Various Artists, Sacred Soul: The D-Vine Spirituals Records Story, Vol. 1 & 2

These two volumes of early-’70s gospel recordings capture a moment that was fresh and funky for young churchgoing crowds in the South.
Reviews

Various Artists, Sacred Soul: The D-Vine Spirituals Records Story, Vol. 1 & 2

These two volumes of early-’70s gospel recordings capture a moment that was fresh and funky for young churchgoing crowds in the South.

Words: AD Amorosi

January 31, 2022

Various Artists
Sacred Soul: The D-Vine Spirituals Records Story, Vol. 1 & 2
BIBLE & TIRE/FAT POSSUM

At a time when millennials’ strained idea of sacred music is confined to Kanye’s Sunday Services at Coachella, the presence of the Lord as heard through the sweet, ’70s-born vision of Memphis’ Rev. Juan D. Shipp and Clyde Leoppard is more necessary than ever—especially when one knows the history and dedication to high-quality sound that was Tennessee’s D-Vine Spirituals label.

D-Vine was the meeting grounds of Air Force vet, preacher, radio personality, and producer Shipp and one-time Sun Studio session drummer turned Tempo Recording Studio owner Leoppard. Their very-modern goal: to independently A&R, produce, and sell quality vinyl records (the 180 grams of the present can’t hold a candle to D-Vine’s insistence on virgin vinyl for its 45s) that captured the heart and (literal) soul of Memphis and surrounding areas’ finely tuned gospel-R&B scene, and get everyone paid quickly and fairly.

Beyond the shape of business and fair play of the label, the D-Vine aesthetic was twitchy funk with a scent of purple psychedelia lingering like cornflowers in the Memphis breeze. As this was the top of the ’70s, that meant a Curtis-Mayfield-meets-raw-edged-Motown vibe, which influenced the likes of The Gospel Wymics’ "It's a Shame How This World Has Changed," The Gospel Six of Tunica, Mississippi’s “Jesus, He's a Miracle Worker,” and The Pure Heart Singers' wild take on the traditional hymn "I Am a Pilgrim.” To quote Ike and Tina, the best of D-Vine is nice and rough: the hambone-rumble-rocking M&N Singers' "Stand by Me" (not to be confused with Ben E. King's ballad), the bluesy chug of Elder Jack Ward’s "A Change Is Gonna Come," and the supreme Evelyn Taylor’s “Look at Your Life.” 

That D-Vine seemingly (the compilation’s credits are slim) trafficked in originally penned tunes proves that the spirit continued to move the then-new breed of gospel writers, singers, and arrangers—those who could twist hymns such as “I Am a Pilgrim” and the chewy guitar weirdness of Southern Bells' "I've Got to Tell It"—into something fresh and funky for young churchgoing crowds in the South. The only thing better than these two volumes of Sacred Soul from D-Vine is the anticipation of many more volumes to come.