Various Artists

None But the Righteous: The Masters of Sacred Steel

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Despite the fact that the sacred steel tradition was over a half-century old in the House of God Congregation, it had not been documented until the 1990s, and since then its irrepressible spirit has propelled the music out of the churches and into the mainstream. The power and joyousness of this music is undeniable. The original recordings made by Robert Stone in the early '90s were licensed by the great Arhoolie label, then expanded to seven albums of sacred steel material. After being introduced to the tradition by bassist Chris Chew, John Medeski not only formed the Word with the North Mississippi Allstars and sacred steel player Robert Randolph, but decided to try to spread the gospel via Ropeadope Records. The result is None but the Righteous: The Masters of Sacred Steel, a 17-track compilation culled from Arhoolie's Sacred Steel series. These players are fabulous. The passion they play with is palpable and comes from making a personal statement in service to a higher calling. From the smooth style of Sonny Treadway to the more frenetic Aubrey Ghent on their lapsteels and from the subtle wah shadings of Glenn Lee to the multiple-lead approach of the Campbell Brothers, this compilation exhibits an amazing stylistic variety within a relatively small musical community. And although this is music of the Pentacostal Baptist church, with more than half the album comprised of instrumentals, it should appeal to anyone who enjoys passionate, uplifiting music regardless of their faith or background. None but the righteous, indeed.

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