Following are the notes from the "companion" CDs:  Don't Forget This Song and The Gospel Way.

These notes have been expanded from the ones which appear on the CDs themselves, and it is our intention to have this "expansion" be a "living thing" as we add more information during the life times of the CDs.

 

Don't Forget This Song

 

Don’t Forget This Song—text

Credits:

Recorded and mastered by Harold Prentice at Audioworks, Canon City, CO

Mixing:  Harold Prentice, Heidi Clare, and Ron Thomason (with remote help from Brian Aldridge and Tom Boyd)      Producer:  Ron Thomason; Cover Photo:  R. Leonard

Dry Branch Fire Squad:  Brian Aldridge—guitar; mandolin; lead, tenor, baritone, and bass vocals; Tom Boyd—banjo; Dobro; lead, tenor, and baritone vocals; Dan Russell—bass; guitar; lead and bass vocals; Ron Thomason—mandolin; guitar; old-time banjo; lead and bass vocals.  Special guest:  Heidi Clare—fiddle. 

 

Dry Branch Fire Squad is proud to host and endorse two renowned bluegrass festivals:  The award winning Grey Fox Festival in Oak Hill, NY, held annually on the third weekend of July; and the non-profit community-supporting High Mountain Hay Fever festival in Westcliffe, CO, held annually on the second weekend of July.

 

Dry Branch Fire Squad wishes to express appreciation for long time support to LaBella Strings and Rounder Records.  DBFS also expressly appreciates the many promoters, producers, events, and venues that have presented the band throughout its 38 years (and still going) as well as the National Council for Traditional Arts, the Ohio Arts Council and the many public and private arts and performance organizations that have supported and hosted the band throughout those years.  And from us to you:  Thanks to the fans!!!

                                                                                               

In addition we have the following personal expressions of appreciation:

Brian Aldridge:  I would like to thank my father, Howard Aldridge, who taught me music; my mother, Ernestine Aldridge, who supported me in all things; my favorite singer of all time, Aunt Doris; and my friends, Tom, Dan, and Ron, who make the “road” bearable.

 

Tom Boyd:  I would like to thank my lovely wife of 50 years, Sharon Boyd, and acknowledge the quality and support of Hatfield Banjos and Meredith Resonator Guitars.

 

Ron Thomason: Big thanks to members of DBFS (past and present); George Shuffler, my life-long friend; Ralph Stanley, who when I said, "I've got to pick" replied "Get your stuff, and get on the bus."; Bill Monroe, who gave the band its first "big" job, came around when we played in bars and brought his band on stage, and suggested some up-tempo songs to "buffer" the "lonesome" ones that made up our early repertoire; Bobby Osborne, who played on our first Rounder album, produced our second one, and loaned his mandolin; Howard Aldridge, who taught me music through modeling and forced me to become an emcee; the Rounders, especially Ken Irwin, who defined and developed a sound all his own that has served bluegrass music well on its forays into the mainstream; Bluegrass Unlimited; Bluegrass Now; Mary and George Doub, loyal friends who are fun to be around and who introduced me to a world of responsibility, fun, and always tax my intellect; Joe Wilson, who sent us overseas; Ralph James, who gave me my first mandolin, fixed my car when I was in college and showed me the G-run; Dr. Reid Sinclair, my professor of Satire, who forced fed me all the aspects of humor with a mild dose of invective and has never given up on me; Hazel Dickens, a great friend who dared me to take my Loar everywhere I go; Heidi Clare, the best old-time fiddler I ever met and world-class horsewoman who rides like the wind, is fearless, and makes me the best person I can be;  Will Sibbald, the most generous person I have ever known who made it possilbe for there to be a High Mountain Hay Fever; Lee Brown, just as generous as Will and the model of good humor and a giving spirit; Bill Knoth, who loaned me the Ome banjo here and never seems to let me give it back and who sponsors DBFS at HMHF; the Grey Fox staff and the High Mountain Hay Fever Bd. of Dir; Don and Marty Koc, who put up with us and put us up in CA…

 

Notes:  Credits and Notes are greatly expanded online at www.drybranchfiresquad.com.  Click on CD NOTES on the home page. Also included there are lyrics and additional info.  Text which is added here to the notes that appear on the CD is in bold italics.

 

Breaking a mold is usually risky, and it is with some trepidation that I sought the support of the men in the band in doing this.  The risk is not in whether folks like or dislike the results, but in whether the move is detrimental to what you are really trying to preserve.  And while I would not want to do that, I’m just getting tired of  the “formula” that has come to dictate the way that Bluegrass Music is performed and recorded nowadays.  Being “tired” of it is not the same as not liking it.  I do like it, and I think that in many ways the music is better now than it ever was.

              But I’m sure it will come as no surprise to folks familiar with DBFS that I like the “old-time way.”  (I can’t decide whether to follow that sentence with too or better—maybe both.)  DBFS made its break with the protocols of performing years ago when we decided to use only one mic and no monitors—no ear buds, no “incidental mics”, etc.  It was not for appearances or for the “dance” that sometimes surrounds having just one mic.  It was for the realism that the early bands presented by listening to one another instead of themselves and the control over presenting a unified approach to music as opposed to a blended one. 

     

              And so I pondered for years how does one accomplish the same, or at least, a similar goal when recording.  The obvious answer to part of the equation was to simply do it the way the old-timers had done it.  Use the minimum number of mics; don’t isolate yourselves one from the other; don’t use headphones; if you plan an overdub, simply leave a place to put it in; concentrate on the lyrics and music and what they mean as opposed to how they blend; in fact, forget the word and the concept of blend altogether; and treat doing the whole song over as your only option to not getting it the way you want it.  That’s the way it was when Bluegrass first got recorded (and for years after that), and, to me, it’s what made those wonderful “mistakes” so precious.  Furthermore, there was no such thing as Mixing (a bunch of separate tracks together) back then.   These days Mixing and Fixing are the hallmarks of recorded music, so much so that the “undercurrent” of any recording has a rather sameness throughout all the songs since the “engineers” set certain levels and tones as a foundation for all (or much of) the music and sometimes even for the voices.  I wanted to avoid that at all costs—which, of course, can be somewhat “costly.”  (And to assure that credit goes where it is deserved, it was George Shuffler’s “if we’d knowd folks was gonna listen to this so many years later, we’d a-tried to do it better” that made me realize what’s better might not be the only goal worth pursuing.) [Imaging with me what the music that was "invented " in the late 1940s that came to be called Bluegrass would have been if those recording it had sought to "blend" Earl's or Ralph's banjo, Jimmy Martin's guitar, Bill's mandolin, George's bass or any of those unique and nearly frightful tenors.  In fact, I would have liked to have been in the studio if someone had told Sonny or Bobby, "We've got to get you to "blend" in more--or even later (than those originals were doing their first work--if someone had said that to John Duffey!!!]

              Furthermore, recording methods were not the only things involved in getting those wonderful sounds of yore.  The artists took their material from many sources; in fact, they got to perform when the lines that separated songs into different categories were not so well drawn just as there were no lines painted on the sides of roads back when they started beating them.  The performers had been spawned by parlor music, played in kitchens and on porches.  All the players tried to express themselves as individuals working with one another as opposed to unified groups trying to blend with one another.  The idea all the lyrics had to have the same rhythm and tempo from each voice had yet to be formed.

              So I somehow got the support of the band, and we gave it a try.  We picked songs from many genres.  Everybody in the band took turns at different vocal parts and different instruments.  Everybody brought their own ideas, which didn’t need to be discussed; they just needed to be put out there.  When we made an unacceptable glitch, we did it over.  Mostly we all sought our own voices and independence of expression.  Since we all play several instruments and sing different parts, when we did dub, we did it the old-fashioned way.

              Hence this record is NOT for everyone.  I doubt we ever did one that was.  But this one especially is only for those who like the bark left on.  To my mind that’s what made Bluegrass in the first place. And when I hear folks jamming in parks, or around kitchen tables, or the “new” traditionalists who are bringing their own expressions to the music some of us have had all our lives, I not only want to, but feel compelled to go back in time.  Heck, at my age it still feels like yesterday.  Maybe it will for you, too.

 

Ron Thomason, 2014

 

 Load Up the Car

All the Good Times Are Over Here

Watson’s Blue

Dark As the Night

I’ve Always Been a Rambler

Someone You Used to Know

Sweet Little Sheila

You Take a Cab

Just One More

Pain in My Heart

Highway of Sorrow

Don’t Forget This Song

Over the Garden Wall

Black Jack Davey

The Tavern Choir

Uno

Stranger in a Strange Land

 

LYRICS

 

1. Load Up the Car--Brian Aldridge

(I was one of those folks who got to be at the wonderful jam sessions at the Aldridges.  In fact, his Dad and Mom fed me hardily in those days when I was struggling to make it through college--as did the very young couple, Tom and Sharon Boyd.  rt)

Brian-- mandolin; lead, baritone, and bass vocals:  Tom--Dobro; tenor & high baritone vocals:  Dan--guitar and bass; Ron--banjo: 

Heidi--fiddle

 

Chorus:

Load up the car on Friday night; the tires are kinda bald but it’ll be all right.

Neighbors wish they were goin’ home like me,

To Kentucky, West Virginia, or Tennessee.

 

Growed up around home playin’ on guitars, got old enough was playin’ in the bars;

I guess you can say I’m my father’s son; we both liked to have a lot of fun.

 

Repeat chorus:

 

He always said, “Work a job by the day; never count on pickin’ to get all your pay.”

I tried to listen to all he said, ‘cause he always kept his fam’ly fed.

 

Repeat chorus:

 

Real small house, not a-lotta room, Mom kept it clean with an old corn broom.

People would come from miles away to be there when we began to play.

 

 

Repeat chorus:

 

Here comes Ralph James and Lonzo Fox, and they both have a flat-top box;

And ol’ Willie Shepherd is carryin’ a bass and a J-45, just in case.

Mom would always cook enough food, so she could feed the entire brood.

Sit down at the table, “Can you pass the salt?”  If you went away hungry it was your own damn   

     fault.

 

Repeat chorus:

 

We moved to the country, got a bigger place; Dad always wanted a little more space.

Chickens and a garden, sweet corn we hoed; we sold it by the dozens out by the road. 

 

Repeat chorus:

 

 

2. All the Good Times Are Over Here--arr. & lyrics Ron Thomason

(I love song texts, but never could make sense out of the old texts to this one.  So I decided I would try to write one of my own, and it turned out to be a theme song for soured where love has done more than died but turned into anger and resentlment--not an attractive sentiment--but still a real one.  rt)

Brian--guitar, tenor vocal:  Tom--banjo, Dobro; baritone vocal: Dan--bass:  Ron--mandolin, lead vocal

 

I wish to the Lord I’d never been born, or died when I was young;

I never would’ve seen your sparkling green eyes,

Or heard your lyin’ tongue. 

 

Chorus:

All the good times are over here; they’re buried in our past;

Like soldiers killed in a foreign field, long covered up with grass.

 

I gave to you my house and horse and borrowed against the land.

You took it all and lied and gave it to another man. 

Repeat chorus.

 

Don’t ever come back, you false-hearted jade.

Stay just as far from me,

As the devil is from the heavens above

And the mountains from the deep, blue sea.

Repeat chorus.

 

3. Watson's Blues--instrumental--W.S. Monroe

(Bill Monroe said that he wrote this for his "good friend, Doc Watson.")

Brian--mandolin; Tom-- Dobro; Dan--bass; Ron--guitar

 

4. Dark As the Night--W.S.Monroe

Brian--guitar; Tom--Dobro, lead vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--guitar

 

Dark as the night, blue as the day; I'm lonesome, my darling, since you've gone away.

Sometimes I wonder, "What made her stray?"  Dark as the night, blue as the day.

 

Chorus:

 

Blue as the sky, there's blues in my heart; it's dark outside, since we've been apart.

Tell me, please tell me, "What made her stray?"  Dark as the night, I'm blue as the day.

 

Repeat chorus

 

 

5. I’ve Always Been a Rambler--from Grayson & Whitter

(DBFS used to do this.  So Brian dug it up, and added a nice guitar tuning to the mix. rt)

Brian--guitar; tenor vocal; Tom--Dobro; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin; lead vocal

 

Well, I’ve always been a rambler, my fortune’s been quite hard.

I’ve always loved the women, drank whiskey and played cards.

My parents treated me kindly, as they had no one but me.

My mind was bent on ramblin’; at home I didn’t agree.

 

There was a wealthy farmer who lived in the country by.

He had a handsome daughter on who I cast my eye.

She was so tall and handsome so pretty and so fair.

There ain’t no girl in this wide world with her I could compare.

 

So I asked if it made any difference if I crossed over the plain.

She said it’ud make no difference if I’d come back again.

She said that she’d prove true to me until I proved unkind.

So we kissed, shook hands and parted; and I left that girl behind.

 

Well, I left old North Carolina to Marion I did go.

Went on to Johnson City for to see this wide world o’er,

Where the work and the money was plentiful, and the women treated

   me kind;

But the only object of my heart was the girl I’d left behind.

 

Well, I rambled out one evening down on the public square.

The mail had just arriven; the post man met me there.

He handed me a letter which give me to understand—

The girl I’d left in Carolina had married another man.

 

So I read a few lines further, and I found out it was true.

My heart was filled with tumult; I didn’t know what to do.

My heart was filled with tumult, and trouble was on my mind.

I’m a-goin’ to drink and gamble for the girl I left behind.

 

 

6. Someone You Used to Know--G. Jones

(I heard George Jones do this song with the different chord progression than the one he had used on the recording.  I didn't necessarily like it any better than the way he recorded it, but I figured if he did, maybe we should too.  rt)

Brian--guitar; baritone vocal; Tom--Dobro; tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin, lead vocal

 

Four walls, two chairs, and a doorway

To a room that has always stayed closed,

But sometimes that door can be opened

By someone that you used to know.

 

It’s been many long years since I’d seen her.

I got a letter just yesterday.

And it came like the rain out of nowhere,

And here’s what she had to say:

 

Chorus:

“The years have gone by, some good and some bad;

But I never got over the times that we had.

So meet me tomorrow where we used to go;

She signed it, ‘Someone that you used to know.’”

 

Time is a river that flows round the bend,

Never to return to the places it’s been.

Still there’s some people that stays on your soul,

Like someone that you used to know.

 

Repeat chorus.

 

 

7. Sweet Little Sheila--Tommy Roe

Brian--baritone vocal; Tom--tenor vocal; Ron--lead vocal, guitar, knee slaps (which took all my endurance-rt)

 

Sweet little Sheila, you know her when you see her blue eyes and a pony tail.

Cheeks are rosy; she acts a little nosy; man, that little girl is fine.

 

Never knew a girl like little Sheila; her name drives me insane.

Sweet little girl, that's my little Sheia; man, this little girl is fine.

 

Me and Sheila go for a ride; oh, oh, oh, oh, feelin' funny inside.

Then little Sheila whispers in my ear; oh, oh, oh; I love you, Sheila dear.

 

Sheil said she loves me, said she never leave me; true love will never die.

We're so doggone happy just bein' around together; man, this little girl is fine.

 

Repeat 2nd verse, then 3rd verse, then 4th verse

 

Oh, this little girl is fine; yeah, this little girl is fine; oh, this little girl is fine.

 

 

8. You Take a Cab In This Big City--Jesse Winchester

Brian--bass vocal; Tom--tenor & baritone vocals; Dan--guitar; Ron--lead vocal

 

You take a cab in this big city; you’re a fool to walk alone.

They won’t be happy with your wallet;

No, they want to pick your bones.

I asked a man for directions, thinking maybe he would know:

He said, Go straight; you can’t miss it,

“But you’ve got a ways to go.

“I you get lost, Mister, just keep moving

“No matter what you carry on.

“You may stumble into heaven; you may wander your way home.”

 

See, coming up the streets are one-way,

And they’re one-way going down.

I’ve been up and down ‘em all ways;

I’ve been all the way ‘cross town.

I asked a woman for directions,

Hoping maybe she would know.

She said:  (repeat bold above)

 

Say, is this here the Garden Parkway?

Is this the highway home?

If I get back, boy, I’m going to stay back,

And never, ever roam.

I asked a child for directions,

On a chance that he would know.

He said:  (repeat bold above)

 

 

9. JUST ONE MORE--G. Jones

(It is said that this was the first "drinking song" that Jones wrote.  I have always been amazed by the songs he wrote; like, "The Old, Old House." rt)

Brian--mandolin, tenor vocal; Tom--Dobro; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin, lead vocal

 

Put the bottle on the table; let it stay there till I'm not able

To see her face in ev'ry place that I go.

I've been sitting here so long, just rememberin' that she is gone;

Well, one more drink of wine; then if she's still on my mind--

One drink...just one more...and then another.

 

I'll keep drinking; it won't matter.  I'll just remember that I once had her.

I don't know why I sit and cry ev'ry day.

I've been trying to forget, but I haven't done it yet.

Well, one more drink of wine, and if she's still on my mind--

One drink...just one more...and then another.

 

Repeat 1st verse

 

 

10. Pain in My Heart--Bobby Osborne

Brian--guitar, baritone vocal; Tom--banjo, tenor vocal; Dan--bass, lead vocal; Ron--mandolin; Heidi--fiddle

 

Now when I first met you right from the start; you know that I love you from the pain in my heart.

So look in my eyes and see that it's true.  You know that I love you, please don't make me blue.

 

Chorus:

With pain my heart and blues on my mind, I'll always love you, but can you be mine?

Can you be mine with another man's name? You know that I love you, and I'm not to blame.

 

Now say that you love me and you will be mine--this pain in your heart and blues on your mind;

Just say that you love me and don't say, "Goodby."  You know that I love you; for you I would die.

 

Repeat chorus twice

 

 

11. Highway of Sorrow--W.S.Monroe

Brian--mandolin, lead vocal; Tom--banjo, tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--guitar

 

Once I had a darlin' wife; kind, true, and sweet; life gay and happy, everything was so complete.

But I fell for another who led my life astray.  Now I'll live in sorrow till my dyin' day.

 

Chorus:

Down the highway of sorrow I'm travelin' alone; I've lost all my true friends; I've lost a happy home.

I'm headed for destruction; I'm on the wrong track; down the highway of sorrow there's no turnin' back.

 

I went to my darlin' wife, got down on bended knees; I ask for forgiveness and to give my poor heart ease.

But she was hurt so deeply, she could not forgive; now I'll live in sorrow as long as I live.

 

Repeat chorus twice

 

 

12. Don’t Forget This Song--Carter Family (arr. Thomason)

Brian--guitar; Tom--tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin, banjo; lead vocal; Heidi--fiddle

 

My home’s in old Virginny among the peaceful hills.

The memory of my birthplace lies in my bosom still.

 

I did not like my fireside; my mind began to roam.

And so I took to ramblin’ so far away from home.

 

I bid adieu to parents; to friends I said, “Farewell.”

I landed in Chicago in the very bowels of hell.

 

‘Twas on a moonlit ev’ning; the stars were shining bright,

When with an ugly dagger I made one’s spirit fly.

 

‘Twas then the sober struck me, and plainly I could see:

I’m doomed; I’m ruined forever throughout eternity.

 

I went down to the station and told what I had done.

I’d not become a coward and go out on the run.

 

I’d courted a young maiden.  I will not give her name.

Oh, why should I disgrace her or bring her any shame.

 

So now I’m on my scaffold; my time’s not very long.

You may forget the singer, but don’t forget this song.

 

 

13. Over the Garden Wall--Carter Family

Brian--guitar, lead vocal; Tom--tenor vocal

 

My love stood under a walnut tree over the garden wall.

He whispered and said he’d be true to me over the garden wall.

She has beautiful eyes and beautiful hair.

She’s not very tall so she stood on a chair.

Many’s the night I kissed her there over the garden wall.

 

Chorus:

Over the garden wall, the fairest girl of all;

There never were yet such eyes of jet,

And you can bet, I’ll never forget--

The night our lips and kisses met over the garden wall.

 

There’s always a will; there’s always a way over the garden wall.

There’s always the night as well as the day over the garden wall.

We hadn’t much money, but weddings were cheap.

So while the old feller lay snoring asleep;

With a lamp and a ladder she managed to creep over the garden wall.

 

Repeat chorus:

 

 

14. Black Jack Davey--traditional

Brian--guitar, lead vocal; Tom--banjo; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin

 

Black Jack Davey came ridin’ through the woods; he sang so loud and gaily.

He broke the hearts of many poor girls, and he charmed the heart of a lady.

He charmed the heart of a lady.

 

How old are you, my pretty little miss?  How old are you my honey?

She answered him with a silly smile, “I’ll be sixteen next Sunday.”

“I’ll be sixteen next Sunday.”

 

Come go with me, my pretty little miss; come go with me, my honey.

I’ll take you where the grass is green; you never shall want for money.

You never shall want for money.

 

So she kicked off her low-heeled shoes; they were made of Spanish leather.

And she put on her high-heeled boots, and they both rode off together.

They both rode off together.

 

Last night she slept on a goose feather bed beside of her husband and baby.

Tonight she sleeps on the cold, cold ground beside of the Black Jack Davey;

Beside of the Black Jack Davey.

 

Repeat 1st verse.

 

 

 

15. The Tavern Choir--G.Jones/J.Lauderdale

Brian--guitar, baritone vocal; Tom--Dobro, tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin, lead vocal

 

Everyone suspected old Willie’s time was near,

‘Cause lately he’d been talkin’ ‘bout the Lord and leavin’ here.

He said, “If I fight the devil when I die I know I’ll lose,

So sing my soul to heaven before the devil gets the news.”

 

Well, everybody cried when poor old Willie died.

And his old flat-top guitar was all that Willie left behind.

They took it to the graveyard when they laid him down to rest.

Someone tuned it up and answered Willie’s last request.

 

Chorus:

The tavern choir from Marvin’s Bar on Wine St. gathered ‘round.

The believed Willie’s soul passed through Heaven’s golden gate,

Before his body touched the ground.

They sang, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound;

“I come to the garden alone.”

The tavern choir from Marvin’s Bar on Wine St. sang old Willie home.

 

There’s an old flat-top guitar on the wall behind the bar,

And somewhere there’s a twinkle in a far, distant star.

And I’ll bet ol’ Satan raised some hell when he finally got the news,

That the only sole that Willie left was on the bottom of his worn out shoes.

 

Repeat chorus

 

 

16. Uno--Brian Aldridge

(Guess what the title refers to and be the first kid on your block to unlock that at least one of the mysteries of the universe.)

Brian--mandolin; Tom--banjo; Dan--bass; Ron--guitar; Heidi--fiddle

 

 

 

17. Stranger in a Strange Land--traditional (text: Ron Thomason)

(This one's for folks who live by the T.S. Eliot aphorism:  You must bring knowledge to the poem.)

Brian--guitar; Tom--banjo; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin, recitation; Heidi--fiddle; Stranger--curiousness

 

 

 

 

The Gospel Way

 

 

Credits:

Recorded and mastered by Harold Prentice at Audioworks, Canon City, CO

Mixing:  Harold Prentice, Heidi Clare, and Ron Thomason (with remote help from Brian Aldridge and Tom Boyd)      Producer:  Ron Thomason; Cover Photo:  R. Leonard

Dry Branch Fire Squad:  Brian Aldridge—guitar; mandolin; lead, tenor, baritone, and bass vocals; Tom Boyd—banjo; Dobro; lead, tenor, and baritone vocals; Dan Russell—bass; guitar; lead and bass vocals; Ron Thomason—mandolin; guitar; old-time banjo; lead and bass vocals.  Special guest:  Heidi Clare—fiddle. 

 

Dry Branch Fire Squad is proud to host and endorse two renowned bluegrass festivals:  The award winning Grey Fox Festival in Oak Hill, NY, held annually on the third weekend of July; and the non-profit community-supporting High Mountain Hay Fever festival in Westcliffe, CO, held annually on the second weekend of July.

 

Dry Branch Fire Squad wishes to express appreciation for long time support to LaBella Strings and Rounder Records.  DBFS also expressly appreciates the many promoters, producers, events, and venues that have presented the band throughout its 38 years (and still going) as well as the National Council for Traditional Arts, the Ohio Arts Council and the many public and private arts and performance organizations that have supported and hosted the band throughout those years.  And from us to you:  Thanks to the fans!!!

 

The Gospel Way is a “companion” album to the secular CD titled Don’t Forget This Song.  All the songs for both albums were recorded during the same sessions over a four day period.  Therefore, the notes about recording that appear on the cover of Don’t Forget This Song apply equally to this CD.  Those notes, along with further credits, lyrics, and expansions on the notes for both CDs can be found online at www.drybranchfiresquad.com.  Click on CD NOTES on the Home Page.

 

Notes: The Gospel Way

              Gospel music has always been an important part of the music that Dry Branch Fire Squad performs and records.  The band’s second album (on vinyl—1976) was a limited issue, since soon after that and one succeeding record came out, DBFS signed with Rounder Records.  The first Rounder gospel album that DBFS recorded (its fifth title for the company) was selected by the U.S. Library of Congress to be sent to national public libraries all over the world as being “indicative and representative of the spirit (my italics) of American folk music and its derivatives.”  It was at the time, and still is, entirely unique for an album of “religious” music to have been so selected. (That album, titled Golgotha has long been out-of-print).  I cannot count the reasons that folks might question the selection of that album or of this band as being chosen for the honor.  But I can offer an explanation.

              This is important music!

It is largely assumed that music has been associated with religion and/or spirituality since there’s been music—at least as a human creation.

              This particular music, which is called “gospel” after the Old English term which literally meant “good spell” or “God tale” (in the sense of being an “infallible truth”) and also signifies the first four books of the New Testament, is derived from the church music of the American cultural region known as Appalachia.  It is singularly Protestant Christian.  And so one might expect it to appeal to a very limited audience, but this is not the case.

              It is a simple fact that this music is widely performed by both Christians and non-Christians alike.  And as such it is appreciated, enjoyed, and embraced by folks from both factions.  That is a seeming contradiction in regards to this kind of Gospel music.  But it is indicative of the music associated with many other religions as well.  And it raises questions which bear answering. As a proponent, fan and erstwhile performer of Gospel Music, I have some opinions on the subject.   

              To begin with Appalachian gospel music consists of a lot of darned good tunes.  They are easy to remember, to whistle, and to carry around in one’s head.  This music is proof-positive of the old preacher’s saying:  “The devil shouldn’t have all the good songs.”  In general it is simple music.  It is fun to play and to listen to.  It demands harmony while tolerating individual expression.  More than secular bluegrass music, it accentuates the up-beat (called back beat) that was invented by Bill Monroe and which gave birth to Rock and Roll, while at the same time preserving the drone notes, shape notes, and dissonant melodies of the old-time hymns and spirituals from which it is derived.

              Just as the beauty of the tunes is in their simplicity, so too are the texts at once simple and yet literarily complex.  These words impart powerful messages of hope, joy, pain, sorrow, separation, salvation, life, death, family, duty, laws, kindness, judgment—extreme opposites of the human condition—and all in the context of the profoundest opposite:  Heaven and Hell.  The words are at once literal and metaphorical.  They are simple words, expressed simply and understandably, and meant to provide difficult choices regarding adhering or ignoring; choices so compelling that listeners tend to do some of each.  These opposites, so important to good writing and first taken to their pinnacle (in English) by none other than Shakespeare, inculcate the very deepest and imperative of emotions.  

              And yet the songs, text and music taken together, do so in such a pleasant, often “light” way, that the great joy of strong feelings can be experienced without the attending crises that often must needs accompany such life experiences that engender emotions of equal strength.  That certainly is the spiritual power of this music.  That it may have a religious power as well explains its undeniably nearly-universal appeal to both the believers and the non-believers in their various, and yet separate, ways of appreciating this music. 

              A Bluegrass Unlimited article once said, “Dry Branch Fire Squad doesn’t sound like any other group.”  Nothing captures the flavor of that statement better than hearing them perform gospel music.  They are at once as primitive as a stone tool and yet as modern as…well…the early, maybe even mid-20th century.  They perform with great humor and exceeding respect for both the music and the audience.  Each individual member of DBFS brings strong beliefs and convictions to their performances.  Theirs is aggressively traditional gospel.  That’s what the Library of Congress wanted to share with the rest of the world.

 

Maudie H. Carson, Assoc. Prof., Classics (ret.); River Mt., VA,  2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lyrics

 

1. The Gospel Way--Ira & Charlie Louvin

Brian--guitar; Tom--banjo, tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin, lead vocal; Heidi--fiddle

 

There's a right and a wrong way to praise the Lord,

And the right way you must take,

If you want a friend at the journey's end, out of debt on that great pay day.

 

Chorus:

Never stop (and wait) lest you'll be (too late) to inherit the golden crown.

You must walk (each day) in the gos--(pel way) if your works for God be found.

 

Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Do you cheat him not in trade?

Would your conscience groan on tomorrow's dawn should you meet him on your way? 

 

Repeat Chorus

 

Never do good deeds for the praise of man, giving gold that man might see;

But in secret give and in secret pray.  He'll reward you openly.

 

Repeat chorus

 

 

2. Lonely Tombs--traditional

Brian--mandolin, baritone vocal; Tom--Dobro, tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--guitar, lead vocal

 

I was strolling one day in a lonely church yard

When a voice from the tomb seemed to say;

“Once I lived as you live, walked and talked as you talk,

But from Earth I was soon called away.”

 

Chorus:

Oh, those tombs (oh, those tombs0

Lonely tombs (lonely tombs)

Seemed to say in a low, gentle tone,

Oh, how sweet (oh, how sweet)

Is the rest (is the rest)

In our beautiful, heavenly home.

 

Then a voice from the tomb seemed to whisper and say,

“Weary man, you must soon follow me.”

And I thought as I gazed at that cold, marble slab,

“What a dark, lonely place that must be.”

 

Then I came to the place where my mother was laid,

And in silence I stood by her tomb.

And her voice seemed to say in a low, gentle tone,

“I am safe in my heavenly home.”

 

 

3. (If You Don't Love Your Neighbor), You Don't Love God--Carl Story

Brian--guitar, baritone vocal; Tom--banjo, tenor vocal; Dan--bass, bass vocal; Ron--mandolin, lead vocal

 

There are many people who will say they’re Christians,

And they live like Christians on the Sabbath day.

But come Monday morning till the following Sunday,

They will fight their neighbor all along the way.

 

Chorus:

Oh, you don’t love God if you don’t love your neighbor;

If you gossip about him and you never have mercy;

If he gets into trouble and you don’t try to help him,

Then you don’t love your neighbor and you don’t love God.

 

There’s a God in heaven, and you’ve got to love him;

If you want salvation and a home on high.

If you say you love him while you hate your neighbor,

Then you don’t have religion; you just told a lie.

 

In the Holy Bible in the book of Matthew,

Read the 18th chapter in the 21st verse.

Jesus plainly tells us that we must have mercy.

There’s a special warning in the 35th  verse.

 

 

4. Model Church--Christian Hymn, author unknown

Brian--baritone vocal; Tom--tenor vocal; Ron--banjo, lead vocal

(There have been two masterful recordings of this song by well-known bluegrass bands, but neither of them did the song the way I heard it as a child.  For one thing the text I was familiar with had more to it.  I heard several folks in my little church community and county do the song from time to time, and this is as much like they did it as I can remember--with one little change that I'll leave for the "scholars."  RT

 

Dear wife, I’ve found a model church and worshipped there today;

It made me think of good old times before my hair was gray.

The meeting house was finer built than they were years ago,

But I found out when I went it; it was not built for show.

 

The sexton did not sit me down away back by the door.

He knew that I was old and deaf and saw that I was poor.

He must have been a Christian man.  He led me boldly through

The crowded aisle of that grand church to find a pleasant pew.

 

I wish you’d heard the singing, wife; it had the old-time ring.

The preacher said with a bellowing voice, “Let all the people sing!”

“Old Coronation” was the tune; the music upward rolled.

I thought I heard the angel band strike on their harps of gold.

 

My deafness seemed to melt away; my spirit caught the fire.

I joined my feeble trembling voice with that melodious choir;

And sang as in my youthful days, “Let angels prostrate fall;

Then bring forth the diadem and crown Him Lord of all.”

 

I tell you, wife, it did me good to sing that hymn once more;

I felt like some wrecked mariner that gets a glimpse of shore.

It made me want to lay aside this weather-beaten form,

And anchor in that blessed port forever from the storm.

 

‘Twas not a flowery sermon, wife, but simple gospel truth.

It fitted humble men like me; it suited hopeful youth.

To win immortal souls to Christ, the earnest preacher tried;

He talked not of himself or creed but Jesus crucified.

 

Dear wife, the toil will soon be o’er; the vict’ry soon be won.

The shining path is just ahead; our race is nearly run.

We’re nearing Canaan’s happy shore, our home so bright and fair.

Thank God we’ll never sin again.  There’ll be no sorrow there.

 

Dear wife, you were a pretty maid and I a strong young man,

When we first dreamed this journey’s end and now must say, “Amen.”

 

 

5. Brother, I'm Getting Ready To Go--Flatt & Scruggs

Brian--gutiar, bass vocal; Tom--banjo, tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--1911 Gibson F-2 mandolin (in respect for Curly Seckler and Everett Lilly), lead vocal; Heidi--fiddle

 

The Lord has saved me; I want the world to know.

I’m on my way to Gloryland.

There I’ll see Jesus, and take him by the hand.

Brother, I’m getting ready to go.

 

Chorus:

I’m getting ready to go (I know).

I’m leaving this world here below.

There’s nothing in this world can turn me back, I know.

Brother, I’m getting ready to go.

 

Sinner, wake up while yet you have time,

And get in the glory land way.

Jesus will hear you and answer your call.

Get ready to meet him today.

 

Brother, don’t wait till it is too late.

Jesus might call for you today.

It’s awful to know when you leave this world below,

If you are not ready to go.

 

 

6. If I Be Lifted Up--Stanley Bros.--(arr-Russell)

Brian--baritone vocal; Tom--Dobro, tenor vocal; Dan--guitar, lead vocal; Ron--bass vocal

 

Down in the valley, down on my knees,

I asked my Jesus, “Hear me please.”

I asked my Jesus, “Hear me please.”

He promised He would take care of me,

If I would lift him up.

 

Chorus:

(He said if I) He said if I, (be lifted up) be lifted up;

(He said if I) He said if I, (be lifted up) be lifted up.

I’ll be your father; I’ll be your mother;

I’ll be your sister, (and) your brother.

(He said if I) He said if I, (be lifted up) be lifted up;

I’ll bring joy (joy, joy) to your soul.

 

When I am lonely, when I am sad;

My Jesus comes and makes me glad.

He is the dearest friend that I have;

I want to lift him up.

 

Repeat chorus; repeat chorus

 

 

7. Heaven's Light Is Shining On Me--Stanley Bros.

Brian--guitar, tenor vocal; Tom--banjo, high baritone vocal; Dan--bass, bass vocal; Ron--mandolin, lead vocal

 

Some have fathers who are gone (are gone)

Some have fathers who are gone (are gone)

Way up yonder in that new bright world,

The heaven’s light is shining on me.

 

Chorus:

(Oh, Lord) the heaven’s light is shining

(Yes, it’s) shining on me.

(Oh, Lord) the heaven’s light is shining

(Yes, it’s) shining on me.

Way up yonder in that new bright world,

(Oh, Lord) the heaven’s light is shining on me.

 

Some have mothers who are gone (are gone);

Some have mothers who are gone (are gone);

Way up yonder in that new bright world,

The heaven’s light is shining on me.

 

Repeat chorus.

 

Some have children who are gone (are gone);

Some have children who are gone (are gone);

Way up yonder in that new bright world,

The heaven’s light is shining on me.

 

Repeat chorus.   Repeat chorus

 

 

 

8. Will the Circle Be Unbroken?--traditonal (source--Blue Sky Boys)

Brian--guitar, lead vocal; Tom--tenor vocal; Dan--bass; Ron--mandolin (the F-2 in respect to Bill Bolick)

 

There are loved ones in the Glory,

Whose dear forms you often miss.

When you close your earthly story,

Will you join them in their bliss?

 

Chorus:

Will the circle be unbroken,

By and by, by and by?

Is a better home a-waiting,

In the sky, in the sky?

 

In the joyous days of childhood,

Oft they told of wondrous love;

Pointing to the dying Saviour,

Now they dwell with him above.

 

You can picture happy gatherings,

‘Round the fireside long ago;

And you think of tearful partings,

When they left you here below.

 

One by one their seats were emptied;

One by one they went away.

Now the family is parted;

Will it be complete one day?

 

 

9. Take Me In Your Lifeboat--Flatt & Scruggs

Brian--guitar, baritone vocal; Tom--banjo, tenor vocal; Dan--bass, lead vocal; Ron--mandolin, bass vocal

 

Now come brother, sister; and don’t fall asleep.

But pray every day or you’ll sink in the deep.

Fathers and mothers are praying so loud,

Saying, “Lord, won’t you take me in your life boat?”

 

Chorus:

Take me in your life boat; oh, take me in your life boat.

It will stand the raging storm.

Take me in your life boat; oh, take me in your life boat.

It will bear my spirit home.

 

The clouds are so heavy; the wind is so loud;

The thunder’s a rollin’, burstin’ in the cloud.

The prayed for the shipmates for what they had done;

They put the dyin’ sailor in a life boat.

 

Repeat chorus.  Repeat chorus

 

 

10. No Mother In This World--L.Flatt, E.Scruggs, B.Graves

Brian--guitar, baritone vocal; Tom--Dobro, tenor vocal; Dan--bass, bass vocal; Ron--F-2 mandolin (for Curly), lead vocal

 

I have no mother in this world, no mother in my home.

The place don’t seem the same to me, since mother, she is gone.

 

Chorus:

No mother in this world today, no one to call my hand;

No one here to care for me till we meet in the promised land.

 

I never shall forget the day when mother said, “Farewell.”

And how I miss her on this earth, no one but God can tell.

Repeat chorus:   

 

 

11. Upper Window--Cooke Duet

Brian--mandolin, tenor vocal; Tom--banjo; Dan--electric bass; Ron--guitar, lead vocal

 

When God spoke unto Noah, and he told him build the ark,

The Lord to wield a vessel; but, oh, it was so dark.

Then God said, “Build a window; look out it towards the sky,

And when it’s dark and lonesome, you’ll see me standing by.

 

Chorus:

“The storms may come, but fear not; for, Noah, I am nigh;

And through the upper window, you’ll see me standing by.”

 

“It may be that affliction will wreck and rack your brain,

Until your mortal body is wrecked with fevered pain.

But do not be discouraged; just lift your tear-dimmed eyes,

And through the upper window, you’ll see me standing by.”

Repeat chorus

 

“Perhaps you’ll suffer losses; like houses, land, and gold.

And you will feel you’re homeless and penniless and old.

But sweetness, peace, and comfort will lift your painful sighs,

When through the upper window, you’ll see me standing by.

Repeat Chorus

 

 

12. The Lone Pilgrim--traditional (Dylan gives credit to the Watson Family)

Brian--tenor vocal; Tom--baritone vocal; Ron--lead vocal

 

Soon I came to the place where the lone pilgrim lay,

And pensively stood by his tomb;

When in a low whisper I heard someone say,

“How sweetly I sleep here alone.”

 

Oh, the tempest may howl and the loud thunder roar,

And gathering storms may arise.

But calm is my feeling, at rest is my soul;

The tears are all wiped from my eyes.

 

 

The call of my master compelled me from home—

No kindred or relative nigh.

I met the contagion and sank to the tomb.

My soul flew to mansions on high.

 

Go tell my companion and children, most dear,

To weep not for me now I’m gone.

For the same hand that led me through scenes so severe

Has kindly assisted me home.

 

 

13. When the Angels Carry Me Home--Flatt & Scruggs

Brian--guitar: Tom--banjo, Dobro; tenor and highbaritone vocals: Dan--bass, bass vocal; Ron--mandolin, lead vocal; Heidi--fiddle

 

I’ll fly away to heaven, and I won’t fall;

When the angels carry me home.

I want to see Jesus first of all

When the angels carry me home.

 

Chorus:

When the angels carry me home, when the angels carry me home;

I want to see Jesus first of all, when the angels carry me home.

 

No more sorrow and no more pain,

When the angels carry me home.

I’ll ride that glorious, heavenly train,

When the angels carry me home.

Repeat chorus

 

I’m on my pathway leading to heaven,

When the angels carry me home.

I’ll see Jesus waiting for me in heaven,

When the angels carry me home.

Repeat chorus

 

 

14. Oak Grove Church--Don Reno

Brian--mandolin, tenor vocal; Tom--Dobro; Dan--bass; Ron--guitar, lead vocal

 

There’s an old church so fair, standing lonesome and still;

And in mem’ry it’s still to me.

A place still so sweet, where I heard as a boy

The old hymn “Ne’er, My God to Thee.”

 

Chorus:

Oh, the mem’ries untold (wonderful, beautiful mem’ries untold)

Oak Grove of old (in that old-fashioned Oak Grove of old)

Will live on till the end of time.

For my Saviour was there (wonderful, beautiful Saviour was there)

Each time that bell tolled (yes, each time that old church bell would    

     toll)

Looking for his lost sheep to find.

 

There I heard Mother sing, and I heard Daddy pray

With the tear running down their face(s).

Many now have passed on, whose souls there were saved,

While we all sang “Amazing Grace.”

 

Repeat chorus:

 

There’s still an Oak Grove, where I played as a boy;

And I’m sure there is still a well.

And I know ev’ry spring, sweeter still the birds sing;

Some will nest in the old church bell.

 

Repeat chorus:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D

There's Theereright and a wD

There's a right and a wrong way to praise th'Lord.

       A

And the right way you must you must take

             D

If you want a friend at the journey's end

                                   A              D

Out of debt on that great payday.

 

CHORUS

G                                              D

Never stop or wait lest you be too late

                                       A

To inherit the golden crown

                  G                                   D

You must walk each day in the gospel way

                            A          D

If the works of God be found

 

Do you love your neighbor as yourself

Do you cheat him not in trade

Would your conscience groan on tomorrow's dawn

Should you meet him on the way?

 

chorus

 

Never do good deeds for the praise of man

Giving gold that man might see

But in secret give, and in secret pray

He'll reward you openly.

 

 

rong way to praise th'Lord.

       A

And the right way you must you must take

             D

If you want a friend at the journey's end

                                   A              D

Out of debt on that great payday.

 

CHORUS

G                                              D

Never stop or wait lest you be too late

                                       A

To inherit the golden crown

                  G                                   D

You must walk each day in the gospel way

                            A          D

If the works of God be found

 

Do you love your neighbor as yourself

Do you cheat him not in trade

Would your conscience groan on tomorrow's dawn

Should you meet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
-

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