Lifeline-Music of the Underground Railroad

By Clifton Harris

The Lifeline Quartet recently released their debut album with Yarlung Records on June 14th entitled,”Lifeline – Music of the Underground Railroad”.The Lifeline Quartet is comprised of three members along side Michelle Maynes Graves, who is the primary solo performer. Quinton Fitzgerald, Walter Penniman, and Mike Fitzgerald complete the quartet along side Michelle. Michelle has made appearances on America’s Got Talent and has been performing live for many years now. The Quartet’s Lifeline album comes at a challenging time in America for African Americans, especially with the Trump administration and the dangerous rhetoric that has incited racially charged violence all over the country since his election in 2016. This album covers Negro spirituals from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s and reminds us of the spirit we needed to be free as a people. Although challenges still stand in our way, Michelle’s Lifeline album pays homage to the creators that made this music that quite possibly kept their spirits high enough to keep fighting.

Lifeline covers Negro spirituals arranged by Graves and dedicated to Harriett Tubman and the thousands of unsung heroes who escaped slavery in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada from the mid 1800’s to the early 1900’s and reminds us of the spirit we needed to be free as a people. Although challenges still stand in our way, Michelle’s Lifeline album pays homage to the creators that made this music that quite possibly kept their spirits high enough to keep fighting.

One of the most popular tracks on the album is track 4, entitled, “Wade in the water”, which is known to be originally composed by John Wesley Work and his brother, Fredrick Work, sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1901. Although the history of this song could very well date back to Harriett Tubman herself before 1901. The Fisk Jubilee Singers were a a cappella ensemble at Fisk University, their early repertoire consisted of traditional spirituals and they toured the path of the underground  railroad and they also performed in England and Europe. The quartet did a excellent job with their rendition with impeccable harmonies and very powerful solo’s by Michelle.

Some of the highlights of Lifeline are “Steal away to Jesus”, “Motherless Child”, and we hear more of Quinton, Walter and Mike on the concluding track, “Saints Medley”. Michelle’s range appears to be limitless on this 12 track album and another thing to remember is that this album was recorded live in front of a audience. So when you take a moment to listen to this album remember there were no do overs or 2nd chances which really displays the talent of The Lifeline Quartet. This album was produced by Bob Attiyeh at Yarlung Records in Beverly Hills, CA.  Feel free to stream or purchase or stream Lifeline at Yarlung Records Website.

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