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Album Review

This is the debut release from CaseQuarter Records, a offshoot of Stephen Joerg's excellent AUM label. While AUM Fidelity is dedicated to the new jazz coming out of New York City, CaseQuarter is dedicated to sacred and gospel music from the American South. What better way to kick off a new label than with the collected Booker and Jackson singles of the obscure but monumental singer/guitarist Reverend Charlie Jackson, whose music is deeply rooted in the Mississippi Delta tradition? His singles for the the Booker label in New Orleans (and his own Jackson label created after Booker folded) make manifest the inseparable connection between the sinning music of Saturday night and the sanctified music of Sunday morning. Like Fred McDowell and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Jackson's rhythm-conscious sound is one that comes from the well of the body; he can stir an entire house using only his electric guitar and a stomping board, and his music is expressed by a heart that seeks deliverance and praises its creator. These 18 tracks certainly reflect history, but, more than that, offer a striking view of how country blues became urban blues in the arms of Southern churches. Here we get the stomping rumbling bluesy gospel shout of "God's Got It," the truly off-the-rails musical sermonizing (that is truly terrifying in its intensity) of "Wrapped Up and Tangled Up in Jesus," and the call and response of "The Goodness of God" and "Testimony of Rev. Charles Jackson," a first-person deliverance tale in which Jackson recalls a stroke and his miraculous rehabilitation. Interestingly enough, a collection like this — which is as fun to listen to as any record of partying blues — makes something very plain when compared with other albums of the ilk and contrasted against white Southern gospel: the music of the black Southern churches concentrates on the themes of deliverance, redemption, and mercy, rather than on fire and brimstone and the Apocalypse. Forgiveness and mercy are the reasons for so much joy, even in the most primitive, rollicking, moaning blues found here (check out "Something to Think About.") Overall, this set deserves to be sold along with the Fat Possum recordings from the Delta for sheer listening pleasure, and paid as much attention to as Arhoolie's Sacred Steel series. That's right, Fat Possum-style electric guitar sacred gospel music — what an auspicious beginning for a new label.

God's Got It, Reverend Charlie Jackson
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