Monday, August 13, 2007

Marie Knight's loving tribute to Rev. Gary Davis

Fans of Sister Rosetta Tharpe may be familiar with the name Marie Knight whose alto could be heard with Tharpe’s soprano and guitar on such records as Up Above My Head, I Hear Music, and Didn’t It Rain. Knight, who had her own gospel hit with Gospel Train, was located and participated in MC Records highly praised tribute to Tharpe, Shout, Sister, Shout, and is now featured on a stunning new MC records release, Let Us Get Together: A Tribute to Reverend Gary Davis. Produced by Larry Campbell, who played lead guitar and other instruments in Bob Dylan’s Band from 1997-2004 but has played with numerous acts such as Paul Simon and Willie Nelson. Campbell in the early 1970’s became obsessed with Rev. Gary Davis’ music and as he shows on this release, is a marvelous guitarist in the Piedmont finger style approach. His guitar is the foundation for Knight who still remains a vigorous vocalist that invests her renditions of Lord I Feel Like Goin' On, I Belong To The Band, Samson & Delilah, I Am The Light Of This World, 12 Gates, and Death Don't Have No Mercy, with such fervor. Perhaps her range is diminished a tad with age but her phrasing and delivery belies her age. Five selections are solo including Lord I Feel Like Goin’ On and Samson and Delilah, while several, including I Am the Light of the World, have a backing band that may get occasionally messy but do not detract from the exuberance and celebration. Catherine Russell contributes an effective backing vocal here while Kim Wilson adds harmonica in addition to the rhythm to Twelve Gates to The City, and Death Don’t Have No Mercy. The latter track is the recording’s longest and Knight is compelling on this spellbinding performance that is perhaps the highlight of a truly excellent disc. In addition, there is a short Quicktime video which gives Marie Knight a chance to tell us about herself and she is as vivacious as in her performances. Gary Davis’ memory is served well by this disc that is also a reminder that the magnificent Ms. Knight is alive and very well. One of the best discs in any genre this writer has heard this year.

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