Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"This Song of Love" - Middle Georgia Singing Convention No. 1


Set Two: Social Music; Disc Two; Track Five: "This Song of Love" performed by Middle Georgia Singing Convention No. 1. "Vocal group unaccompanied." Recorded in Atlanta on December 10, 1930. Original issue Okeh 8903 (W404656).

Nothing is known about the Middle Georgia Singing Convention No. 1, other than that they were presumably from Georgia and that they recorded six songs in Atlanta, Georgia in December of 1930. Another song from this session, the similar "Bells of Love" can be heard on the Yazoo collection The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of: The Dead Sea Scrolls of Record Collecting. Super Rarities & Unissued Gems of the 1920's & '30s.

The song "This Song of Love" is equally obscure. It does not seem to have been recorded by any other group. Searches of lyric clusters from the song have similarly come up blank. It doesn't seem to be part of any standard hymnal. Was this song composed by a member of the group? If anyone has any further information on this song or on the Middle Georgia Singing Convention No. 1, please e-mail me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

I have made my best effort to transcribe the lyrics to "This Song of Love," however the results are incomplete. There are several words that I can't make out, even after multiple listenings. Part of the problem is the poor quality of the original recording. Part the problem is the polyphonic nature of the performance. There are several voice overlapping. Most of the time, they seem to be singing the same words, but there seem to be some exceptions. These are the lyrics I've been able to make out:

I am walking home to heaven,
That land where comes no night
This is a sign (Yes Jesus!) I've made a start.
All my sins have been forgiven
I'm walking in that light.
A song of love is in my heart.

Now a song of love (a happy song) is in my heart,
My glory land, I've made a start.

Big bells are ringing and Hosannas singing.
This song of love is in my heart.

Then will [something] no more confound me.
I'm on the higher way, I'm walking now,
With singing heart.
The light of heaven now surrounds me
And changes night to day.
This song of love is in my heart.

Now a song of love (a happy song) is in my heart,
My glory land, I've made a start.
Big bells are ringing and Hosannas singing.
This song of love is in my heart.

Now a song of love (a happy song) is in my heart,
My glory land, I've made a start.
Big bells are ringing and Hosannas singing.
This song of love is in my heart.


Thanks to Harry Campbell for helping to decipher these lyrics.

At the beginning of the recording, the singers "tune up," singing the melody and substituting the singing syllables (do-re-me-fa-sol-la, instead of fa-sol-la) for the lyrics. In this, the group seems similar to a Sacred Harp singing group. The group is divided into four vocal parts (tenor, alto, treble, bass) with each part overlapping the others. The song also employs the "fuging" technique heard in the last selection when each of the four vocal parts enters separately at the end of the chorus.

The lyrics that can be made out tell a simple story of eventual salvation in a "heaven" the speaker is "walking" towards. This is similar to the travel metaphor employed in "Rocky Road". Unlike that song, however, "This Song of Love" does not speak of trials on the road to heaven. Instead, it talks of walking in "the light of heaven" that "turns night to day." All obstacles have been removed, and the speaker is continuing to heaven in "glory," with "bells" "ringing" and "Hosannas" "singing."

The word "hosanna" derives from the Hebrew "hoshanna," which means "please save" or "save now." In Christianity, the word "hosanna" is the cry of praise or adoration offered when Jesus enters Jerusalem ("Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!") as related in Matthew 21:9,15, Mark 11:9-10, and John 12:13. It is a cry for help, but one with a generally positive connotation.

The performance on this record seems somewhat mechanical by contrast with the previous selections. The highly syncopated style creates an almost clockwork regularity. The most prominent voice on the recording (a tenor) has an almost bleating quality. The bass voice is also quite prominent, while the higher voices are relegated to the background and are harder to make out.

In his notes, Smith states that the words to the song probably date from the 1920s, but that the "precise method of performance quite likely preceded the 'looser' style heard" in the two Sacred Harp performances. No explanation as to why this earlier style survived in what is appears to be a performance by an African-American group is offered.

Sacred Harp singing does seem to endure primarily among whites. It is possible that while both white and black groups started out singing in a similar style (as brought over from England), a divergence might have occurred at some point due to the segregation of black and white congregations. What became Sacred Harp singing might have evolved among whites, while blacks might have continued to sing in the earlier style for a longer period of time. The fact that the practice of lining (as heard in "Must Be Born Again" and "Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting") endured among blacks longer than it did among whites seems to lend credence to this theory.

This style of singing, with its syncopation, seems to point toward the Gospel Quartets that emerged in the later '30s and '40s.

Singing Conventions are gatherings at which groups gather and sing religious music. They are practiced by different denominations and many of them date back to the 19th century. Their popularity waned for a time, but they endure to this day in the South and in other parts of the country.

This selection seems to have been chosen for its "transitional" nature, taking us from the Sacred Harp selections that came before it to the African-American solo selections that follow.

The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Here's an example of the later Gospel Quartet sound that the Middle Georgia Singing Convention No. 1 seems to be pointing toward. This is the Jubalaires performing a song about Noah's Ark.



Download and listen to Middle Georgia Singing Convention No. 1 - "This Song of Love"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

"Present Joys" - Alabama Sacred Harp Singers


Set Two: Social Music; Disc Two; Track Four: "Present Joys" performed by Alabama Sacred Harp Singers. "Vocal group with reed organ." Recorded in Atlanta on April 16, 1928. Original issue Columbia 15274D (W146092).

This is the B-side of "Rocky Road" by the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers. For more information on the group, and on Sacred Harp singing in general, see our previous entry.

"Present Joys" was first published in the Sacred Harp songbook in 1908. The tune was composed by A. Marcus Cagle with lyrics by Joseph Cottle. Cagle composed at least twelve other Sacred Harp tunes, including "New Hope," "Soar Away" and "Blissful Dawning."

As was mentioned in our previous entry, Cagle was one of the directors of the Alabama Sacred Harp singers, along with Paine Denson and "Uncle Dock" Owen. I had stated in that entry that "little was known" of Cagle, but Martha Henderson informed me that

Actually, there is plenty known about him. A. Marcus Cagle was famous. He has a number of songs in the Sacred Harp book. There are photos of him and recordings of him speaking. People are alive who remember singing with him.


Nevertheless, I have not been able to find any other information on Cagle. If anyone knows of his birth and/or death dates or can provide any biographical information or a photograph, please e-mail me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

We thank the Lord of heav’n and earth,
Who hath preserved us from our birth.

For present joys, for blessings past,
And for the hope of heav’n at last.

Redeemed us oft from death and dread,
And with Thy gifts our table spread,

For present joys, for blessings past,
And for the hope of heav’n at last.


In his notes, Smith describes "Present Joys" as a "fuging tune." In his book White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands, George Pullen Jackson describes the structure of the fuging tune:

In the fuging tune all the parts start together and proceed in rhythmic and harmonic unity usually for the space of four measures or one musical sentence. The end of this sentence marks a cessation, a complete melodic close. During the next four measures the four parts set in, one at a time and one measure apart. First the basses take the lead for a phrase a measure long, and as they retire on the second measure to their own proper bass part, the [tenors] take the lead with a sequence that is imitative of, if not identical with, that sung by the basses. The tenors in turn give way to the altos, and they to the trebles, all four parts doing the same passage (though at different pitches) in imitation of the [part in the] preceding measure. ... Following this fuging passage comes a four-measure phrase, with all the parts rhythmically neck and neck, and this closes the piece; though the last eight measures are often repeated.

In "Present Joys," it is during the chorus (beginning with the words "For present joys") that the four parts enter separately, overlapping each other in a manner similar to a round. As in the previous selection, the song opens with the chorus singing the melody through using the "fa-so-la" singing syllables. The reed organ, present on both recordings, is a bit more audible here (possibly because it is not playing in unison with the singers).

The song is a simple song of thanksgiving, thanking a benevolent God for blessings past, present and future, as well as the hope of a heaven to come. This stands in contrast to "Rocky Road," which speaks of the hardships of the material world which are only relieved in death.

"Present Joys" is the second Sacred Harp song in a row and the fourth selection to feature vocal groups.

The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Here is a performance of "Present Joys" from the 32nd Annual New England Sacred Harp Convention on Saturday, September 29, 2007 at the South Congregational Church.



Download and listen to Alabama Sacred Harp Singers - "Present Joys"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Rocky Road" - Alabama Sacred Harp Singers


Set Two: Social Music; Disc Two; Track Three: "Rocky Road" performed by Alabama Sacred Harp Singers. "Vocal group with reed organ." Recorded in Atlanta on April 16, 1928. Original issue Columbia 15274D (W146091).

The Alabama Sacred Harp Singers was a vocal group from rural Alabama. The group was led by Paine Denson, A. Marcus Cagle and "Uncle Dock" Owen. Little is known of Cagle or Owen, but Paine Denson came from the musical Denson family. Thomas and Seaborn Denson, Paine's father and uncle, respectively, are considered to be the patriarchs of northern Alabama Sacred Harp singing.

In 1928, the Alabama Sacred Harp Singers journeyed to Atalanta, Georgia to record a session for Columbia Records. They recorded fourteen sides, including this version of "Rocky Road," as well as its B-side, "Present Joys" (which will be discussed in our next selection). The Singers were next recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress in 1942. A brief excerpt from an interview with Paine Denson can be heard here.


I’m enlisted on the road,
I’m almost done traveling,
Enlisted on the road.
I’m bound to go where Jesus is,
My soul shall ascend where Jesus is,
To enjoy the peaceful home of rest.
I’m bound to go where Jesus is,
And be there forever blest.

It’s a mighty rocky road,
I’m almost done traveling,
A mighty rocky road,
I’m bound to go where Jesus is.

I’ve a Father on the road,
He’s almost done traveling,
A Father on the road.
He’s bound to go where Jesus is,
His soul shall ascend where Jesus is,
To enjoy the peaceful home of rest.
He’s bound to go where Jesus is,
And be there forever blest.

It’s a mighty rocky road,
I’m almost done traveling,
A mighty rocky road,
I’m bound to go where Jesus is.


Sacred Harp singing is a tradition of choral singing that dates to the Country Parish music of early 18th century England. In the mid-1700s, the tradition was brought to the English Colonies of North America where it quickly took hold as the First New England School following the publication of William Billings' New England Psalm Singer. Billings and others established singing schools, with the aim of teaching young people sacred songs. They adopted the "shape note" method of teaching music, first introduced in 1801 with the publication of The Easy Instructor by William Smith and William Little. The shape note system assigns certain shapes to certain notes and the syllables that accompany them. For a visual aid, look here.

Sacred Harp singing takes its name from Benjamin Franklin White and Elisha King's The Sacred Harp, a hymnal published in 1844. The book has gone through numerous printings over the years, and was considered to be the second most popular book (after the Bible) among southerners.

Sacred Harp singing took root in the American South where it became hugely popular. It reached the height of its popularity around the period of the Civil War, and experienced a resurgence during the 1920s, during which time most of the commercial recordings of Sacred Harp music were made. It has experienced a similar revival in recent years. Today, most urban areas have a strong Sacred Harp singing community.

Sacred Harp music is participatory, rather than performative. The chorus is divided into tenors, altos, trebles and basses, which are arraigned in a hollow square, facing the center. At the center of the square is the leader (there is no one leader in a Sacred Harp group. Rather, the duty is shared and the role passes among the members of the group). The chorus sings in full voice. The song usually begins with the singers "tuning up" and singing the song's melody, but substituting the singing syllables (fa, so, la) for the lyrics. This is immediately followed the performance of the song, with lyrics. The "tuning up" has become traditional, and is usually included on any recordings of Sacred Harp groups for authenticity's sake.

The singers in a Sacred Harp group are ordinary people and it encourages community over virtuosity.

In their musical form, Sacred Harp songs fall into three types: Hymn tunes, Fuguing tunes, and Anthems. Hymn tunes are generally composed of four-bar phrases and contain multiple verses. Fuguing tunes have a section in which the four choral parts enter in succession. Anthems are longer works that are sung through one time.

Sacred Harp songs are not sung in church, but rather at "conventions" or "singings" gathered for that purpose. These can vary in size and can gather people from all over the country. Some will include a potluck dinner known as "dinner on the ground."

The lyrics to "Rocky Road" refer both to the travails of the material world, which will be alleviated upon death, and to the difficulty of adhering to the "Christian Life." In his A Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan describes this as the "narrow way" and distinguishes from the "easy path" which leads to ruin. The Christian is beset on all sides by temptation and by those who mock and deride him. Perseverance is rewarded, however, when the pilgrim reaches God's kingdom.

Although Smith states in his notes that a reed organ is played on this selection, it is difficult to hear at first. The inclusion of the organ on this selection is atypical, since Sacred Harp singing is usually performed a capella.


I will freely admit that it took some time for me to appreciate Sacred Harp singing. When I first heard the Anthology, the two Sacred Harp tracks were my least favorite. It wasn't until I picked up Dust-to-Digital's Goodbye Babylon, which contains several more Sacred Harp recordings, that I began to get into it. The spiritual fervor of the performances, the gusto with which the singers create a literal wall of sound, these things began to win me over. If you wish to hear more Sacred Harp music, check out another Dust-to-Digital collection, I Belong To This Band: 85 Years of Sacred Harp Recordings. This collection contains recordings from the '20s to the 2000s. The recent recordings are especially good, because they really give you a sense of the hugeness of the sound these groups produce, as well as the palpable joy the individuals take in making this music. I have never personally attended a Sacred Harp sing, but I would love to. If anyone has any information on Sacred Harp sings in the Northeast, please leave a comment below or contact me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com

"Rocky Road" is the third of eight selection that feature vocal groups. It is the first of two tracks in a row that features Sacred Harp singing.

The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

The resurgence of Sacred Harp singing has led to its spread all over the world. Here's an example recorded in Poland in 2008.



This is a trailer for a recent documentary on Sacred Harp singing titled Awake My Soul.



Download and listen to Alabama Sacred Harp Singers - "Rocky Road"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Oh Death, Where Is Thy Sting" - Rev. J.M. Gates


Set Two: Social Music; Disc Two; Track Two: "Oh, Death Where Is Thy Sting" performed by Rev. J.M. Gates. "Vocal group unaccompanied." Recorded in New York on September 10, 1926. Original issue Victor 35789B (End of record only).

This recording is the B-side to "You Must Be Born Again," discussed in our previous entry. See that entry for information on J.W. Gates and on the practice of lining hymns.

"Oh Death, Where Is Thy Sting" was recorded at the same 1926 session as the previous entry. As in that entry, Smith provides a brief excerpt of the record which demonstrates a lining hymn. In this entry, we hear Gates recite a line of the hymn, which the rest of the group then repeats in song: "Lay down thy weary one, lay down your head upon my breast."

This line comes from the 19th century hymn "I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say," with lyrics by Ho­ra­ti­us Bo­nar and music by John B. Dykes. The full text of that hymn is as follows:

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk, till traveling days are done.


"I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say" is frequently found in Baptist hymnals, and Gates was a Baptist minister. The Baptists first appeared in 17th century England, having separated from the Church of England over the practice of infant baptism.

"I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say" was spoofed by singer Jim Jackson as "I Heard The Voice of the Porkchop," which can be heard on the Old Hat release Good For What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows, 1926 - 1937. This hymn is also reportedly the inspiration for Bob Dylan's "Lay Down Your Weary Tune."

Is this the hymn Gates and his congregants are singing? If we listen closely to the first line sung, it does seem that Gates sings the words, "I heard the voice of Jesus say..."

Why, then, is the selection titled "Oh Death, Where Is Thy Sting"? Clearly, the title of the selection is the title of the sermon (which is not heard here) and not of the hymn. Not having heard the entire recording, I cannot say what the substance of Gates' sermon is, but the title derives from I Corinthians 15:55:

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

Chapter 50 of I Corinthians concerns the resurrection of the body during the Last Judgment.

As with the previous selection, Gates' voice is full of holy fire. He punctuates his singing with exclamations of "amen" and "oh yes."

It is significant that Smith chose to open this disc of religious music with selections that deal with two central themes of Christianity: The necessity of spiritual rebirth and the promise of a final victory over death.


The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Here is Anthony Way performing "I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say."



Here is a section from Handel's Messiah in which the verse from I Corinthians is quoted.




Download and listen to Rev. J.M. Gates - "Oh Death, Where Is Thy Sting"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

"Must Be Born Again" - Rev. J.M. Gates


Set Two: Social Music; Disc Two; Track One: "Must Be Born Again" performed by Rev. J.M. Gates. "Vocal group unaccompanied." Recorded in New York on September 10, 1926. Original issue Victor 35789A (End of record only).

The second disc of "Social Music" is devoted entirely to recordings of religious music. It includes music performed by white and black artists, a few of whom appear elsewhere on the Anthology performing secular music. All of the music on this disc has its origins in the American south, most likely in the Pentecostal and Holiness Churches. Religious music has a long history and spans many cultures. Virtually every single human culture has included music in its particular brand of worship and expressions of faith through song are often held in high esteem. One of the most popular Psalms commands us to

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness:
Come before his presence with singing.


Indeed, there are some who theorize that music's first function was ceremonial and religious, and it is certainly true in Western Europe that secular music did not evolve until the Middle Ages.

That being said, it is no surprise that Smith should devote an entire disc to religious music. It also true that among both poor whites and poor blacks, the church occupied a central place in the lives of most people. It offered consolation for the hard lives that so many endured by promising them something better after death. The church was also central to the social lives of the people.

Unlike the first disc of "Social Music," the music heard on this disc features the human voice, first and foremost. Voices are heard solo and in various combinations, accompanied and unaccompanied. While instruments are used in religious music both in and outside of the church, the human voice is a constant because it is the one instrument we carry with us at all times. Church singing does not require virtuosity or even talent (although virtuosity is certainly celebrated). All that is required is that the singer praise God through song. Even if the music is not fit for human consumption, it will fall sweetly on the divine ear.

The first thing that the astute listener will notice about the music on this set is that it does not offer anything close to a cross-section of religious traditions. The music on this set is uniformly Christian. It is also uniformly Protestant. No songs from the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, or any other religious tradition are included. Neither are there any Catholic or Eastern Orthodox songs included. All of the songs on this set come from the Baptist, Pentecostal, or Holiness traditions.

Incidentally, if you like what you hear on this disc and want to hear more religious music from the Pre-War American South, I highly recommend Goodbye Babylon, an extraordinary six CD set on Dust-to-Digital. In addition to five discs chock full of some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear, there is a disc made up entirely of sermons from the 1920s and 30s. Included in this set are two full sermons by Rev. J.M. Gates, "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" and "Death Might Be Your Santa Claus" (the sermon that got me into trouble with my sister-in-law, but that's another story). This is well worth the fairly steep price tag. It includes a handsome book of notes and lyrics and comes in a wooden box with raw cotton inside. This is also the set that Bob Dylan gave as a gift to Neil Young. How cool is that?!

The first two tracks on this set are by Rev. J.M. Gates. Little biographical information is available about Gates. Gates was born in 1884. Although no birth place is recorded, it can be assumed that he was born in the state of Georgia, where he lived his entire life. We know nothing of his childhood or of his education. In fact, I haven't even been able to find any clue as to the meaning of his initials. In 1914, Gates became the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Rock Dale Park, Atlanta. In 1926, Gates embarked on a career as a recording artist. Gates recorded sermons and songs. His recordings were immediate hits and he quickly became the most popular recording preacher, spawning a host of imitators. He made over 200 recordings between 1926 and his death in 1941, more than 80 of which were made in 1926 alone. While his initial recordings were made for Columbia, Gates also recorded for Banner, Pathe, Okeh, Victor, Vocalion, Paramount and Gennett, all during his first year of recording. 48 of his recordings were made during a trip to New York City in August and September of 1926, including this recording of "Must Be Born Again."

While Gates's recording career stalled for a number of years during the Depression, by 1935 he was recording again and continued to do so until his death (of unknown causes) in 1941.

"Must Be Born Again" is an example of "lining out," a practice during which the leader (often called the "clerk" or "precentor") recites or chants a verse of a hymn (often a Bible verse) which the congregation "responds with the same line, singing one syllable to each note of certain very slow tunes," as Smith states in his notes. It is a form of call and response singing. The practice dates back to 1644, when it was prescribed by the Westminster Assembly (a religious body, appointed by the Long Parliament and tasked with the restructuring of the Church of England). It was used in churches with a small number of literate members or too few hymnals. The practice became so popular that it was often used even when a sufficient number of hymnals were available. It came to America in the 17th century, but by the early 18th century it was already diminishing in popularity in both England and New England. In the American South, however, lining out persisted and is still practiced among some Primitive Baptist congregations. Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird features lining out in the sequence when Calpurnia takes the Finch children to church with her. Her son, Zeebo, is shown leading the choir in lining out a hymn.

"Must Be Born Again" is a rare instance in the Anthology where Smith uses only part of a recording. "Must Be Born" again was released as a 12 inch 78 RPM record, giving it a longer playing time than a standard 10 inch disc. The rest of the disc was likely made up of a sermon preached by Gates, which concluded with the lined hymn heard here. Since Smith was only interested in the hymn itself, he excerpted that portion. At one minute and thirty-one seconds, this is one of the shortest selections on the Anthology.

The lyrics to this hymn are a mystery. Gates and his uncredited singers sing the song so slowly that it is impossible to decipher the words. If anyone has any further information, please contact me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

The few words that can be made out are "death," "joy," and "love”; about 38 seconds into the recording, Gates sings a brief solo:

Join in the song that sweetly calls...


The second half of this phrase is hard to make out, but it sounds like he says something about "surrounded strong" or "surrounding strong."

The title of the recording (and, one presumes, the sermon) refers to being "born again," a spiritual rebirth that comes from acknowledging and accepting Jesus Christ as one's personal savior and receiving the Holy Spirit. The origin of the term is a verse in the Gospel of John in which Jesus says to Nicodemus, the Pharisee, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3, KJV) The term is synonymous with salvation among Christians.

The performance is riveting and one immediately understands why Gates was so amazingly popular. His voice is rough and impassioned. His singing is punctuated with ecstatic cries. He sings with complete abandon, as do his congregants. This truly is "a joyful noise."

The second side of this disc, "Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting," is heard as the next selection.

"Must Be Born Again" is the first of eight selections that feature singing groups of various sizes, both accompanied by musical instruments, and unaccompanied.

The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Here is a video of some absolutely AMAZING preaching by Bishop Melda B. Williams, Senior Pastor at More Grace Redemptive Center in New York City. This is an excerpt of a sermon titled "You Must Be Born Again."



Here's a 1990 performance by the Evangelistic Senior Choir with the late Alma Riggins on lead vocal performing a song called "You Must Be Born Again."



Download and listen to Rev. J.M. Gates - "Must Be Born Again"

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"Moonshiners Dance (Part 1)" - Frank Cloutier and Victoria Cafe Orchestra


Set Two: Social Music; Disc One; Track Fourteen: "Moonshiners Dance" performed by Frank Cloutier and Victoria Cafe Orchestra. "Banjo, piano, clarinet, tuba, harmonica, trumpet, drum, with talking." Recorded in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1927. Original issue Gennett 6305A.

Little is recorded of Frank Cloutier and the Victoria Cafe Orchestra. No photographs exist, nor have any written records of this recording session been discovered. When the Anthology was reissued in 1997, Jeff Place's notes state that "the Frank Cloutier Orchestra does not appear in any jazz or dance band discographies but is assumed to have been from the Minnesota area." Under the personnel listing for the 1927 recording date that produced "Moonshiner's Dance," Place states that "the members of the Victoria Cafe Orchestra are unknown."

The trail would have remained cold were it not for Kurt Gegenhuber whose blog, The Celestial Monochord, has been mentioned here before. Gegenhuber, who lives in Minneapolis, became intrigued by "Moonshiner's Dance" when he first heard the Anthology in 1997.

It took nine years to finally feel as if I'd exhausted the Anthology's deep well of distractions and drive, one Saturday morning, over to the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul. My first step was to look in the 1927 St. Paul city directory — a precursor to the phone book — and there was Frank Cloutier, musician, living two blocks from The Victoria Cafe. I've done a fairly thorough literature search of the kind I learned to do in grad school, and it seems as if nobody else knows what I've uncovered.

Thanks to Gegenhuber's research, we now know that Frank Cloutier was born in Massachusetts in 1898 to a French Canadian mother. Cloutier served in the military during the first World War. He first appears in the St. Paul city directory in 1926, suggesting he had relocated to the area during the previous year. From August to October of that year, Cloutier co-led The Gates-Cloutier Metropolitans with musician Thomas M. Gates. By 1927, Gates and Cloutier appear to have dissolved their partnership. Gates was leading orchestras at the Coliseum and Oxford ballrooms while Cloutier was leading the Victorians, the house orchestra at the Victorian Cafe.

In May of 1927, the Gennett record company recorded local artists at the Lowry Hotel. It was during these sessions that "Moonshiner's Dance" was recorded.

The Tom Gates Orchestra was also recorded by Gennett during this period. Gegenhuber located the personnel listing for the Gates Orchestra sessions on redhotjazz.com (although he notes that he doesn't know where they get their information) as follows:

Lee N. Blevins (trombone)
Earl Clark (banjo)
Frank Cloustier (piano, director)
Bob Gates (bass brass)
Tom Gates (tenor saxophone)
Tracy "Pug" Mama (clarinet, alto saxophone)
Victor Sells (trumpet)
Nevin Simmons (alto Saxophone, vocals)
Harold Stoddard (drums)


According to Gegenhuber, it is fairly certain that pianist Frank Cloustier is Frank Cloutier, leader of the Victorians. We know that Cloutier and Gates co-led an orchestra the year before and that they performed at the same venue afterward on several occasions. That Cloutier played on one of Gates' record dates suggests the possibility (however remote) that they two men might have shared musicians on their sessions. According to Smith's notes to the Anthology, the instrumental line-up on "Moonshiner's Dance" consists of "banjo, piano, clarinet, tuba, harmonica, trumpet, [and] drums." We know that Frank Cloutier played piano, so he is very likely the pianist on this date. Is that Earl Clark on banjo? Bob Gates on tuba? Victor Sells on trumpet? Tracy "Plug" Mama on clarinet? Harold Stoddard on drums? Some of them? All of them? None of them? And who's playing the harmonica? Is someone doubling on harmonica?

Until the company records are found (and Gegenhuber states on his blog that he is looking for them), the answers to these questions will not be found. Nor do we known when or how Frank Cloutier died.

Incidentally, the full story of Gegenhuber's search and his various findings must be read. You can read the full story here in the July 4, 2006 entry of the Celestial Monochord. There are also several updates that flesh out the story here, including Gegehuber's ongoing investigation of the first seven seconds of the record (suffice to say, his attention to detail and perseverance far exceed my own).

"Moonshiner's Dance" is an anomaly among the tracks on the Anthology. It is the only track on the collection to make use of brass instruments (trumpet, tuba) or the clarinet. It is also the only track that betrays any jazz influence. In his notes, Smith calls Frank Cloutier "one of the musical ancestors of Spike Jones." Lindley Armstrong "Spike" Jones (1911-1965) was an American musician and bandleader best known for his wild, comedic arrangements of classical music and tin pan alley pop songs, as well as for original songs such as "Der Fuhrer's Face." "Moonshiner's Dance" certainly points to the anarchic spirit of Jones's arrangements.

The recording begins with seven seconds of spoken words, which are all but unintelligible (see three Celestial Monochord entries for more). The song is uptempo with a sort of polka beat, which is maintained throughout by the tuba or brass bass. Solos are taken by the clarinet, banjo, harmonica, and trumpet, respectively. Jeff Place's notes to the 1997 reissue state that "Moonshiner's Dance" is a variation on "Over the Waves" by the Mexican composer Juventino Rosas. The song incorporates quotes from several other songs, including the sentimental "When You Wore A Tulip" and the spiritual "At The Cross." The way the Cloutier and his band razz these songs in certainly in line with the satiric spirit of Spike Jones.

The use of the banjo and tuba in jazz recordings during the 1920s was largely due to the lack of amplification in performing spaces and the necessities of acoustic recording technologies. The banjo is considerably louder than an unamplified guitar. Once the electric microphone was invented, and recording studios switched to electrical recording, the banjo was gradually replaced by the guitar and the tuba by the upright bass. Indeed, most of the earliest bassists were also accomplished tuba players.

Throughout the recording, voices are heard laughing and shouting. In between each chorus, the band chants together, "One, two, three, four!" Otherwise, most of the words spoken are completely unintelligible, but there is a moment - right before the harmonica solo - when a voice (presumably Cloutier's) shouts the words "Two more couples! Two more couples!" which brings us back to the "dance" theme of this disc. At the end of the disc, a voice instructs the dancers to "be seated."

"Moonshiner's Dance" is listed as "Part One" on the original label, which suggests that the song is continued on the B-side of the record. Why did Smith choose to include only one side of the disc? When Furry Lewis's version of "Kassie Jones" spans two sides, Smith included both. Why only one side here? And why choose to close the first disc of "Social Music" with this particular piece which stands out so strangely against the country and blues music that fills the rest of the set?

The reason, I think, is because of the way the song incorporates the spiritual tune "At The Cross" (a fact that Smith draws the listener's attention to in his notes). The second disc of "Social Music" (which will begin in our next entry) is made up of religious music. As we have seen throughout the Anthology, Smith delighted in making connections and drawing parallels between selections. By closing the first disc of "Social Music," which is made up of songs for dancing, with a song that parodies a spiritual, could Smith be suggesting that he doesn't take the religious songs on the next disc entirely seriously? Smith's biography suggests that while he was a spiritual man, he did not subscribe to a Judeo-Christian world view. Smith might also be deliberately undercutting the solemnity that so often accompanies traditional observances of Christianity, while setting the stage for the far more ecstatic traditions of Southern Christian sects such as the black Baptists and the Pentecostals.

It is for this reason, because the first side of the disc contains the reference to "At The Cross," that Smith only uses the first side of "Moonshiner's Dance" rather than including both sides.

Having come to the end of the first disc of "Social Music," it behooves us to take a moment to ponder the meaning of this set of dance music. I think that Smith is trying to remind us that whatever other meanings music might have, it is ultimately there to help us have a good time. Therefore, I don't think that Smith would have disagreed with the performance artist and pop diva who goes by the name of Lady Gaga, who said, "It'll be okay. Just dance."

The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Here's a version of "Over The Waves" performed on the accordion by bsam20uk.



Here's a theatrical short by Spike Jones and his City Slickers performing their version of "Cocktails for Two." It demonstrates the anarchic spirit of Jones's music.



Download and listen to "Moonshiners Dance (Part1) - Frank Cloutier and Victoria Cafe Orchestra

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Newport Blues" - Cincinnati Jug Band


Set Two: Social Music; Disc One; Track Thirteen: "Newport Blues" performed by Cincinnati Jug Band. "Harmonica, jug, guitar" Recorded in Chicago in January, 1929. Original issue Paramount 12743A (21100-2).

Guitarist Bob Coleman was reportedly born near the Georgia-Alabama border in 1906. Bob Coleman and his younger brother Walter (born in 1908) settled in Cincinnati, Ohio during the 1920s and became fixtures on the rowdy George Street scene. During this period, they began working with Sam Jones, aka Stovepipe No.1, with whom Bob made his first recordings in 1928 for Vocalion. When he made his first recordings for Paramount in January, 1929, Bob Coleman reportedly brought his brother Walter with him. Studio records only mention Bob Coleman on guitar, but if it is true that Walter was present at the session, it is likely that he's playing the harmonica. As for the jug, there is speculation that Coleman might have re-teamed with Sam Jones, a one-man-band who earned his nickname, Stovepipe No.1, by playing the stovepipe. The stovepipe is not a musical instrument, but is a real stovepipe that is played in a manner similar to the jug, making it likely that Jones is the jug-player heard here.

The Coleman brothers made a second recording for Paramount in 1930 and then recorded for Decca in 1936. Shortly after the Decca session, Walter Coleman was reported dead at the age of 29. No cause of death was listed, but it has been speculated that his early death might have been caused by the rough environs of George Street, which was Cincinnati's red-light district during this period. Bob Coleman never recorded again. He died of unknown causes in 1966. By the time of Bob Coleman's death, George Street no longer existed, having been destroyed to make way for an interstate.

The jug as a musical instrument likely began to be played during the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Its use in folk music became relatively widespread due to the fact that the jug was a found object and was commonplace. It is likely that people started playing the jug for the same reason they started using turntables and records as musical instruments during the 1970s: Because the first practitioners did not have other musical instruments available, likely for economic reasons. It speaks to the indomitable nature of the human spirit that when musical instruments are not around, people will make music out of virtually anything handy when the desire to make music strikes.

The jug is literally a vessel for holding liquids, usually made of ceramic or glass. It is played by holding the jug about an inch from the lips while the lips produce a buzzing sound, similar to the sound made by brass players. As with brass instruments, alterations in pitch are achieved by varying the tightness of the mouth. It is important to note that the jug player does not blow across the opening, as one does when producing a tone from a bottle, nor does the players mouth actually touch the neck. The sound is produced by the player's lips, with the jug acting as a resonating chamber. An accomplished jug player can have up to a two-octave range. The jug usually plays the bass-line and is considered to be part of the jug band's rhythm section, although jug solos are common.

In his notes, Smith points out that "blowing across a small opening in a closed vessel to produce a musical sound is widely used in North and South America, the West Indies, and Africa."

Jug bands can be made up of any number of instruments, but the classic jug band lineup consists of other home-made instruments, such as comb-and-tissue paper (or kazoo), the washtub bass, the spoons, and the washboard.

Jug bands reached the height of their popularity during the 1920s, predominately among African-Americans. Although no information exists that specifies the Coleman brothers' race, it is extremely likely - given that they lived and performed in a predominately black area and played in the jug band idiom - that they were African-American.

The jug band experienced a considerable revival during the folk boom of the late '50s and early '60s. 78 RPM record collector Joe Bussard performed as a member of numerous jug bands during this period (such as Jolly Joe's Jug Band) and recorded them on his Fonotone record label. In some cases, bands that became folk rock or even psychedelic rock bands started out as jug bands, such as the Lovin' Spoonful and the Grateful Dead. As with the revival of Dixieland Jazz, the jug band revivalists were almost always white and middle class.

"Newport Blues" marks the first appearance by a jug band on the Anthology, but it would not be the last.

No information on "Newport Blues" is available, and it is likely that the song was an original by Bob Coleman. Its inclusion here is likely as an illustration of the popularity of jug bands as dance bands during this period. After five recordings that feature vocals, "Newport Blues" is an entirely instrumental performance. The record begins with the bass-line performed on the jug. The guitar and harmonica immediately enter, with the guitar accompanying the jug on rhythm and the harmonica playing the melody. The song is brisk and up-tempo. In his notes, Smith points out that the "line played by the jug in this recording seems to represent an earlier and more inland style than the evenly spaced bass chords heard on recordings made in Memphis."

For more information on the harmonica, see the entry for "Stackalee."

The Shameless Plug Department: The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Here's an excellent example of folk-revival jug band playing. This is The Jim Kweskin Jug Band featuring a young, fetching Maria Muldaur on vocal (a long way from the Oasis) performing a brief snippet of "I Ain't Gonna Marry."



Download and listen to Cincinnati Jug Band - "Newport Blues"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Home Sweet Home" - Breaux Freres (Clifford, Ophy, Amédée)


Set Two: Social Music; Disc One; Track Twelve: "Home Sweet Home" performed by Breaux Freres (Clifford, Ophy, Amédée) . "Vocal solo with violin, accordion, guitar." Recorded in San Antonio, Texas on October 9, 1934. Original issue Vocalion 02961B (SA1173).

Born on September 1, 1900 near Rayne, Louisiana, Amédée Breaux was the son of August Breaux, an important early Cajun accordionist who - sadly - never recorded. All of August's children (in addition to Amédée there were Ophy, Clifford, and Cleoma) played instruments from an early age. Amédée began playing accordion at twelve and was performing at local house parties by the time he was fourteen. Ophy and Cleoma played guitar and Clifford played fiddle. As soon as the siblings were old enough, they were playing together as a performing unit.

On April 18, 1929, Amédée, Ophy and Cleoma Breaux made the first recording of the song "Jolie Blon" (recorded by the Breaux family as "Ma Blonde Est Partie"), a song that has become known as "the Cajun National Anthem" (on the very next day, Cleoma recorded "Acadian One Step" with her husband Joseph Falcon). Shortly after that recording session, Amédée formed Les Breaux Frères with brothers Ophy and Clifford.

In the fall of 1934, the Breux brothers traveled to San Antonio, Texas for a recording session for Vocalion where they cut several titles, including this version of "Home Sweet Home." Les Breaux Frères continued to record into the 1950s. Amédée died in 1975. The death dates of his two brothers are unrecorded.

"Home Sweet Home" was written in 1823 by Sir Henry Bishop and John Howard Payne, adapted from Payne's opera Clari, Maid of Milan. The song was immediately popular, gaining favor with soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, as well as with President Abraham Lincoln and his wife. The following is the songs original lyrics:


'Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain;
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again!
The birds singing gayly, that come at my call --
Give me them -- and the peace of mind, dearer than all!
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

I gaze on the moon as I tread the drear wild,
And feel that my mother now thinks of her child,
As she looks on that moon from our own cottage door
Thro' the woodbine, whose fragrance shall cheer me no more.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

How sweet 'tis to sit 'neath a fond father's smile,
And the caress of a mother to soothe and beguile!
Let others delight mid new pleasures to roam,
But give me, oh, give me, the pleasures of home.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

To thee I'll return, overburdened with care;
The heart's dearest solace will smile on me there;
No more from that cottage again will I roam;
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
Home, home, sweet, sweet, home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!


Reportedly, "Home Sweet Home" has become extremely popular in Japan where it is called "Hanyū no Yado" ("My Humble Cottage").

The version of the song recorded by Les Breaux Frères is performed on guitar, accordion and fiddle. Clifford Breaux is listed as the lead vocalist, with his brothers credited as additional vocalists. The song is sung in the Canjun dialect, and once again my High School French is not up to the task of attempting to translate or transcribe the French lyrics. I assume that the lyrics as sung by Clifford Breaux do not conform exactly to the English lyrics as written by Payne. It would certainly be interesting to see how much of Payne's lyrics made it into the version sung by Clifford Breaux. If anybody has any information to this end, please e-mail me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com or leave a comment below.

In his notes, Smith points out that this version of the popular song is performed in waltz time, "a dance of much greater importance to the French speaking than to the English speaking rural population." He also notes that the "freedom with which the melody is treated" is "typical of Louisiana."

"Home Sweet Home" is the last of three Cajun songs in a row, all of which feature the accordion.

The Shameless Plug Department (Yeah, That): The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

As I said above, "Home Sweet Home" is popular in Japan. Here's Japanese banjo picker Tosaku performing an excellent version of "Home Sweet Home" in the Scruggs style of banjo picking.



Download and listen to Breaux Freres (Clifford, Ophy, Amédée) - "Home Sweet Home"

Monday, March 1, 2010

"Arcadian One Step" - Joseph Falcon


Set Two: Social Music; Disc One; Track Eleven: "Arcadian One Step" performed by Joseph Falcon. "Vocal solo with accordion, guitar, triangle." Recorded in Atlanta on April 19, 1929. Original issue Columbia 40513F (W110557).

Joseph Falcon was born in Roberts Cove, Louisiana, a small unincorporated community in the southern part of the state, on September 28, 1900. He began playing accordion at the age of seven and turned professional during his teens. Falcon was friends with fellow accordionist Amédée Breaux (who appears, along with his brothers Clifford and Ophy, on the next selection). Breaux's sister Cléoma, herself a talented guitarist and vocalist, became Falcon's frequent accompanist and collaborator. They would marry around the time of their first recording session in 1928. It was at this recording session that Falcon and Breaux made the very first record of Cajun music, "Lafayette." The record was hugely popular upon its release, creating tremendous demand for Cajun music and - of course - more recordings by Falcon and Breaux. The duo were recorded at sessions in New York and Atlanta. It was at the Atlanta session that Falcon and Breaux (along with Ophy Breaux on fiddle and an unknown musician on triangle) cut this version of "Acadian One Step" (misspelled in Smith's booklet as "Arcadian One Step." Smith uniformly misspells "acadian" as "arcadian"). Falcon became the first Cajun recording star, performing all over Texas and Louisiana. In 1941, Cléoma Breux Falcon died of injuries sustained in an automobile accident, but Joseph Falcon carried on as the leader of Joe Falcon and His Silver Bell String Band. Falcon remarried and his second wife, Theresa Meaux, played drums in Falcon's new band.

Falcon continued to record into the late '30s, but his music was eclipsed in popularity by the emerging Country and Western genre and was soon considered old fashioned. He stopped recording after his final session in 1937, but continued to perform locally until the early 1960s. Falcon died on November 19, 1965.

"Acadian One Step" is an extremely energetic performance with classic Cajun instrumentation (accordion, guitar, fiddle, triangle). The accordion plays the melody line on the instrumental breaks, while the guitar plays the rhythm and the triangle keeps time. The fiddle is inaudible on the instrumental breaks (likely overpowered by the accordion), but it can be heard in the background during the vocal parts, when the accordion drops out. Although the fiddle can be heard on the recording, it was not listed among the instruments listed on the record label. Falcon is likely singing the lead vocal here. He sings in the Cajun dialect and as my high school French is not up to the duties of transcribing (much less translating) the lyrics, I will not post them . If anyone can provide such a transcription/translation, please contact me at wheredeadvoicesgather1@gmail.com.

According to Smith's notes the "rapid runs in the melody" are "characteristic" of Cajun music.

"Acadian One Step" is the second of three Cajun selections in a row, all of which feature the accordion. For more on the accordion, see the entry on "Saut Crapaud."

The Shameless Plug Department (why?): The fourth episode of the "Where Dead Voices Gather" podcast is still the most recent. It is my intention to do a fifth episode in the near future, although for the time being I am busy acting in the Capital Repertory Theatre production of To Kill A Mockingbird. As soon as I have more time, you can rest assured that I will do a new episode of the podcast. 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?

You can also become a fan of "Where Dead Voices Gather" on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Where Dead Voices Gather: Using today's technology to promote yesterday's music!

Once again, there do not appear to be any modern versions of "Acadian One Step" available on-line (at least, not identified as such). Instead, here is a video of the Downtown Cajun Band, which also features the line-up of accordion, guitar, fiddle and triangle.



Download and listen to Joseph Falcon - "Arcadian One Step"