The Devil Ain’t Got No Music

Though I spent lots of adolescent Sundays serving as an altar boy, and chunks of childhood sitting through Sunday school classes devoted to making me shiver at the thought of punishment for sins I had yet to imagine, I no longer have a church bone left in my body. I’m more likely to think of the harm religion does than the solace it provides. But that ol’ time religion still can reach my soul when it’s sung as close to the bone as Lurrie Bell sings it here, with a richly honest voice praising God while giving the devil his due. This is blues and gospel blended and bonded. I thought of Elvis as I listened to Bell’s version of “Peace in the Valley,” and I thought of Doc Watson and Ralph Stanley on “Trouble in My Way,” not because Bell’s treatments aren’t distinctive, but because those old white guys and this old black guy are equally authentic in the feelings they render through these songs. Check out Bell’s version of the Tom Waits song, “Way Down in the Hole,” and listen for Joe Louis Walker’s great slide guitar on “It’s a Blessing.” It might just get you up and out on Sunday morning.