Album Review: Elizabeth King — Living in the Last Days

It’s important that I admit this right up front: I’m not inclined toward the spiritual messages contained in gospel music. I’m not hostile toward them in any way; the whole thing is simply not for me. I mention this on background before discussing Elizabeth King’s new album, Living in the Last Days. For me to even consider reviewing such a title, the music has a higher climb to move me.

But this remarkable album does just that. The Sacred Soul Sound Section features some of Memphis’ best players: guitarist Will Sexton, drummer George Sluppick, and (credited among “additional players) Sluppick’s City Champs bandmate, keyboardist Al Gamble. Those musicians and the others on board embody the perfect balance of superb musicianship and Bluff City taste. By that brand of taste, I mean to get across the point that they are 100% in support of King, in the same way that Booker T & the M.G.’s, the Mar-Keys and Bar-Kays backed up classic soul and other artists in Memphis’ rich history.

Yet I don’t want to make too much of all that: Living in the Last Days is very much Elizabeth King’s show. Her deeply expressive and varied vocal style means that she can apply the right texture to each song. The 11 songs on this set were each hand-picked by the vocalist from the catalogs of storied gospel labels D-Vine Spirituals and Designer Records. And King also gets top-notch sacred soul support from two choruses: the Vaughn Sisters Vocals and The D-Vine Spiritualettes Vocals.

It all adds up to a soul-stirring musical experience that will move even the most agnostic listener. Recommended.