Jamming For Jehovah

He may have Sympathy for the Devil, but Keith Richards also jams for Jehovah.
The 62-year-old Rolling Stone is a guest guitarist on My Soul Is a Witness — a collection of spirituals released without fanfare last month.
The book and compact-disc project is the brainchild of Richards’ sister-in-law, concert vocalist Marsha Hansen.
About half the music was recorded at the guitarist’s Connecticut home in 2001.
Richards plays on a halfdozen tracks, including I Want Jesus to Walk With Me and Rock in Jerusalem. Also performing on the album is former Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin and Bob Dylan drummer George Receli.
The CD might be hard to find. Augsburg Books, affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, initially made only 2,500 copies. A second run is on the way.
Hansen, who is married to a Lutheran minister, says she didn’t have to twist her in-law’s arm to get his assistance.
“His understanding of music is very deep — not just rock music,” she said. “He’s particularly intrigued by African-American music, roots music.”
Richards isn’t a Lutheran.
“He probably does not claim a particular affiliation,” Hansen said, “but he loves the music.”
She says her brother-in-law and his musical pals were easy to work with.
“They just kind of picked up and played whatever I was singing, and the songs just grew out of whatever mood we were in,” she said. “Sometimes my daughter and I would just harmonize on something, and Keith would decide, ‘That sounds really good. Let’s try that.’ And then we’d go from there.”
Richards left his imprint on each of his songs.
“Sometimes it’s acoustic. Sometimes it’s electric. He probably plays about three different guitars.”
The rocker appears courtesy of Virgin Records America.
On the recording, Richards sounds like he enjoyed making the music.
“Obviously, you hear Keith chattering in the background. You can hear some of our comments and our laughter. That’s part of the mood of the CD. We had a wonderful time,” Hansen said.
Richards’ wife, Patti Hansen, is the sister of the Rev. Rodney Hansen, Marsha Hansen’s husband and the pastor of Mount Hope Lutheran Church in El Paso, Texas.
It wasn’t hard to sell Augsburg on the project.
“We liked the idea that it was an informal recording. It was more of a jam session, friends gathered together for casual dinners in someone’s home,” said publicist Bob Todd. “It was not a planned, contrived thing at all.”
Buyers responded.
“It jumped right out of the shelves for us,” Todd said.
Christian critics have accused Richards and the rest of the Stones of selling out to the dark side. Some listeners have even played their records backward, listening for subliminal Satanic messages.
But the guitarist on Their Satanic Majesties Request is a “fantastic person,” Hansen says.
“He’s the most wonderful, genuine, honorable man that I can think of,” she said. “I really do think of him as my family.”

Frank E . Lockwood for MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS, July 05, 2006