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Album Review

Various Artists, 'Fire In My Bones'

November 2, 2009

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Gospel
Various Artists Fire In My Bones
Tompkins Square
ESSENTIAL “I Heard It Through the True Vine’’

No matter how hip your church is, chances are Sunday morning never sounds like this. Subtitled “Raw, Rare, and Otherworldly African-American Gospel (1944-2007),’’ this superb three-disc compilation of sonic salvation unearths nearly four hours of hellfire gospel shakes and shouts. Remastered to capture the electricity of the originals, the 80 songs are drawn from front-porch solos, fife and drum groups, studio grooves, and full-congregation choirs. Whether infused with down-home grunge or spinning a high-wire funk trance while spreading good-news sermons, each track has a gritty majesty all its own. Three songs in the middle of the set are typical of its stir of religious ruckus: Sister Golda Haynes lending spry piano boogie to “The Truth in the Gospel’’ (1950); the Rayburn Brothers’ grand, gurgling slide on “Walk With Me’’ (1974); and the soul-stomping Abraham Brothers spiraling upward on a heavenly “Spirit of the Lord’’ (1962). Then there’s “So Soon’’ (1964), featuring the brawny voice of Little Ax, who spent her singing career disguised as a man. And Black Diamond’s evangelical guitar work with the Rev. Charles White, who sang “How Long’’ (1948) while playing water bucket and tin funnel. (Out now)

TRISTRAM LOZAW