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Blues and gospel music has a rich tradition in East Texas. From Blind Wille Johnson to Lightnin’ Hopkins, the music has thrived in the region. For years, slaves and sharecroppers sang songs to ease the pain of daily existence. Blues and gospel music spring from this tradition. One musician I spoke to — both a blues musician and a pastor — expressed the relationship between blues and gospel as such: blues music was a form of expressing one's struggles, and gospel music was a means of moving beyond that suffering.

“I don’t differentiate between gospel music and blues,” Rev. K.M. Williams said. “It’s kind of all the same to me because it comes from the same source. Really all black music started from spirituals or work songs.”

Many of the early blues masters were also preachers. Blind Lemon Jefferson, also from Texas, was called the Deacon L.J. Bates on his first records.

“That deep feel for the songs and the vocal ability and the vocal tones and the way you do the guitar," Rev. Williams said, "it all comes out of that deep feeling.”