The late, great gospel blues singer-guitarist Reverend John Wilkins’ last album, TROUBLE, is out tomorrow on blue and black vinyl via Goner Records.
TROUBLE was recorded at the world famous Royal Studios in Memphis, TN with Grammy-nominated producer Amos Harvey and eminent engineer Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell (Solomon Burke, Al Green, Cody Chesnutt). Rev. Wilkins – who grew up just a few blocks away from the iconic studio – was backed by a stellar lineup of Memphis session giants including guitarist Kevin Cubbins (Beale Street Caravan), keyboardist Rev. Charles Hodges (Al Green, Ann Peebles, North Mississippi Allstars), bassist Jimmy Kinnard (Issac Hayes, Al Green), drummer Steve Potts (Greg Allman, Tony Joe White, Neil Young, Cat Power). In addition, the album has harmonies and call-and-response backing vocals from Wilkins’ three beloved daughters, Tangela Longstreet, Joyce Jones, and Tawana Cunningham.
Sadly, the Reverend passed away Oct 6, 2020 (four days before his 77th birthday) from the after-effects of his battle with COVID-19 but his love and spirit lives on in his music for us all.
To celebrate the release of TROUBLE earlier this year, Wilkins made a video for “You Can’t Hurry God.” The album was announced over the summer with the release of its juke stomp title track, and the spellbinding spiritual “Walk With Me,” which received its premiere from Relix.
Though born in Memphis, the Reverend John Wilkins was a legendary figure in the North Mississippi Hill Country, preaching for the last three decades at Hunters Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Como, MS. Wilkins grew up surrounded by country, gospel, and blues, inspired by his community and by his father, legendary gospel blues singer-turned-preacher Robert Wilkins, known for such milestone records as “That’s No Way To Get Along” (later renamed “Prodigal Son” and famously covered by The Rolling Stones on 1968’s BEGGARS BANQUET). Following in his father’s footsteps, Wilkins walked the line between the sacred and the secular, playing guitar with the M&N Gospel Singers for 20 years while also sitting in on such landmark Memphis recordings as O.V. Wright’s 1965 classic, “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry.”
In 1985, Wilkins followed his father’s call to ministry by becoming resident pastor at Hunter’s Chapel in Como, MS, leading a congregation that has included generations of North Mississippi musicians, from Othar Turner and Napolian Strickland to the Hill Country’s own Mississippi Fred McDowell. Having devoted much of his life to the church, Wilkins finally made his long-awaited solo debut in 2015 with the acclaimed YOU CAN’T HURRY GOD, showcasing his fingerpicking, rural blues style and remarkable vocal power.
With TROUBLE, Wilkins crafted an even more potent collection, infused with a lifetime of knowledge and experience garnered in the birthplace of Black music in America. Stirring tracks like “Wade In The Water,” “The Darkest Hour” (originally performed by Ralph Stanley), and Bill Withers’ “Grandma’s Hands” see him fusing blues and gospel to create a distinctly individual music marked by both a deep regional connection and sense of universal humanity, a luminous and uplifting approach that feels all the more necessary in our currently chaotic world.