By Orville Johnson
This groove-heavy gospel-blues song is a lil’ bit of heaven and a lil’ bit of hell. “Don’t Let the Devil Ride” is one of many songs that collide at the intersection of gospel and blues history. As musician/pastor Reverend Elijah Ott describes it, “To me there’s two kinds of music. You got one for God, and one for the devil. A lot of people think otherwise, but that’s just the way I feel about it! I always sing to God, ‘cause I always want to be with him.”
There have been many recorded versions of this song and if you remove the lyrics, most of them sound like blues. This traditional gospel-blues has been covered by everyone from Buddy and Julie Miller to Aaron Neville to Neal Roberson, the harmonica-blowing gospel giant.
I’ve rendered the tune in a Mississippi hill-country style, but infused it with soul. This is a style of trance-blues that doesn’t have a lot of chord changes or strict form length and is pretty much all about the groove. Mississippi Fred McDowell played this style and, more recently, R. L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough have embodied the hill-country sound. I’m using open-G tuning intervals, but lowered a step to F. It makes the strings a little more loose and floppy. I’m using just my thumb and index finger to play the whole thing.