Blues and sacred music are joined at the hip. Most blues musicians grow up in the church where as children they learn to sing hymns and spirituals. One blues musician told me that if a singer wants to cross over from sacred music to the blues, he simply replaces “my God” with “my baby” and continues singing the same song. Our journey through blues roots begins with the stories and hymns of Mary Gordon and her minister in the Rose Hill community, Reverend Isaac Thomas.
We then visit musicians who perform with instruments that shaped the blues. The sounds of the one-strand-on-the-wall, fife and drum, piano, fiddle, and banjo; gospel songs; and prison work chants all echo the blues in special ways. Together, the voices in this section make up a chorus that describes the roots of the blues in rural Mississippi. Both the music and the lives of these speakers help us understand the complex, rich story of blues roots.