Archive for the 'Gospel' Category

02
Jun
11

the cousin lovers – your therefore experience

I used to go out and see a lot of live music.

That was before life bogged me down and I started worrying about things like mortgages, and bills and drinking and driving.

Most of the time the bands were okay.  Some of the times they sucked, but on a very rare occasion I got my mind blown.

That was what happened when I first saw The Cousin Lovers.

Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t a novelty act or some kind of musical joke.  The Cousin Lovers were as serious as a heart attack and then some…and they did it all bluegrass style.  For the uninformed amongst you, bluegrass is about as American a musical genre as you could get; mixing country, jazz and a lot of immigrant influence from the music of Ireland and the UK.  What you got was a lot of great musicians improvising around a central melody and breaking it down from there.

Breaking it down where?  Could be into gospel territory, a waltz or a good old timey swinger.

Have a listen to this…one of Tim’s greatest songs and a true country classic if I ever heard one: Here’s to the Horse Players.

But before The Cousin Lovers arrived I knew nothing about it.  Luckily after that first night I spent some time drinking scotch with the front man Tim Ferguson…probably one of the most talented motherfuckers I know ( Singer, songwriter, sculptor, mandolin player, chocolatier and now ice cream truck guy.No shit! ) He taught me all about old timey country…from Bill Monroe to The Louvin Brothers.  But along with Dean (guitar) and Barry Thomas (stand up bass) Stuart Johnson on drums and the amazing Craig Eastman on fiddle the group really put everything they had into every song.

Watching from the back of a packed house at the Mint, I could only wonder why no record company had picked them up. Then I remembered that most record companies suck and that’s why they are now disappearing.

But the band wasn’t always all there.  Sometimes Stuart was on tour and they had to play without drums.  Sometimes Craig (a very in demand studio musician) had to hit the studio and they had to go on without a fiddle.  But even a show of only Tim and Dean could be something special…it usually meant some gorgeous harmonies and a lot of southern gospel.  They went through several bass players too when Barry had to head back east to take care of an ailing relative. Eventually Craig was replaced by the talented Julie Pusch who brought her own flavor to the group.

I was just pleased as punch any time I got to go see them… in whatever configuration they showed up as.

The band appears to have dissolved now, it’s pieces scattered to the winds…their website deserted.  All that remains is this…their only record.  It’s name more than just an obscure reference to the movie Vernon, Florida.

I pray for a reunion.

Super cheap downloads on Amazon!

21
May
08

Fern Jones – The Glory Road

I’ve mentioned before that my parents aren’t the biggest music fans in the world, and I’ve mentioned that I hate it when people try and give me music (because whatever it is, it usually sucks.)  So when my Mom came to visit last year and told me she got me a CD I sort of cringed because…well, I figured it would suck too.

To my surprise, Mom hit the jackpot.

Not only did she discover Fern Jones for me, she also discovered the Numero label as well.  That’s a two-fer!

First off, a word about the Numero group. these guys are truly a cut above the rest and you should visit their website HERE and buy everything they put out because it is all solid gold.  There are few reissue labels out there that put out this much quality, so when I tell you this one is near the top of my list, I’m not shitting you.   Their goal was to rescue extremely rare and mostly unknown artists, painstakingly research their history, remaster their work and release it for all to see.  I think this quote from their site sums it up:

“The mission was simple: to dig deep into the recesses of our record collections with the goal of finding the dustiest gems begging to be released from their exile on geek street. No longer would $500 singles sit in a temperature-controlled room dying for a chance to be played. No more would the artists, writers, and entrepreneurs who made these records happen go unknown and unappreciated.”

So there you have it!

But back to what I was saying before, the CD my Mom handed me was one of the labels first full length releases: Fern Jones “The Glory Road.” And man, is this one sweet piece of Country Gospel.

Born into a poor southern family in 1923, Fern got a guitar at age twelve and taught herself to play and a little piano too.  While she loved the popular music of the day, she (Like Elvis) found herself drawn to racial music.  When she was 14 she lied about her age and got a gig at the local honky tonk where she began to hone her craft. It was there that she met her husband Raymond Jones, and at age sixteen she married him.  But she never strayed far from music, even when her husband announced that he wanted to preach.

Traveling through the South on the tent revival circuit, Fern and Ray made a name for themselves preaching all along the bible belt.  Fern had insomnia and would often stay up all night writing songs and composing on her guitar.  It was during a two year spell that she wrote her one big gospel hit ‘I Was There When it Happened'(below) which was later covered by such luminaries as Johnny Cash and Jimmy Swaggert.  Fern recorded her first album at a Vanity Press (an old timey studio you could rent and record personal records at) and sold them from the trunk of her car before being picked up by the Dot label.

She recorded a single album for Dot, called ‘Singing a Happy Song,’ but it produced no singles and caused little stir in a rapidly changing world that had moved on from the gospel sound.  Her work would have eventually faded into obscurity if not for Numero’s diligent work…and their work is your gain.

So if you like Patsy Cline or Elvis, or any of that that good old gospel sound…pick this up!

For the love of God!

Amazon!

11
Apr
08

The 5 Blind Boys of Alabama – Spirit of The Century

I’m a firm believer that everyone needs a little gospel in their lives. Now,  I’m not talking about Christian music (that’s bad,) I’m talking about good old timey gospel the way they used to make it (that’s good!)  I have two friends named Tim and Dan who sometimes would perform down at the Cinema Bar and played nothing but old time gospel…and it was like going to church…with beer!

Although not my old church because they made me stand up and sit down alot, and their music put me to sleep, and they had no beer.

The Blind Boys began all the way back in 1939, forming at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind (Apparently, they even felt a need to segregate blind people back then.  Why?  Would they even know what color anyone was???) They have been touring and making records ever since.  The band is still led by singer Jimmy Lee Carter, and backed by other founding member Clarence Foutain, but the rest of their line up has fluctuated over the years.  A third founding member, George Scott died back in 2005.

The first thing you notice about their sound is the harmonies.  Fantastic, soulful harmonies that interlace between the melodies of evrey song.  “Spirit of the Century” really gave the boys a full range of back up as they explored the bluesy edge of gospel.  They are joined by legend Charlie Musslewhite on harmonica, John Hammond and David Lindley on  guitar, and bassist Danny Thompson.  As the album moves along, you get not only the classics like ‘Motherless Child,’  but covers of guys like Ben Harper’s ‘Give a Man a Home.’

Other notable covers are Tom Waits “Way Down in the Hole’ which you might recognize as the theme song from season 1 of The Wire, and The Rolling Stones ‘Just Wanna See his Face.”

Can I get an Amen?

Of course everyone loves a mash up…even in the gospel world. So I’ve included this video of the boys singing ‘Amazing Grace’ to the tune of ‘House of the Rising Sun.’   Your welcome.

Amazon!




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