Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Historical Sound and Vision

Posted By on 12.15.09 at 01:18 PM

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Best Historical Album is a Grammy category that never attracts much attention, but the nominees are usually excellent. This year is no exception: Among them are the Little Walter Chess recordings and a Sophie Tucker collection from the folks at Champaign-Urbana’s great Archeophone label. The excellent Dust-to-Digital label is a regular presence among the nominees, and this year it’s up for a fascinating package called Take Me to the Water: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890-1950.

The 8.75" x 6" hardbound book includes a gorgeous collection of rare photos of riverside baptisms by both white and black congregations, taken from the collection of Jim Linderman; there’s also a terrific essay by Luc Sante. Accompanying the images is a wonderful CD featuring black gospel, blues, and old-timey country songs that touch on baptism—including tracks by ubiquitous preacher Reverend J.M. Gates, quirky gospel singer Washington Phillips (who also played a fretless zither he built himself and called a Dolceola), the Carter Family, and J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers. I don’t really think that baptism songs comprise a truly important genre, but the practice itself is obviously a huge part of religious life, and immersion baptism is still practiced today in the U.S. So while this may seem like a rather esoteric subject for a Grammy bid, that doesn’t make the music (or the photos) any less compelling. Below are a couple images from the book.

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Today’s playlist:

Jeremy Udden, Plainville (Fresh Sound New Talent)
Werner Dafeldecker, Long Dead Machines I-IX (Presto)
Anahita, Matricaria (Important)
Coralie Clément, Toystore (Compass)
Jonas Kullhammar, Kresten Osgood, and Ole Morten Vågan, Andratx Live (Moserobie)

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