Since the 1930s two small African-American Pentecostal sects, the Keith Dominion and Jewel Dominion churches, have conducted their services to the sounds of the steel guitar. Only recently has their unique musical tradition, known as sacred steel, come to the attention of the wider world, thanks in large part to Robert Randolph, the 26-year-old pedal-steel virtuoso who's been cleaning up on the jam-band circuit with a secularized strain of the church music he grew up with in Orange, New Jersey. This weekend two seasoned acts bring a purer version of the sacred steel sound to Chicago. The Campbell Brothers are a family band from Rochester, New York, led by pedalist Chuck Campbell and lap player Darick Campbell. When playing in church the band takes an active part in the service, the eerie sustain and malleable pitch of their instruments providing punctuation to the sermon and blending with the voices of the congregation during spontaneous eruptions of song. In secular circumstances they stick to a more conventional performance style, playing gospel songs spiked with charged, economical solos while Baltimore singer Katie Jackson belts out praise to the Lord. But as evidenced by their 1999 show here, the Campbells have no difficulty generating the heat of a revival meeting in a secular setting. Prior to playing their own set the Campbells will back Calvin Cooke, Chuck Campbell's mentor and a pedal master in his own right. Cooke's wife, Grace, will sing. Saturday, March 27, 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.