A Gospel Revival in Memphis Breathes Fresh Life Into Sacred Sounds

A half-century ago, Elizabeth King and Elder Jack Ward recorded for D-Vine Spirituals. The label’s masters found a new home, giving their music — old and new — a second chance. Shipp, a local D.J., had just founded the label D-Vine Spirituals, and despite having no experience as a producer, he knew what he wanted and pushed his artists to get it. King, however, finally had enough.

“He was hard on us, and he made me so mad I had to go outside and pray,” she recalled in a recent interview. “Otherwise, I would’ve whupped him!”

The D-Vine aesthetic was special, he explained, because the groups were singing from the heart. “That’s what I wanted to capture, and that’s what I pushed them to get,” he said. “They might have been angry with me, but when the record came out, they were happy.” With that he cast a glance at King, who laughed in agreement.

A local success story in the 1970s, D-Vine was largely forgotten by the 1980s. However, the label and its artists have experienced a revival in the last few years, and a handful of archival releases and new albums have not only filled in an important chapter of Memphis’s music history, but have revived the careers of two of D-Vine’s biggest artists, King, 79.

This article was originally published at “nytimes.com

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