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One of life’s frequent surprises is the unexpected renewal of acquaintances out of the blue.

Running into someone you’d known in the past but hadn’t seen for a long time can always be something of a shock to the system, giving you a weird sense of stepping back in time where the things that you take for granted today are stripped away as you morph into who you were back when you knew this person who now must seem like a total stranger.

The moment quickly passes though… you catch up for a few minutes, picking and choosing what details of your current state of affairs you want to reveal, but you rarely slip back into the effortless banter you used to take for granted with this person. Finally, shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other, you say how great it was to see them again and take your leave, both of you a little rattled by that momentary blast from the past.

Get ready to experience that again, as for the first time in a year and a half while minding our own business we pass on the street a group we used to know. Startled by the sight we stare for a moment and in doing so we catch their eye and see that sudden look of recognition wash over them as they see us.

Left with no other choice we’re both forced to stop and briefly make small talk before they disappear into the crowd again.


Things Ain’t Goin’ Right
In rock ‘n’ roll’s earliest days artists were collectively trying to figure out just what worked, what didn’t and who among them were best equipped to handle its emerging requirements.

The success of some led many to pursue the same aims, while the failures – commercially or aesthetically – convinced others to give up these pursuits and move back into something less creatively turbulent, choosing to stick with established styles where the rules of engagement had already been definitively settled.

As a result it wasn’t all that uncommon for artists to have dabbled in rock during the late 1940’s before heading elsewhere… here today and gone tomorrow and soon all but forgotten.

The Dixieaires – or Dixiaires as they had it spelled this time out on the label – were one such group. A gospel act that were not quite stars in that field but had more than enough success to maintain a career in it. They also were among the first to come along after Roy Brown had paved the way to understand just how connected gospel fervor and rock enthusiasm actually were.

For a handful of sides they blurred the line between the two genres, encouraging God and The Devil to tango in the moonlight together as it were. They never let the themes become too ribald, in fact their best work in this realm, Go Long, could’ve conceivably still been housed in gospel, but they made clear that they were open to pushing the boundaries into a secular terrain far more than most acts from their backgrounds.

Though that song had indeed made the charts and proved that they were on the right track, they either had second thoughts about crossing that line, or simply didn’t have the incentive to keep going further because they were doing fine with gospel, and so after releasing two more – subpar – rock efforts, they faded from the scene.

Until now that is. Not only are they back in our neck of the woods, but with Don’t Let That Worry You they’re hardly being ambiguous about their intent. That may be cause for concern if you prefer they follow the straight and narrow path for eternal reward, but if you’re a godless heathen who long ago sold your soul for rock ‘n’ roll then this news should bring a smile to your face.

Never Give Up Hope
Though the lyrical content of this song is… well, to put it nicely… naïve in its rote cheerful encouragement to keep plugging away at life no matter how low you feel, it’s not something that could rightly be called spiritual.

In other words though it contains an uplifting message it’s not delivered from on high via the scriptures, but rather takes a street level approach that ensures it’s not going to be housed in gospel, even if no devout gospel fan would object to its sentiments.

The lyrics of Don’t Let That Worry You are little more than a series of simplistic cliches, sincere maybe but hardly insightful or groundbreaking. You’d almost be offended that they were so optimistic in their advice, as if merely smiling through adversity would be a solution to oppressive racism in education, the workforce, housing and policing that rock fans of the day were forced to contend with every day of their existence.

But to their credit The Dixieaires don’t seem to be making light of these realities or downplaying anybody’s problems but rather they’re merely trying to ease your mind with the reminder that your soul is your own and if you can fill it with hope it will remain buoyant enough so the weight of life’s injustices don’t crush your spirit altogether.

I’ll be honest with you that’s a really tough sell – then and now – but because their words are devoid of any irony and they’re so genuine in their belief it forces you to accept the song on their terms and once you do it becomes pretty hard to resist.

Part of this is because their singing is earthy enough to feel they’ve been through the same travails that plague you, giving Don’t Let That Worry You the requisite credibility needed to connect, while their deliveries have that rare combination of being technically precise yet effortlessly casual which makes their vocal skills both admirable and somehow relatable at the same time.

On paper this all probably sounds a little too calculating to work, a balancing act that requires far too much faith in their sincerity for hard-bitten rock cynics to fully buy into. But when looked at from another angle, one that takes into account just where they were coming from and the expectations of that more devout constituency which they were now breaking away from in quite noticeable ways, that’s when you have to give them credit no matter how much you might personally resist their “keep your chin up” advice.

If you still doubt that interpretation of this song, seeing only incidental differences between their real world slang and Biblical scripture, let me just refer you to the OTHER aspect of this record which shows beyond any doubt that they sure weren’t remaining within the confines of the chapel when cutting this track.

When Stars Ain’t Shining Bright
Hark, brothers and sisters, what are those strange noises we hear emanating from the speakers?

Saxophones! A piano playing a boogie rhythm! These were the sounds of roadhouses after midnight where liquor flowed and scantily clad women shimmied with men who were not their husbands and the smoke in the air around their heads had a sweet pungent smell to it that was not anything you got from incense or altar candles.

The Devil’s music!

Now granted it might not quite rise to the level of a pagan ritual but it’s definitely an invigorating sound, one suggesting plenty of earthly pleasures without the looming threat of eternal damnation for openly indulging in it.

The sax is the real offender in this regard for those coming to this revival meeting from a pious perspective, as that was just not an acceptable instrument to be used for the Christian sect and yet on Don’t Let That Worry You it’s the driving force of the entire record, unapologetic about its presence, compelling you to gyrate those shoulders and hips as you listen while the piano implores you to tap your feet like you were doing the St. Vitus dance.

Gospel this was not and that’s what makes this stand out. Not only was it clearly crossing the line of demarcation between the two genres in order to dispel any thought The Dixieaires were remaining on the side of the angels, but it also gives the rockers who might remain skeptical of their motives another reason to jump on board.

Though just two instruments are featured both are sticking firmly within rock’s playbook, the pianist – along with some timely hand-claps – keeping the rhythm from ever lagging while the saxophone is blowing a discreetly grinding riff behind the vocals and contributing a moderately gritty solo to boot.

Adding immeasurably to all of this in the arrangement are the backing vocals emitting a series of unintelligible “Boompa-boompa-booompa” and “oo-wops” down the stretch, things which will become a staple of 50’s doo-wop but which hadn’t been so distinctively showcased as of yet. To think that a moonlighting gospel group would be among the originators of this distinctive approach is one last selling point for a record that may have ended up punching their ticket to Hell but which only means they’ll have a lot more fun in the afterlife.

Things’ll Come Your Way
All of this goes to show you that although we might cringe when spotting an old acquaintance on the street, hoping that they don’t see us and we can slip away unnoticed, sometimes it’s actually pays off being the one to go out of your way to tap them on the shoulder and say hello.

Occasionally it might result in being dragged into a coffee shop and being forced to hear about how they’re studying abroad next semester in college, or how they have a great offer from some company that owns a timeshare for a beach house in Maui that they’ll get to use next winter, or even having to endure some jerk bragging about how he scored with that girl you had the crush on back in school… Don’t Let That Worry You though because every once in awhile you’ll be told something actually worth hearing.

You can’t count on these things happening in these kind of situations by any means, but when you stumble upon just such a surprising turn of events it only makes your chance meeting all the more enjoyable.


(Visit the Artist page of The Dixieaires for the complete archive of their records reviewed to date)