Ecstatic Praise: the Sound of Sacred Steel

I Feel Like Pressing My Way, Ricky Fowler and Robert Randolph on Arhoolie Records’ Train Don’t Leave Me 

 

They say that confession is good for the soul, so I have a confession: I love the sound of slide guitar.  It’s pretty serious.  Son House, Elmore James, the Allman Brothers–they all thrill me. When I first heard Robert Randolph play and began to learn about Sacred Steel, it was a gift from heaven. Really? God and that sinuous sound? In church? Oh, just take me there.

The Sacred Steel tradition comes out of the House of God, Keith Dominion church, and the Church of the Living God (Jewell Dominion). It’s praise music, it’s loud, and you don’t just sit still and listen.  Like all the best church music, it’s about giving God your whole being. And like liturgy, it’s a way to reenact the drama of the Christian story in worship and experience God’s presence.

Robert Stone has written about the development of sacred steel and directed a documentary film, produced by Arhoolie and the Documentary Arts foundation. You can view the trailer here.

Fighting the urge to go on at length, I will only give you two recordings of Sacred Steel (today), both of which I came to through Robert Randolph–an amazing pedal steel guitarist who’s played with Eric Clapton, Dave Matthews, Santana, and many others.  Randolph brought together a group of House of God musicians for the recently released Slide Brothers. I’ve never heard anyone play “Wade in the Water” like they do. Think: Deep Purple fronted by Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix.

Hope you enjoy!

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