Sacred Steel traces its roots to 1930’s church services at the House of God, a small African American denomination where the steel guitar — a staple of Hawaiian and country music — emerged as a more portable alternative to the church organ. By turns mournful and joyous, the instrument energized congregations and fostered a call and response between the chancel and the pews.
As the tradition moved from sanctuary to concert hall, secular audiences have been able to appreciate a performance both devoted and rocking. Pedal steel guitarist Chuck Campbell is one of the finest in this tradition. Rounding out the band, which has been playing together for nearly two decades, is a high-energy rhythm section featuring brother Phil Campbell on electric guitar, his son Carlton on drums, and bassist Daric Bennett. Gutsy gospel vocals by Denise Brown, Tiffany Godette, and Joyce “Cinnamon” Brown bring the ensemble to a level of energy and expression that defies description.
More than fifty years ago, John Coltrane composed and recorded his most spiritual composition, A Love Supreme. Coltrane, whose father was a minister, included a prayer in the liner notes, and phrased his peroration to those words. The Campbell Brothers, whose father is a bishop, grew up in churches. Every Sunday they performed for worship services, where they were admonished to “play the word.”
The brothers approach this major work with a deep connection to the spiritual journey that Coltrane undertook, presenting a compelling, rich variety of material from the African-American Holiness-Pentecostal repertoire with a new twist: the growling, wailing, shouting, singing and swinging voice of the steel guitar.
The Black History Month series is sponsored by Ruthie Oland Real Estate, Davis Financial, and Living in the Light of Rare Diseases, and is co-presented with the David Ruggles Center.