Various Artists

The Roots of Black Gospel

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A three-disc box set, Roots of Black Gospel bogs down at times with too many late '50s and early '60s tracks (which are hardly the roots, however pleasant they may sound), but almost makes up for it with some inspired choices, including the immortal Marian Anderson's beautiful and aching rendition of "Deep River," and a pair of songs sung by Louis Armstrong, "Jonah and the Whale" and "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen." Other highlights here are The Charioteers' definitive version of "Wade In the Water," the inspired metaphor of "Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb" by The Pilgrim Travelers, and two sacred blues tunes, one by Josh White ("Jesus Gonna Make Up My Dying Bed"), and Blind Gary Davis ("Lord I Wish I Could See"). While this is a fine enough set as far as it goes, it could have been a truly great one if more actual roots material had been included. Instead, it only hints at the history of this fascinating genre, while continually jumping into what is essentially the modern era of black gospel.

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