Agent: Chris Colbourn
“spine-tingling dynamism… the a cappella trio transformed Breakaway Records’ quiet, coolly reserved temple of vinyl albums and prized soul-funk 45s, into a rough-and-tumble place of worship…”
“Simply put, “Understanding” is gospel like it’s meant to be: Praise lifted skyward in song. Smith’s towering voice, buoyed up by the harmonies of Taylor and Daniels, creates an indelible sound that is deeply human in its approach to the divine.”
–AM New York
Continuing a journey that began eight years ago, Daptone Records is proud to announce the release of The Como Mamas’ Get An Understanding, on February 5, 2013. The album is the follow-up to 2008’s acclaimed Daptone gospel compilation Como Now: The Voices of Panola County, Mississippi. The Como Mamas, who have been singing together in church since they were children, are: Ester Mae Smith and sisters Angela Taylor and Della Daniels.
Daptone Records has a track-record of bringing immensely-talented but previously lesser-known performers like Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens to a wider audience, and they have clearly come upon another revelatory vocal force in The Como Mamas. As label founder Gabriel Roth – who executive produced the album with label co-founder Neal Sugarman – explains, “Whether you’re talking about hip-hop, country & western, blues or Mozart, all music tries to do the same basic thing: put feeling into sound. The Como Mamas do that just about as close to perfect as you can.”
Como Now and this latest Como-related release were both produced by sound recordist Michael Reilly, who first visited Como, Mississippi’s Mt. Mariah Baptist Church in 2005.
Producer Reilly describes the Como Mamas’ humble and history-soaked home turf in the album’s liner notes: “Mt. Mariah Church is a humble wood structure built in the early 1900s. Surrounding the small church is a cemetery in which several of the singers’ relatives are buried. Notably, Della and Angela’s grandfather Miles Pratcher lies there, a guitar player, songwriter, and consummate entertainer who kept the family laughing through good and bad times. He often played music on the porch with fiddlers and other guitar players including the great Mississippi Fred McDowell. Della and Esther remember when famed folklorist Alan Lomax visited their house in 1959 to record some of these porch sessions. It was on this same journey through Panola County that Lomax first learned of Otha Turner and the fife and drum music, which he would later come to consider his greatest discovery.”
On Get An Understanding, the women expand upon the vocal journey first shared with the wider world on Como Now, where they brought the spirit to Daptone fans with “Jesus Builds A Fence Around Me,” “Send Me I’ll Go” and the impossible-to-ignore “Trouble In My Way” (the latter also featuring vocalist Mary Moore).
Unsurprisingly, the thirteen selections on the new album are chiefly traditional, time-tested gospel hymns, with Thomas Dorsey’s “God Is Good To Me” and Rev. James Cleveland’s beautiful “Peace of Mind” representing relatively more modern compositional fare. From the tender opener “Old Landmark,” to the rafter-rattling “I’m Going Home To Jesus,” the album is stirring and intense from start to finish. Listeners will find it impossible to walk away without being moved by the album’s raw, heartfelt emotion and power, captured simply and starkly by producer Reilly in ways not so far removed from his idol Alan Lomax, who visited Como more than a half-century ago.
As Reilly recounts in the album liners, “Della, Ester and Angela believe whole-heartedly that these songs have the power to help and inspire people in their everyday lives. As Della put it,‘We just want folks to listen and get an understanding.’” Daptone’s Gabriel Roth concludes, “With all Daptone titles, we’re trying to do the same thing: create records that make us proud, records that are soulful and real. Get An Understanding is the essence of that. We hope that listeners will take the time and get all the way into it, because it’s worth the journey.”