Lurrie Bell was born in Chicago, but grew up playing gospel music in churches in the South. While the blues was considered the devil's music, Bell brought a lot of blues feeling to the music he played in church. Blues and gospel both have strong roots in the sounds of African music that Southern blacks passed on through the generations, and while the feel may be different, the underlying message of relief from human suffering is the same. The Devil Ain't Got No Music features Bell on acoustic guitar, backed by a hand-picked team of collaborators including Joe Louis Walker on vocals and slide guitar and drummer Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith. The songs include traditional numbers like "Swing Low (Sweet Chariot)" and "Trouble in My Way" and more contemporary tunes like James Taylor's "Lo and Behold" and Joe Louis Walker's "I'll Get to Heaven on My Own." On most of these performances, Bell eschews the usual jubilant sound of gospel and infuses these songs with a deep, distressing blues feeling that's so intense it's hard to listen to the whole album in one sitting. A thread of mortality runs through the album and even relatively uplifting lyrics like "Peace in the Valley" are given a desperate spin. When he sings "There will be peace in the valley for me some day," it's pretty clear that day is not today. The album's most uplifting song is the opening track, an almost carefree version of "Swing Low (Sweet Chariot)" featuring Bell's scatted asides and some euphoric guitar work. It might have worked better at the end of the album to provide some relief from the wrenching emotion he brings to most of these songs.
AllMusic Review by j. poet