There aren’t many artists for whom the come-on “New Research!” would yield much fuss. But Washington Phillips—a stocky, snuff-dipping gospel singer from East Texas, who recorded eighteen songs for Columbia Records between 1927 and 1929—is an uncommonly captivating cipher. Since at least 1991, when Yazoo Records issued “I Am Born to Preach the Gospel,” the first digital compilation of Phillips’s work, listeners have been trying to suss out exactly what Phillips was doing in the makeshift Dallas studio where these songs were recorded. They simply do not seem born of this earth. Full New Yorker story here.