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Black Music Month Day #2:

Let’s give the first ladies of gospel genius, The Clark Sisters, some love.

The Clark Sisters: Riffing, Rumbling, and Taking House

From 1997, this is actually a remix of one of Twinkie’s chestnuts from back in the day.  The form is tricky—two long sections that sound like two separate verses (Twinkie was always musically unorthodox).  The first features unison (who does it better, smoother?) and part singing with timbres and breathing in absolute sync (nobody does it better).  When Karen sings the lead we hear signature Up South virtuosity: falling pentatonic sequences, sassy blues riffs, instinctual pitch bending, diphthong exploitation, a growl here and a squall there, tongue flat, throat open (technique is everything) and chromaticism tossed in just because “she got it like that.” When we get to the drive or special chorus (though we’re tried in the “fi-yuh”—repeat and stir), notice that although the lyrics repeat, she always shifts the quality of sound, changes the pitch choices.  That’s repetition with a difference, playas.  Analyst’s choice: her bebop riff @3:09 and their salute to the land of “Funk” that they helped to cultivate @4:19. National treasures, unsurpassed.   Later this month, I’ll talk about the bands in contemporary gospel, the ensembles who have quite simply colonized funk and taken it to new levels of stank.

–Dr. Guy