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In the Spirit 

Southern song

Here in Dixie, many Southerners (both white folks and black folks) have a real affinity for gospel music, to the point that it's pretty much ingrained in our identity.

As a matter of fact, the greatest gospel songwriter of all time, Thomas Dorsey, was a Georgia native, born in the tiny town of Villa Rica in 1899. But in many ways the south has moved far beyond the rustic fundamentalism of classic gospel music, into a more contemporary and metropolitan way of life.

Given our modern-day propensity to enjoy both the sacred and the profane, the recent release of Extreme Spirituals (Cuneiform) comes as a welcome addition to Georgia's sanctified music canon. Featuring both the rich traditional gospel songs of the past sung in all their glory by Kennesaw State University professor Oral Moses and the avant-garde musical meanderings of Boston's Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, the album blends the old and the new, the collaboration working perfectly on a number of levels.

Moses, an accomplished and well-respected bass-baritone singer, sang with the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers on his way to earning his Ph.D. in vocal performance at the University of Michigan. Now a professor of voice and music literature at KSU, Moses continues to perform in various operas and recitals, and lectures around the world. He received multiple grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has written a book and released several solo albums.

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic has long been recognized as one of America's finest underground bands. Combining classical training with a love of rock 'n' roll has given the group a unique entree into the music world. The band's ability to create highly accessible music while utilizing both common and obscure instrumentation and conceptual melodic structure has been its defining characteristic.

Together, Moses and Birdsongs have brought two very divergent musical entities together, and have made a record that will touch the souls of many people. While Moses sings well-known traditional songs in his rich baritone, Birdsongs provides a beautiful but often off-kilter accompaniment. The magic is in the music, and the juxtaposition works like a charm.

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