The Dixie Hummingbirds
Music in the Air (An All-Star Tribute)
House of Blues
This recording, subtitled “70th Anniversary Celebration,” holds up very well. Probably more than most tribute releases do. 70 years? This is almost unbelievable. As Isaac Hayes says in the intro, this band (as an institution) has been around longer than rock and roll, swing, bebop,…. etc, etc.
I think that generally I would rather hear the Dixie Hummingbirds’ own versions of most any of these tunes, and I’d suggest that if you don’t have the Peacock release of the Dixie Hummingbirds’ Thank You For One More Day , get it first, or get it as a companion to this release. This is a good complimentary piece, but not a starting point if you seriously want to know about the Hummingbirds’ legendary music and the influence it’s had on music today.
Most of this release is pretty solid. Had I not been acquainted with their old stuff, I would’ve probably liked this one even more than I do. Most of these versions work pretty well, in any case. There are a few head-scratchers. Paul Simon’s turn on their most well-known and mainstream piece, “Loves Me Like a Rock,” doesn’t have the level of energy that either his or the Hummimgbirds’ earlier version of it had, and Wynonna’s contribution on “How Great Thou Art” is good, but it seems sorta out of place in this room. This recording generally has a much fatter and funkier contemporary gospel sound than the Hummingbirds’ earlier versions did. Not that that’s a bad thing. Most of these updated tunes would stand with some of the best contemporary gospel offerings. Shirley Caesar, Howard Hewitt, Stevie Wonder, Mavis Staples, Bobby Womack, and BeBe Winans all weigh in with good performances in their turns, or as supporting vocalists to Ira Tucker Sr. on various cuts. A worthy offering, all in all.
House of Blues Records, 2001 Butterfield Road, Suite 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515; http://www.hob.com