TBGB Reviews…The Pilgrim Jubilees

Jesus Got Me Off
The Pilgrim Jubilees
Malaco 2007

Jesus Got Me Off is the Pilgrim Jubilees’ latest offering in a string of recordings going back to when Eisenhower entered the White House. The Jubes’ singing has been preserved on every type of recording medium (except for cylinders) and span as many decades as record labels. For some time now, however, they have been with the quartet-friendly Malaco Music Group of Jackson, Mississippi.

And as if they drank a long, tall glass from the Fountain of Youth, the Pilgrim Jubilees – Clay and Cleve Graham, Major Roberson, and Ben Chandler – sound timeless, their harmonies as tight and youthful as ever.

The new project opens with the title track, which struts along as the quartet praises Jesus as a lawyer who frees the unjustly accused from a “jury with stones in their hands.” The second track, “She’s All I’ve Got,” is a Mother Song, a thematic staple of quartet singing since the late 1940s, when the Five Blind Boys of Alabama hit a string of home runs with their expressive tributes to mother for the Gospel and Specialty labels. The Jubes perform their tribute to mother with all of the coolness of the Impressions, while scents of the 1971 country hit, “(Don’t Take Her) She’s All I Got,” seep out of the chorus.

Anyone familiar with the Jubes knows their song-stories are legendary. On Jesus Got Me Off, it’s “Amazing Grace” that provides the backdrop for a nearly 8 minute account of church-going women who sing the hymn loudly and passionately enough to lure their gambling husbands out of the woods and into the church.

One of the best tracks on the project, “Jesus Gave Me a Light,” is a variation on “This Little Light of Mine,” with new lyrics, that strutting beat that some call the “quartet stomp,” and a superb vamp.

Although Clay Graham is currently recuperating from lung cancer surgery, my money is on the Jubes continuing on as they have for nearly 60 years, traveling the gospel highway, singing their songs, telling their stories, satisfying their audiences, uplifting the name of Jesus, and preserving the gospel quartet tradition for future generations.

Three of Four Stars

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.

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