The McCrary Sisters
All the Way
McC Records (released April 30, 2013)

By Bob Marovich for The Black Gospel Blog

The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, as the saying goes.

In the McCrary Sisters’ case, the spark doesn’t travel far from the flame.

The sisters—Ann, Deborah, and Regina McCrary and Alfreda McCrary Lee—come from holy stock. Their father, the late Rev. Sam McCrary, was the incendiary lead singer for Nashville’s Fairfield Four during its golden era. The group’s sophomore CD, All the Way, continues the family tradition.

Produced by Tommy Sims and Kevin McKendree, All the Way sizzles with inspirational and message songs delivered with soulful, southern-fried grit. Individually and collectively, the ladies are on fire from the get go with “Come On,” a song with so much funkiness, you’d think the late James Brown loaned out his horn section.

The musicians provide ample backup, indeed. Depending on the song, one will hear trumpet and saxophone, harmonica, tambourine, and even a string section, along with the standard guitar, organ, piano, drums, and bass combo.

All but two of the album’s songs are originals. Those two, however, are especially notable. “Skin Deep,” recorded previously by bluesman Buddy Guy, is a call for equal treatment, because “underneath, we’re all the same.” “You Can Make It” is a lovely inspirational ballad.

Of the originals, “Hello Jesus” is a bluesy plea from the prayer closet for forgiveness and strength, while “Talk to You,” a more conversational discussion with Jesus, contains vestiges of ‘50s R&B. Both benefit from Rob McNelley’s simmering guitar solos. The show stopper, however, is the title track, a tour de force of gritty soul steeped in a bluesy stew.

Despite all the work the McCrarys have done on various and sundry audio and video projects over the years, one credit surprised me most: Ann and Regina sang background vocals for Ray Stevens’ “Everything is Beautiful.” That song is seared in my memory because the first time I heard the 1970 original was on Top 40 AM radio, during a mid-afternoon tornado warning. Hearing that disc still brings back a subconscious mixture of satisfaction and primal fear.

Some portion of this CD was funded by a grassroots Kickstarter campaign. While the McCrary Sisters’ fans obviously came through for their favorites, one cannot help but wonder why talented groups such as this are not on a major label.

Nevertheless, gospel and roots music enthusiasts alike will enjoy the spirit-filled All the Way.

Four of Five Stars

Picks: “Skin Deep,” “Talk to You,” “All the Way.”