At a particularly important hour for personal prayer, I happened to be listening to Les Copeland’s “That Needing Time” from his Don’t Let the Devil In. It’s a blues album for fans of Michael Powers, David Jacob-Strain, Martin Simpson, and Kelly Joe Phelps, and “That Needing Time” is the best Gospel blues I’ve heard since Phelps’ Roll Away the Stone.
I was certainly in “that needing time” when the song came on the stereo as I was driving. The people I was thinking about were in “that needing time,” too. And the song are the words of Christ who invites us to tell Him “when that needing time sets in.” A whole range of things could be happening to us, and Jesus invites us to share it all with Him.
It’s an invitation I’ve heard through the words of the Bible, but in that moment when the needing time was really setting in for me, I thank God that He sent Les Copeland to remind me again that I may pray, I may bring my burdens to Jesus, I may trust that He takes my prayers seriously, I may know that He hears my cries.
Don’t Let the Devil In rings with the cries of life in the way that only the blues can. “What’s Your Name” delves into the swamp of recognizing that you no longer recognize yourself because of the hurts you have caused (“What’s the name of the man in the mirror?”). On “How’s That Drummer,” Copeland recounts his own pain, albeit with some humor, of losing his wife to his former drummer.
Copeland plays a mean slide guitar as on the instrumental track “Ry Cooder,” that despite its dedication to Cooder makes me think of Phelps. Tracks like “Distant Train” recall the way Bo Ramsey adds ornamentation to Greg Brown’s deep-down bluesy folk.
The album’s title track ring with an appropriately foreboding country blues, like a good sermon that provides plenty of warning against the wiles of the devil, Michael Frank’s harmonica like a piece of spiritual armor defending the soul with its cries. Only Jesus has gone up against the devil and won, and you’re gonna want Jesus on your side after hearing how the scene that Copeland causes you to experience. It’s that needing time, and Jesus promises to be there.