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Reverend Charlie Jackson - Gods Got It: The Legendary Booker and Jackson Singles

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Artist: Reverend Charlie Jackson

Album: Gods Got It: The Legendary Booker and Jackson Singles

Label: CaseQuarter

Review date: Aug. 7, 2003

Holy Ghost Power

Separation between sacred and secular influences in popular music has a history nearly as muddled as that of Church and State. Boundaries blur particularly well in the Blues and countless bluesmen have fought the mythical internal struggle between God and the Devil. So many so that it’s become an archetype integral to the idiom. What’s especially ironic is that the proselytical work of many bluesmen often outdistanced their larger heathenistic oeuvres, at least in terms of unvarnished power and passion. Maybe it had something to do with the catalyzing potency of religion. But when the spirit took them Mississippi Fred McDowell and Son House could raise the rafters and shake the angels down from the skies. The Reverend Gary Davis even sacrificed his fledgling recording career for the Lord, balking at a producer’s insistence that he play the blues and turning to a life of street busking instead.

Reverend Charlie Jackson fits into a long lineage of gospel performers touched by facets of the Blues. It’s an illustrious family that includes Blind Willie Johnson, Reverend Louis Overstreet and Elder Roma Wilson among a host of others. Each of these men used the simple instrumental tools associated with the oft-considered profane music to galvanize their audiences- whether they were congregations or the record-buying public. Jackson’s early Seventies singles for the Booker and Jackson are collected on God’s Got It, the inaugural release on the CaseQuarter label out of Montgomery, Alabama; a imprint initiated to circulate little known rawboned gospel gems from the past, present and future.

From the opening chiming strums of the title track, it’s evident that these sides are the real deal, laced in the pops and crackles of their well-played vinyl sources. If anything, the sonic blemishes and the ‘hot’ recording fidelity compound the feeling that you’re pew-side, drinking in the deep sounds and shouting right along with the saved. Jackson sings in a rich, authoritative tone, peeling off a stinging, stomping one chord vamp backed by brittle hand clapping and a soaring congregational chorus. Many tracks unfold with declamatory prefatory sermons that pave the way for the stentorian guitar fireworks to follow. “Fix It Jesus” starts slow, a tension building through an impassioned and intensely personal pulpit affidavit of Jackson’s tribulations, his amp cranked to a heavenly frequency, until the fourth wall finally breaks in a chugging flood of clamorous downward stabbing plectrum strokes.

There are even passages of surprising mellifluous beauty as on “Testimony of Rev. Charlie Jackson” where shimmering over-amplified chords shimmy mesmerizingly in the air, spaced by delicate snatches of silence. Other tracks feature Jackson smoldering strings buttressing former backing singers Brother Ike Gordon and wife Francis Jackson as leads. While their voices aren’t quite as fervent, they still manage to rival the ardor with the aid of sanctified choral support. Laura Davis is the notable exception and her ascendant pipes sing out with a stunning clarity and command as Jackson jangles baldly behind her on “This Old Building” and “I Am Thinking of a Friend.” Don’t let the gospel tag on this disc dissuade you. Anyone with an affinity for forthright homespun music of any stripe will almost certainly discover much to savor here.

By Derek Taylor

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