Spiritual music can mean anything from Bach to Amy Grant depending on who you ask. But although some of us can listen to it all week, all of it serves as accompaniment to that Sunday morning mood when one counts one’s blessings, remembers those who have departed and prepares to face the coming week.
Chase The Devil is an austere outing for that reason, and because it’s a voice-and-guitar duo. Gary Lucas and Dean Bowman do their best to cover varied ground within those boundaries. Many of the songs come from African-American sources, but they also delve into Jewish music (“Hinay Ma Tov”), British music (“Jerusalem,” previously known to this listener primarily through the efforts of Monty Python and Emerson, Lake and Palmer) and the Episcopalian “In Christ There Is No East Or West.”
Lucas delivers much of the rugged slide guitar one would expect from a guitarist who put in time with Captain Beefheart. As well, the CD offers bravura fingerpicking in “Out On the Rolling Sea,” a brief soundscaping excursion in “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground” and a few leads straight out of 1969. Although not the most distinctive voice, Bowman can get soulful without going over the top, as well as dialing it down for the pieces that call for emotional restraint. The duo’s roots excursions are educational for rockers – “This May Be the Last Time” is the Staple Singers song adopted by the Rolling Stones, and the pair touches on the catalogs of Rev. Gary Davis and Joseph Spence, which the Dead and others of their era also raided.
This is Sunday morning music, but it has its uses in the rest of the week for those seeking barbed guitar, earnest vocals and a wide-ranging trip through musical traditions.