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By A Record Collector's Curiosity, The Relatives Return

The Relatives. (Courtesy of the artist)

Correction: A previous Web version incorrectly stated Sam Cooke visited their home after the brothers had formed The Relatives. He did stop by, but during the 1960s.

In 1970, brothers Gean and Tommie West, both reverends, started a gospel group together in Dallas. They called themselves The Relatives, pressed a few singles and amassed a good following.

By 1980, The Relatives had gone their separate ways, and for three decades that was that. But a few years ago, a Texas DJ and record collector who'd heard their music came knocking, and brought up the idea of a reunion. Now, they're releasing their first album of original work in 30 years, The Electric Word.

"It's hard to just determine that it's real, it's so beautiful," Gean West says. "Something that we was waiting on during the time we were singing back in the '70s, but it never happened. And it's coming to pass with God's help."

"I was born for this," Tommie adds. I grew up around music, grew up around entertainers and my whole family is musically inclined. Different famous artists, I grew up around them. They stopped at my mom's house. They lived there when they come to town, before they go to they concerts. My home is the stage."

The brothers spoke with NPR's Scott Simon; click the audio link on this page to hear more of their conversation.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

THE RELATIVES: (Singing) Now listen, yesterday I was just a little boy, just a little boy...

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now, a story that's been in the making for decades. Two reverends from Dallas got together in 1970. Gean and Tommy West - they're brothers - and decided to put together a gospel music group. They called themselves The Relatives. The band pressed some singles and amassed a good following. And their sound wasn't just straight gospel. True to their times, they could have a psychedelic streak.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

RELATIVES: (Singing) Ooh, you don't do like you used to do no more, oh no. You don't love like you used to love no more. You don't pray like you used to pray no more. No...

SIMON: But The Relatives went their separate ways by 1980 for nearly three decades. But just a few years ago, a Texas DJ came knocking and brought up the idea of a reunion. The brothers said yes, and now they're releasing their first album of original work in more than 30 years. It's called "The Electric Word." And Gean and Tommy West - The Relatives - join us now from Dallas. Gentlemen, thanks very much for being with us.

GEAN WEST: Thank you.

TOMMY WEST: Thank you.

SIMON: Tommy, could you tell us the story? I guess the Texas DJ we mentioned, Noel Waggener, how did he get introduced to your music and what implanted the idea of an anthology album?

WEST: My brother gave me a call and told me that he had heard from a producer and they was interested in our music. And at first I really didn't believe him because it had been, what, 35, 40 years. But after we began to talk to them and they came down and met him. And we got back involved in the music business.

SIMON: And, Gean West, what's it like to be back? I know you've been at festivals and concerts these past few years.

WEST: Well, I tell you, it's hard to describe the way I feel. Is it real? Something that we was waiting on during the time we was singing back in the '70s but it never happened. And it's coming to pass with God's help.

SIMON: Well, let's listen to another track, if we could, on this new album. This one is "Let Your Light Shine."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE")

RELATIVES: (Singing) Let, let the sun, shine, let your light shine, let your light shine, come on and let your light shine, shine everywhere. Shine, come on and let it shine, y'all, shine, come on and let it shine, y'all, shine, shine on your friends, shine, shine on your lady, shine, shine on your sisters, shine, shine on your brothers. Oh, let it shine, shine, good God, let it shine. Come on and let it shine...

SIMON: Now, some acts grow more mellow over 30 years. I don't think that sounds like what's happened with you two.

WEST: Well, seems though we was reserved for this purpose. I grew up around music, grew around entertainers and different famous artists. I grew up around them. They stopped at my mom's house. They lived there when they come to town before they go their concerts. And my home is the stage. I was born for this.

SIMON: Well, let's listen to another track. They're, each of them, so wonderful. This one is "I Will Trust in the Lord."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WILL TRUST IN THE LORD")

RELATIVES: (Singing) I will trust in the Lord until I die, die, oh Lord, die. I will trust, trust, in, in, the Lord, Lord, I will, I will...

SIMON: Is this what we hear in your churches?

WEST: Yes, sir.

SIMON: Can you tell us what the services are like at your church?

WEST: We have testimony services and then we have song services. Our choir come up and then some of the peoples out of the audience, they sing songs. And we really get radical. We get radical. We shout. We run, we clap and we just, so to speak, just let go and let God.

SIMON: Wait. Let's bring the music up a little 'cause I feel myself on the verge of letting go right now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I WILL TRUST IN THE LORD")

RELATIVES: (Singing) I, I'm gonna stay on my bended knees. Oh, I'm gonna stay on my bended knees. I'm kinda feeling happy, y'all...

SIMON: So, I have to ask: a couple of times you've talked about how you feel there's a sense of purpose in your music. Do you think this reunion is the result of some Texas DJ randomly getting your 45 or something larger?

WEST: I think it's something larger. I think God orchestrated all this to take place. I think it was to be.

SIMON: And why?

WEST: Well, I think - if I would be able to say at this time, I even asked the same question that you're asking me. I said, Lord, why you wait till I get the age that I am now to bring this to me, bring this to pass? And He said to me that He can use me encouraging the young, the middle-age and also the old. The older people that went home and sat down and feel like it's all over for them and setting back in the rocking chair and just feel like they can't do no more. This will show them that it's not over yet.

SIMON: Is there a song, Gean West, you'd like to take us out on?

WEST: "Your Love is Real."

SIMON: What can you tell us about this song?

WEST: It means a lot to me because His love is real, and He has proven that to me during my lifetime. And one thing about His love, He won't withdraw it from you even when you get wrong. He love you. He have that agape love. He got an unconditional love. So, He have proven to me that He loves me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR LOVE IS REAL")

RELATIVES: (Singing) I'm going to a place called Calvary, where love and happiness will always be real to me. Your love is real to me.

SIMON: That's Gean and Tommy West. They are The Relatives. "The Electric Word" is their new album - their first in more than 30 years. Gentlemen, very nice to speak with both of you. Very happy to have you back in biz.

WEST: Thank you so much.

WEST: Good to speak with you too.

WEST: Happy to be back too. I'm rejoicing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR LOVE IS REAL")

RELATIVES: (Singing) I can depend on you, you my only Lord...

SIMON: And you can hear a few tracks from "The Electric Word" at nprmusic.org. Please remember you can keep in touch with us at NPR Weekend on Facebook and Twitter. On Twitter, I'm NPRScottSimon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR LOVE IS REAL")

RELATIVES: (Singing) Your love is so real, it means more to me, more than this world can offer is your love for me. Your love is real to me...

SIMON: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOUR LOVE IS REAL")

RELATIVES: (Singing) Your love is real to me... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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