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The Gospel of the Blues

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

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Album Review

With 18 Decca tracks from 1938-1948, this CD is not only a good survey of some of Tharpe's best work, but one of the best compilations of any sort to illustrate gospel's crossover into blues, R&B, and secular music in general. Admittedly that's not the busiest cross-fertilization of popular music, but it's not one that's given much attention. And if you think you might not like this because Tharpe is sometimes described as a gospel artist, think again, for this is fine stuff on any terms, mixing the devotional exuberance of gospel with first-rate accompaniment blending blues, early R&B, and at times some swing jazz. In truth, sometimes you won't think of this as gospel at all, such is its rhythmic verve, even on the half-dozen numbers with nothing but guitar in the backup. Some other tracks find her backed by the groups of Lucky Millinder and Sammy Price, and the jubilant "Shout, Sister, Shout!" comes off as a missing link between gospel, jazz, blues, and the birth of rock & roll. "Trouble in Mind," "This Train," "Down by the Riverside," and "Up Above My Head I Hear Music in the Air" are other highlights of a set with no shortage of them.

Biography

Born: 20 March 1915 in Cotton Plant, AR

Genre: Inspirational

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Alongside Willie Mae Ford Smith, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is widely acclaimed among the greatest Sanctified gospel singers of her generation; a flamboyant performer whose music often flirted with the blues and swing, she was also one of the most controversial talents of her day, shocking purists with her leap into the secular market — by playing nightclubs and theaters, she not only pushed spiritual music into the mainstream, but in the process also helped pioneer the rise of pop-gospel. Tharpe...
Full Bio