Tags

No tags :(

Share it

GOTHAM 167; NOVEMBER, 1948

 
 

 

When we first met The Dixieaires, a gospel group being corrupted by the sinful impulses of rock ‘n’ roll, back in September, we got to see how the two styles, seemingly polar opposites in every way, were in fact much more connected than they’re usually given credit (or blamed) for.

This similarity in the raucous uptempo vocals of both gospel and rock was all the more apparent because the song itself, Go Long, had some very clear religious attributes to it, with its talk of driving the devil out of their lives, even if that message was undercut by the mere fact The Dixieaires, or at least Gotham Records, had invited Lucifer himself to the wild party they were throwing and by the sounds of it he was in fact leading the band as they romped and stomped all over the Ten Commandments in a drunken orgy of rock ‘n’ roll.

So now, a few months down the road, would the group atone for their wicked ways by returning to gospel, or would the time spent doing the boogie with saucy sinful hussies wind up pulling them further from a life of moral rectitude?
 

Well, considering we’re reviewing this record it would appear that it was the latter.

But it may not have been their choice entirely, or at least not a choice made after the fact. Gotham Records had cut a four song session to begin with and was merely dispensing the results over two successive singles, which is how these things went.

The fact that their first effort in this realm had become a legitimate HIT means the audience now waiting for this next move was one that hoped for, even expected, more of the same.
 

High Brow?…
Whether or not The Dixieaires themselves were happy about this at the time isn’t known, but if you tried using the content of their follow up – Things Got Tough Again – to determine their sentiments… well, you STILL wouldn’t be quite sure.

Here we find that the group – maybe feeling a bit guilty over their debauchery – have toned done their gleeful enthusiasm for hell raising and realized that singing lyrics which professed to walk the straight and narrow while staggering about after tying one on was a bit hypocritical, and so the enthusiastic gospel vocal approach they’d used before (which, because they WERE a gospel group to begin with, was what they knew so well) is downplayed as well.

So since in the review for Go Long we insisted it belonged in the rolls of rock history BECAUSE of the hell-bent enthusiasm they showed in trying to keep up with the decidedly secular rock accompaniment it would stand to reason that eliminating that very thing would mean The Dixieaires, chastised by the Lord for their sins, will be headed back to the chapel in their robes, heads bowed, solemn looks etched on their faces.

Think again.
 

Or Low Brow?
For while we find The Dixieaires with a slightly different approach than what we’d seen before, a more mannered and relaxed atmosphere surrounding them musically, which would seem on the surface to exclude them from consideration for another entry on Spontaneous Lunacy, where rock, and only rock, is allowed… well, as you might’ve guessed by now, they managed to find an excuse to slip in the side door yet again.

Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that Ginyard eventually DID up and leave gospel altogether and cast his fate with rock when he formed The Du-Droppers in the early 50’s. Nobody who was this drawn towards the other side of the tracks could keep up the pretense of virtuous respectability forever.

Once more, while welcome in the larger rock settings, this too is on the periphery of the style, albeit in a different way than their last record had been.

Here they’ve largely done away with the jubilee styled vocals for Things Got Tough Again (or as it appeared on the label Things Got Tuff Again) and have toned down the musical backing as well, but instead of retreating completely to a more respectable milieu and severing their ties with rock altogether, they’ve teamed up with another refugee from a different musical genre who immersed himself in rock making for a unique pairing to say the least.
 

 
We’ve run across Tiny Grimes a lot so far in 1948, so recounting his tangled musical DNA isn’t really necessary, but suffice it to say Grimes is shaping up to be rock’s first iconoclast, a freethinking experimenter not bound by traditional thinking when it comes to building an audience through a series of logical and easily identifiable steps so that everybody knows what to expect out of him. He’d turned his back on jazz for rock already and in the future would cross back and forth between genres with impunity.

So to find him coaxed into the studio, despite his recording contract with Atlantic Records, to back another artist for Gotham Records probably shouldn’t be much of a surprise. It should be even less of a surprise that once there he comes up with something that straddles a few stylistic boundaries in his own right.
 

Long, Lean And Lanky
To be honest I didn’t know quite what to make of this when I first heard it. The Dixieaires vocal approach, honed to perfection on their gospel sides and then exploited, corrupted or out and out perverted for their rock excursion in the summer, is decidedly toned down to the point where you’d be excused for checking twice to make sure it was the same group. But it is and Ginyard’s voice out front is unmistakable once he comes into the picture. It’s just that by the initial impression it makes you immediately think this is something that must be a few years old.
 

Kicking off with what sounds like fiddles, the backing has an old timey dusty feel to it. Not quite country blues, but not unfamiliar with it, not exactly jazz, though clearly – even if you didn’t know this was Grimes behind them – the band is steeped in it, and as a result of that confusing, even conflicting, sound there’s a sense that this is what they were all listening to the moment BEFORE rock hit. Whereas on Go Long the gospel jubilee vocals were pulled into rock by the raunchy playing of the band, here the band is going to have to be pulled into rock by the vocalists if this is to qualify for inclusion on these pages.

They do – obviously, or you wouldn’t be reading this – but barely at that. In fact The Dixieaires don’t so much jump into rock vocal deliveries here as much as hint at them. Hint quite strongly at times in fact. The backing interjections in particular have some wordless refrains that are quite nice, their harmonies when they join Ginyard are exquisite, and for his part Ginyard injects some soulfulness into a few lines that drag it out of more staid pop vocal group settings.

All of it is very well done. These guys were professional, able to tackle whatever was set before them with a sense of pride and conviction, never selling the material short by feeling it was beneath them and giving it a half-hearted effort.

Grimes as well was too much of a perfectionist to just sleepwalk through anything for the paycheck, so you were at least assured of getting a good honest effort from all involved here, and since he wrote the song besides he knew what he was after in terms of presentation.
 

Figure Out What It’s All About
But despite their belief in the material and the effort put forth by everyone involved all of this seems slightly out of whack due just to the era and context we’re hearing it in, like we stopped to look back at what was behind us just as the music world was getting up to speed again.

Its lyrics reference the end of the war incessantly, specifically the difference between the realities of the day under a transformed home front with rationing and half the populace seemingly overseas, and the post-war return to normalcy which for the black community was a far different experience than for the white populace. The wartime need for defense factory workers which enabled black citizens to finally have steady work and decent wages ended when the war was won and the first to be shown the door were those deemed most “expendable”, sending those families back into the streets to fend for themselves.

There’s always been a pecking order to the American dream in terms of opportunity and this taps into it throughout.

As such it has a subversive undercurrent to it which is both welcome and entirely appropriate for rock ‘n’ roll. Yet it’s 1948 now, not 1945 or even ’46, and those realities, while no less applicable, don’t seem as topical any more adding to its sense of being well out of date. Two years earlier this would’ve been far more impactful thematically, or had they given it a much fuller sound and vibrant sense of indignation reflected in the musical arrangement, with guitars flashing, drums pounding and maybe a sax or two ominously weaving their way through the track, then it’d have come off better stylistically as 1948 wound down.

But every time you’re ready to dismiss it for being just a bit too far outside our scope here comes The Dixieaires with just enough modernity, exemplified by Ginyard dropping down slyly to confess his pockets are now full of holes and maybe a sharp lick on the strings from Grimes, to make you think twice about keeping it out.
 

 

Nightclubs All Closin’
No, it’s NOT cutting edge in any style of music for late 1948, certainly not for rock which – outside of bop at the time – was shaping up to the be the style most reliant on appearing to be ahead of the pack in order to connect with audiences, especially now that the doors to the recording studio were opening again following the infernal recording ban. But this also doesn’t deserve to be dismissed outright either, shunned from the one form that might be inclined to keep it on board. After all this song would never be claimed by gospel where The Dixieaires were otherwise entirely welcomed. Neither would the blues or jazz communities touch this and while it may represent the label’s stab at having the group sound slightly more pop for commercial reasons, the dominant pop styles of the day would turn their backs on this as well.

An orphaned song, especially by a group as classy and open-minded as this, backed by someone even more broad in his tastes, can’t in good conscience be kept out in the cold. Though it may only be brushing against rock’s sleeve at times, the group’s lineage, both before this with Go Long and particularly Ginyard’s later excursions still to come, combined with the presence of Grimes, means this has earned the right to at least be let in the door into the rock house just so it’s not forgotten forever.

Besides, while we can’t fully recommend it in our grades using the rock standards of this particular moment in time there’s really nothing objectionable about it. It’s well sung, well written, well played, maybe a bit schizophrenic in that regard, but at least not exasperating in the process and so this stands as a nice reminder that as rock ‘n’ roll itself was still getting its bearings, drawing bits and pieces of a whole array of stylistic fabric to stitch together its quilt, there were those just passing by who stopped to admire the tapestry before moving on.

That sums up The Dixieaires pretty well and no matter how provincial one is about rock, hearing this alongside songs more suited for the designation shouldn’t cause any one any consternation.
 
 
SPONTANEOUS LUNACY VERDICT:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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