Sunday, April 11, 2010

"Since I Laid My Burden Down" - Elders McIntorsh and Edwards (Assisted by Sisters Johnson and Taylor) Sanctified Singers


Set Two: Social Music; Disc Two; Track Eight: "Since I Laid My Burden Down" performed by The Elders McIntorsh and Edwards (Assisted by Sisters Johnson and Taylor) Sanctified Singers. "Vocal quartet with guitars, tambourine." Recorded in Chicago on December 4, 1928. Original issue Okeh 8698 (W402160).

Elder Lonnie McIntorsh was likely born in Mississippi around 1890 and was last known to be living in the "bootheel" of Missouri in the early '70s, according to Jeff Place's 1997 notes. In addition to the sides cut with the Sanctified Singers, McIntorsh also recorded four sides under his own name, including an account of the 1927 Mississippi Flood (also immortalized by Charlie Patton in his two-part recording "High Water Everywhere"). No biographical information is available on Edwards. If anyone has any information on Elder Edwards, including his first name and birth/death dates, please contact me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

For information on Sisters Bessie Johnson and Melinda Taylor, see the previous entry on "He Got Better Things For You."

"Since I Laid My Burden Down" is an extremely popular song, having been covered several times by artists ranging from Mississippi John Hurt and Furry Lewis to Odetta and the Byrds. It has been recorded as folk, country and rock and roll. Its origins are obscure, but it probably originated in the United States during the late 19th century.


Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.
Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.

All my troubles will be over,
When I lay my burden down.
All my troubles will be over,
When I lay my burden down.

Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.
Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.

All my sickness will be over,
When I lay my burden down.
All my sickness will be over,
When I lay my burden down.

Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.
Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.

All my troubles will be over,
When I lay my burden down.
All my troubles will be over,
When I lay my burden down.

Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.
Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.

Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.
Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.

All my sickness will be over,
When I lay my burden down.
All my sickness will be over,
When I lay my burden down.

Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.
Glory glory, hallelujah,
Since I lay my burden down.


The act of laying one's burdens down is commonly referred to in Christianity. In John Bunyan's allegory, A Pilgrim's Progress, the title character carries a "burden" with him, which is suddenly removed from his shoulders upon arrival at "the place of deliverance" (allegorically the cross at Calvary and the open sepulcher of Christ). The "burden" represents those things which are associated with the material world, as well as ones worries, cares, aliments, and (most importantly) ones sins. The image of the "burden" is present in other gospel songs, such as "Take Your Burden To The Lord and Leave It There" by Washington Phillips.

The word "hallelujah" is a Hebrew word meaning "praise Yahweh." It is an expression of thanks or adoration.

The elders McIntorsh and Edwards, as well as Bessie Johnson and Melinda Taylor, were members of the Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal sect formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshiped Baptists, led by Charles Price Jones and Charles Harrison Mason. The first congregation established by the sect was founded in Jackson, Mississippi. The Church of God in Christ is primarily associated with the American Southeast, although its members did spread to the north during the Great Migration. Today, the church has congregations in sixty countries and a membership of over five million.

"Since I Laid My Burden Down" is an extremely simple song. It has one verse which is repeated throughout the song with a few lyric variations. The recording is powerful, however, partly because of this repetition and partly because of the increasing fervor of the singers. The song begins slowly, with only the guitar and one or two voices. Others quickly join in, however, and the tempo increases. Bessie Johnson's "holy roar" makes itself heard early in the song, and is present throughout. There are ecstatic shouts and screams. One of the male voices (possibly McIntorsh) frequently calls out "glory!" at the top of several lines. The performance is occasionally rough, and there are a few places where one can hear some mistakes (someone will start singing one verse while the rest of the group has started another), but this only adds to the ecstatic atmosphere. Indeed, who can be concerned with where one is in the song when one is transported by holy fervor?

"Since I Laid My Burden Down" is the last of eight selections in a row that feature group singing, both accompanied and unaccompanied.

This recording of "Since I Laid My Burden Down" also appears on the excellent Dust-to-Digital set, Goodbye Babylon. When I checked the booklet to that set in the hope of finding some more information about the song or the artists, I was somewhat disappointed to see that the notes to this selection where copied, almost verbatim, from Jeff Place's notes to the 1997 reissue of the Anthology, with no credit given to Place. I note this without pleasure, as I am a big fan of the Dust-to-Digital record label and expect better from them.

The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. Now that I am finished with "Mockingbird," I am currently in the process of putting together a new episode made up of jazz recordings from the 78 era which should be up any day now. In the meantime, you can listen to this all-blues episode where you'll hear New Year's greetings from Lightin' Hopkins and Mary Harris, as well as Delta Blues by Son House, Willie Brown and Charlie Patton. You'll also hear recordings by more obscure figures like Geeshie Wiley, Blind Joe Reynolds, William Harris, and more. Also available on iTunes! Subscribe today so you don't miss a single episode. It's free and it doesn't hurt. Who can ask for more?

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Here is none other than Furry Lewis himself performing an exciting version of "Since I Laid My Burden Down" on slide guitar.



Here's a video of the Mass Choir singing an electrifying version of "Since I Laid My Burden Down" in Texas.



Download and listen to Elders McIntorsh and Edwards (Assisted by Sisters Johnson and Taylor) Sanctified Singers - "Since I Laid My Burden Down"

2 comments:

  1. First off, Where Dead Voices Gather, is one of the best blogs out there. I really enjoy reading your fresh, new takes on Harry Smith's Anthology.

    My respect for your work made this latest entry sting that much more. This is the first I've heard that the annotation for "Since I Laid My Burden Down" in the "Goodbye, Babylon" book replicates writing from the Smithsonian Folkways reissue of The Anthology.

    Upon consulting both entries I found that you are indeed correct. Because two writers are listed as working on the entry in the "Goodbye, Babylon" book I'm not sure who sourced but did not cite Jeff Place's text. I apologize to Jeff, and if we ever reprint the "Goodbye, Babylon" book we will correct this error.

    Keep up the good work,
    Lance Ledbetter
    Dust-to-Digital

    ReplyDelete
  2. First of all, thanks so much for the kind words, Lance. As I said before, I'm a huge fan of DtD (I have everything you guys have put out, I think). You've done a great deal to turn me on to some wonderful music over the years, so thanks for that too!

    As I said, it gave me no pleasure whatsoever to mention the instance of alleged plagiarism mentioned above. I'm sure it all comes down to simple error, such as must dog any large undertaking (and "Goodbye Babylon" is a VERY large undertaking).

    ReplyDelete