Various Artists

Sacred Steel [Video]

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This video is the culmination of a period of research on the part of Robert Stone into the steel guitar traditions of the House of God Churchs (Keith Dominion), primarily in the Southern U.S. After gaining some funding from the Arhoolie Foundation, a number of recordings were made, including a good dose of videos from sermons, praise services, and private performances, as well as a few archival tapes that were dug out of the closets. The video primarily does a good job of showcasing the interaction of music and spirituality, as the congregation can suddenly work into a frenzy at the performance of a song by one of the higher-speed players, or break back into quiet praise as a slower passage is played. Perhaps more important to the armchair musicologists will be the relatively extensive history of the form interwoven documentary-style into the proceedings. For those simply looking for the music, there's a wealth of worthwhile sounds here too, from the more devotional numbers wherein the steels can sing, up to the frenetic celebratory pieces where there isn't a person left in the seats. Particular highlights include the classic styles of Willie Eason and the hotter works from Chuck Campbell and Robert Randolph. For someone interested in one niche aspect of the Southern gospel array, this video and the accompanying albums would make a fine addition.