In the spirit of Sunday morning (and the Martin Luther King holiday weekend), I bring to you the news of a musical release of historical proportions. Dust to Digital has compiled Goodbye, Babylon an exhaustively annotated, beautifully packaged collection of American gospel music from the turn of the century up until 1960. Some performers are recognizable names in sacred and secular music. Others practice lesser known styles like Sacred Harp singing. Non-religionists, don't feel left out, this music is enjoyable strictly on it's musical and historical import, since along with blues, traditional country and Tin Pan Alley, gospel music both white and black is one of the main foundations of modern American music. Judging by the raves it's been recieving, this (admittedly expensive, but worth every penny) box set is destined for a place next to the Anthology Of American Folk Music in the collection of any serious student of American music.
The best CD I've purchased so far this year is the latest from the Blind Boys of Alabama. this record features superb vocalizing, great bluesy guitar, and a Sones(!) and Tom Waits(!!) cover. In an age where "gospel music" has sunk into the quagmire of "Contemporary Christian", its easy to forget that old-school gospel both black and white were huge influences on rock and roll. Little Richard, for one, took his trademark "Whoo!" from Marion Williams and countless rockers from Aretha to Elvis learned to sing in church. Now, can I get an Amen?!