Column

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Gospel Americana and That Old-Time Religion

Good write-up Ed on an important, but little-noticed genre.  It is amazing how gospel music not only influenced so many other forms (think 60's Southern Soul) but many artists and songs straddle the line between gospel and blues (Blind Willie Johnson, Staple Singers, Mike Farris).  For anyone who would like a deeper dive into the music, try either watching the 1982 documentary about African-American gospel called Say Amen, Somebody, or listening to the soundtrack.  On his album Down South, Doc Watson had a stirring a capella version of What A Friend We Have In Jesus that we used at my Dad's funeral.  Absolutely stunning mountain soul gospel from deep within Doc. 

A wonderful compilation of early raw African-American gospel is the two-CD set Fire In My Bones:  Raw, Rare & Otherworldly African-American Gospel, 1944-2007.  That album contains what might be now considered a humorous 1956 rant against the dangers of rock and roll by a fire and brimstone minister named Elder Charles Beck.  What is funny about "Rock and Roll Sermon" is that while Beck is preaching, an unknown electric guitarist is noodling in the background and as Beck raises the tempo and intensity level, so does the guitarist and congregation with "Amen's", clapping, etc.   Guitar speeds up and congregation follows.  So, a rant against rock and roll becomes:  rock and roll.

Some folks swear by Aretha's gospel, especially two-CD Amazing Grace.  Reverend Al Green is another example of an artist who moved between soul and gospel.  Many soul songs in the 60's could be talking about either romantic love or spiritual. 

Regardless of your religious views, there are few songs that stir your soul as much as good gospel:  African-American version or bluegrass. 

Thanks for sharing all that Dave. You’ve sent me scrambling back to my old pre-stream digital library to hunt down that compilation as well as a few others I haven’t heard in ages. 

I should have also mentioned that the records put out by the Soul Stirrers when Sam Cooke was the lead singer are magnificent also.  

In recent years I have seen Nashville-based Mike Farris at Merlefest.  Mike was a rocker with Screamin' Cheetah Wheelies.  After substance abuse issues, he got religion and has a gospel/soul line-up that usually includes some of the Nashville gospel group the McCrary Sisters (daughters of one of the Fairfield Four members) as well as a horn-based back-up band.  The enterprise is called Roseland Rhythm Revue.  He mixes in some 60's soul with his uptempo gospel songs.  A good introduction is his live CD recorded at Nashville's Station Inn.  It rocks.

The first and only Christian Rock artist I have found to date is Ashley Cleveland.  She does versions of You Gotta Move and God Don't Never Change as well as the Stones' Gimme Shelter and Neil Young's Damage Done.   Good backing band. 

I just got through listening to all 70 songs of the Raw and Unworldly Gospel collection.  You can clearly see the impact on the development of rock and roll, especially the "old-time" version of the 50's.  Springsteen's "the church of rock and roll" concerts have a lot of gospel influences.

The "call and response" part of gospel also affected the original jump blues music of the late-40's and early-50's.