Sacred steel is a musical style and African-American gospel tradition that developed in a group of related Pentecostal churches in the 1930s. The Church of the Living God, the Pillar and Ground of the Truth, was founded in 1903 by Mary Magdalena Lewis Tate. Following her death in 1930, the church divided into three branches, known as the Keith, Jewell and Lewis dominions. The steel guitar was embraced in the worship of two of these dominions, the Keith Dominion (officially, The House of God Which Is the Church of the Living God the Pillar and Ground of the Truth Without Controversy), headquartered in Nashville and the Jewell Dominion (Church of the Living God, Pillar and Ground of the Truth, Which He Purchased With His Own Blood, Inc.) headquartered in Indianapolis. Brothers Troman and Willie Eason introduced lap steel guitar to worship services in place of the traditional organ. This new instrument was met with great enthusiasm and taken up by others including the Bishop J.R. Lockley. The three toured together and later Willie put the new style down on record, recording a total of eighteen sides in the 1940s and 50s. Since then, sacred steel has grown and flourished within the Keith and Jewell Dominions in churches in at least 22 states, including Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Tennessee. The most famous practitioner is Robert Randolph of the Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Randolph, the son of a deacon and a minister, took up pedal steel guitar at 17. Just seven years later, he has become one of the most original and talented practitioners of the sacred steel form.
So the reason that I discovered this musical tradition, is that one of its most famous practitioners Robert Randolph has produced an album aptly titled: Robert Rudolph Presents:The Slide Brothers. And what a wonder these guys are to behold! The Slide Brothers: Calvin Cooke, Chuck Campbell, Darick Campbell and Aubrey Ghent are four of the top slide players around and together with some friends including Robert Randolph and the Family Band, he Blind Boys of Mississippi, Shemekia Copeland,and Billy Cox. They work their magic on such songs as the Allman Brothers classic “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’,” Fatboy Slim’s trip-hop hit “Praise You,” two Elmore James tracks, one being “The Sky is Crying”, George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” and an instrumental version of the spiritual “Wade in the Water.” that is out of sight!! All in all it is a phenomenal album. Here’s what some others have to say about the album!
“Like their mentor Robert Randolph, The Slide Brothers may have started out in the sacred steel tradition, but this debut is likely to frighten the bejesus out of the church elders. While gospel is most assuredly at the root of this 11-songer, the quartet—Calvin Cooke, Chuck Campbell, Darick Campbell and Aubrey Ghent—find as much comfort in the blues of Elmore James and the rock of The Allman Brothers Band and George Harrison as they do from the spirituals…‘Praise You,’ featuring a wailing Shemekia Copeland vocal, is powered by battling, screaming twin guitars that would have done Duane and Dickey (or Derek and Warren) proud.” Relix
“The Slide Brother’s Robert Randolph Presents: The Slide Brothers is a masterwork of a debut album. The sacred steel tradition has been brought into the mainstream after decades of staying in church communities and music lovers of the world owe it to themselves to check out The Slide Brothers.” ****1/2 MuzikReviews
So we go “Into the Night” with “Purple Haze” from Robert Randolph and The Slide Brothers from the “Experience Hendrix” tour.