Gospel Train

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Mercury, 2019


REVIEW BY: David Bowling


Get your tickets out because the Gospel Train is leaving the station.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee in the Early Influence category. Her work on the electric guitar during the late 1930s and early 1940s was groundbreaking, and her use of distortion influenced the generation of guitarists who followed.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

She received her name not from her lifestyle but from her origins as a church gospel singer. Known as the original soul sister, she quickly moved from her gospel roots to an early fusion of rhythm and blues. Artists such as Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard took her approach and style and evolved it into the fundamentals of rock and roll.

Gospel Train was a later career release where she had morphed into a blues artist bordering on rock and roll. Originally issued in 1959, the sound has been cleaned as much as the technology of the day allows, but retains a raw feel, which in many ways fits her style.

Tharpe had the ability to move gospel and religious music toward a blues sound though not only her guitar work but also her voice. She could purr or scream as the lyrics demanded. She could also be primal and seductive in the same song.  

The opening track, the traditional “Jericho,” establishes her blues approach as it focuses on the lyrics. The tempo picks up on “When They Ring The Golden Bell” and “Two Little Fishes, Four Loaves Of Bread.” “Can’t No Body Hold My Body Down” is an intense re-imagining of the old gospel song and “I Shall Know Him” is a passionate return to her church roots.

Gospel Train was released when rock and roll was an established form. There were several songs that fused her blues base with some folk elements. It is a good and entertaining look into an artist who helped shape American music.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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