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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Three Way Calling

  • reviewed by LaTonya Taylor Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2004 1 Jul
Three Way Calling
Sounds like … quartet music for fans of artists like The Blind Boys of Alabama or the Williams Brothers.At a glance … this "swamp gospel" mixture of Southern-bred gospel, blues, rock R&B and doo-wop is enjoyable from start to finish.Track ListingThe WarningTired of the GameFour & Twenty EldersJordan RiverBrighter DayCalling MeInterludeShout It OutLeaningBetter HomeGood TimeI Won't Back DownNew direction

Classic gospel quartet music is an amazing blend of seemingly disparate elements: themes of life on earth mingled with hope for heaven; comfort and mercy with warnings of judgment and death. Voices alternately weathered and smooth, gritty and clean. Stage presence that's both Southern church circuit and Northern concert hall.

That blend makes it welcome in the church platform and in the blues hall. During more than 30 years in the industry, Roy Tyler & New Directions have taken this "swamp gospel" to these places and more.

Three Way Calling starts with "The Warning," an urgent, guitar-and-piano-driven, blues-rocking track cautioning against careless living and judgmental attitudes. "Shout It Out" is a sho'nuff shouting song, from churchy organ and Tyler's bluesy wail at the beginning to the good-God-A'mighty Bible storytelling, call-and-response pattern and lyrics about feelings so good, they've got to be danced, shouted, cried and laughed out.

"Leaning," featuring Brother Clarence Fountain from the Blind Boys of Alabama, is beautifully steady, weathered and wise. "Better Home" is an uptempo glance heavenward, and "Good Time" is an astonishingly workable blend of reggae and old-style quartet. "Jordan River" is a somber reflection on death, and "Four and Twenty Elders" speaks of man's need for God's mercy in light of current events and the world's eventual end.

Raphael Saadiq (of Tony! Toni! Ton?fame) joins his mentor and friend on the exceptional "Tired of the Game," which couples vintage doo-wop and neo-soul stylings in a song about leaving gang life. Like the rest of Three Way Calling, it's a remarkable, earthy blend of old and new.