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Classic African American Gospel from Smithsonian Folkways

Various Artists

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Editors’ Notes

This 2008 collection, which includes tracks from the post-war period right up to the millennium, dispels any notion that African-American gospel has just one sound. Vocal ensembles, guitar evangelists, “shout” bands, and blues pianists are just some of the artists that represent this foundational American style. The album opens with the 66-year-old sharecropper Horace Sprott singing the spiritual, “Jesus Going to Make Up My Dying Bed,” a song that dates back to the mid-19the century or earlier. Jazz meets gospel on “Where Could I Go,” a 1946 recording that features the well-known New Orleans jazz trumpeter Bunk Johnson and the vocalist Sister Ernestine Washington. You can hear plenty of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B in “He’s My Rock,” a 1959 recording by Brother John Sellers. Including a track by the great folk singer Elizabeth Cotton is always a good move; her 90-second-long “Hallelujah, It is Done” leaves you begging for more. Gospel groups can be mighty big, and on “We Praise Your Holy Name,” we hear the 100 voices of the Mississippi Mass Choir. One of the most rousing sounds on earth is the music of the trombone “shout” bands of the Eastern seaboard, and this album closes with an exciting example of the style, “It’s Time to Make a Change,” by Madison’s Lively Stones.

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