Sacred Steel

Title: Sacred Steel: Inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition

Author: Robert L. Stone

Format:  Book (hardcover & paperbook editions)

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

ISBN: 978-0-252-07743-2

Release date: August 30, 2010

Folklorist, musician and producer Rob Stone has single-handedly brought the history of the sacred steel tradition to a mainstream audience.  Rooted in the African American Pentecostal “Holiness” tradition, this style of pedal-steel guitar playing has long been a unique feature in both the House of God and Church of the Living God worship services.  The most famous practitioner of the style is Robert Randolph, a New Jersey prodigy who grew up performing in the House of God church before his discovery by the secular community, and his subsequent formation of Robert Randolph & the Family Band.

Over the course of two decades Stone conducted field research and interviews, culminating not only in this book but the 2003 Sacred Steel documentary and several CDs, all released on the Arhoolie label. Anyone interested in gospel music, African American religious traditions, steel guitar music, or the roots and evolution of the sacred steel tradition will be well-served by Stone’s book.  Also useful is Chapter 4, “The Steel Guitar,” which explains the differences between the various instruments (steel, slide, lap-steel, Hawaiian, pedal, etc.), and the discography, bibliography, and videography.  Another fine installment in the University of Illinois Press’ Music in American Life series.