Repent – or else!


Ernest Martin and His Gospel Melody Makers – Hillbilly Gospel from the Blue Grass Hills (BACM)

Black gospel, from its earliest recorded days through to the funky ’70s and beyond, has always sat right snugly with ALL my musical and broader tastes.

It makes sense in all sense of ways for me personally.

Explaining to myself the equal, if less frequent, appeal of deep, hollerin’, scarifying white gospel is a whole bunch trickier.

To generalise to a ridiculous extent, where my black gospel loves are all of a piece – or almost all – with things such as the civil rights struggle and black American music in general, white gospel often seems to take its cues from the Old Testament and Revelations.

That’s unfair, as in the case of Kentuckian Martin and these sides from the late ’40s through to the ’60s – here there is no lack of upbeat joy.

But it’s all delivered in a strident, take-no-prisoners voice of such fervour, it’ll make your hair stand up on end.

He reminds me a lot of Ernest Phipps, a fellow gospel shouter from an earlier era.

And where, at other times in my life, I may have gotten a bit sniffy at the mix of traditional bluegrass instrumentation with Travis-style electric guitar, here I care not a whit.

What few releases I’ve come across on the British Archive of Country Music imprint have sometimes failed to impress.

No such problem with this fantastic music.


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