What’s in my iHymnal?


The Soul Of Neal Hemphill Vol. 1

Something close to home would be The Birmingham Sound: The Soul of Neal Hemphill Vol. 1.  I discovered this album the other day. I ran across it looking up an old childhood friend of my mom (Sandra Pigrom), Frederick Knight (aka Ratman). He is known for such songs as Ring My Bell and I’ve Been Lonely For So Long.

I was excited to find out that my mother’s hometown Bessemer, Midfield, and surrounding Birmingham area was a mecca for soul music during the 60’s and 70’s. So much so there is an expression called the ‘birmingham sound’  that goes back to gospel quartets emerging from this region during the 30’s and 40’s. Alot of them touring the United States and world giving gospel concerts and creating their own distinctive gospel sound. The soul music in this particular album is a musical child of the gospel quartet.

There is a distinctive Birmingham sound that I hear when listening to this. Some of these sounds I remember as a child listening to my parents music in the basement while sifting to piles of vinyl records or listening to my uncle P.A. (Presh Alley) in the back room of my grandmother’s house vibing on some Marvin Gaye and sipping on a fresh bottle of Thunderbird (he’s let me get a sip now and then or I’d sneak one). Ah…the good ole days.

But the sound is quite a distinctive soulful sound. You hear in the background a history of gospel, Civil Rights, blues, alive-ness, body movement, finger snapping, street sounds, soufulness, and for me personally it reminds me of weekends on the five mile creek with my cousins, adolescent girl crushes, catching brim-fish with my hands, watching family spats in the summertime, etc.. Nostalgic.

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