There are some genres that contain considerably more baggage than others. Country music, for example, generally conjures up images of ample beer and truckin’ bumpkins. The mention of metal is all about burly dudes in tank tops headbanging, and classic rock is for that aging cover band down at the local pub. And certainly “gospel music” is among these labels, summoning the instinct to widen eyes and sling around words like “church” and “robes.” Sure as shootin’, the Jones Family Singers (seem to) fit the bill, with all the Pentecostal pep you can ask for. And their new album, The Spirit Speaks, does indeed live up to its name, as the ten tracks struggle to put a leash on the explosive sound of the Singers.
However, it’s unfair to bring too many assumptions to the Family. While they aren’t afraid to get down in classic oh-Lordy style, they also present a rich sonic palate of funk and blues. This is evident upon a nascent listen to “Down on Me,” which rocks with the best of fifties frivolity. (The title, however, could use some tweaks.) Its diva vocals backed with a choir do indeed scream gospel, but there’s more to it than that. “I Am” is a good example of the Singers’s musical diversity––while it is unabashedly a God anthem, it’s also a rockin’ foot-tapper. The music doesn’t overpower the lyrics, but takes them to another level, megaphoning their message to the audience. “Going Home” is a standout track, almost Marvin Gaye smooth in its sound, built on a jazzy backbeat and layered with tasteful licks of guitar.
The Singers cater to a specific audience, and they know that. An accurate analysis of The Spirit Speaks isn’t about proficiency or deficiency; it’s about the listener. With that said, the Family is pretty widespread for a gospel band. That being said, they’re a gospel band. This won’t turn everyone’s ear, but it’s a great revival for those interested––perhaps even a few blues rock fans.