An unexpected delight is Daptone Records release of a CD from an a cappella trio of gospel singers, The Como Mamas, Get An Understanding. Como, Mississippi is best known as the home of Mississippi Fred McDowell and while best known as a giant of Mississippi blues, McDowell also recorded religious songs with members of his church. Michael Reilly first met the three ladies when traveling down south for a documentary about local musicians. He met Angela Taylor along with Ester Mae Smith and Angela’s sister Della Daniels and found out they had been singing gospel together since they were kids. The three sang “Peace of Mind” at the time that Reilly recalled sent chills to Reilly and his associates.
He came back and recorded the three at Mt. Mariah Church, a small structure surrounded by a cemetery where several relatives were buried, including Ester’s grandfather, Miles Pratcher, who was a guitarist, songwriter and entertainer and often played music with fiddlers and guitarists on the porch (including with Fred McDowell). In 1959 Alan Lomax in fact recorded some of these porch sessions which Ester recalled. Now five decades later, Esther and her two close friends came together for the a cappella gospel on this recording.
Ester takes the lead on most selections with her powerful voice with the others providing the fervent responses to her calls on the moving performances here starting with Old Landmark, with their call to the old ways and staying in the service of the Lord. God Is Able to carry one through and all one has to do is trust in Jesus with their vocals preaching their deep beliefs in the gospel. The old style gospel continues on such songs as God Is Good To Me, Peace of Mind, Meet Me At The River Jordan, One More River To Cross and Ninety Nine And A Half Won’t Do. The latter song, originally from Dorothy Love Coates, was transformed by Wilson Pickett into a secular deep soul classic. “
The passion here is present until the closing moments of Nobody’s Fault But Mine. Get An Understanding is must listening for fans of traditional gospel and anyone who loves great, heartfelt singing.