Saturday, July 28, 2018

Marie Knight The Gospel Truth Live

Marie Knight
The Gospel Truth Live
M.C. Records

A surprise is this posthumous concert recording by the late great Gospel singer, Marie Knight. Knight was then one of the last great singers from the Golden Age of Gospel (1940-1960), who may be kn own for association with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the nationally famous gospel singer-guitarist, who she met in 1946. The two became gospel’s preeminent duo of the 1940s, recording hits for Decca Records, including “Didn’t It Rain,” “Up Above My Head,” and the gorgeous “Beams of Heaven.” By the late 1940s, Marie and Rosetta had split to pursue separate musical projects—Marie to do solo gospel work on Decca.

Tharpe and Knight still reunited frequently on stage during the 1950s, however. In addition to singing before thousands of gospel fans in Washington, DC in 1950, and touring with up-and-coming gospel vocalist Wynona Carr in 1954. In the 1960s, Marie cultivated a rhythm-and-blues career, touring with the likes of Brooke Benton, the Drifters, and Clyde McPhatter. After a hiatus, she re-emerged in the mid-1970s to record gospel music. After recording a song on a Sister Rosetta Tharpe tribute album, she recorded an album of the gospel songs of Rev. Gary Davis titled “Let Us Get Together” which came out on M.C. Records in June 2007 and was the last studio album she recorded.

The posthumous "The Gospel Truth Live," was recorded October 19, 2007 at a Gospel Festival at the Church Street Center in North Adams MA. As noted in Bil Carpenter's liner notes, it was a wet and overcast day when she first met with students at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and then headlined the school's Gospel Fest. She was accompanied only by pianist Dave Keyes on a program that is mainly drawn from the songbooks of Tharpe and Davis (not surprising since Knight's album of Davis songs had been released a few months earlier) interspersed with her introductions and parables about life, including a moving reminiscence of performing in California and learning her mother and two children perished in a fire and having to sing between the tears.

Certainly a good portion of the songs will be familiar including "Didn't It Rain," and "Up Around My Head," from her days with Sister Rosetta Tharpe (and the latter number seems very popular today), along with "I Belong to the Band," "12 Gates to the City," "I Am the Light of the World," and "Let Is Get Together," from Reverend Gary Davis. Then she mixes in traditional spiritual numbers like "Jesus Loves Me," "I'll Fly Away," "Closer Walk With Thee (on which Keyes sings) and "For Thine is the Kingdom." Keyes provides a stately, sometimes barrelhouse rooted, boogie backing that supported her wonderful singing, that belied her age of 87 at the time. Time had little affected the power she could invest her nuanced vocals with.

Less than two years later she would pass away, and a cherished voice was silenced. Not having the pleasure of seeing her perform, I can appreciate the honesty and passion of the music here. Thanks to Mark Carpentini for producing this and making this wonderful release available.

I received from my review copy from M.C. Records.  Here she sings Up Above My Head."

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