Robert L. Stone, "Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus! Photographs from the Sacred Steel Community" (U of Mississippi Press, 2020)

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Folklorist Robert L. Stone presents a rare collection of high-quality documentary photos of the sacred steel guitar musical tradition and the community that supports it. The introductory text and extended photo captions in Can’t Nobody Do Me Like Jesus! Photographs from the Sacred Steel Community (University of Mississippi Press, 2020) offer the reader an intimate view of this unique tradition of passionately played music that is beloved among fans of American roots music and admired by folklorists, ethnomusicologists, and other scholars.

In 1992, a friend in Hollywood, Florida, introduced Stone to African American musicians who played the electric steel guitar in the African American Holiness-Pentecostal churches House of God and Church of the Living God. With the passion, skill, and unique voice they brought to the instruments, these musicians profoundly impressed Stone. He produced an album for the Florida Folklife Program, which Arhoolie Records licensed and released worldwide. It created a roots music sensation.

In 1996, Stone began to document the tradition beyond Florida. He took the photos in this book from 1992 to 2008 in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida, and at concerts in Italy. The images capture musicians as they play for worship services before spirit-filled believers singing, dancing, shouting, praying, and testifying. Stone gives the viewer much to witness, always presenting his passionate subjects with dignity. His sensitive portrayal of this community attests to the ongoing importance of musical traditions in African American life and worship.

Rebekah Buchanan is an Associate Professor of English and Director of English Education at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on feminism, activism, and literacy practices in youth culture, specifically through zines and music.

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