Thursday, July 24, 2014

Negro Religious Songs and Services - The Library of Congress Archive of Folk Culture

This 15 song CD consists of religious songs that John & Alan Lomax recorded throughout the Southern states of the US between 1934 and 1942. They are performed with minimal accompaniment - if any - and the booklet gives as much details as possible after this many years. Many of the tunes are quite short - some under and some just barely a minute - but all are sung with considerable emotion and power. Of course, at this time, gospel, blues, and folk overlapped but most of the songs here have a blues-y feel.

Highlights include the haunting "Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down", sung acapella by Bozie Sturdivant, "Down on Me" (later updated by Janis Joplin and Big Brother on Cheap Thrills), sung by Dock Reed (also acapella), as well as his duet with Vera Hall on "Certainly, Lord", and the fantastic spoken/shouted/sung sermon "The Man of Calvary" by Sin-Killer Griffin! He and his congregation also do a call-and-answer choral singing in "Wasn't That a Mighty Storm", then there is a five-part harmony piece by various inmates from Cummins State Farm on "Holy Babe" and several numbers sung with harmonica by Turner Junior Johnson.

I love this raw and earthy music, whether religious or secular, and this is another fine collection.