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Fire In My Bones: Raw, Rare, and Other-Worldly African-American Gospel 1944-2007

Fire in My Bones: Raw, Rare, and Other-Worldly African-American Gospel 1944-2007 (Tompkins Square)

Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., Dec. 11, 2009

Box Sets

Fire In My Bones: Raw, Rare, and Other-Worldly African-American Gospel 1944-2007

(Tompkins Square)

This 3-CD, 80-song, half-century-spanning collection from the musicologists at NYC imprint Tompkins Square acts as redeemer, representing a genre that thrived above and below the Mississippi. Writer Mike McGonigal journeyed through private, academic, and personal collections, expertly cherry-picking the secular and divine from coast to coast, with stops in Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi on the way. Labeling each disc gives Fire in My Bones the distinct Harry Smith-type treatment. Disc A, The Wicked Shall Cease From Troubling, encompasses alternate takes on the spiritual, like the Georgia Fife & Drum Band and blind New Orleans guitarist Snooks Eaglin. Disc B, God's Mighty Hand, tracks down long-lost oddities such as Abner Jay's 1963 gem "My Testimony" and 1966's "What Can I Do Without the Lord," by Ray Branch, which McGonigal calls "sanctified soul." Disc C, All God Power Store, features an especially rocking track by Bishop McDaniel, recorded at Austin's long-gone Guiding Angel Church, 1988, bringing electric guitar to the sanctuary, and 1964's "So Soon," by Little Ax & the Golden Echoes. McGonigal goes on to explain: "Little Ax's full name was Wilmer Broadmax; allegedly, Wilmer's birth name was Wilma. She passed as a man for her entire career." These interwoven threads of history demonstrate how gospel music changed with the times while never losing its message of hope. There's spirit and then there's the Spirit, and Fire in My Bones deftly captures both in vinyl's snaps and pops.

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