Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rev. Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer

Of the handful of blues artists who were rediscovered and recorded anew in the '60s, this particular fellow was the least prolific, but perhaps the most consistent. In the course of only a few recording opportunities, he completely captured the intensity of his recording output of the late '20s and '30s as well as that of any of his contemporaries, and he did it all effortlessly. On some of the tracks, it is just a matter of setting a mood or keeping the rhythm consistently engaging as he strums his guitar. Playing the guitar flat on his lap, he gets a slightly different sound from some of the same licks that other country blues or slide players come up with, but also works in his own non-slide fingerpicking, including extremely intelligent use of the ringing overtones that can be created by doubling up bass notes. Most blues listeners found out about Wilkins because the Rolling Stones somehow thought they could get away with completely ripping off his song "Prodigal Son." Early pressings of their cover version can be identified by the fact that it is credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as songwriters, a scam that was corrected later due to legal action. Many blues artists had trouble squaring up such treachery, but perhaps Wilkins had God on his side: He was devoutly religious, devoting each of the songs on this set to a gospel theme. Listeners who may feel unholy should not let this scare them off, as it is solid blues playing all the way and in fact even branches out into other areas of acoustic playing. The long instrumental section of "Thank You, Jesus," with its ringing chords and interesting repeating patterns, is something John Fahey would have been proud of playing. The ten-minute version of "Prodigal Son" is the centerpiece of the set, one of the few examples of an extended country blues performance and one of the best. Although this is the album's longest track, others are stretched out to nearly five minutes, Wilkins never flagging in his momentum or involvement with each piece. His interpretation of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" is extremely beautiful. The album benefits from an extremely clear and vivid recorded sound.

Nighthawk filling a request from Marc.



Marc Claes said...

Many Thanks Nighthawk ! and thanks for all the great music Xyros !

Frank Jive said...

Thanks for this . . . same LP posted in July!

unitstructure said... the version of prodigal son.I saw him performat the end of his life.