Title: The D-Vine Spirituals Recordings
Artist: Elizabeth King and the Gospel Souls
Label: Bible & Tire Recording Co.
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 20, 2019
In 1960, a newly married Elizabeth King moved 90 miles north of her hometown in Charleston, Mississippi to settle in Memphis, Tennessee. This fortuitous relocation led to a 33-year collaboration with the Gospel Souls, a popular male vocal group in Memphis featuring lead singers Walter Boone and John Powell. Sister Liz King was invited to join the group in 1969 and took over the lead on the majority of songs. According to the liner notes by Nick Loss-Eaton, King had always envisioned being backed by male singers, so this was her dream come true. However, she told the men in no uncertain terms that if they had jealous wives, she would walk.
The ten tracks on this album were recorded in the 1970s for D-Vine Spirituals, a small boutique label owned by Rev. Juan Shipp, who at the time was Pastor at the Greater Abyssinia Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis. Shipp recorded a number of singles for local gospel groups at Tempo Studios in downtown Memphis. In 1972 he released King and the Gospel Souls’ first single, “I Heard the Voice,” which opens this compilation, followed by the more interesting B-side, “Waiting on the Lord.” Over strumming guitars and the call-and-response of the background harmonies, King’s searing vocals relate the near-death experience that inspired her original song. Other highlights include “Down Here Waiting” and “Can’t Do Nothing,” two tracks that showcase King’s powerful, testifying vocals, and the funkier groove of “Jesus Is My Captain” with piano added to the rhythm section. The final three selections are performed by the Gospel Souls, the highlight of which is “So Soon” featuring Boone on lead vocals.
This compilation will be of particular interest to Memphis locals, who can still hear Elizabeth King singing gospel music most Saturday mornings at 10:00 am on Memphis radio station WMQM-AM. The album also represents the first reissue from the new Bible & Tire Recording Co. The company motto, “retread your soul,” sums up their mission to reissue older Memphis gospel recordings while also presenting new artists who perform in the “spirit and sound of the past.” One hopes in the future, however, that better documentation of recording dates, sessions, and personnel will be provided so listeners can better appreciate and pay tribute to these artists.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss