My soul says yes. If church ain’t your thing, just play this every Sunday and the light will shine upon thee. Originally released in the ‘70s on the Reverend Sam Dixon’s own Samdy imprint, My Soul Says Yes features an angelic yet cherubic choir, some sweet electric guitar noodling, and a piano and organ that just won’t quit. From the first progressions of praise, you’ll be whisked away and washed in the hymns and the blood, the harmonies and the melodies.
Thanks to the folks at Asherah, the record has re-risen with the same album art that graced the original package of wax—a raw, cut-and-paste type effort that could not be more perfect. The music and praise is what shines here, though. There’s simply no time for fancy art, only for stained glass panes shaking, hands raised, and sweat spewing—a joyful noise of splendor.
Reverend Davis was no stranger to the gospel scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, lending his grit to mainstays like Dorothy Norwood and the Blind Boys of Alabama before landing in seminary to serve the Lord. He was joined by his son, Rodrick Dixon, and a minor choir from the First Freedom Baptist Church in the studio, but other than that, not much fact remains behind My Soul Says Yes. Not even so much as an actual date to mark as a release day. The raw pump and energy of this secular gem is about all we need to know.
Each song cuts with its own depth, and by record’s end you’re begging for repent. A lo-fi finish on a gospel record is pure perfection; on My Soul Says Yes it’s the lifeblood. No fancy studio effects or major-label budget, albeit this was made on less than shoestrings, like all the best of things in this cold world. It simply takes a uniform love, in this case for Jesus, blessed, guttural singing voices belted out in powerful boasts and brags, true testaments of fortitude. Every phrase is delivered as if it were their last, from the children-heavy choir in the earlier half of the record to the more mature perfection of mid-point gem, “Standing Looking Over Jordan”. There is a definite change in feel and delivery from that point on, where the natural beauty of the First Freedom Baptist Church’s elder ladies are flown on high.
You don’t need religion to love gospel music. In some ways, the less Bible-bred you are, the better. One who has not sat in copiously uncomfortable pews of hardwood, thumbing through an endless book of hymns sung by a bunch of stuffy white folks, has the upper hand in indulging here. God Bless Asherah for this re-issue and Rev. Dixon and company for laying it down in the first place, and folks like the Numero Group for all the compilations to be devoured out there. DIY till I die…
Originally published at PopMatters 4/12/17