This is the fourth volume in Arhoolie's series of recordings of this unique gospel form, where steel guitars are the dominant musical instruments. It features 4 different sets of musicians affiliated with the House of God Keith Dominion churches--a division of the Holiness-Pentecostal movement. These sects, in a six decade tradition, "are known for celebratory, music-driven worship services in which the Holy Spirit is manifested by dancing."
Recently the Campbell Brothers, a guitar duo from New York, did some tour dates with The Five Blind Boys, putting on concerts where they practically stole the Blind Boys thunder with their driving, hypno-trance riffed sliding steel sound. Here they do 9 of the 16 album tracks, several backing vocalist Katie Jackson, who was also on the tour. Guest vocalist Elwood Haygood whips up a holy frenzy with "Sit Down If You Can," as does Brother Sam Baldwin on "He's Sweet I Know." The Campbells offer some slow and achingly sweet numbers for contrast as well.
Also heard here, on recordings made at churches, a camp and a coffee house are Ted Beard--(his "This Train" evokes a steam locomotive taking on holy passengers), Calvin Cooke, and 22 year old Robert Randolph, (a Stevie Ray Vaughan fan), most numbers backed by full band including bass and drums. The tunes vary from full-blast pieces designed to get the congregation moving (check out "Hollering") to slower meditative numbers with deep currents. If you haven't heard any of this stuff, this is a fine place to start. If you're already one of the converted you'll be glad to get a fresh dose.
This review is copyright © 1999 by Tony Glover, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.