Friday, 7 October 2016

Denomination Blues


Between 1927 and 1929 Washington Phillips recorded the mere 18 songs that comprise his entire body of work - six of those were the first and second parts of three long songs, four were unreleased at the time and two are lost altogether. 'Denomination Blues' originally stretched to over five minutes in length, so was divided into two separate recordings issued across either side of a 78rpm single in 1928 and is, amongst other things, a plea for tolerance and respect across religious divides. 'Well denominations have no right to fight, they ought to just treat each other right, that's all.' Nearly 90 years on, the more things change the more they stay the same.

I first heard 'Denomination Blues' in the late 1980's, via Andy Kershaw's Radio 1 show, though it took me a few years to track down 'I Am Born to Preach the Gospel', a compilation of Phillips' recordings, released on the Yazoo label. A more recent Yazoo collection, 'The Key To The Kingdom', is the one to go for these days.

'Denomination Blues Part 1' - Washington Phillips 

'Denomination Blues Part 2' - Washington Phillips 

The song has been covered many times over the years, most notably in 1972 by Ry Cooder on 'Into the Purple Valley'. Sister Rosetta Tharpe used significant elements of 'Denomination Blues' in the two versions of 'That's All' she cut in 1938 and 1941. Here's a fantastic live performance of it from the 1940's.

9 comments:

Marie's Rogue I-Pod said...

What??? Washington Phillips? 1920s? I'm in shock, Mr. S - how great to hear this stuff on your blog. I first heard Phillips on Paul Oliver's wonderful 2-LP compilation, "Songsters to Saints," which accompanied his book of the same title.

You tracked down a terrific early video of Sister Rosetta - an amazing entertainer and not a bad guitarist, either! ;-)

The Swede said...

Hi Marie - great to hear from you. Why so shocked? I've been looking for a good excuse to post these beauties for a couple of years and then earlier today I thought - what the heck, just post 'em! Perhaps I should share other, less obvious, areas of my music tastes more often.

Marie's Rogue I-Pod said...

I'd love to hear more from your wide-ranging musical interests, Mr. S! (By the way, I've moved to a new location, if you're still interested. (You can access from my profile.)

The Swede said...

You bet I'm interested! I've added you to my sidebar.

Brian said...

Guessing I would never have the privilege of hearing this song if you had not pulled it out. Thank you. And I'm curious about your heavy rotation pick too. Did I miss some Hitchcock? Going there for a listen right now.

The Swede said...

You're welcome Brian. I focus on new stuff so much that it's sometimes to the detriment of old favourites. I must rectify that. Robyn and Emma's single is lovely.

Frank Jive said...

Nice to see and hear Washington Phillips make an appearance on the Unthought of, though, somehow Show. (I recently posted a modern country revival of "Denomination Blues" by Rodney Crowell on mine.)

For years "I Had A Good Father And Mother" and "Denomination Blues" were the only Washington Phillips on reissue LPs; nice there's now the Yazoo collection and soon, a book and CD, I believe, on Dust to Digital. . . .

Frank Jive said...

Hey, Swede, you might want to check this NYer piece out if you haven't already seen it:

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/some-of-us-are-haunted-by-washington-phillips

The Swede said...

Thanks for that Frank!

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