The story of Arizona Dranes is that of too many artists in American history -- a passionate and skilled performer, driven in her case by her deep and abiding faith, only sporadically recorded and eventually passing in obscurity. Following previous anthology appearances as well as collections of her work, Dranes received a newly thorough overview in 2012 with He Is My Story, and if it too is a familiar story of reissue and reappreciation well after the fact, down to the extensive liner notes -- in this case, a full book -- and expert remastering, there's no question that the sheer joy and power she exhibits is worth the listening. As with so many performers who hotwire their own pasts and reference points to create an overwhelming new form, Dranes is both perfect representational and sui generis, a Pentecostal church pianist and singer whose joy and talent walk hand in hand. Essentially the question is simply this: why wouldn't anyone want to sound like this, if given the chance or the calling? The opening performance of "I'm Glad My Lord Saved Me" showcases many strengths at once -- her vivid playing, her strong singing, and her interaction with her fellow church singers, a group celebration rather than a solitary showcase. "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go" and "Just Look" are equally vivid, the opening vocal exchanges on the former especially beautiful. But in many ways it is her instrumental performances, especially "Crucifixion," that cut to the soul. That song shows her skill at introductions, as well as a jauntiness in her rolling playing that evokes the sense of the titular event's tragedy as source for hope and liberation. It's a tour de force from a remarkable American original.
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AllMusic Review by Ned Raggett