A new and a classic foray into gospel music | artsentertainment

As we do from time to time here at Ear Bliss Central, we take a look at some recent and very worthy gospel releases. The twist this week is that each is a spiritual release of the country variety. When it comes to Country & Western music, the legendary Hank Williams is considered by many the granddaddy of it all. Such classic songs as “Hey Good Lookin’,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” and “Cold Cold Heart,” to name a few, helped etch Williams’ mug onto the Mount Rushmore of C&W. Yet, he had a whole other side to his performing persona under the pseudonym of Luke the Drifter which he began in 1950 as a performing outlet for the more spiritual side. The new 2-CD/3-LP compilation I’m Gonna Sing: The Mother’s Best Gospel Radio Recordings offers a look at the that side of Williams’ artistry. The collection gathers 40 radio performances made by Williams from 1951 for the Mother’s Best Flour program which aired daily over WSM in Nashville. It receives the Ear Bliss look-see this week along with a contemporary set of country gospel called And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…. from Americana artist Brent Cobb. It marks Cobb’s first foray into spiritual music and he pulls it off quite well. Let’s take a look.

Hank Williams

I’m Gonna Sing: The Mother’s Best Gospel Radio Recordings

BMG Records

Whereas he is regarded as the father of honky tonk music, beginning in his youth growing up in a church-rearing family in Alabama right up until his final days, hymns and spirituals were always a large part of the Hank Williams lexicon. He was probably most personified by his “Luke the Drifter” alter ego. It was a moniker adopted by Williams beginning in 1950 to perform his religious-themed material, often delivered in a narrative style. Who knew in late 1950 when he signed on to perform a 15-minute radio program airing each morning over the beacon of the south, WSM, broadcasting out of Nashville, that he’d be just two years away from his passing? It was arguably the peak period of Williams’ career with his songs dominating the country charts. In other words, he was a hot commodity, hence Mother’s Best Flour signing on to sponsor the his program which broadcast daily from 7:15 to 7:30 am each morning. Williams would typically close each show with a hymn or spiritual number which brings us to the new collection I’m Gonna Sing: The Mother’s Best Gospel Radio Recordings. It gathers 40 performances by Williams from the program from across 1951. The material spans multiple centuries dating as far back as the 1700s via such songs as “At the Cross” and “I Am Bound for the Promised Land” and the 1800s (“Lonely Tombs” later covered by Bob Dylan and “Softly and Tenderly” covered by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash) mixed with “contemporary” gospel songs of the day many of which have endeared like “I’ll Fly Away,” “Drifting Too Far from the Shore,” “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies,” and “Farther Along.” And of course, there are also popular spirituals from the country music world like “The Prodigal Son,” “Dust On the Bible,” and Williams’ own classic “I Saw the Light.” Several tracks also feature Williams’ wife at the time, Audrey Williams, along with his Drifting Cowboys band. The collection is available as either a 2-CD set or for the first time ever on vinyl as a 3-LP triple gatefold collection. It also features new liner notes written by Williams biographer Colin Escott. The collection is Williams in all his purity performing his first love, songs of a spiritual nature.

Brent Cobb

And Now, Let’s Turn to Page…

Ol’ Buddy/Thirty Tigers Records

After two previous albums firmly planted in the Americana camp, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Brent Cobb steers the wheel back to his church-rearing roots on his debut gospel album titled And Now, Let’s Turn to Page….. For Cobb, it is an album he always wanted to make and given the circumstances of an incident a few years ago, namely a vehicle accident in 2020 that nearly took his life, the time was right. The accident certainly altered Cobb’s outlook. He says, “You just start piecing together how everything is sort of intentional…I’d always had it in the back of my mind to make a gospel album. That moment of clarity, of almost getting killed, made me think I should just make the gospel album now.” The nine selections, eight of which are standards from the gospel repertory, are right at home in the likeable tenor of Cobb with its light country twang. The album and its songs, country gospel classics such as “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” “Old Rugged Cross” and a rousing version of “We Shall Rise,” to name a few, pay homage in part to Cobb’s upbringing in the small country town of Ellaville, Georgia. Says Cobb, “These songs have uplifted my spirit throughout my whole life. They still do today. Doesn’t matter to me what anyone does or doesn’t believe in, if the only belief one has is in music, I believe this album will uplift the listener’s spirit as well.” Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer (and cousin) Dave Cobb (Brandi Carlile, Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton) and recorded at Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A, this album of gospel tunes in the Americana style is highly uplifting. Visit www.brentcobbmusic.com.

Brent Cobb returns to the area on July 8 opening for Maren Morris at Leader Bank Pavilion in Boston.

LIVE SHOTS

As usual, we begin with the doings in South County. Pump House Music Works in Peace Dale (164 Kingstown Road) presents Guitar Night on Friday night with Steve DeConti & friends playing jazz, blues and standards. On Saturday, it’s Dave Furlong & The Honk. The Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston has a full plate this weekend with Tom Petty Tribute Won’t Back Down on Friday night and James Taylor Experience – October Road performing on Saturday. Coming up on April 23 is Gold Rush- The Ultimate Neil Young Celebration. Legendary vocal group The Drifters perform at the Greenwich Odeum in East Greenwich on Saturday evening. The Sunday afternoon blues and R&B series continues at The Narragansett Café in Jamestown this Easter Sunday with Cee Cee & The Riders performing from 4–7 pm. The Charlestown Rathskellar presents Danny Bermm on Friday night. At The Knickerbocker Music Center (35 Railroad Ave) in Westerly, check out Mystic Dead continuing that long strange Grateful Dead trip on Friday evening. The Chris Leigh Band comes to The Knick on Saturday night. In the Northern reaches of the Ocean State, Chan’s Restaurant in Woonsocket (267 Main Street) has Sugar Ray & Bluetones on the menu on Friday evening and Stefan Coture entertaining on Saturday night with each show at 8 pm. It’s an oldies night at The Stadium Theater in Woonsocket on Friday night with The Box Tops and The Buckinghams. The tribute action continues on Saturday night with Foreigner & Journey Tribute act Foreigners Journey. The Kim Trusty Band performs at the Blackstone River Theater in Cumberland (549 Broad Street) on Saturday night. Van Morrison tribute act Moondance is at The Met Café in Pawtucket on Friday night. Will Evans with Christina Holmes and Ian D’Arcangelo of “One Time Weekend” are at The Met on Saturday night. It’s Anniversary Week at Askew in Providence (150 Chestnut Street) and it kicks off with a jam on Saturday night featuring Julie Rhodes & Electric Co, Ali McGuirk and Mary-Elaine Jenkins. Canadian post-rock band Godspeed You! Black Emperor comes to the Columbus Theater in Providence (270 Broadway) on Sunday night. Finally, Blood Brothers featuring Mike Zito and Albert Castiglia dazzle on guitars at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on Saturday evening.

Dan Ferguson is a freelance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.

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