"The Devil Ain't Got No Music"
Aria B.G. Records
These days, it's only a matter of time before every rock, folk and blues musician pays tribute to (or discovers) his gospel roots. Singer/guitarist Lurrie Bell, a longtime staple on the Chicago blues scene, and son of harmonica player Carey Bell, takes his turn with a fine acoustic set of standards -- and more.
This disc is a stripped-down affair that relies on Bell's just-rough-enough voice and guitar. He is joined on a number of tunes by guitar, courtesy of Joe Louis Walker, as well as upright bass and percussion.
He begins with a foot-stomping, rolling version of "Swing Low," and he treats the traditional "It's a Blessing" as a field holler, covers one of Muddy Waters' few gospel tunes, "Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You," and Thomas Dorsey's "Peace in the Valley," as well as Tom Waits oft-covered "Way Down in the Hole" (with just vocals and percussion) and James Taylor's "Lo and Behold" (which stands up against the classics).
Bell gives "Trouble in My Way" an easygoing call-and-response gospel-soul feel but it's Dorsey's classic "Search Me Lord" that perhaps best showcases everything he's got to offer, including subtle but self-assured acoustic chops by a sympathetic band based around an acoustic guitar and his voice. Bell wraps up the set with an improvised take on the Rev. Gary Davis' "Death Don't Have No Mercy."