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Reverend Gary Davis

Harlem Street Singer


Souljam (600878)

Samson And Delilah, I Belong To The Band, Pure Religion, Death Don’t Have No Mercy, Twelve Gates To The City, Tryin’ To Get Home, I Am The Light Of This World and more…..

Another fabulous re-issue from the good folks at Souljam Records, spoiling us as they have over recent years with a regular series of iconic late 1950s and early 1960s blues albums and recordings.

This latest re-issue is just about as vital as any they have brought us to date, being the 1961 album (originally issued on Prestige/Bluesville) by the hugely influential figure that was Reverend Gary Davis. Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder in New Jersey over the course of a single afternoon, this features many of the songs that Davis became best known and admired for, along with some of his most impassioned vocal performances and intricate guitar playing. Just check out the marvellous versions here of Death Don’t Have No Mercy and Samson And Delilah (a re-working of Blind Willie Johnson’s If I Had My Way I’d Tear This Building Down); even if you have heard these hundreds of times before the conviction in the vocals and the sophistication of the playing still takes the breath away.

The focus of the album is fully on the Reverend’s gospel repertoire. Despite being described these days variously as a gospel evangelist, blues singer, ragtime guitarist or folk musician, there was a time when he would insist that that he only ever played religious material and, on this album at least, he pretty much holds true to his party line.  As he does on the eight additional bonus tracks that are included here, again recorded by Rudy Van Gelder a matter of months later, similarly incorporating only gospel or spiritual subject matter.

As well as these bonus tracks, this excellent release also comes with a useful 16 page booklet featuring rare photos, new essays on his career as a whole and the story behind these recordings, as well as lengthy excerpt from the original liner notes included with the 1961 LP.

Historic recordings, from a major artist, re-mastered to sound better than before, with bonus tracks and new notes and at a low price. What’s not too like?

Review first posted to this website April 2016

Review Date: April 2018

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