Reverend John Wilkins passed away on Tuesday, October 7 at the age of 76 after recently having been afflicted with COVID-19. Wilkins was born in Memphis, Tennessee and was the son of the great country blues guitarist, Robert Wilkins, who penned the enduring classic, “Prodigal Son,” which was famously recorded by the Rolling Stones.
John Wilkins preached the word of God from the pulpit at Hunter’s Chapel in Como, Mississippi for over thirty years – and with a life narrative encapsulated by gospel and the blues, it is quite apparent that both musical traditions were etched into the very fabric of his being.
Right before his passing, Wilkins released a collection of songs in the form of an album titled, Trouble (Goner Records) which ultimately serves as a lasting testament to his father’s music and Wilkins’ own life of ministry. Together with a host of fantastic musicians and three of his daughters, Wilkins brilliantly coalesced gospel and the blues – demonstrating his own musical mastery – on his definitive final studio album.
The album features eleven songs including originals, as well as interpretations of Gospel, R&B, and Blues standards. The title track kicks off the collection in good form for it demonstrates the incredible musicianship assembled for this release, as well as Wilkins’ songwriting that reflects his own personal observance of the events transpiring across our Nation and beyond. Wilkins publicly spoke about the conception of the title track “Trouble” which was inspired by all the troubling events that have essentially become a normative standard in our country – from school shootings, uncontrollable violence, and negative reinforcement from those in power. As Amy Winehouse famously said, “every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen,” and Wilkins made that sentiment a reality.
One of my personal favorites amongst the collection is Wilkins’ interpretation of the gospel song, “You Can’t Hurry God.” The performance is soul-stirring and familial for it features a call and response between Reverend John and one of his daughters, as well as his other daughters singing backup. There’s nothing like a family singing together with love and conviction in their hearts – and Wilkins and his daughters do just that through their shared harmony singing throughout the record.
The album also features great interpretations of familiar classics such as “Grandma’s Hands,” “Wade in the Water,” and “Darkest Hour,” with the Wilkins daughters taking over as the lead on the latter with beautiful organ accompaniment. The album closes out with a rollicking number called “Storm and Rain,” which features an interpretation of the gospel song, “Get Right Church and Let’s Go Home” – a powerful closing number for the Reverend John Wilkins’ recording catalog for it echoes his own personal journey. Despite Wilkins’ stormy days of his own life here on earth, he has now gone home to where he will experience trouble no more, leaving behind a recorded musical celebration of faith and spirit that makes me wonder if that is what Heaven really sounds like.
You can purchase Trouble at the link below.