Blues Bytes

Surprise

July 2007

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Marie Knight
Let Us Get Together
MC Records

Marie Knight

Let Us Get Together (MC Records) is the result of a brilliant idea hatched by MC founder Mark Carpentieri. His pairing of 78-year-old gospel singer Marie Knight with former Bob Dylan guitarist Larry Campbell to record a selection of Reverend Gary Davis songs has resulted in one of the best albums I've heard this year. Knight's alto voice is still as fresh-sounding and powerful as it was in the 1940s when she was working with Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Campbell's Piedmont-style acoustic guitar picking perfectly compliments her presentation of 12 of Davis' standards.

What's most amazing is that Ms. Knight had never heard of Gary Davis when the project was proposed to her. Carpentieri and Campbell played 30 of the late blues/gospel street singer's songs for her and she picked the 12 that she believed best suited her style.

Now, where do I start? Every single song on Let Us Get Together is superb, starting with the simple yet powerful "Lord I Feel Like Goin' On" right on through the driving closing number, "You Got To Move," which features wonderful guitar picking from Campbell and background vocals from Catherine Russell.

Among Davis' better known numbers here are "Samson & Delilah," the vibrant "I Am The Light of This World," and the classic "I'll Fly Away." These songs will be familiar to most listeners, but Ms. Knight's versions make them sound brand new.

Carpentieri occasionally teams Ms. Knight with a larger group of musicians, including Fab T-birds harmonica player Kim Wilson, bassist Lincoln Schlieffer and drummer Rich Pagano. What's surprising is that the band is used on some of the less raucous, more haunting numbers: "Twelve Gates to the City" and "Death Don't Have No Mercy." Ms Knight does some of her most heartfelt singing on this latter spiritual.

Campbell's versatility is on display with "Lord I'll Be With You," on which he plays both mandolin and violin behind Ms. Knight's powerful vocals. The song with the most old-time gospel feeling is "When I Die," a song of redemption that makes one less fearful of death; someone, probably Ms. Knight, starts clapping along with the song near its conclusion; you, as the listener, will be compelled to do the same.

As an added bonus, the CD contains a nine-minute black & white video featuring narration by Ms. Knight, giving us another view of this amazing woman.

It's refreshing to see an artist like Ms. Knight try something completely different and make it work so well. Everyone associated with the production of Let Us Get Together deserves to be honored for this gem. Let the awards start flowing in.

--- Bill Mitchell

 

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