Sister Rosetta Tharpe – Gospel Train (1956)

FrontCover1“Gospel Train” consists of sessions cut relatively late in Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s career. Though Tharpe’s tenure at Mercury coincided with a controversy among her fan base (many considered Tharpe’s forays into blues and pop material a betrayal of her gospel roots), recordings like 1956’s “Gospel Train” confirm where the singer/guitarist’s true allegiances lay. Whether recounting biblical stories (“Two Little Fishes, Five Loaves of Bread”) or testifying to the power of the spirit (“Up Above My Head There’s Music in the Air”), Tharpe’s combination of traditional gospel and blues (with, by this point, dashes of jazz and R&B influences) is impossible to resist. Though Tharpe is usually remembered as a solo performer (her early recordings feature only her voice and guitar), she is equally compelling when backed by a full band. The sound on “Gospel Train” is full and rollicking: guitar, piano, organ, bass, and drums help punctuate surging, downtempo blues (“Beams of Heaven”) and uptempo rave-ups (“Fly Away”) alike. Gorgeous, tight-knit backing vocals from the Harmonizing Four perfectly complement Tharpe’s dazzling, infectiously enthusiastic singing. Overall, this set is among her best late-period offerings.


Harry “Doc” Bagby (organ)
George Duvivier (bass)
Panama Francis (drums)
Ernie Hayes (piano)
Ernest Richardson (guitar)
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (vocals, guitar)
Lloyd Trotman (bass)
The Harmonizing Four (background vocals)
01. Jericho (Traditional) 2.06
02. When They Ring The Golden Bell (Tharpe) 2.32
03. Two Little Fishes, Five Loaves Of Bread (Hanighen) 2.36
04. Beams Of Heaven (Tharpe) 3.29
05. Cain’t No Grave Hold My Body Down (Tharpe) 2.44
06. All Alone (Tharpe) 2.40
07. Up Above My Head There’s Music In The Air (Tharpe) 2.32
08. I Shall Know Him (Tharpe) 2.31
09. Fly Away (Tharpe) 2.28
10. How About You (Tharpe) 3.39
11. Precious Memories (Tharpe) 2.42
12. 99 1/2 Won’t Do (Traditional) 1.57