Dedicated Men of Zion releasing album of sacred soul obscurities (stream one)
Harmony is serious business where the Dedicated Men of Zion come from. For their eldest member Anthony “Amp” Daniels, it was so serious that every day his mother would call her children inside, turn off the television, and make them sing in harmony, talk in harmony, do everything in harmony. Singing well together was a virtue that she and her sisters had learned from their own father, and Anthony gave it to his children in return. Older folks in the Black communities of rural North Carolina relied on that singing for everything in a time when both respect and money were especially scarce. “That’s where that seriousness is from,” Amp remembers. “They demand respect. They’re serious about what they do, and they don’t play with God.”
The Dedicated Men of Zion came up out of this singing land of eastern North Carolina, around the city of Greenville and its small neighboring town of Farmville. Each trained in the church and the home, the group’s four vocalists – Anthony Daniels, Antwan Daniels, Dexter Weaver, and Marcus Sugg – share the bond of that upbringing and another more literal bond of kinship (they’re all family now through blood or marriage).
Theirs is a community dense with talent and legendary impact on the origins of gospel, funk, R&B, soul, and jazz; a place where the sounds of Saturday night and Sunday morning couldn’t help but jump their lanes. The group’s own backgrounds tell that story. Anthony Daniels, the eldest of the group, led a career in R&B down in Atlanta, backing up the likes of Bebe Winans, Toni Braxton, and Elton John. Antwan Daniels, the youngest member and son of Anthony, was playing keyboards and organ in church while simultaneously injecting his hip-hop production work with traditional gospel roots. But the church was always the backbone. Weaver, whose grandmother managed several gospel groups around Greenville, had sung with elder quartet groups for years, running into Anthony Daniels around the gospel circuit. When they both found themselves without a group, Weaver turned to Daniels and said “I don’t know what you’re gonna do but if you do something, I’m on board with you. I want to be with you.”
Gospel/soul group Dedicated Men of Zion (whose fascinating bio is excerpted above) are gearing up to release their sophomore album, Can't Turn Me Around, on June 26 via Bible & Tire Recording Co., the label that Fat Possum's Bruce Watson started "to capture sacred soul music." All of the songs that the group sings on this album "were sourced from the D-Vine Spiritual catalog of obscure Memphis Sacred Soul recordings," which Bible & Tire also plans to release a box set of this year. We're premiering "I Feel Alright," which was originally recorded by the Hebrew Children in 1972. "The song was put together in the studio with these fantastic musicians. When those guys played it, it woke the song all the way up," says Dexter Weaver. "Those musicians brought it to life! It was an old sound that brought something new out of me. I was singing in a new way. This new old style emerged."
Dedicated Men of Zion's take on the song is great, and if you don't believe us, believe the legendary Taj Mahal, who says, "These folks got the right idea and I’m loving it big time! That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!! The Holy Ghost spirit gettin’ in touch with one ‘s Ancient Rhythmic African Inner Soul! Haven’t wanted to join a church in 63 years!"