Album Review

Devil Is Busy In Knoxville, The [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

Thurston Hunger   4/26/2013   12-inch, Blues

Many things flow from the mighty Mississippi (label), and
here some 78’s wash up, cleaned up and darn near baptised.
Despite the title of the album (a presumed nod to Leola
Manning’s “The Devil Is Busy in Knoxville”) this is no
collection of murder ballads, but instead his grace and pearly
gates, where “Fify Miles of Elbow Room” await us. The
harmonies on here are downright heavenly. Not just frequent
angel-wing fliers like the Carter Family but the straight
collar sweet hollar of the Anglin Brothers and the Delmore
Brothers (connecting to Palace and Everly brothers in my
sacred heart and scarred ears). Of course the purest
chorus comes from the mouth of babes, and “Chariot Jubilee”
sounds like it could almost be a pacific island sublime
frequency call and response chat. Too short. If you want
a little hint of the apple polished by the serpent, check
out the rough and ready work of Elder Richard Bryant’s
Sanctified Singers, or the Silent Grove Baptist Church
Congregation (the shadowy bass accompaniment behind
the powerhouse unknown lead male vocal defying the Grave).
Is Rev I.B. Ware a real person, I reckon so but his sentiment
“I Wouldn’t Mind Dying” closes this album, which also
features the cover lady, the mighty Sister Rosetta Tharpe
belting out a tune from her thinner days, and holding a
note too high and pure for any devil to touch. Sing on
sister and brothers, sing on right on past the grave.

-Br’er ‘Unger

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