Gospel Music Country Style–Part 1

Photo by Mississippi Snopes on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Today I am beginning a multi-week celebration of gospel music by country artists. This week’s post features music by three popular male singers.

Johnny Cash–He Turned the Water Into Wine

Johnny Cash included “He Turned the Water Into Wine” on the album The Gospel Road.

The Gospel Road is a double album, the fourth gospel album and 45th overall album by Johnny Cash, He released the album in 1973. It is the soundtrack to the film of the same name. The movie and the soundtrack tell the story of the life of Jesus. The album consists primarily of spoken-word recordings taken from the film of Cash describing the action on screen.

Additional vocalists are featured on varying tracks. This includes The Carter Family, The Statler BrothersKris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge. Additionally. June Carter Cash portrays Mary Magdalene in the film and on the album.

Willie Nelson–Uncloudy Day

Josiah Kelley Alwood wrote the gospel song Uncloudy Day, also known as Unclouded Day, in 1879. Originally popular in church hymnals, it has come to be recorded many times over the years since, including being an early attention-getter for future star act The Staple Singers in 1956, their version serving as an inspiration to a young Bob Dylan, who called it “the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard”.

I prefer Willie Nelson’s version of Uncloudy Day.

 

Alan Jackson–I Want to Stroll Over Heaven With You

Alan Jackson Included his version of “I Want to Stroll Over Heaven With You” on the album Precious Memories. Precious Memories is Jackson’s thirteenth studio album. Notably, it is his first gospel 
album.

Unlike his previous albums, this is a side project composed of traditional gospel songs. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) gave the album platinum certification. However, it contained no singles.

What a Wonderful World-Louis Armstrong

He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone along the way.Duke Ellington

It has been 47 years since the world lost Louis Armstrong. Many saw him as the world’s most beloved entertainer. Others called him the single most important musician in the history of jazz.

I believe he was both.

Armstrong was a human ray of sunshine. He had a mile-wide smile, gravelly voice, infectious laugh. and unparalleled way with a song. His joyous rendition of “Hello, Dolly!,” recorded when he was in his 60s, momentarily ended the Beatles’ three-month reign at the top of the singles chart.

We watched a lot of Disney movies when the girls were little. The Jungle Book was one of our favorites. Louis Armstrong provided the voice for one of the most captivating characters, King Louis.

Bob Thiele (as “George Douglas”) and George David Weiss wrote the pop ballad “What a Wonderful World“.  It was first recorded by Louis Armstrong and released in 1967 as a single, which topped the pop charts in the United Kingdom. Armstrong’s recording was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

 

Gospel Blues: Classic Rock Edition

Recently I introduced you to Gospel Blues and three artists who defined the genre. Several prominent classic rock era musicians found inspiration in this music. Today I share with you three covers I believe you will find more familiar.

Nobody’s Fault but Mine

It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine” tells of a spiritual struggle, with reading the Bible as the path to salvation. or, rather, the failure to read it leading to damnation. Blind Willie Johnson first recorded the gospel blues song “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” in 1927.

The song has been interpreted and recorded by numerous musicians in a variety of styles, including Led Zeppelin in 1975.

Led Zeppelin recorded “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” for their seventh studio album Presence(1976). Adapted from Blind Willie Johnson’s song, the lyrics represent a more secular theme, with an electric rock music backing.

Critics compare “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” lyrics to Robert Johnson‘s “Hell Hound on My Trail“.  Johnson’s 1937 Delta blues song tells of a man trying to stay ahead of the evil which is pursuing him. However it does not address the cause or lasting solution for his predicament. In Blind Willie Johnson’s “It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine”, the problem is clearly stated. He will be doomed, unless he uses his abilities to learn (and presumably live according to) biblical teachings.

Led Zeppelin retain Blind Willie’s admission that he ultimately is to blame, but add Robert Johnson’s sense of despair. However, they shift the focus from religion to a more contemporary one. Their lyrics include “that monkey on my back”, a commonly used reference to addiction. And “the devil he told me to roll, how to roll the line tonight”. To overcome, Plant concludes “gonna change my ways tonight”.

Crossroads

“Cross Road Blues” (also known as “Crossroads“) is a blues song written and recorded by American blues artist Robert Johnson in 1936. Johnson performed it as a solo piece with his vocal and acoustic slide guitar in the Delta blues-style. The song has become part of the Robert Johnson mythology. Allegedly referring to the place where he supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical talents. However the lyrics do not contain any specific references.

Bluesman Elmore James revived the song with recordings in 1954 and 1960–1961. English guitarist Eric Clapton with Cream popularized the song as “Crossroads” in the late 1960s.

Their blues rock interpretation inspired many cover versions. Furthermore the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included it as one of the “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”. Also, Rolling Stone placed it at number three on the magazine’s list of the “Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”.

Statesboro Blues

Statesboro Blues” is a Piedmont blues song written by Blind Willie McTell, who recorded it in 1928. The title refers to the town of Statesboro, Georgia. Scroll upTaj Mahal recorded a popular blues rock adaptation of the song in 1968. Rolling Stone magazine ranks the version by the Allman Brothers Band, #9 on its list of the “100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time”. Also, in 2005, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution ranked “Statesboro Blues” number 57 on its list of “100 Songs of the South”.

 

Music with a dash of trivia