World Music Network is taking listeners back to the world of spiritual music this week with its latest Rough Guide To… compilation. The company is scheduled to release its new compilation The Rough Guide to the Roots of Gospel Friday. The 26-song compilation is a fitting companion piece to WMN’s previously released compilation, The Rough Guide to Spiritual Blues. That compilation was a brief introduction to the intersecting worlds of spiritual music and the blues. This latest offering takes listeners even deeper into the result of that intersection and just as enjoyable if not more so. That is due in part to the record’s featured songs. They will be discussed shortly. The booklet that accompanies the compilation builds on the foundation formed by the songs. It will be discussed a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements. It will also be discussed later. Together with the record’s featured songs and its companion booklet, it makes this compilation a widely appealing presentation for fans of gospel, jazz and blues alike.
World Music Network’s new gospel history compilation is another impressive offering from the company, which specializes in music from America and around the world. That is due in part to the compilation’s featured songs. The songs in question are centralized to one specific time frame, from 1926 to 1934. Those were the real formative years of modern gospel music in America. The compilation’s booklet, which will be discussed a little later, touches more on that topic. The songs in question range from familiar tunes, such as ‘Children Wade in the Water,’ which is based on the timeless spiritual song ‘Wade in the Water,’ ‘Death’s Black Train Is Coming,’ and ‘Down on the Old Campground’ to lesser known pieces, such as ‘He Rose Unknown,’ ‘I Am Born to Preach The Gospel,’ and ‘Then We’ll Need That True Religion.’ Over the course of its 26-song sequence, the compilation paints a vivid picture of the evolution of gospel music in the early 20th century even within the compilation’s limited time frame. It shows in its own way not only how gospel evolved, but also how jazz and blues played into that evolution, too. ‘Down on the Old Campground’ is an example of a pure choral gospel work while ‘Death’s Black Train is Coming’ exhibits the tie between gospel and the blues, by comparison. On another hand, one could argue that a song, such as ‘Don’t Grieve After Me’ exhibits a hint of classic country/bluegrass at its base. The point of this discussion is that the cited songs show how the record’s organizers intentionally aimed to show the diversity in the roots of gospel music. They succeeded in that effort, and deserve their own share of applause for that work. What audiences get, in turn, is a presentation that as with World Music Network’s previous releases, is its own rich musical history lesson in these songs. Keeping that in mind, the musical selections featured in The Rough Guide to the Roots of Gospel collectively form a strong foundation for this compilation. Building on that foundation is the presentation in the compilation’s companion booklet.
The compilation’s companion booklet offers audiences its own history lesson, building on the lesson created through the songs. Listeners learn quite a bit through the booklet. There is a mention in the booklet, of Thomas A. Dorsey, who is noted as the father of gospel music, and his influence on none other than Mahalia Jackson. Jackson is known fondly as “The Queen of Gospel.” This is just one of the key pieces of history featured in the record’s booklet. The booklet opens its history lesson by taking listeners back to the 1800s and the establishment of gospel in African-American churches. The liner notes point out that it was at this point that the people in those churches started fusing jazz and blues together with spirituals to make what were the early roots of gospel. From there, the story fast forwards to the 1900s and the influence of blind pianist and singer Arizona Dranes on the gospel community. As the story progresses, audiences learn how street preachers played in the genre’s evolution, too. As if all of this is not enough, there are even discussions on the role of country music and “jubilee quartets” in the evolution of gospel. While each discussion is slightly brief, each also serves as its own starting point for people to do their own research and for classroom lessons. Simply put, the liner notes build on the foundation formed by the compilation’s songs to make the record that much more appealing for listeners. It is just one more aspect of what makes The Rough Guide to the Roots of Gospel another successful offering from World Music Network. The production put into this compilation rounds out its most important elements.
The production that went into The Rough Guide to the Roots of Gospel is important to note because of its impact on how the songs sound. As noted already, the songs featured in this recording reach back to the late 1920s and early-mid 1930s. In other words, the masters for these recordings are extremely old. That the recordings still sound as impressive as they do in this presentation is a testament to the painstaking efforts made to bring the music back to life. The static is as clear as if the songs were featured on a vinyl (which is more argument in favor of CD versus vinyl, but that’s another matter for another time), as are the instrumentations and vocals. Everything is so well-balanced in each song. The result is a wonderful listening experience for this aspect just as much as for the sense of nostalgia that the record will create for some listeners. All things considered, the compilation’s production adds its own special touch to its presentation as the songs themselves and the record’s companion booklet. When all three items are considered together, they make The Rough Guide to the Roots of Gospel another successful offering from World Music Network whose praises audiences will sing in their own right.
World Music Network’s new compilation The Rough Guide to the Roots of Gospel is another successful offering from the company. That is due in part to its featured songs, which will entertain audiences and serve as their own starting point for many musical history lessons. The companion booklet that accompanies the compilation adds to the record’s appeal in its own way as it adds to the depth of the noted history lessons. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements. It leaves the record sounding impressive while also generating a welcome sense of nostalgia among listeners. Each noted item is important in its own right to the compilation’s presentation. All things considered, they make the compilation whose praises audiences will sing in their own right.
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