Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Show 11 - Church Blues -
My first show for the Delta Blues Museum.
The blues and religion have a complex relationship. Though blues has often been castigated at the Devil’s Music, many blues musicians have always played religious songs. Charley Patton and Blind Lemon Jefferson were frequent performers of religious music. To this day, many blues singers will end a show with a gospel number. Others sing gospel, but make sure to keep religious music separate from what’s going on it the club.
But being frequently criticized by church folks must have provoked the need to respond in some blues singers. The songs featured on this show, give the blues singers a chance to respond. The musicians I featured come from all over the country and play in different styles, so the need to respond was not a localized phenomenon.
There’s some interesting discussion of attitude towards philandering preachers in the Fisk University/Library of Congress study of Coahoma County from 1942. The book was finally released last year as Lost Delta Found: Rediscovering The Fisk University-Library Of Congress Coahoma County Study, 1941-1942. Another interesting read on blues and religion is Jon Michael Spencer’s Blues and Evil. This very academic text is at times unclear (and I think he misreads other blues scholarship), but the argument is definitely thought provoking. He argues that blues have an essentially religious nature that’s not evil at all.
Church Bell Blues - Luke Jordan
Preachin' the Blues, Parts 1 & 2 - Son House
Preacher Blues - Henry Brown
He Calls That Religion - Mississippi Sheiks
Denomination Blues, Parts 1 & 2 - Washington Phillips