Saturday, November 27, 2004

One Goddamned Great Gospel Record

With my ears still ringing from getting punched last night, I decided to put on some soothing records. I've got a bunch of Gospel records. I'm not nearly as well versed in it as I should be, but there is just so much stuff out there, and, like every genre, much of it is bland. I picked up the uneven but recommended 'Goodbye Babylon' box (am I the only person that finds the wad of picked cotton in the packaging to be, at best, in poor taste?) upon release and enjoyed it. The relatively recent Reverend Charles Jackson reissue, (the CD on the AUM Fidelity label, the vinyl on Crypt), is the high water mark for all other cranked up R&B, way-out Gospel stomp. It's not hard to see why a wildman like Lux Interior has embraced it. AUM Fidelity followed up their acclaimed Jackson reissue with Reverend Isaiah Owens, a more dissonant guitar player with mournful voice. It too, is highly recommended.

But let me tell you about my absolute favorite Gospel performer, Reverend Lonnie Farris. I was first found him on a unmarked white sleeved LP of dubious origin, but his output was later complied on a Document CD. Along with the superb Rev. Utah Smith (he of 'I've Got Two Wings', which, the linear notes helpfully inform us, was done without a slide guitar), Farris's output included on a CD entitled "Slide Guitar Gospel, 1944-1964'. The reissue begins with an uptempo instro reworking of 'The Saints Go Marching In', done as "A Night In The House Of Prayer", with accompanying hollers. We immediately get introduced to Farris' Hawaiian guitar, which is no less crazed then Hound Dog Taylors'. We get some more pleasant uptempo instros with the occasional sax, but for yours truly, the real highlights are the ballads. Sparse percussion (if any), graceful Hawaiian guitar with just a hint of reverb, and Farris' hypnotic voice.

As an aside, I grew up in Hawaii, and I therefor grew to loathe the song of the Hawaiian guitars. For me, the usual reaction to hearing a Hawaiian guitar is probably similar to people who grew up during WWII's reaction to hearing an air raid siren. But in Farris' hands, the Hawaiian guitar is a beautiful instrument.

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