I’ve been driving a rental car the last few days, and it come with Sirius satellite radio. So I’ve been listening to enLighten a lot, though not exclusively. I gather they don’t really have a very historically deep collection - at least that’s the most generous way I can explain why they tend to play so much downmarket cut-rate stuff. For instance, I don’t know who the Oxendines are, but thank gawd when they come on there’s the Showtunes station, or the the Willie Nelson channel, or the Jazz Standards preset … I mean honestly, here was the hook to the song I listened to long enough to realize I couldn’t take the entire thing: it was something to the effect of God’s got a plan and he’s the plan. Blimey!
Anyway, the other night I caught the last half of a broadcast of a McGruders live recording. And it nearly set me free. To be honest, the group sings a lot of suboptimal material - not quite along the lines of the Oxendine plan-plan, but lyrically nondescript, melodically pedestrian stuff all the same. But gosh, they just sing so marvelously well together and create such a distinct, rich, bold sound that creates a musical space for you to inhabit with them.
I didn’t have my pitch pipe with me or anything, but I’d wager they sing above-averagely lower than most groups, and though the McGruders do like to shout (and not the kind of genteel shoutin’ time the Hoppers sing about), they never scream musically. Priscilla’s voice is the center of the sound, weaving into the ensemble a feeling of warmbloodedness, but also of fierce urgency. When her voice is the mix, the McGruders sing like people who aren’t sure they won’t be suddenly swept up in the onrush of the kingdom any moment. This is a good thing as far as the texture of the sound goes, because Carol’s got one gear as an emcee: friends, he’s always on the verge of a good gospel cry, amen halle-LOOO-yuh? And he talks too much (he and Tony Greene and Claude Hopper must have all gone to the same Chatty Kathy School of Emcee Training) .
But you forget all that when they start singing and that fantastic gobsmacking band of theirs starts playing.
My only complaint was that I didn’t hear “Most of All,” my favorite McGruders tune (maybe it was on before I tuned in?). Like so much of their music, it manages to convey the group’s fierce vision of spiritual life spent striving after the divine in irrepressible bursts of weeping, woeful awe.Email this Post