Ester Mae Smith and sisters Angela Taylor and Della Daniels have been singing together since childhood, but the way their voices blend sounds much older: singing a cappella at Mt. Mariah Baptist Church in Como, Mississippi, the women harness a stripped-down sincerity. In their voices, God is taken off the pedestal and put in arms’ reach.
“Now let us all go back to that old landmark,” the women sing on the first track of Get an Understanding…, an invitation by a gospel trio molded in the land of the blues. “God is able,” the women insist, in a swaying call-and-response: “He’s so good to me.” Their personal touch makes easy friends with old songs like “Meet Me at the River Jordan,” which reflect a long history of struggle and faith blooming into powerful music. “I had my chance, I made my choice and it’s nobody’s fault but mine,” they call out on the old spiritual; the line is about making a conscious decision to follow god, but when it comes to the Como Mamas we aren’t given as much of a choice: The pure conviction and power in their music converts us immediately.