I thought I knew a lot about music when I started working at Oar Folkjokeopus in September of 1999. It did not take long for me to realize how wrong I was. There were entire worlds beyond the punk and indie rock that I weaned myself on, and everyday I found myself completely intimidated by the knowledge of my new boss Mark Trehus.
Nearly every day, Mark's control over the store stereo would introduce me not only to artists that I wasn't familiar with, but entire genres that I had no prior interest in knowing. One of those genres was black Southern gospel.
One day during my first month on the job, local comedian and TV pitchman Fancy Ray McCloney, a regular customer and gospel and soul fanatic, was visiting Mark. I was checking in an order from a cutout distributor, and had just checked in two copies of The Best of The Hightower Brothers on Nashboro Records. Mark shouted, "Ray! Do you know the Hightower Brothers?" He cracked open one of the CDs and threw it on the stereo. "Finally Made It In" was the first track. Fancy Ray was lovin' it. Mark was lovin' it. Between the two of them, they snatched both copies of the CD that we brought into the store.
In the background, I was blown away. I realized that I had never given gospel music a fair shake before because I never knew it could be so raw, so primal. Not being very religious, I never saw much point. I had given too much credit to the subject matter, and not enough to the emotion. "Finally Made It In" is the song that changed that for me. You don't need to be religious, but if you don't feel something while listening to this, you should probably check your pulse.
This whole CD is great. Unfortunately, it's been out of print for several years now. You can probably find a used copy online for a reasonable price -- far more affordable than some of their original Nashboro sides, anyway.