Spiritual Steel with The Slide Brothers at Asheville Music Hall on July 5

From a press release:

Spiritual Steel with The Slide Brothers at Asheville Music Hall on July 5

Robert Randolph Presents:  The Slide Brothers — the greatest living musicians who embody the Sacred Steel tradition, making a rare live appearance at Asheville Music Hall this summer!

Asheville Music Hall
31 Patton Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801
9pm // 21+ // $20adv. / $25d.o.s.
ADVANCE TICKETS:  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/612835

“Godfather’s of the electric church”, “Masters of the Sacred Steel”: These are just a few names which describe Calvin Cooke and Aubrey Ghent – AKA The Slide Brothers. The joyous music these legendary artists create extends far beyond scared steel to encompass blues, rock and soul all celebrated with a sound that is uniquely their own. From the House of God Church to the House of Blues, this iconic group of pedal steel forefathers continue to produce amazing music and inspire players worldwide. Since the release of their highly acclaimed album (Robert Randolph Presents: The Slide Brothers), Cooke and Ghent have been touring nationwide. Along with a stellar live band, the Slide Brothers have been supporting acts such as Buddy Guy, George Thorogood, JJ Grey & Mofro and Robert Randolph & The Family Band.  On Saturday July 5th folks here in Asheville will have the rare privilege of seeing this absolutely incredible show, live at Asheville Music Hall.  Asheville’s own Blood Gypsies, featuring Jackson Dulaney on slide guitar, open the show.

The pedal steel guitar was introduced to church services by Willie Eason in the 1930’s.  His single-string passages, which imitated the African-American singing and shouting voices, remain the signature sound of the Keith Dominion steel guitar style.  The goal of a skilled steel player in church is to use the guitar to mimic voices, to ‘sing’ lines of the hymns and to provide praise music that pushes the congregation closer to feeling the Holy Spirit.  This church-bred style of high energy electrified slide remains today an integral part of the worship service wherever the faithful gather. Despite its role in church services, this dynamic, high energy music had never been heard outside of church. As a new century dawned, rumors of an extraordinary new form of slide guitar began to attract interest among blues fans who long favored the electrified sound of slide guitar masters such as Elmore James and Duane Allman.  Where the music of Muddy Waters or the Allman Brothers showcased traditional six string slide guitar, critics and fans alike were jolted by the an even more potent brand of slide guitar being performed on pedal steel instruments. As the center core of the Sacred Steel movement was its artistic purity.  Ted Beard, Calvin Cooke, Aubrey Ghent and other pedal steel icons within the church had fostered a rich, uniquely American art form unspoiled by commercialism.

Robert Randolph has become the most successful artist to emerge from the Sacred Steel tradition.  Randolph was trained as a pedal steel guitarist in the House of God Church and his dynamic use of the instrument has earned him international acclaim.  Randolph’s mission is to share the extraordinary talents of these legendary masters with audiences throughout the world.  Together with Co-Producer John McDermott, Randolph has readied the group’s debut album for release by Concord Records later this year. Nashville country steel guitarists have dubbed Calvin Cooke the “B.B. King of gospel steel guitar.”   Calvin was born in 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio into a musical family that belonged to the Church of the Living God, Jewell Dominion, which had a strong steel guitar tradition. Calvin first picked up the guitar in 1955 when a member of his extended family bought him a six-string guitar, but his fingers were too small to play it. To achieve the sound he wanted, Calvin used a knife as a slide. In time his mother purchased a steel guitar at a local pawn shop. He continues to use the same instrument on stage today as well as a ten string pedal steel instrument which he plays in a unique tuning that came to him in a vision. By 1958 Cooke had brought the influence of Jewell music, which is characterized by slower tempos and boogie rhythms, to the Keith Dominion.  Bishop Henry Harrison was so impressed by the young steel virtuoso that he took Cooke on the road with him to preach the Gospel.  Harrison was a carpenter and together they helped build churches by day. By night he played and sang while the Bishop preached.  Calvin is hailed today as the most influential living pedal steel guitar master within the Sacred Steel tradition.

Aubrey Ghent, a nephew of Willie Eason, has also become a celebrated steel guitarist, preserving the sacred steel tradition and instrumental in bringing it to a wider audience. Ghent’s father, Henry Nelson, was also schooled by Eason and played sacred steel for over 50 years, sharing the stage with such gospel greats as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson. Ghent is hailed as a master of the lap steel guitar and his skillful technique has earned him worldwide acclaim. Ghent’s unique skills became apparent at the age of nine when local churches began to invite him to perform at services. At twenty he answered God’s call and was known as the ‘Preaching Deacon”, evangelizing through word and music. Unlike Robert Randolph and the Family Band who have crossed over to doing more secular music, Aubrey Ghent has stayed closer to the gospel roots of tradition, as have many of the steel guitarists of the Jewell Dominion. In recent years, Ghent has performed and recorded with several top recording stars including Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks.


About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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