Reverend John Wilkins: Trouble (Goner) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, October 29th, 2020  

Reverend John Wilkins



Sep 22, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Amongst other nearly forgotten legacies, that of the rural acoustic blues of the ’20s and ’30s is a part of American history that is sadly overlooked. Even though some of these artists were “rediscovered” in the ’60s, names like Furry Lewis, Mississippi John Hurt, Memphis Minnie, Blind Willie McTell, Charley Patton, and Robert Wilkins, would either be a mystery to most or presumed fictional characters. Make no mistake, all were flesh and bone guitar finger pickers of the highest order. Wilkins’ characteristic percussive style of playing influenced his contemporaries and caught the ear of The Rolling Stones who copped his song “Prodigal Son” as their own. Though he first recorded in the ’20s, Wilkins lived until 1987. Fortunately for us, these legends’ recorded legacies are still readily available and in Wilkins’ case his son, Reverend John Wilkins, carries on in the family blues and gospel tradition. 

Unlike his father, on Trouble, Wilkins primarily focuses on playing electric blues with his ace in the hole being his trio of daughters (Tangela Longstreet, Joyce Jones, Tawana Cunningham) supplying skilled back-up singing and in some cases lead vocals. The album starts with its title track, a stinging workout that focuses on worldly concerns and throws a little shade the White House’s way in the process. The course of the album benefits from its variety of approaches.  The Hammond B3 washes of “You Can’t Hurry God” will raise the hair of believers and non-believers alike, while also showcasing Wilkins’ strongest vocals. The standard “Wade in the Water” provides an ominous call and response cadence. And “Walk With Me” is the closest example of the acoustic blues of his father married with cavernous vocals more in line with Blind Willie Johnson. 

In addition to his musical pursuits, Wilkins also serves as pastor of Hunter’s Chapel Baptist Church in Como, Mississippi. Having his daughters on hand helps to capture the glorified air of a down home service. Wilkins even takes a breather (at least vocally) mid album to let his children have their moment to shine. A cover of Ralph Stanley’s “Darkest Hour” makes for the highlight of this passage.       

Recorded at Memphis’ Royal Studios, where Wilkins performed session work in his earlier days, Trouble doesn’t rest on its laurels as a legacy piece. It’s a living, breathing slice of gritty gospel blues at the hands of a man that has seen plenty in his life. Surrounded by family, Wilkins stands as testament to a life spent in music and faith. The album spans the fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace to the roof raising celebration of the closing “Storm and Rain.” Wilkins fought an extended bout with COVID-19 earlier this year and lived to tell the tale. He performs as a man whose past and future are assured, while also reveling in the unguaranteed moment of the day at hand. (

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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