You're going to wish you'd been there. "There" was the 1st Annual Sacred Steel Convention, held March 31- April 1, 2000 at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida. Train Don't Leave Me captures the moment on this sixth Arhoolie release of its Sacred Steel series. Sacred steel? Since the 1930s, the electric steel guitar has been a force coaxing the Holy Spirit in the House of God, Keith Dominion and the Church of the Living God, and Jewell Dominion African American Holiness-Pentecostal churches. Younger congregational lap steel players and musicians from around the country gathered to celebrate and showcase their inspired playing. If Bryan "Josh" Taylor & his father Jerry Taylor letting loose with "God Is a Good God" doesn't make you at least wonder about the hereafter, dang, you may already be dead.
My secular friends, we'd all have been converted if this had been our church music. There's no resisting Aubrey Ghent's lap-steel on "Train Don't Leave Me" as it builds momentum, backs off, then tears into sustained, ecstatic notes of steel on steel, leaving you among the audience roaring its approval. Last winter when I read a reprint of Geoffrey Himes' No Depression article "A Joyful Noise," I immediately tracked down a copy of Sonny Treadway's Jesus Will Fix It! (Arhoolie #462). Train Don't Leave Me soars higher. Ghent makes "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" a new spiritual touchstone. "Have You Tried Jesus" (Calvin & Grace Cooke), "I Feel Like Praising Him" (Glenn Lee & Roosevelt Collier with Keith Lee), "I Want to Go Where Jesus Is" (Maurice "Ted" Beard, Jr. & Freddie Dixon), and "See What the End Gonna Be" (Lonnie "Big Ben" & Cherlyn Bennett) redefine Gospel music while you shake your head in awe. On the closing "What's His Name?...Jesus!," Darick Campbell offers:
Now my song is just a little question and the question is, What's his name? Will you help me? Will you help me call him? Help me. What's his name? What's his name? I need a lot of help. You almost got it.The Campbell Brothers with Katie Jackson and Chuck Campbell on pedal-steel answer the question. Sunday morning will never be the same; and when you're ready to travel, www.sacredsteelconvention.com can help you make plans for next spring in Florida. What's the best album of the year? This might well be it. - Richard Dorsett
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