1974-1995: The Reverend Charlie Jackson - You Got to Move: Live Recordings Vol. 1

While the Rev. Charlie Jackson (1932-2006) is rightly considered, along with Elder Utah Smith, one of the primary guitar-evangelist figures in American gospel music, wading into the waters of his work is an all-encompassing proposition. The Louisiana-based Jackson was known for “being able to play his guitar like a drum,” turning down the treble and ramping up the bass in a chunky, rhythmic fashion approaching raga-like hypnosis. Visually, he’d do things like play the instrument behind his head (a sight to imagine in a dimly-lit church), stomping along with a reverent congregation’s claps and sways and spinning personal tales of struggle and salvation. Though it’s hard to imagine this music outside the sanctified realm, a handful of singles and EPs were recorded and released commercially on the Booker label and his own Jackson imprint in the 1970s – these were collected on the 2003 Case Quarter compilation God’s Got It – The Legendary Booker and Jackson Singles. But Jackson recorded many of his sermons on cassette tape and enough of these have survived since his passing that an illuminating series of live recordings is now underway, curated by musicologist and writer Adam Lore on his 50 Miles of Elbow Room imprint. If the first volume is any indication, these will be handsome issues indeed, housed in sturdy jackets with informative booklets and pressed on high-quality vinyl.

Room acoustics and tape hiss give the already-raw Jackson an extra air of immediacy on the opening suite, “What a Time/Morning Train,” recorded in 1974. Shuffling rhythm, syrupy tremolo and dusty slide are wrapped in tape phasing and Jackson’s vocals maintain a gravelly distance as part of a sonic bellows. The Reverend grew up in Mississippi and played the blues as a teenager, so an electrified delta isn’t far from his sacred music – that said, there’s a tumbling whorl that envelops “Morning Train,” something quite far from stark and deliberate secularity. Low, motoring taps and harp-like whine unfurl from the congregation’s ritual movement, making this performance of the gospel standard a rendition for the ages. Though after two strokes it apparently became very hard for him to enunciate (“letting the guitar do the preaching”), one wouldn’t know it from the mid-1990s rendition of “I Read My Letter All Night,” his quavering tenor filling space around nuanced, biting strings, tambourine and a responsive congregation. Jackson accompanies his wife Laura Davis Jackson in a 1982 performance of “May the Work I’ve Done Speak for Me/Serving the Lord” that, while perhaps the “straightest” music here, is still powerful in its exploration of masculine-feminine tension. Closing the record is a delicate, hushed, and almost private window on Jackson’s prayer, the unaccompanied “When I’ve done the Best I Can, I Want My Crown.” Hopefully, more volumes of live Rev. Charlie Jackson are forthcoming in short order because this is absolutely wonderful music.

DeLorean

There’s a lot of good music out there, and it’s not all being released this year. With DeLorean, we aim to rediscover overlooked artists and genres, to listen to music historically and contextually, to underscore the fluidity of music. While we will cover reissues here, our focus will be on music that’s not being pushed by a PR firm.

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