Friday, May 4, 2018

Mitchell's Christian Singers

Mitchell's Christian Singers is my favorite gospel group - this quartet's loose, raw, rural style is unlike that of any other group. The Singers were farmers and laborers in and around Kingston, North Carolina, and they recorded extensively between 1934 and 1940; their earlier recordings appeared on the ARC (American Record Corporation) family of labels - Romeo, Melotone, Oriole, Perfect, and Vocalion, as well as Sears' Conqueror label. Later issues appeared on Columbia and their Okeh subsidiary.

By the time they began making records, the group consisted of tenors Julius Davis and William Brown, baritone Louis Panella Davis, and bass Lewis Herring (replaced a year or so into their recording career by Sam Bryant). The "Mitchell" in their name was their manager,
Willie Mitchell. The Christian Singers remained
a local group, performing almost exclusively in
eastern North Carolina, although they did perform in John Hammond's 1938 "Spirituals to Swing" concert in Carnegie Hall. The group traveled to New York and Chicago to record, but otherwise stayed close to home.

Today Mitchell's Christian Singers are mostly remembered for the "Spirituals to Swing" appearance, if they are remembered at all. Like a lot of rural early-20th-century artists, their recordings have become more accessible in the digital age while paradoxically still being somewhat hard to find. Their complete output (nearly, anyway) has been reissued on several CDs on the Document label, but Document is not exactly well-distributed.

In any case, I have chosen to present transfers of three of my favorite  records, as well as pictures of all the different labels I have in my collection - so the pictures won't necessarily match the recordings.  The Conqueror is not in great condition, but the quality of the performance makes the flaws unimportant.

Conqueror 8769  - recorded April 28, 1936
Standing by the Bedside
What Kinda Shoes Do the Angels Wear

Vocalion 03180 - recorded August 10/11, 1937
I'm Praying Humble
I Don't Care Where You Bury My Body

Columbia 37479 - recorded August 6, 1940
Take My Hand
Don't You Want That Stone

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