Gospel Classics – Various Artists – Complete Recorded Works (1927 – 1931)
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Complete Recorded Works (1927 1931)
Featuring the recordings of:
Jessie May Hill, vocal; accompanied by Sisters Of Congregation on 1; probably Arizona Dranes, piano; unknowns, guitar. Jessie May Hill, vocal; accompanied Sisters of Congregation (“The Church Of God In Christ”); Arizona Dranes, piano; unknown, guitar. Sanctified Group: two unknown females, one unknown male, vocal; acc. unknown guitar. Blind Willie Davis, vocal / guitar. Laura Henton, vocal; accompanied unknown, piano; unknown, guitar; unknown, brass bass. Laura Henton, vocal; accompanied Bennie Moten, piano; Eddie Durham, guitar; Joe Page, stand-up bass. Louisville Sanctified Singers: four females, vocal; five males, vocal; accompanied unknown, guitar; two unknowns, tambourine.
Genres: Gospel, Female Gospel, Chicago Gospel, Atlanta Gospel, Guitar Evangelist, Bottleneck-slide Guitar, Sanctified Group,
Abridged from this albums original booklet notes. A diversity of musical approaches informs this collection, from the sanctified piano backing on Jessie May Hill‘s tracks to Blind Willie Davis‘ intense guitar evangelism, from Laura Henton‘s use of brass bass and well known jazz artists to the artless unissued performances by an unknown group more democratic than talented. Jessie May Hill‘s first session coincided with Rev. F. W. McGee‘s at which the great Arizona Dranes was present. Dranes may be the pianist on some of Hill’s tracks and could have been the go-between for Hill and Okeh much as she was for McGee. In the liner notes to Columbia/Legacy CK 46779, Ray Funk reported that Hill was “based in Detroit and married to a minister, she was a famous soloist and a member of the Church of God in Christ, and would often appear in Chicago in the thirties”. Her affiliation with COGIC is borne out by the label of Okeh 8546, as well as by her choice of songs. Earth is No Resting Place is a joyous number in waltz time, while Untitled is a version of On A Hill Lone And Grey, a number extremely popular with COGIC performers. For sheer intensity The Crucifixion Of Christ would be difficult to match due to Hill’s emotional delivery of its fine lyrics. The song bears no resemblance to the instrumental Crucifixion by Arizona Dranes. The unissued, unknown artists recorded by Okeh in 1928 also appear to be a sanctified group if their choice of songs is any clue. My thanks to Chris Smith, who in correspondence offered his speculations that the female singers may be Sisters Jordan and Norman from Rev. J. M. Gates‘ Congregation who recorded in Atlanta during the July-August field trip by Okeh. The male singer, who is probably the guitarist on these sides may also be present on Gates’ Woe Be Unto You Liars – the only title by Gates on which a guitar is present. As early as 1966 Gayle Dean Wardlow had reported that Blind Willie Davis was probably from Bude, Mississippi, a small town near McComb in the southern part of the state. Davis was said to have been apprehensive about recording, fearing he would be pressured into performing blues. He was a guitar evangelist like Edward Clayborn and Blind Willie Johnson, and all three excelled at a melodic bottleneck guitar technique, Davis falling somewhere between Johnson’s intensity and Clayborn’s mesmeric yet more relaxed style. Davis’ version of Your Enemy Cannot Harm You may be compared with Clayborn’s best-seller (DOCD-5 155), but he is most interesting when performing lesser known titles such as Trust In God And Do The Right or I Believe I’ll Go Back Home. Another of the distinguishing features of the Pentecostal groups was the full involvement of women in public activities. On record, Arizona Dranes seems to have been a ground-breaking figure in this respect and was probably the first sanctified artist to record, setting a high standard for the female performers who followed. Laura Henton ably continued this tradition in 1928 and 1929 with the richly powerful vocals set against an instrumental background firmly rooted in a jazz style. Paul Oliver has suggested that the brass bass accompaniment on her first session may be Charlie Dixon, who was recording and performing in the Dallas vicinity around that time. Her session in Kansas City almost one year later was even more jazz flavoured, utilizing the well-known band leader Bennie Moten on piano, pioneering guitarist Eddie Durham, and a string bass player listed as Joe Page. The guitar voicings in particular are most unusual in a gospel context and even today sound fresh and up-to-date. Lord, You’ve Sure Been Good To Me was a logical choice for the first recorded title as it was long a favourite with New Orleans marching bands and jazz groups. The two powerful titles by the Louisville Sanctified Singers recorded in the depths of the depression are convincing evidence that larger groups could generate as much excitement as the smaller ones. Victor company files list “Mrs. Hayes and Miss Davis” as group members, and the presumption in the standard discography is that they may be the lead singers. The fire and enthusiasm on the two existing tracks fuel the hope for the discovery of the missing Victor 23427 by this remarkable group.Ken Romanowski Copyright 1993 & 2007 Document Records