Ann, Regina, Deborah and Alfreda aren't your typical gospel band of singing siblings.
Collectively called The McCrary Sisters, they are known for an unequivocally stellar sound and style of vocal harmonization. If you've never heard of them, you've most likely heard their voices. Vested in the music industry, they’ve shared the stage with renowned artists including Elvis, Bob Dylan, Buddy Miller, Willie Nelson, Shirley Caesar, Kim Burrell, Mary J. Blige and a host of others.
The McCrary sisters were born into music ministry; their father, the late Rev. Samuel McCrary, was an original member of acclaimed gospel quartet, "The Fairfield Four," a group celebrating 100 years of existence. The sisters credit their father with teaching them to write and sing with versatility, precision and conviction.
“He was a great organizer. He kept things together. So the style of singing and being right was what we learned from our father—to make sure that our sound was good, and not go away thinking that we’ll do it better the next time,” says Ann.
Each sister, having been gifted to sing and write music, plays a leading role in the group. They all contribute to lyrical content and often rehearse around the dinner table to perfect vocal arrangements.
These ladies have always shared a passion for music, yet the dynamic group wasn’t established until 2010. Prior to that time, they pursued separate careers.
“...It’s good to know where you come from. If you have that solid foundation of all the old music, it helps to create where you’re going in the future.”
Ann, the oldest of the eight McCrary children, has performed with legendary gospel artists Andraé Crouch, The Winans, Donnie McClurkin and others.
Regina has taken the stage with Elvis, Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder to name a few.
Deborah spent most of her adult life working as a nurse but also performed with Elvis, Ray Stevens and Isaac Hayes.
Alfreda, the youngest sister, dedicated her time to preaching and singing with her husband Narcisco at the Old Happy Day Church in Nashville.
After the group’s debut at the historic Station Inn in Nashville, they hit the ground running, releasing their first album “Our Journey” in 2010. The rousing compilation is a creative display of powerhouse vocals and meaningful lyrics.
Regina reflects on the purpose of “Our Journey": “The CD was based on the simple fact that we had been all around the world as individuals until God brought us together to do his work and record our first CD.”
Though often identified by a mixture of musical styles, the ladies don’t like to label their sound. Rightfully so—the release of “Our Journey” proved the group had created its own subgenre of Gospel music.
“We try to touch everybody,” says Alfreda. “Every color, every race, every generation. If I had to give it a label, I’d call it soul because we sing from our soul and from our spirit. It’s all about Jesus… touching everyone and letting them know that there’s a better way.”
Since their first album, The McCrary Sisters have performed at several notable venues. They agree that their most memorable performance to-date was their inclusion in "A Salute to the Troops" at the White House where they performed with Mary J. Blige and met president Barack Obama.
Recently, The McCrary Sisters teamed up with The Fairfield Four in the charismatic “Rock My Soul” PBS broadcast special; An hour-long taping, celebrating gospel music heritage and The Fairfield Four.
Though the sisters have fared well on the road to success, they’ve had to endure much heartache along the way. They suffered the loss of their parents; Regina’s only son was tragically murdered; and in 2013, Deborah suffered a severe stroke. With such devastation, the Sisters were unsure of their career. It was their faith that strengthened their bond and gave them strength to go on.
Now, at time when the world is full of chaos, the sisters have decided to release their third project, “Let’s Go.” The album was released in March 2015. It’s a refreshing blend of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs — giving hope to listeners while paying tribute to Rev. Samuel McCrary and the roots of gospel music.
“One reason why we did this album is to give recognition to the old school music that we grew up listening to and give honor to our father,” said Regina. “We also wanted to teach the young people where this music started and came from. As they journey on the path they are going, it’s good to know where you come from. If you have that solid foundation of all the old music, it helps to create where you’re going in the future.”
For years, contemporary styles have dominated the gospel music scene. However, the soul stirring sound of “Let’s Go” will undoubtedly spark a newfound appreciation for traditional gospel among listeners. “I love the Lord” takes you back to the old time prayer meetings at grandmama’s church. And be careful with “Fire”… You may find yourself shouting to its hand-clapping, foot-stomping melody. Grab the Kleenex before listening to “Use Me Lord.” “I love Use Me Lord,”says Deborah. “I can barely listen to that one without breaking down.”
The McCrary Sisters have various projects in the works, though some not in the musical arena. The ladies are talented playwrights and cooks. They are currently working to publish a cookbook of savory recipes in honor of their late mother.
“Let’s Go” picks:
I Love the Lord
I Am Free
I’d Rather Have Jesus