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Are You Bound for Heaven or Hell? The Best of Reverend J.M. Gates

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Album Review

This collection of sermons by the fiery Reverend J.M. Gates is compiled from 1926-1930. Most of these sides were issued on the OKeh label, but a number come from other small labels as well, all of them associated with Columbia. While his amazing "Oh Death, Where Is Thy Sting" from the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music is not present, his classic political and early civil rights diatribes are here — both parts of "Good Bye to Chain Stores" and "Kinky Hair Is No Disgrace." In addition, his sermons lamenting the evil in new "fads" — "The Devil in a Flying Machine," "Hell Bound Express Train" — are present. There is awesome preaching here, warning of disaster, expressing hope and deliverance, and warning of the evil of women — "Woman and the Snake," "Mannish Woman." A great collection for those interested in the black church in the early 20th century.


Born: 1885

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s

The Baptist preacher J.M. Gates was one of the most prolifically recorded black artists of the early 20th century, with over 200 sides on wax between the mid-'20s and his death in 1940 (he once recorded 23 titles in a week, at just two sessions). His sermons and musical numbers appeared on a variety of labels (Victor, Bluebird, Okeh, Gennett), though Gates often re-recorded his most popular sermons -- "Death's Black Train Is Coming," "Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting," "Goin' to Die with the Staff in...
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