Deep River of Song: Mississippi Saints & Sinners (Rounder)
Leaving aside the title - probably the most overworked opposition around - I’m damned sure that this album houses, w/out a doubt, thee finest extended set of pre “gospel” around...which makes it, quite frankly, essential listening for anyone that presumes to understand modern music...not to mention one of the very finest things ever recorded - driven (entirely) by voice & footstomping...
And...as for the “pre” bit...well, strictly speaking, “gospel” is - strictly speaking - the post-Thomas Dorsey genre...which makes all of what came before something other. Which is - precisely - what is showcased:
“When we get in heaven...we gonna have a good time”
And...good times we are certainly delivered! ‘Cause tracks 17 to 25 herein amount to something else... Led by the beautifully dark voice of the - aptly-named - Rev. Savage, his antedeluvian congregation shuffles/stomps, moans, and purely emotes through a set which - quite frankly - beats the hell out of almost anything recorded since.
And, I mean exactly that...
Which is not to - intentionally - slight the rest of this CD’s contents. Let’s face it...any set including Big Charlie Butler’s “Diamond Joe” + another by that stone genius - not to mention a handful of previously unavailable Sid Hemphill cuts - should be a required purchase for anyone that has any real interest in archaic Afro-American music.
Still...given that the Savage-led cuts have, strangely, never (before) been issued, I reckon we ought to - right now! - celebrate this...‘cause, if there was ever a set that could convert the ungodly to spiritual music, it’s this one.
Feets shuffle/groove, antiphonal voices (w/“uplifted voice”) moan...and, to be blunt, that’s it...but, if you could deliver anything at all similar w/such limited means, I (deeply) suspect you would stick to precisely these means.
Because - to be quite frank - Rev. Savage & congregation are a purely unbeatable outfit...the massed feets groovin’, their voices keening in expressively-near unison...and. over the top, the great voice of the Reverend Savage, himself...one of the surpassingly-few genuinely modest band leaders in recording history...
Let’s face it...if’n you don’t (already) have this one, then - quite frankly - you need it.
John Henry Calvinist