Bobby Cook & The Explosions: Untitled Jam
From Local Customs: Downriver Revival (Numero, 2009)

Shirley Ann Lee: How Can I Lose
From Local Customs: Downriver Revival (Numero, 2009)

The Numero Group has several offshoots within their canon of releases ranging from Eccentric Soul and Cult Cargo to Wayfaring Strangers. Their latest, Local Customs, focuses on custom studios from small areas. This set comprises songs from Ecorse, Michigan, a factory suburb of Detroit.

Many of the songs on the release are gospel recordings featuring members of the Church Of The Living God. These aren’t always your grandma’s songs of grace, though. While gospel has a long history of organ-based choral compositions, some of those recorded by Double U founder Felton Williams had an almost funky quality to them. If you take out the vocals on tracks such as Shirley Ann Lee’s “How Can I Lose,” you have a very groove-based jam. Still, others such as the Pilgrim Wonders’ “He Never Failed” vocally sound like R.H. Harris’ Soul Stirrers pleas of redemption.

It’s not all about the Lord on this set, though, as shown by the Organics very danceable “Foot Stumping” instrumental. With its steady backbeat, it’s a guitar-driven track with traces of organ throughout. Elsewhere “Untitled Jam” has a bassline with a slick drumbreak midway through leading its way into some nice organ work and a funky little saxophone.

The really cool thing about Downriver Revival is the companion DVD. Ever wonder what it’s like to go on an interview session with the Numero crew? Well you can digitally tag along with them while they interview Felton Williams. You also get to tour his studio, much of which he pieced together himself from various electronics parts! Instead of just seeing the finish product, you get to see a part of the Numero process unfold before your eyes. It’s like going to a family reunion and hearing the stories firsthand instead of just reading about them. The second part of the DVD features numerous songs that did not make the CD – everything from completed songs to rough demos and other tinkering – giving you a further look into the breadth of the Ecorse sound.

This is by far the most complete packaging that Numero has put into a release yet, which is saying something considering their penchant for quality assurance. We can only hope that they continue to surprise us with extra goodies, not that the music selections haven’t been enough, but adding in some of the best liner notes they’ve compiled yet along with the visuals in the DVD really put this one over the top.

Oliver adds: In case you missed it from the other week, I reviewed this comp for NPR’s “All Things Considered.” I also can’t recommend it enough: an excellent anthology of the highest order.