World Music Network’s officials have been quite focused on the blues this year. The independent music label released two blues compilations in Februay in the form on The Rough Guide to the Roots of the Blues and The Rough Guide to Charley Patton: Father of the Delta Blues. The compilations followed the release of the Rough Guide to Country Blues, which was released in June 2018 along with The Rough Guide to Hokum Blues. Now Friday, the label will release another addition to its blues compilations in the form of The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues. The 26-song compilation is a work that will engage and entertain musicologists, blues aficionados and gospel music lovers alike. The songs performed by the noted artists play their own part into the collection’s presentation. The liner notes that accompany the record also play a small part in the overall presentation of The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues. When the notes are considered along with the album’s featured artists and songs, the elements come together to make the compilation in whole another welcome offering from World Music Network.
World Music Network’s latest blues compilation The Rough Guide To Spiritual Blues, released April 24, is another positive offering from the label that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. That is due in part to the artists featured throughout the course of the 78-minute record. The performers are important to note because they bring full circle all of the different blues styles featured in each of this record’s predecessors. From country blues musician Son Bonds (a.k.a. Abraham John Bond Jr.) to Piedmont Blues musician “Kid” Prince Moore to gospel blues guitarist Rev. Edward W. Clayborn to pure blues singer Bessie Smith to Delta Blues musician Charley Patton and more, audiences get a broad picture of the interconnectivity of not only gospel and the blues, but that of the various sub-genres of the blues themselves. That in itself is a solid starting point for any discussion and/or lesson on the history of the blues and its wide reach in terms of genres. On another level, the wide range of blues musicians featured throughout the album is its own starting point for any listener’s journey into the overall realm of blues as well as the blues’ specific various sub-genres. To that end, the musicians who are featured throughout the course of The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues are key in their own way to the compilation’s overall presentation. They are collectively just one part of what makes the collection another enjoyable offering from World Music Network. The songs that are featured throughout the record are just as important to discuss as those who perform them.
The songs that make up the body of The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues are important to address here because of the overall statement that they make about the blues. Right from the record’s outset, listeners are treated to a spiritual blues tune in ‘Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed.’ What’s interesting to note here is that despite being a spiritual song, one wouldn’t know it is, since its sound is very much that of traditional blues. When one things of spiritual music, one doesn’t technically think of the blues, but this shows how close the two genres are. ‘I Don’t Intend To Die In Egyptland,’ performed by Josh White is another spiritual that certainly does not present the stereotypical spiritual sound. Rather, it is another Piedmont Blues style composition. The reference to Egyptland is obviously biblical in relation to the Jews being used as slaves in Egypt. Even with that in mind, one likely wouldn’t think of something from the bible being tied to the blues. Yet it works so well here. One of the songs featured in this compilation that does seem to fit the blues/spiritual hybrid is Son Bonds’ performance of ‘Give Me That Old Time Religion.’ The song’s blues influence is clearly there, but at the same time, it also exhibits some pure spiritual sound in its nearly three-minute run time. The important message here is that while spiritual and secular music might be two different genres, they are so much more intertwined than one might initially think. They are essentially one in the same. This in itself is a key point for any music theory class, so yet again audiences get even more reason to take in this record. It not only teaches about music history, but music theory. The people at World Music Network are to be commended for this.
While the artists featured in World Music Network’s latest blues compilation record and the songs that they perform are crucial elements to the record’s presentation in their own rights, they are just a portion of what makes the LP notable. The liner notes that are featured with the compilation round out its most important elements. The liner notes are important to address because of the history that they add in their own right to the record. Right from the opening lines in the booklet’s notes, the relationship between the blues and spiritual music are addressed. As the notes continue, audiences learn as fact, “Many of the included artists would have started out singing music in church choirs early on before crossing over to the blues, whereas others remained gospel singers whose music was influenced by blues traditions.” That very statement adds more to the music history and theory discussions even more. As if that is not enough, there is even an anecdote about Thomas A. Dorsey, who performed the blues under the pseudonym Georgia Tom so as to avoid persecution from the hardcore religious types who knew him under his real name. Although brief, Dorsey’s story is sure to generate its own share of engagement and entertainment. Memphis Minnie is also addressed in the liner notes, as well as Blind Willie Johnson and Blind Lemon Jefferson. The stories and the background are brief, but concise, and are just enough to create their own interest in the two genres – spiritual and secular music – and their histories that they become their own pivotal part to the record’s whole. When the liner notes are considered along with the artists and music featured in The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues, the whole of the record proves to be just as valuable and enjoyable for audiences as its predecessors.
World Music Network’s latest blue compilation The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues is another positive addition to the label’s seemingly ongoing series of blues compilation records. That is due at least in part to the artists who are featured throughout the course of the compilation. The featured artists serve, in themselves, as a starting point for discussions on music history, specifically blues and spiritual music history. The songs that make up the body of the record serve in their own way as a starting point on discussions about music theory. The liner notes that are featured with the record add their own touch to the record’s presentation. When they are considered with the collection’s songs and artists, the whole of the record becomes another piece that music educators will appreciate just as much as musicologists in general, blues aficionados and gospel lovers. More information on this and other titles from World Music Network is available online at:
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