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Review by Brad Green:
The best version I’ve ever heard of the gospel standard Walk In Jerusalem was performed last week by a little-known artist named Ruby. Ruby is the 4-year-old niece of a dear friend of mine, and I was fortunate enough to have a front-row seat, as the young diva let forth from the backseat of the car in which we were driving. 

Second only to Ruby’s rendition is that of Mahalia Jackson. It is no hyperbole to suggest that Jackson in full voice is the touchstone by which all gospel can be measured. She sings from the heart, and from the soul, and with a musical virtuosity that only serves to flame rather than dampen the passion of spiritual song. 

Jackson isn’t lonely when it comes to expressive zeniths on this album. Produced by T. Bone Burnett – who achieved the impossible last year by netting a Grammy with the raw and wonderful O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack – there is hardly a moment on this CD not worth treasuring. 

Again Burnett has assembled a compilation that rejoices in musical styles that are not so much old as timeless. There are new recordings of vintage blues and jazz, ranging from Macy Gray doing a sweetly rasped take on Billie Holiday, to Taj Mahal working his slickly gravelled tones around Fats Waller’s Keepin’ Out Of Mischief Now; and older recordings that remain as fresh as the day they were performed, most notably Jackson’s track and Ray Charles’ Lonely Avenue. 

A triple treat of uncorrupted Cajun from Ann Savoy; an acoustic offering from Lauryn Hill, whose intimate inflexions pierce even more poignantly when stripped of the usual hip-hop caparisons; and a winningly rough-edged waltz from Bob Dylan are only a selection of the joys to be found on this 19 track-strong celebration of songs from the soul. 

Burnett has done it again; and shared his divine secret: that something beautiful will always grow when new light is shed upon artists who have been true to their roots.

Published September 12, 2002

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TITLE: Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood
ID: 5089592000
ARTISTS: Blind Uncle Gaspard; Vincent & Mr. Green; Jimmy Reed; Ann Savoy; Macy Gray; Taj Mahal; Richard & Linda Thompson; Lauryn Hill; Slim Harpo; Ray Charles; Alison Krauss; Mahalia Jackson; Tony Bennett; Bob Dylan; Bob Schneider

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