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Spiritual 1 EP - Click to view! Sometimes, originality is not found in concocting a new idea but in revitalizing an old one. Cush, a mysterious group of musicians from Southern California, demonstrate why with their first of three Spiritual EP's. Though Negro spirituals are an important part of Christian music history, they have often been relegated to the realm of folk music and thus ignored by the majority of music listeners. If you're one of those people, then this EP ought to make you change your mind.

For starters, spirituals are the epitome of structured spontaneity (no, that's not a contradiction). "Run Mary Run," the disc's opener, is a perfect example of this wonderful term: the vocals do not follow strict melodies, but roam where the moment wills, aided by a loose collection of percussion. The similarly-styled "Signs of the Judgment" features a "follow-the-leader" pattern as the leader is echoed by a backing chorus. Male vocals dominate these songs, and as they climax, they become simple anthems that demand listener participation.

But spirituals are not just for those who love to rock, rattle, and roll. "We Shall Walk Though the Valley in Peace" features a unison chorus of devotion and reflection, bringing an aura of peace into the hearts of those who hear these faith-filled words. Meanwhile, "My God Is Real," possibly the best moment on this EP, finds a solo voice resting in the assurance of God's grace.

If you're still not convinced, then tell me, where else can you be moved by an unaccompanied, rumbling voice? "Nobody Knows the Trouble I See" is one man's declaration of faith, as simple as "Glory, hallelujah" but as powerful as an underwater current. This same voice is heard on the final track (a cover of Prince's "I Would Die 4 U"), and its effect is no less touching.

If one has to nitpick, a lot is left unsaid in these songs, nearly making them theologically empty. Yet, their applicability to all Christians is part of their charm, and enough of the Gospel is said to avoid impotence. The only doubt that lurks is about their choice of "I Would Die 4 U." Why choose it, and what do they mean by it? The lyrics seem ill-chosen to describe our Savior ("I'm not a woman, I'm not a man / I'm something that you'll never understand" - our Savior was a man, and His humanity is vital to our salvation), and Cush don't give any direction for interpretation, leaving the listener with more questions than are necessary.

Don't let that stop you from introducing yourself to your musical heritage, however: Cush offer a fine package of music that will teach you history without boring you to death with dates and people. Simply flow into this river, be baptized by its spirit, and walk in ignorance no longer.
- Jason Ewert
October 2003
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