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Where Purchased: Direct from Band
Independent Release 2007
Reviewed 12/18/2007 by Joan
Don’t get too comfortable when you put Wingin’ It, the newest CD by Singleton Street on the stereo. You won’t be sitting still for long. This long-awaited release, three years in the making, simply moves, in every sense of the word. The album presents 13 tracks of old-time Gospel favorites presented in the band’s inimitable foot-tapping style.
Singleton Street is a four-piece acoustic band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sherri Leyda leads most of the vocals with a soaring voice that holds up well to the exuberant instruments behind her. Sherri’s husband Chuck Leyda’s guitar lead or crisp mandolin dance through every track with a precision of tone and attack that can only be described as joyful. Jimmy Newkirk’s bass is a firm foundation, but he sneaks in a few great licks now and again to remind us of his skill. And banjoist Craig Evans’s clawhammer provides the color and sparkle that makes this offering soar. The four instruments sound bigger than they are, and the four-part harmonies are choral and close without being overly smooth. These are musicians who are individually talented, but who come together as a greater sum.
On first listen, I felt immediately drawn into a warm room filled with music. The record creates a space that is intimate and folksy. These songs are handmade and heartfelt. This may be old-time style, but there is a modern freshness that is engaging. It is difficult to capture the exuberance that a band demonstrates during a live performance on a recording, but Wingin’ It gives us just that.
Singleton Street feels their mission is sharing their strong Christian faith with their audiences. “There's something very powerful and moving about sharing faith with loved ones through Gospel music. It's ongoing. The love is still there... you can feel it when you sing. We love sharing this feeling with all our audiences. The best part is you can see that ongoing love resonate with them! Gospel music does that to you.” said Craig Evans in a recent interview. And while that message comes through loud and clear, this album is more tent-revival than Sunday-sermon. It’s readily apparent that these four talented folk are having a whole lot of fun.
Vocal harmony is a strong suit here. Normally, it is difficult for a female vocalist to blend into three strong male voices below her. Sherri shows a great skill in this regard. As a lead, she floats above the band nearly effortlessly. As the top of a four part vocal, she’s warm butter on the pancakes—rich and smooth. Singleton Street also manages to avoid the cliché of the comic basso profundo. Jimmy Newkirk’s bass is a deep velvet background that lets the higher registers sparkle. All three men have strong voices and impeccable timing. “Get in Line Brother” is the best showcase of the harmonic and vocal ensemble capabilities of the band.
Wingin’ It offers a mix of upbeat hand-clappers, gospel standards, and a tear-jerker or two. “Red Clay Halo,” by David Rawling and Gillian Welch is destined to be a new gospel classic and is perfectly presented here. Craig Evans’s vocal is homey with an energetic sensibility that keeps the song from becoming corny. “Gone Home,” a perennial sentimental favorite, is sweet but not cloying. The arrangement balances impeccable three- and four-part harmonies and complex guitar counterpoints. The acapella track, Hank William’s “House of Gold,” is plucked from an old Kentucky choir-loft, but the pace and length of the arrangement keeps the song from plodding. “Old Hymn Medley” follows, showcasing the instrumental talents of each player. The vocal tag-ending lacks only a “amen!” finish. “Angel Band,” another gospel standard by Ralph Stanley, is presented gently and tenderly with a hint of swing. The last track on the record is a pleasant surprise. “The Harvest” is a nostalgic ba
Overall Rating: 9
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