Album: Richie Havens

Grace of the Sun, EVANGELINE

After the collaborations with Groove Armada, which tried to reposition Richie Havens as a kind of cabaret soul-jazz artist in the vein of Terry Callier, Grace of the Sun finds him reverting to his true status as a more unique exponent of folksy soulfulness. Tracks such as "Way Down Deep" and "By the Grace of the Sun" feature the familiar hustle of Havens' hyper-rhythmic acoustic strumming and peppery hand percussion - a gentle fervour that offers his own distinctive adaptation of gospel exhortation. It's a method especially effective on a suitably feverish version of "All along the Watchtower", which adapts so well to his urgent guitar style and smokey baritone that it's hard to believe he didn't cover it years ago. The album maintains Havens' position as a liberation preacher, often returning to his signature theme of "freedom", the rousing chant with which he ignited many a festival gathering. "When" offers a wistful reflection on the erosion of American hopes and liberties and the concluding "Pulling up the Stone" likewise evokes the Sisyphean nature of liberation struggle. Havens' rhythmic guitar bed is embroidered with a range of subtle embellishments which finds its apogee in the instrumental "Dusk", whose guittarone, Turkish violin and bouzouki offer a symbolically global tour of the extended string family.

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