The Relatives, The Electric Word

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 02.19.13 in Reviews

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.

A blast of fresh vintage gospel soul

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.