Local Customers: Downriver Revival
A fascinating look at boutique recording in the Downriver region of blue-collar suburban Detroit during the late 1960s/early '70s, DOWNRIVER REVIVAL is, like many other Numero Group releases, as much about social and cultural history as it is actual music. Born out of a local pentecostal church, Double U Sound and its proprietor Felton Williams recorded anyone and everyone who walked through their doors. And while the set primarily focuses on the gospel music Williams released on his Revival label, there are also doses of Nuggets-style garage (Young Generation's "Running Mod"), sizzling slow-burn funk (The Explosions' "On the Way," which features a young James "Blood" Ulmer on guitar), and lo-fi doo-wop ("Round N' Round" by the Junior Mays Group). Still, Williams's devotional recordings are the true stand-outs here. The deeply soulful yet exquisitely rough vocal talents of artists such as Calvin Cooke and the brilliant Shirley Ann Lee could alone carry this set, yet it's the enigmatic production touches that give these performances a warm homegrown tone and push them into their own distinctive realm. Williams's steel guitar, in particular, guides many of these songs. It's played with no real connection to the instrument's usage in any conventional context, and the mood it helps create illustrates both the Downriver community's (and by default Double U's) relative isolation and its artists' quest to create an expansive and downright heavenly noise.