Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Charles Bevel: Meet "Mississippi Charles" Bevel [A&M, 1973]
Black, thirty-four, the fourteenth of seventeen children, this upwardly mobile former civil-rights worker and self-taught musician (he never sang in church) has the surprising, unfakable attractiveness of the gifted semipro--he writes and sings as if he still revels in the rewards of getting it just . . . right. His songs are about black courage, hypocrisy, and ambivalence in a world shaped but not defined by racism; many of them ring like the proverbs and fables that provide him with crucial bits of language. The melodies are as sensible and eloquent as the lyrics, and Calvin Carter's production respects and augments Bevel's relaxed folk-soul voice. ""Black Santa Claus" is a bathetic mistake; just about everything else gets better and better. A-