My interest perked with Ben Ratliff's marvelous primer on The Reverend Johnny L. "Hurricane" Jones in the New York Times.
“Most preachers,” the Rev. Johnny L. Jones explained in a recent interview, “get their power going up,” or working to a climax during preaching or singing. “I moan at the end. Most of my power is given by coming down, after I’ve gone up.” Now 74, Mr. Jones — also known as Hurricane — is a Bobby Bland-type singer, with a great gargly voice and a concentrated wariness that doesn’t break, even as he screams. For 53 years of Sunday mornings at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Atlanta he has been singing, preaching and recording it all. Some of those recordings came out long ago as LPs on the gospel label Jewel; the rest he’s been playing on the air during his Saturday morning radio programs (currently twice a month and streamable on WYZE-AM) or keeping at home. Dust-to-Digital, the Atlanta-based archival label, has just released a two-disc culling of the tapes as “The Hurricane That Hit Atlanta,” and they display Mr. Jones as an amazing singer, full of inspired power, delay tactics and shrewd reassurances. (His rhythm sections were casually killer too, playing blues, gospel and R&B grooves stripped to the bone.) Some of these tapes are woolly, with errant screams from the congregation, feedback from the church amplifiers and rough edits, but the album — which includes a few excerpts from sermons and radio bits — stays electrifying from start to finish. Two hours isn’t enough.
And sure enough, from the little bits I can find online, it's true. The energy and collective nature of Jones' slapdash performances below are warm, electric and welcoming. I can only imagine what the full-on church sessions sound like. Gotta get a copy of the new Dust to Digital release. Really though, I'd like to see Jones leading the congregation. He's still playing, every Sunday.
First, a mini-documentary from Dust to Digital:
Finally, I'm not sure who the singer in the middle section of this video is—a deacon, I think—but man, he delivers some raw, raw feeling: