Gospel singer Rev. Gean West and his brother Rev. Tommie formed The Relatives in the early ’70s and disbanded by 1980, but their electrifying, innovative gospel-soul hybrid finally saw the light of day when their early singles and unreleased sessions were compiled on 2009′s Don’t Let Me Fall. The lo-fi glory of those recordings is now utterly fulfilled on this very long-time-coming full-on debut, The Electric Word, which augments the Relatives’ familial voices with members of Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears. The added members powerfully facilitate the Relatives’ remarkable ability to blend the Temptations’, Four Tops’ and Isley Brothers’ gnarliest acid-soul experiments with traditional gospel.
Rooted in the sort of a cappella harmonizing heard in “Trouble in My Way” and “I Will Trust the Lord,” the Relatives’ achieve spiritual lift-off in tracks like “Let Your Light Shine,” which blends a rock-hard groove with funky horns and a beatifically needling gospel organ. “Say It Loud (It’s Coming Up Again),” borrows more than a page from Brother Brown’s soul-power sermonizing, as the title hints. And on “Bad Trip,” which oddly equates doping and rent non-payment among its titular infractions, they sneak some dirty P-funk echoes into the church. Throughout, Rev. Gean’s powerful pumice-voiced preaching delivers the word unequivocally throughout on this blast of fresh vintage gospel soul.