The Devil Ain't Got No Music (Aria B.G. Records)
Some blues musicians learn about music from attending church as children, later bringing gospel into blues music, while others start with blues music and bring that background into their spiritual songs. The older generations of musicians were torn about playing blues because their parents or grandparents had told them that blues was the devil's music and that you either sang for the Lord or you sang for the devil. However, guitarist Lurrie Bell's new album makes an important statement that the blues can't be the devil's music. Having been raised with both musical genres, Bell addresses and reconciles the dichotomy between blues and gospel music through his eloquent rendering of traditional and contemporary songs.
The traditional songs include “Search Me Lord” and “Peace in the Valley” by Thomas Dorsey, a successful blues musician in the 1920s who became “The Father of Gospel Music” a decade later, and Reverend Gary Davis' classic “Death Don't Have No Mercy.” The contemporary songs include James Taylor's “Lo and Behold” and Tom Waits' “Way Down in the Hole,” as well as a new song, the title track by the album's producer, Matthew Skoller, who also plays harmonica on the tune with his longtime friend. Other accomplished musicians who make contributions include Joe Louis Walker, who plays beautiful slide guitar on “It's a Blessing” and his own composition, “I'll Get to Heaven on My Own”; harmonica player Billy Branch, whose soulful playing can be heard on “Trouble in My Way”; and drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith and upright bass player Josef Ben Israel, who provide subtle yet powerful percussion and rhythm work.
With their themes of temptation, revelation and redemption, songs like “Don't Let the Devil Ride” and “Lo and Behold” are simultaneously bluesy spirituals and spiritualized blues. The album is deeply soulful and prompts listeners to accompany Bell and the others with their own singing, hand-clapping and swaying to the music.