About the Artist
The word behind the word. The "gospel record." that's how it was known for about two years back when it was just an idea. And with the fellas that were dreaming this dream, namely John and Luther, lots of great ideas come and go without ever making it out of the moment due to the constraints of time and reality. But the gospel record was blessed from its inception. From the day it was born in the back of a tour bus sometime in '98 the idea had the benefit of divine intervention lurking from all corners. It was meant to be. And when the final sign was sent and received some three years later, the gospel record became a reality. After a long search for the proper name (big up to big Chris) we are all very grateful for having the opportunity to present the word to you.
The word behind the word? Great minds think alike, like minds think great. And after spending some time together on the road John and Luther (with obvious nods of approval and enthusiasm from Chris and Cody) started sharing musical influences and dreams. The first sign came upon the discovery that both camps had sacred steel (an obscure release on the Arhoolie label that paid homage to the venerable house of god church's bluesy style of gospel music played on the steel guitar) in heavy rotation. Lightning struck when the idea for an instrumental gospel record crossed their telepathic radar screens. This had to happen. So when the tour ended, the two remained pen pals, studying their history and sharing their musical research.
Somewhere in this pursuit of gospel, Chris chew (himself a musician born in the church) turned Luther onto a second Arhoolie recording, entitled sacred steel live. Track six of this record was an old spiritual entitled "without god" played by a young newcomer named Robert Randolph. Three notes into hearing this tune for the first time, lightning struck again and Luther would never hear his instrument the same way.
Time passed and the centuries changed. While john and Luther were busy leading bands of their own, news of the "gospel idea" began to spread slowly. At the urging of Ropeadope (and the gracious cooperation of the many managers, record labels and various other personalities involved), plans were set to experiment with some recordings. The concept? Turn MMW’s Shacklyn Studios into a church for one week. Luther would bring his brothers Cody and Chris, and John would bring long-time collaborator Scotty Hard to man the boards. Everyone would bring a bag (of ideas), the tapes would roll freely, and the rest would be improvised. More time passed.
Two weeks before recording was set to begin, the all-stars were scheduled to play the Bowery Ballroom. By this time, Luther’s obsession with Robert Randolph was reaching a fevered pitch - and he still had only heard that one song! Light shined on this collective path (again) when sometime in late summer Eric "Roscoe" Amble gets a knock on his studio door from a young pedal steel player named Robert Randolph wanting to record some demos. Roscoe hears this kid who is 22 and living in North Jersey and is simply blown away. He decides to get it down on tape and makes sure to have copies on hand when he hits the road playing guitar for Steve Earle a few weeks later. Coincidentally, while Roscoe gives Robert’s demo to Luther (his old friend) as they cross paths on the road, a demo ends up with the folks that book the bowery Ballroom. With Luther completely unaware until Robert shows up, the bowery has fatefully arranged for Robert to warm up for the all-stars that very night.
And with John, Luther, Chris and Cody perched 10 feet away, Mr. Robert Randolph and his cousins, the "family band," got up on that stage (their first time ever outside of church) and proceeded to burn the house down. A star was born. The experience was something undeniably special and every person in the room, including the gospel crew, who promptly rushed Robert as he left the stage, shared it. "Maybe you could sit in with us on this record we're working on?" lightning had struck for a third time.
So it was October. Indian summer in the city. The center of the universe was living up to its name as the Mets and Yankees took us all back on a trip through time. The subway series kept all eyes away from Brooklyn. Luther, Cody and Chris flew in from Mississippi and settled into the charming holiday inn Chinatown where Cody quickly found a Halloween costume (a Chinese dragon outfit). John just got back from a long tour and was settling back into his east village digs. Robert was working his day gig as a law clerk so most of the recordings would have to be done at night.
The gospel began with two days of "rehearsals" - John, Luther, Cody, and Chris doing some musical brainstorming, playing around with different traditional hymns and basically just getting a feel for the general direction. On day three Robert showed up with his guitar and it quickly became obvious that this was going to be more than a concept record - the five guys instantly became a band.
It only took three days to finish the raw tracks. John and Luther remained long after the last notes were recorded. Both were unable to sleep and both were blown away by the music that they had helped create. The tapes were duplicated and everyone went home with a souvenir. Plans were quickly made for this band to reunite for live shows. In the months that ensued, songs were edited, sequenced and mixed by John and Scotty with long distance input from Luther and Cody. A few weeks before the record was set to go to press, big Chris chew finally named the band, the record, the gospel: the word. As Chris was known to say, "Can't wait to get to church and get me some of that word!" and that's how this story ends ... and begins".