The Relatives

The Electric Word (Yep Roc)

SXSW 2013 Records

The Relatives

The Electric Word (Yep Roc)

The saga of the Relatives offers a testament to the perseverance of spirit. Almost lost to history, the band's entire recorded output was reissued for 2009 anthology Don't Let Me Fall, an absolute masterpiece of Texas gospel soul that inspired an ongoing reunion. After more than three decades, the Relatives could've taken the easy path, cutting a standard comeback album of covers and traditionals, but the Rev. Gean West – still practicing at God's Anointed Community Church of God in Christ in Dallas – shoulders far too much pride for that. He howls with a James Brown mean streak and the scarred redemption of Bobby Womack, a pairing most prominent in the big payback of "Say It Loud (It's Coming Up Again)" and holy roller "Let Your Light Shine." Boasting Spoon's Jim Eno as producer and former Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears' bandleader Zach Ernst at the helm, The Electric Word captures the full glory of the Relatives' second coming, though ringer Tyron Edwards nearly steals the show with his mountain-high falsetto ("Things Are Changing"), the gravy to Western grit. With brother the Rev. Tommie West, Tony Corbitt, and Head Deacon Earnest Tarkington, the quintet nails a cappella hymn "Trouble in My Way" and the tender soul of "Your Love Is Real." There's fire and brimstone here, too. "Bad Trip" could best be described as Pentecostal psychedelia, while "Revelations" offers not a sermon on the mound, but a warning at the rubble of a Sly Stone riot. Perhaps most telling, "What's Wrong With America?" updates "Speak to Me," the war-torn plea from Don't Let Me Fall, for a new generation. It's a fitting reminder that the Relatives' good work ain't done yet. (11pm, Continental Club)

***.5

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