The Harlem Gospel Travelers have announced their new album Look Up!, which will be released September 16 via Colemine Records. Produced by acclaimed soul singer-songwriter Eli Paperboy Reed, Look Up! marks the band’s first full release as a trio, as well as their first collection of totally original material.
The music still draws deeply from the gospel quartet tradition of the 50s and 60s, but there is a decidedly modern edge to the record, an unmistakable reflection of the tumultuous past years of pandemic anxiety, political chaos and social unrest. . The album announcement is accompanied by a video for the title track.
Born out of a nonprofit music education program run by Reed, Harlem Gospel Travelers vocalists Thomas Gatling, George Marage and Dennis Bailey released their debut album, He’s On Time, to rave reviews in 2019. with PopMatters hailing the album “musical transcendence” and AllMusic praising it as “dreamlike and joyful”. The record charted on Billboard, earned the travelers high-profile fans like Elton John (who invited them to appear on his Rocket Hour radio show on Apple Music), and landed them festival tickets everywhere from Pilgrimage to Telluride Jazz.
It would be easy to classify Look Up! like “retro” or “vintage”, but the truth is that the young men of The Harlem Gospel Travelers don’t just bring the sounds of the past to life, they revitalize them for the present and remind us how relevant this music is (and always has been) in times of difficulty and uncertainty. “Gospel is the foundation of everything,” says Gatling. “Country, folk, rock, soul, blues; we love it all, and it’s all in there.”
Gatling and his traveling companions all knew gospel music to one degree or another growing up, but it wasn’t until they met Reed that they began to learn about the rich history of the gospel quartet and timeless bands. like The Soul Stirrers, The Dixie Hummingbirds and The Swan Silvertones. In high school, Gatling and Marage participated in a nonprofit music education program known as Gospel For Teens, which invited children from all over New York City to come to Harlem and sing along after school.
“I was invited to visit the program and thought it was great,” says Reed, “but it was all choral music. love it but they didn’t have a teacher.” So Reed became the teacher, working with five or six teenagers at a time for semester-long programs aimed at broadening students’ perspective on what gospel music could be. and harnessing the true power of their voice. Participants have come and gone over the years, but some have stayed and begun to suggest the kind of talent and ambition that went beyond just an after-school program. .
“I started working with Thomas when he was 13 or 14,” Reed recalls, “and he drove that transformation into more than just a class. He brought his own song ideas, and like him and George and some of the guys in the band started aging off the show, I realized we had to get them into the studio.” Thus, The Harlem Gospel Travelers were born, with Bailey (a college friend of Gatling’s) joining the group after the release of He’s On Time.
Look Up! will be released on September 16 via Colemine Records.
Watch the new music video here:
July 23: Staten Island, New York – Maker Park Radio
August 3: Bloomington, IN – Buskirk Chumley Theater
August 4: Springfield, IL – Levitt Pavilion
August 5: Chicago, IL – Chop Shop
September 1: Brooklyn, New York – Baby is fine