November 3rd, 2014


Title: Just a Little Talk with Jesus

Artist: Sallie and Cora Martin

Label: Gospel Friend

Format: CD

Release date: September 16, 2014


Sallie Martin and Cora, her adopted daughter, are well known names in the history of African American gospel music. Whereas Thomas Dorsey, with whom Sallie partnered in the management of the former’s “nascent music publishing enterprise,” is regarded as the father of gospel music, Sallie Martin is with justification equally addressed as the mother of gospel. The album, Just a Little Talk with Jesus, is a collection of gospel music recordings spanning 1940 to 1952 in which Sallie and Cora (and others) are featured as singers and soloists with different gospel choirs. Extensive liner notes are provided by historian Bob Marovich, founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Gospel Music (formerly the Black Gospel Blog). According to Marovich, this is the first commercially available compilation to feature most of Sallie’s earliest recordings, including many rare tracks remastered from the original vinyl discs.

Just a Little Talk with Jesus presents the listening audience with traditional gospel music rendered with the traditional aesthetics of vocal “timbres emanating from the chest rather than the head” (Burnim 2006) and accompanied with the piano or the organ. Traditional in every sense of the word! And Sallie herself was naturally inclined to strict preservation and maintenance of “authenticity in gospel singing and performance,” what with “her distaste for choreographed gospel performance!” Nor could she understand how some artists could afford to sing both secular music and the gospel.

In the twenty five tracks, one hears a proclamation geared to leading one to intimacy with Jesus and this depth of relationship is felt as one listens to familiar tunes like “I’m Going to Move on Up a Little Higher” (ca. 1949), made famous by Mahalia Jackson’s rendition in the 1950s. Jackson confessed that it was this song that brought her back from despair and placed her on a solid rock ‘Jesus.’ There is also the energetic rhythm of “Have a Little Talk with Jesus” (featuring Prof. J. Earl Hines & His Goodwill Singers) in which the piercing solo of the soprano creates an artistic imagery of an immediately desired ecstasy. “Get Away Jordan” (Sallie Martin Singers) is another well-known song that has been released in different versions by various gospel singers and evokes the memory of the spiritual “Roll Jordan Roll,” while the penultimate track, “It’s a Long, Long Way,” showcases the Sallie Martin Singers with Brother Joe May.

As already indicated, the unique feature of this compilation is its highlighting of the soloist role and virtuosity of Sallie and Cora. In “Didn’t It Rain,” one hears Cora sustaining notes as “she weaves wordless melodic motifs while the choir supports her with hypnotic, encouraging chants.” Nor would one fail to be moved at the appreciation from the audience (also recorded) as Sallie renders “below-the-stave bass notes” in “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” a number that creates an instinctive feeling of one walking spiritually with Jesus side by side. In summary, one would say that Just a Little Talk with Jesus about articulating the distinguishing elements of the gospel as a quintessential religious music of African Americans.

Reviewed by Jude Orakwe

Review Genre(s): Gospel Music and Spirituals


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