In 2005 Daptone film and music producer, Michael Reilly took a trip down south with the intention of filming a documentary about local musicians. A fortunate turn of events lead him and his small film crew to Como, Mississippi where he met trio, The Como Mamas (Ester Mae Wilbourn, Angelia Taylor, and Della Daniels), some of the strongest voices in gospel music today.
It was nearly a year later before he would return to Como. The three women remained skeptical that anyone wanted to hear an album of them singing a cappella gospel. Despite their doubts, they graciously agreed to record the songs they grew up singing, in the very building in which they grew up singing them, Mt. Mariah Church.
Mt. Mariah is a humble wood structure built in the early 1900s. Surrounding the small church is a cemetery in which several of the singers’ relatives are buried. Notably, Della and Angelia’s grandfather Miles Pratcher lies there, a guitar player, songwriter, and entertainer. He often played music on the porch with fiddlers and other guitar players including the great Mississippi Fred McDowell. Della and Ester remember when famed folklorist Alan Lomax visited their house in 1959 to record some of these porch sessions. It was on this same journey through Panola County that Lomax first learned of Otha Turner and the fife and drum music, which he would later come to consider his greatest discovery.
Ester Mae Wilbourn leads the Como Mamas on most of this record with her powerful, raspy voice. She is a bottomless well of spirituality and has a unique instrument that many in Como consider anointed by God. Life has never really eased up on her so she puts the whole weight of her struggle into her singing and preaching. Someday she hopes to have her own permanent ministry at a church in Como. She suspects she would be the first woman in Panola County to do so.
Angelia Taylor is the youngest of the three Mamas. She lives next door to her sister, Della on Highway 310, which runs east/west through Como. She has a deep, soothing round voice that fills out the Mamas’ tone.
Della Daniels is a fiercely independent energetic woman who in addition to singing in the group has also taken on the role of bandleader. She is ambitious and has always wanted to sing in a big way. At eighteen years old, she wrote a song conveying her heart broken story of love lost and sent it off to Nashville. Her pain doubled when an invitation to record in Nashville returned and her mother forbade her to go, fearing that a young country girl would be taken advantage of.
Della, Ester, and Angelia believe whole-heartedly that these songs have the power to help and inspire people in their everyday lives.
The Como Mamas are part of the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a non-profit founded to preserve American musical traditions by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time.
Music Maker gives future generations access to their heritage through documentation and performance programs that build knowledge and appreciation of America’s musical traditions.