At 75, most people have plans to retire, but Rev. Gean West and his brother Rev. Tommie are spending their later years living a dream that decades ago they'd relegated to the rearview. Back in the late-'60s and early-'70s, the North Texas siblings formed The Relatives with original drummer Ernest Tarkington, vocalist H.G. Turner, bassist Willie Small, lead guitarist Charles Ray Mitchell, and percussionist Ronnie Mitchell. They toured nationwide and released three singles that fused together traditional church-appropriate gospel with nightclub-ready psychedelic and funk.
But the music industry is fickle, and in 1980 the group disbanded in 1980 having never completed a full-length record. The West brothers went on to form ministries and likely would have been just fine without an album to their name, but something—a twist of fate, or maybe a sign of the times—intervened.
Producer Noel Waggener rediscovered The Relatives via an old 45-inch record of theirs that his mother salvaged from a thrift shop. From there, The Relatives' career revived in a manner similar to those of Rodriguez, Wanda Jackson and Bettye LaVette, all of whom connected with a younger generation that's determined to give them the limelight they deserve. Recorded and produced by Jim Eno (Spoon), The Relatives' debut LP, The Electric Word (Yep Roc), is both a fitting end and a start of something new. The band, whose latest lineup includes members of Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears, will have you clapping, dancing, and rejoicing that The Relatives are finally back onstage.