Tom Jones turned 70 years old in June and he’s still making great, memorable, music.  Tom’s latest album — “Praise & Blame” — is an incredibly stunning Gospel Blues tribute to those who founded that American mainstream stable long before him and who then later mainly foundered in anonymity after him.

Tom Jones’ voice is rough and bare as he covers the classics.  The instruments around him provide solid, yet sparse, support.

You might be surprised to hear the former 1970’s sex icon singing about God and redemption and faith — but he does — and Jones make you feel the pain of human longing in his bones…

Repent!, Sayeth, the Lord!

…and Tom stumbles to his knees and prays for our salvation in song.

My favorite cuts on the album are gritty and rasping:  “Did Trouble Me” and “Don’t Knock” as well as the rousing “Run On.”

When Tom sings “Burning Hell” — an original John Lee Hooker song — he brings the house down in ashes with the revelation that there might not be a God watching after us from above after all.

Here is the original John Lee Hooker version of “Burning Hell” —

This is Tom’s wicked rendering of that song:

“Didn’t it Rain” is another star song on the album.  Here is the historic and definitive version by Sister Rosetta Tharpe:

This is Tom’s telling, jaunty, and admirable, cover:

Tom Jones is burning down the Gospel Blues in “Praise & Blame” and I have great admiration for a man who not only confesses his musical roots — but who continues to honor that essence in performance and in recorded song by preserving who we are and where we came from for all of eternity.

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