Diamond Jubilation – The Dixie Hummingbirds
Rounder Records 116 61 2181-2
In celebrating their 75th anniversary, the gospel institution the Dixie
Hummingbirds make no admission to slowing or ceasing their rolling rock of
religiosity. Enlisting current Bob Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell as
producer for Diamond Jubilation, the Dixie Hummingbirds actually
expand their repertoire and range, imbuing their gospel message with buoyant
congeries of Cajun, R&B, country blues, and folk.
The appearances of Garth Hudson and Levon Helm, which prompt one of the album's
many allusions to Bob Dylan, were utterly brilliant decisions by Campbell. Both
provide steadfast support behind the Hummingbirds' lead vocalist Ira Tucker.
Every inquiry and examination of God receives a driving beat and
mellifluous, yet earthy, keyboard textures which hearken to their early
work with The Band.
While the duo bulwarks the proceedings, they concomitantly expose Tucker's
effervescent powers by playing with a type of musical transparency. Where
the supporting cast exists, but never overrides the proceedings. Despite the
accordion suffused Cajun romp of "God's Radar," Tucker and his four backing
vocalists' gospel spirit sounds like a clarion call through a New Orleans
fog. Even more conspicuous, on Bob Dylan's "City of Gold," folk underscoring
refuses to overshadow Tucker's gutsy intonations or impassioned rostrum- stomping lyrics.
The musical heroics of transparency keeps Diamond Jubilation focused
on what Tucker strongly wishes to elucidate. His vocals, front and center,
never waver. His faith, as uncompromising as any oak pew, never breaks. When
Tucker sings "I Bid You Goodnight," the composition's true meaning surfaces;
in the face of utter uncertainty, overwhelming strength can be
found. Such resounding earnestness, irrespective of the listener's religious
disposition, can't be dismissed.