Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hymns Your Mother Sang

Close Harmony Gospel 101. This stuff can get a bit out of hand.  I listened to this like everyday for a week and I had to take a break. More faith in three minutes than this place. A style of southern gospel singing that was used by duets and quartets, harmonizing side by side. Brother pairs were common as you will notice in this post. Around since the beginning of the 1900s, but popularized by the Louvin Brothers in the late 40s. Some of these groups stick pretty close together in song, but in a few of these mp3s there is a serious game of tag going on. Its not rare for songs to include ridiculous lyrics that make weird nerdy novelty collectors wet. Some of the Louvin Brothers songs make "I'm Using My Bible as a Road Map" sound neutral. There isn't a huge number of recorded groups out there, but I am putting up the handful of siblings that I know. Aside from a few of these groups, there isn't much info out there, so if you have some, lemme know. Also, there is a pretty new book on close harmony, but I have yet to read it. Now introducing the brothers...

The Louvin Brothers - "Broadminded"(from "Close Harmony" boxset)

Everybody has seen them stand infront of a big cardboard satan. Metalheads might worship the devil but the Louvin Brothers actually had gigs in hell. Comprised of brothers Charlie and Ira Louvin (born Loudermilk) from Section, Alabammer, these two popularized the close harmony style. Most likely they were the only group to make any money from music. They created some of my favorite music ever, and also some of the scariest. Ira was a big drinker and ironically was killed by a drunk driver in 1965. He was a very violent alcoholic who was shot three times in the back by his third wife after trying to strangle her. Not unlike Jerry Lee Lewis, Ira lived the sins he sang. Unless he was too busy smashing it, he played mandolin for the group. His playing is said to be heavily influenced by Bill Monroe(see below). Charlie is still alive and well. He went on to do solo work after Ira's death, and released an album in 2007. He now lives Tennessee and runs The Louvin Brothers Museum. They are not fucking around on the track I've put up, re-learning you on the correct spelling of broadminded. For further listening, the 8 CD Bear Family Box "Close Harmony" is pretty much everything they ever recorded together (aside from some live albums?). "Satan is Real" is a classic and if I had some kind of favorite album list it would be in the top half. Oh, and they are related to John D. Loudermilk (cousins).(pictured above: Ira and Charlie Louvin, George Jones, Ernest Tubb not too many people fucking with that!)

The Blue Sky Boys - "Sing a Song for The Blind"from "The Sunny Side of Life" box set)

Brothers Earl and Bill Bolick were from North Carolina who begin singing in church at an early age. They moved to Atlanta in the 30s and formed the group and made their first recordings for RCA.  Somewhat successful after WWII, but refusal to play honky tonk limited their grind.  They quit RCA for a year after the label asked them to play electric guitar.  Even with quitting music several times due to the changing country music climate, their careers spanned over 40 years.  Aside from RCA, they also shared a spot with young George Jones on Starday Records as well as Rounder.  Less intense than the Louvin Brothers, BSBs preach the good book at a slower pace.  This track is braile for the non-believers.  A beautifully written track where pity is more apparent than spirit fueled ranting.  For more listening, Bear Family put out a real nice 5 disc boxset called "The Sunny Side of Life" a while back thats worth the price tag (though I can't really talk much on that).  The dude over at eldiablotuntun has some more Blue Sky Boys stuff up on his page as well as other great music in the same vein.  Rest in Peace to both the Bolick Brothers.  Bill just died this march.

The Callahan Brothers - "Gonna Quit My Rowdy Ways"(from VA - "American Yodeling")

Born Walter and Homer Callahan in the North Carolina mountains, The Callahan Brothers were one of the close harmony groups to use yodeling in their music. Yodeling was used in a lot of country music in the 20s and 30s a la Jimmie Rodgers, but not many of these brother groups liked to yodel. They changed their names to Joe and Bill when they started recording for ARC in the early 30s and appeared on radio stations throughout the south. They retired from music in the late 40s.  Joe died in the 70s, while Bill still seems to be alive in Dallas (though I dunno about that, hes almost 100 years old). Not much material is out there from the group, but fortunately the good folks over at Trikont included this lovely gem on their "American Yodeling" comp (which is essential and I don't really say that about much music) that includes some serious shit from The Singing Brakeman and the Cackle Sisters. Too drunk to fuck, sober enough to yodel. By the way, this Callahan is not this Callahan.

We got three brothers on this one.  Birch, Charlie, and Bill Monroe were from Texas and were at one time sponsored by laxative manufacturers Texas Crystals Company.  Pretty popular in the square dancing scene of the 1930s, The Monroe Brothers recorded for RCA for about 10 years.  They split up in the 40s, both Charlie and Bill going on to form new bands.  Bill Monroe had an extensive career in bluegrass and the folk revival, and is probably responsible for influencing a lot of annoying jam bands.  Fortunately he was important to George Jones and Ira Louvin so I guess its cool.   He also hung out at the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago in the 40s(I was supposed to help make a documentary on this actually but the funding fell through). This track is off the Goodbye Babylon boxset.  I didn't really want to include anything from GBB it being so obvious(none the less awsome), but this track is a winner.  Real shit talking song.  There are some more comps over at El Diablo Tun Tun and a few tracks scattered on the boxset.  I would recommend early Bill albums, though I don't know his records too well. (fyi i could only find a picture of two of the brothers).

The Dixon Brothers - "I Didn't Hear Nobody Pray"(from VA - "Prayers From Hell")

Pre Ghetto Blues.  Dorsey and Howard Dixon were factory workers in North Carolina in the 30s and 40s who spent their free time doing music.  This is a little different than the other groups on here, for pretty much just the chorus is sung by both brothers.  They have different voices as well, and a lot of close harmony groups were atleast in a similar range to get that certain sound.  This might not even qualify as close harmony, but it being a pretty early example of what was to come of the southern vocal style I thought it was worth putting up.  The close harmony sound became more integrated in country music in the 40s outside of the brother groups.  This track is a few years earlier than most of what I'm posting (from around 1935).  Real grim one we have here.  I got this from the "Prayers From Hell:  White Gospel & Sinners comp on Trikont.  Document Records has put out a few collections of their work too (which is where i stole the picture from).

"The Delmore Brothers - The Frozen Girl"(from "Brown's Ferry Blues")

Most known for their song "Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar"(which maybe is the basis for the Callahan Brothers track above?), Alton and Rabon Delmore came from a poor farming family in Alabama. This is probably the oldest music I have up here (early 30s) and is very much "proto country". While the Louvin Brothers came about when country music was well established as a genre, some of these groups helped create it. A big influence on Bob Dylan: "The Delmore Brothers, God, I really loved them! I think they've influenced every harmony I've ever tried to sing". Obviously a big influence on all of the music in this post and country music as a whole. This track is from their "Brown's Ferry Blues" comp which is easy to find at places like Amazon.

The Carlisle Brothers - "Jesus My All"(from "Goodbye Babylon" box set)

Another old one, and sorry that its also from the Goodbye Babylon set. "Closer" than the Dixon Brother track, but still a pretty early example. I cannot find much else on the group, hell I couldn't even find a picture. Tupac's mother would play this record to him as a child, leading him to the question, "I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto?"

The Anglin Brothers - "Money Cannot Buy Your Soul"(from VA - "Last Kind Words")

This track is the reason I made this post.  I had just got this on the Portland based Mississippi Records comp(fyi, its called Mississippi Records because its on Mississippi street in north Portland) and have been loving it all week.  Sound like a broke version of Ira and Charlie.  This group was Red Anglin and twins Jim and Jack Anglin from Tennessee.  Inspired like others by a Delmore Brothers performance, they got decent radio play throughout Tennessee and Alabama.  Red was drafted in WWII and the group broke up, but Jim Anglin went on to have a successful career writing for Roy Acuff and Kitty Wells.  Real nice tune and its worth getting the whole Mississippi comp too.  There are other recordings of the group scattered around, but this is all have.  Oh, and yeah, these guys aren't the same Anglin Brothers who escaped from Alcatraz so whats above is my way of saying I can't find a picture of em.

They say its really nothing.............Enjoy!

Next week I'll try to do a Shape Note Singing post.

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