Marie Knight used to sing with Sister Rosetta Tharpe during 20 years (the soprano and lead guitarist was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and the alto was Marie Knight). The Reverend Gary Davis, Marie Knight and Sister Rosetta Tharpe had all played gospel music in New York City in the '40s and '50s, but they moved in completely different circles. While Knight and Tharpe were having hits on the R&B charts, Davis was singing on Harlem street corners for tips. Fifty-five years later, the 78-year-old Marie Knight is still in terrific voice and has just recorded an album of songs by the Reverend Gary Davis. To make Davis's songs come to life, it was necessary to find a musician who could handle the intricate harmonies and push-and-pull syncopation of Davis's guitar picking. Larry Campbell, known for playing lead guitar - as well as fiddle, steel guitar, mandolin and banjo - in Bob Dylan's band from 1997 through 2004, was the man!
Marie Knight says "I listened carefully to the Rev. Gary Davis material, and some of the songs were very touching, but I wanted to do it my own way. I liked the songs but I had to do the arrangements the way they felt right to me. I didn't have to change the lyrics, but sometimes I changed the melody." Campbell took a very similar approach. "I knew the songs note for note," he says, "even the mistakes. But what's the point of doing a Rev. Gary Davis imitation?"