Various Artists

Negro Religious Songs and Services

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Folklorist John Lomax and his son Alan Lomax made the recordings collected here between 1934 and 1942 for the Library of Congress. Negro Religious Songs and Services is an amazing, moving compendium of period sacred songs and hymns. Most pieces are solo and a cappella. In these pieces, one hears the inspirations for more secular styles. "Certainly, Lord," with its sad, inflected delivery and repeated line after two varying lines, is clearly a blues ready to be born. "Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down" features the title as a line thrice repeated three times. This opportunity for thematic variation and improvisation is the recorded future shadow of jazz and soul vocals.

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