You can practically feel the sweat beading on every track of the Jones Family Singers’ Live from Mt. Zion.
Produced by Fort Worth musician Curtis Heath (of Theatre Fire fame), this riveting, nine-track collection was recorded over two days in April at the Mount Zion Church of God in Christ in Markham, roughly two hours south of Houston, where Bishop Fred Jones Sr. has preached for three decades.
The epic length of most songs here — You Woke Me Up This Morning stretches past 10 minutes, while I Love You lasts almost 15 minutes — allows the call-and-response style to really take hold, transforming these soulful gospel songs into something borderline hypnotic. (Try Jesus, which sways back and forth for ages, subtly folds in an altar call near its searing climax.)
Being in the room as this collective, which is currently touring the festival circuit, reached inside themselves to share their deeply held beliefs must have been profoundly moving. Fortunately, Live from Mt. Zion places listeners right there in the pews, scorched by this talented family’s holy fire.
Nicholas Altobelli, ‘Searching Through That Minor Key’
Dallas singer-songwriter Nicholas Altobelli’s morose yet lovely folk songs linger like regrets. The follow-up to last year’s grim Mesocyclone EP, Searching Through That Minor Key reteams Altobelli with producer Salim Nourallah, who oversaw the 2013 LP Without a Home. Surrounding himself with ace players like Rahim Quazi, Paul Slavens, Kim Nall and Chris Holt, among others, Altobelli sings plainly of accepting shortcomings: “I know my compass is cracked/But there’s no turning back,” he croons on Dogwood. There is an occasional ray of light (In Your Arms sparkles), but Altobelli is largely content to let the shadows swallow him up. Altobelli will play Dallas’ House of Blues Aug. 8.
Although the three-track Vergil is a debut, it feels like anything but. The band of the same name is the brainchild of Dallas-based singer-songwriter Jeff Giddens, whose limber tenor proves appealing early and often. Produced by Giddens with an assist from Grant Pittman, Vergil is fleshed out by Griffin Stroope, Matt Melton and Jonathan Womble’s tasteful playing — the hazy boundaries between country, folk and rock aren’t strictly observed here. “The story that I’m writing will never be undone,” Giddens sings on All My History. And while this particular chapter ends far too soon, hopefully, more will follow sooner rather than later. Vergil is a fine addition to a scene positively bursting at the seams with talent.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713