None But The Righteous: The Masters of Sacred Steel – various artists
Ropeadope Records 7567-93123-2
Between this and the Philadelphia Experiment remix CD from last month,
Ropeadope establishes itself as one of the more interesting label imprints
around these days (despite its trying-too-hard name). Compiled by John
Medeski, this set of gospel steel guitar performances from the Arhoolie
label serves as a credit-where-it's-due effort from The Word, the MMW/North
Mississippi Allstars gospel supergroup.
This generous, mostly instrumental program delivers exactly what it promises
on the surface. None of the cuts are especially ambitious or showy. Here
and there the tempos slide around (mostly upward) and the intonation and
harmonies get a bit funky. A few cuts appear to have been recorded on
location at prayer meetings. Throughout, the players have no apparent goals
except to offer "Praise Music" (to quote one title) showcasing the steel
instrument, and that they do.
The selections include several instrumental themes, a bit of preaching ("The
Train"), a few vocal raveups ("Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus"), and some
familiar hymns (including two renditions of "Amazing Grace"). Label man
Andy Hurwitz comments in the promo material that this music was "the only
thing I could listen to for a good part of 1999". It doesn't quite have
that degree of pull for this listener, but Medeski and company deserve props
for offering a glimpse into one branch of their tree of influences.