Sacred Steel

Paul Harvey

A while back I blogged a bit about this unusual text: Robert Stone, Sacred Steel: Inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition. The author also has produced a documentary video for the Arhoolie Foundation, Sacred Steel, which I hope to track down soon. Some wonderful examples of this tradition can be heard also on the 3 CD set Fire in My Bones: Raw + Rare + Otherworldly African American Gospel, 1944-2007 (the link takes you to my former post on that CD set). Here's a short review from Choice on the Sacred Steel book, which I hope will interest some of you:

Stone, Robert L. Sacred steel: inside an African American steel guitar tradition. Illinois, 2010. 280p bibl discography index videography afp; ISBN 9780252035548, $80.00; ISBN9780252077432 pbk, $25.00. Reviewed in 2011feb CHOICE.
In a consideration of African American music, one might not readily encounter the names of Chuck Campbell, Calvin Cooke, Little Willie Eason, Lorenzo Harrison, Glenn Renard Lee, Henry Randolph Nelson, or Robert Randolph. All these musicians were affiliated with music of the indigenous black American Holiness Pentecostal churches, music in which the steel ("Hawaiian") guitar plays an important role. Arcane though this information might seem, Stone (an independent folklorist) shows its importance both in its own right and in its relation to other musical and spiritual aspects of African American culture. This is a tale of personal discovery, a path that started in Florida two decades ago but broadened to California, Canada, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Bahamas as Stone investigated the liturgy and practices of the denomination and specific congregations. The photographs, videography, extensive bibliography, lengthy discography, and register of more 100 interview sessions reveal the implications of this music for those interested in African American culture (musical and religious) and folk and popular music traditions.Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. -- D.-R. de Lerma, Lawrence University


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