Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks often of his religion—but he tailors it to fit his politics, and it focuses on works over faith
Sanctified Soldiers for the Transfiguration of Light
Roy Ruiz Clayton
In the nine years since Clayton last undertook an album, his gritty street-folk has gotten loud, loose, and tough enough to qualify for a place on the rock ’n’ roll spectrum. G. Love, Michael Franti, Rickie Lee Jones, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and the Ben Harper alumnus Jason Yates are among the ruckus raisers, but what sets the songs ablaze is Clayton’s streetwise sneer and his use of it to proclaim his allegiance, directly and indirectly, to “the army of Christ the King.” Onward, Christian soldier!
Who ever thought that what’s surely a “Best Roots Gospel” Grammy contender would bear the Gaither Music Group imprint or that it would arrive via the woman best known for “I Will Survive”? (No, she doesn’t append another version.) With Chris Stevens doing Willie Mitchell impressions on the production end and Gaynor not upstaged by her demographics-plugging co-vocalists, the songs feel unified no matter how attenuated their connections may at first appear. The visionary payoff: Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord” juxtaposed with Bob Dylan’s “Man of Peace.”
Tired of waiting for a good punchline to the joke that begins, “Old punks never die”? This music’s serrated edges and defiant aesthetics will make the time fly. Individual songs, meanwhile, push punk’s founding date considerably further into the past—beyond Iggy Pop (“Weimar Vending Machine”), past William Blake (“Into the Sun”), all the way back to the Child Ballads (“How Many Stars?”). Then there’s the “Ozymandias” adaptation “In the Desert.” In doubling as a requiem for the New World Order, it brings punk into the present.
This New York saxophonist’s debut breaks down rather tidily along jazz, R&B, and gospel lines. What kind of jazz? The kind that finds Pettay and her standard-format trio getting away with an original seven-minute Wayne Shorter tribute and a John Coltrane cover. What kind of R&B? The kind that lights up the Stylistics’ greatest hit from the inside. And what kind of gospel? The kind that comes close to doing the same for three well-known 19th-century hymns and “I Exalt Thee.”
Lyrics aren’t often the best reason for loving a contemporary black-gospel album. But those that Kirk Franklin has crafted for his latest offering, Long Live Love (Fo Yo Soul/RCA), practically steal the show. Entrusted almost exclusively to the sort of predominantly female chorale ordinarily consigned to the background, they come off so passionately disinterested that they neither depend on one’s familiarity with Franklin (who chimes in with spontaneous exhortations and asides throughout) nor detract from the adult-contemporary melodies and old-school-echoing R&B to which they’re set.
Choosing the most-quotable lines on a record full of quotable ones isn’t easy. But the following must surely be in the running: “I’m the reason why God made grace” (“Forever/Beautiful Grace”), “Loving You will be, / will be the death of me—it sounds crazy, don’t it?” (“Love Theory”); and “Now you must choose what I am to you, / God of all or not God at all” (“Idols”). —A.O.