The Bible Belt Blues Story
by Paula Vega Vondenstein
We are Bible Belt Blues! Original Bentonia blues influenced music with bold biblically sound lyrics! Thank you Jesus!
The journey began two and a half years ago on April 17, 2016 when my husband, Harold created his very first Christian Blues song, “Taking Back the Blues.” My gut told me he was onto something and I was right! Researching the Christian Blues genre I found to my amazement that it was so rare a genre that it wasn’t even listed as a sub-genre of music! Researching even further I discovered that almost everyone who had created Christian Blues abandoned it altogether after only producing one or two songs! But why? Much to my disappointment, my husband, Harold, followed suit along with all the rest! Could it be that they had bought into the lie that blues music was the devil’s music? After all, the story about Robert Johnson selling his soul to the devil at the Crossroads of Hwy 49 and Hwy 61 had been fabricated, I would soon discover after further research. Could it be that churches were not open to allowing this music to be played in their church? Could radio stations not have known what station to play in on since it wasn’t even listed as a sub-genre?
Despite my husband’s decision to abandon the creation of Christian blues music, I proceeded forward full speed ahead with my research. I ordered several books on the history of the blues, purchased early recordings and diligently studied them. I encouraged my husband, Harold, to watch numerous documentaries on the history of the blues with me and we would also listen to hours of the early Mississippi Delta blues recordings on YouTube. I would hear a certain sound and say to Harold, “Wow! I like that sound! Can we replicate that?” I encouraged my husband to learn the harmonica (which I think is key to preserving the history of the blues) and to my delight, after months of online classes, he has become an excellent player! Purely by accident, I stumbled upon the early Bentonia blues school of music (Skip James, RL Burnside, and Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, etc) which originated from Bentonia, Mississippi on the outskirts of the Mississippi Delta. Their gritty guitar picking style and hauntingly beautiful minor D and E chords totally mesmerized me. I just knew in my heart of hearts that they would lend themselves perfectly as the backdrop music for repentance songs that were so lacking in the church these days! I couldn’t contain my excitement when I discovered upon further research that no one that I have yet discovered is creating Bentonia style Christian blues music! To my utter amazement, we were creating our very own genre of music! Was this really happening or was I simply dreaming? This was beyond my wildest imagination, but it was true! Yes, it was happening and at that very moment Bible Belt Blues was officially born! Thank you, Jesus!
What happened next is so remarkable that there is no other way to explain it except that it was a God thing. A talent I had for lyric writing that had been sitting dormant for over 40 years suddenly blossomed! I somehow persuaded my husband to let me write the lyrics first then have him craft the music around the lyrics. This was something new for him since he had originally crafted the music first then added the lyrics. The lyrics started flowing, bold, biblically sound lyrics like I had never heard before in a church or on Christian radio. I sought to capture deep theological truths that people struggle with understanding and put it in a song where people actually get it. A sermon in a song! The first day I had written three lyrics while he was at work! I was writing repentance songs, invitation songs, prayer songs, revival songs, and closing songs. I even wrote a song to promote celibacy before marriage and another for suicide prevention.
After the creation of the lyrics we would sit up till the wee hours of the morning crafting the music. We always prayed before our recording sessions and invited the Holy Spirit of God to take over. Sometimes the music came out totally different than we had imagined! After we came into agreement on an arrangement for the song, Harold would record several versions of the song and I would choose the best arrangement. Since Harold is quite the computer geek, he mixed down each song and then mastered it. We did all of this in our apartment without using a professional studio, which was such a blessing to us since it was simply not in our budget to do otherwise. In a seven week period (from Sept. 3rd– Oct. 20th 2018) we had recorded 20 songs!
Our very first album for Bible Belt Blues, “I’m Not Ashamed To Be A Christian” (for which I designed the album cover) will have 12 of these twenty songs and is due to be released shortly on CD Baby for international distribution. We are already working on our second album which is slated to be released in the early spring of 2019. My husband’s talent as a guitarist, songwriter, singer, and now as a harmonica player has grown tremendously since we married three years ago after having first met on Christian Mingle on Christmas Day of 2014. This is the happiest and most productive time of our lives producing Christian music together as a couple. God has blessed us beyond measure with the birthing of a brand new genre of music, Bible Belt Blues, with bold, biblically sound lyrics that glorify God, all recorded with instruments tuned to the healing frequency of 444Hz (the Key of David). We fervently pray that our Bentonia style Bible Belt Blues music will be a catalyst for revival in America and around the world as it softens the hardened hearts of those who are lost to further build Christ’s Kingdom!
We are humbled and honored, Jesus, to be your chosen vessel, to bring this music to a generation that so desperately needs God in their lives! All glory and honor go to You, Jesus, our risen Savior.
Written by Paula Vega Vondenstein