For those who haven’t been saved, as Christian true believers call their condition, it may be hard to contemplate listening to a gospel record, much less buying one. Still, every now and then, a record comes along that makes even a die-hard heathen feel a little wistful. The debut of the Boston-based Sacred Shakers may not get anyone on their knees, but those who dare to listen might start wondering if they’re missing something in church.
The eponymous record by the Shakers converts the ear instantly, thanks to airtight musicianship, helmed and driven by drummer and band founder Jason Beek, and a joyful commitment to a particular sound, the heave and ho of the old-time religion in the school of Mississippi Fred McDowell and the Carter Family.
It’s hard to pick a favorite here, but you could do worse than the soft, gnawing sorrow of “Green Pastures”, the folkie bliss-out of “Twelve Gates To The City”, and the blues tickle of “John The Revelator”. The Sacred Shakers make revelation sound doom-smitten and dirty all at once.
Eilen Jewell, an Idaho native and fellow Signature Sounds artist, gets a lot of the credit for the vocal sex appeal on the record. When she drawls about the sinner in “Travelin’ Shoes”, the delights of the afterlife are not the first to come to mind. That’s one of the great things about this kind of gospel, though: Any cut that doesn’t contain more vice than virtue isn’t worthy of the name. The Sacred Shakers walk a fine, mortal line, and the results are wicked good, to use a Boston expression that seems particularly apt in this context. Satan, get thee behind them.