With the recent release of Son of Skip James (Verve Forecast)-a mixture of originals and vintage blues and rock 'n' roll in an informal, acoustic setting-the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and erstwhile Contemporary Christian musician Dion DiMucci picks up where he left off on 2006's Bronx in Blue.
Skeptics afraid that DiMucci's Catholicism might hinder his broader witness or his grasp of the blues will be pleasantly surprised by his relaxed, authoritative interpretations of songs by Robert Johnson, Willie Dixon, Sleepy John Estes, Junior Wells, and, yes, Skip James.
As for his faith, by setting to music "The Thunderer," a 1954 poem by Phyllis McGinley, DiMucci has composed what's surely the first blues song ever about the first-millennium anti-heresy polemicist and Bible translator, St. Jerome. Besides educating evangelicals, who tend to be ignorant of ancient theologians, about the "born reformer, cross and gifted," DiMucci rebukes Catholics, who tend to be ignorant of the Bible, with a couplet of his own: "Can't get through life by just being nice. / Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."
Three Bob Dylan allusions further demonstrate the album's roots. DiMucci's cover of "Baby I'm in the Mood for You" underscores Dylan's debt to Chuck Berry (whose "Nadine" leads off the album), and a reference to the "slow train coming" in the title song connects the music to Dylan's best-known gospel album.
Most significantly, in "Interlude-Spoken Word," DiMucci quotes Pope John Paul II's comments following Dylan's 1997 World Eucharistic Conference performance: "You say the answer is blowing in the wind, my friend. So it is: but it is not the wind that blows things away. It is the breath and life of the Holy Spirit."
Seldom has an album, blues or otherwise, made so much history and theology come alive.