospel of the whole Golden Age of gospel. It was in June 1953 that the Birds cut what was to become their signature hit "Let's Go Out To The Programs". The multi-artist gospel programmes were criss-crossing the States taking black church fervour to pack stadia of excited church goers. On their hit single the Birds' mighty lead singer Ira Tucker audaciously mimicked the stars of those programmes, neatly replicating the Soul Stirrers' "Jesus Give Me Water", the Blind Boys Of Mississippi's "Our Father", the Pilgrim Travellers' "Mother Bowed" and the Bells Of Joy's "Let's Talk About Jesus". But the Dixie Hummingbirds could do a lot more than imitate their peers. Over the next few years they had hit singles (all featured here) with "Christian's Automobile" driven by Howard Carroll's bluesy electric guitar (such instruments only recently having been considered acceptable in gospel music); "Devil Can't Harm A Praying Man", a number described by Clive Richardson in his excellent sleevenotes as "a rollicking Ira Tucker original with a novelty edge, delivered at full tilt and with a complex vocal arrangement"; and the title track of this album where James Walker handling the lead over old school jubilee harmonies and a thudding bass drum. In fact Duke were slow to assemble a batch of the Birds recordings onto an album, only releasing 'A Christian Testimonial' in 1959, two years after other gospel labels had released albums. But it sounded good then and it sounds good now. Clever Shout Records have reissued that gem but haven't just put out the original 12 song collection but have more than doubled its length by adding a whole pile of Birds 45s. So there's "Let's Go To The Programs 1' and also a Part 2 (originally released in 1958) which quite extraordinarily extended the mimicry to the female groups, with the Birds imitating the Ward Singers, the Caravans, the Davis Sisters and the Staple Singers ("Mavis Staples who sings like a man") with the Birds displaying credible falsetto vocals. Standouts on the other added singles are "I Don't Know Why" with some superlative bass singing from another gospel legend Willie Bobo and the frenetic "I Want To Feel The Holy Spirit" which clearly indicates they were indeed feeling him. All in all this lovingly put together set offers 26 recordings and there isn't a dud amongst them. An essential purchase for vintage gospel devotees.

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.

Interested in reviewing music? Find out more here.

Be the first to comment on this article

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.


Connect with Cross Rhythms by signing up to our email mailing list

Press Forward, Now!
Cross Rhythms Media Training Centre
Artists & DJs A-Z
# A B C D E F G H I J K L M
N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z #
Or keyword search


Dedication Room
Live on the edge and shout what you believe in our Dedication Room