|I shot this picture at Scott H. Biram's 2011 performance at Corazon in Santa Fe.|
One of the real delights from Scott H. Biram's latest album, The Bad Testament, is Track 10, a crazy little gospel tune he calls "True Religion."
It's a song the dirty old one-man band from Austin, Texas been playing for years, sometimes as an a Capella medley with an old prison song "Go Down Old Hannah."
The new studio version starts with some fuzzy, slightly distorted recording of what sounds like some religious broadcast ("If the Holy Family cannot come in with the child Jesus and watch it with me, I don't watch it ...") Biram starts with the actual song.
"Oh you must have that true religion, hallelu, hallelu ... true religion and a soal converted ..."
It's catchy and infectious. Check it out on Spotify below:
But, as you probably guessed by now, Biram wasn't the first to find "True Religion." Lots of people have sung it, and no two takes are alike.
Below is a live version by another contemporary Austin musician, Shineyribs (aka Kev Russell.)
Back in 2005, Mavis Staples recorded her version for a 2005 various-artists project produced by Joe Henry.
And back in 1972, Hot Tuna -- Jefferson Airplane brothers Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady -- did a slop blues-rock version on their album Burgers featuring Papa John Creach on fiddle.
Kaukonen is listed as the songwriter in the Burgers credits. But it sounds amazing like this old Leadbelly song -- the earliest version I could find. (I'm pretty sure it's from the early '40s.)
Despite the title, I' not sure the following songs are directly related to the previous songs. There are several version of gospel choirs doing "You Must Have That True Religion." The best I heard was by Atlanta's Chorale New Creation, performed in 2008.
Finally here's a fott-stompin' version by the St. John Church of God in Christ Choir of Los Angeles. It doesn't sound much Scott H. Biram or Hot Tuna or Lead Belly. But it still sounds good to me