Thursday, February 01, 2007

Got them higher calling blues

This week's track is the traditional spiritual Jesus on the Mainline. I've always felt that Ry Cooder really owns the definitive version of the song, though there are many an artist who've thrown their hat in the ring. It's been down a million different ways, whether it be harrowing blues or uplifting shake 'em down gospel. However it is performed, the lyrics never really change.

The title itself implies an uncomplicated access to spiritual guidance. If it were to be written today I imagine it might refer to an Internet connection, but somehow Jesus on the World Wide Web lacks the same punch. Each verse is a two-line repeating refrain, informing that in sickness, despair, or joy, all you have to do is make the call and tell Him what you want.

As I mentioned above, for me, Ry Cooder has got the definitive version of this. The voice, the guitar; it's all there.

Ry Cooder - Jesus on the Mainline

Don't tell that to Willie Neal Johnson though. The man really lets it swell here. The kind of performance you'd expect in a great Baptist church and dare I say might knock off Ry in due time on that personal fav point.

Willie Neal Johnson - Jesus on the Mainline

The Bill Gaither Vocal band offer a more reserved version here. Gotta love that man with the baritone.

Bill Gaither Vocal Band - Jesus on the Mainline

Mr. Airplane Man is a dirty blues female duo from Cambridge. They had some momentum back around the "The" bands heyday. Too often got hacked as "the female White Stripes." They've fallen off the map since then, personal and commercial, though I've been sitting down with their awesome second LP Moanin' as of late. Worth your time to check what Margaret and Tara are up to these days.

Mr. Airplane Man - Jesus on the Mainline

The last version I'll leave you with is by The Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Very uptempo and swing. Enjoy.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Jesus on the Mainline

Apparently Ben Harper did this song back in on Pleasure and Pain back in 1992. Limited run, vinyl only, 1500 copies. If any of you faithful readers know how I can get my hands on a copy, either this, I'm assuming, hard to find gem, or a vinyl to mp3 rip, I'd love to hear it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Check out Fred McDowell's version.

I'm with you on Mr. Airplane man, especially "Moanin'" -- underappreciated gem.