Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday morning gospel: The Southern-Aires Gospel Singers--Heaven Is My Home (Westwood Record Co. 1016)

Whenever you see R.E. Winsett, Luther G. Presley, and Albert E. Brumley in the composer credits, and titles like Jesus Is Coming Soon, He Bore It All, and I'll Have a New Life, you know you're in for some country and/or bluegrass gospel.  But you have no way of predicting how country and/or bluegrass it's going to be until you lay the needle down.  In the case of the Southern-Aires Gospel Singers, a group the internet gives me no information about, the sounds are as down home as down home gets.  Anything more down home than this, and... I don't know.  It's impossible to imagine.

And it's impossible to imagine worse sound engineering.  If this material wasn't so fascinating, I wouldn't have bothered with it, because the voices are distorted, with an extremely exaggerated treble response.  Then again, we don't know what the engineer was handed in the way of a master tape--the singers could simply have been too close to the microphones during the taping.  At any rate, combining the channels and cutting the treble made for halfway listenable sound.  For significantly less terrible sound, at least.  I'm guessing early 1970s for the recording date--discogs has a very limited discography for the label (Westwood Record Co.), with no LP dates, right here.

You could easily believe these were recorded in 1928 or so--they have the sound of some of the family gospel quartets recorded during the early electrical era, if in somewhat better fidelity.  By "better fidelity," I mean a wider frequency range, though not much of one, considering.  All I know is that I've been astonished, ever since I thrifted this disc a couple decades ago, that a style of singing this old-fashioned would have survived into the 1970s.  I have a few other examples of stuck-in-place quartet singing, but this may be the example.  And, as for why there are five people pictured for a quartet, I believe the shyly smiling blonde is Bonnie Moore, pianist.  The singers are the older folks.  And if this LP has a handed-out-at-personal-appearances look, I'm sure it's because it was.  We usually call such LPs vanity projects, but these records were the bread and butter of these groups, so I don't think that term really applies.  "Very limited production" comes to mind as a phrase.

"The singers are originally from West Virginia," read the liner notes, and my reply is, No kidding!  These highly enjoyable and wonderfully old-fashioned (but not so skillfully recorded) performances make those of outfits like the Blackwood Bros., not to mention some of the smoother quartets of the 1920s, sound slick and urban by comparison, though, as is often the case with gospel, the biggest difference is in the delivery, not the material or even the actual harmonies.  I think it would be a mistake to categorize these performances as folk in any way, as Appalachian as they sound, because the popular gospel music of the 20th century is hugely a product of song books, the singing school tradition, and highly disciplined singing, regardless of the form in which it reaches us--either as a style that sounds fresh from the hills or, say, one that sounds more RFGH (ready for the Gaither Hour).  It's all from the same pool.  Anyway, to our offering.  Bad sound, but music that makes up for it.

LINK: Heaven Is My Home--Southern-Aires Gospel Singers

Heaven's Really Gonna Shine (Brumley)
He Bore It All (Baxter, Jr.-Stamps)
I'll Have a New Life (Presley)
Angels Rock Me to Sleep (Ramsey-Easterling)
Gonna Rise up and Shine (Eugene Wright)
Salvation Has Been Brought Down (Brumley)
Heaven Is My Home (Baxter, Jr.-Swilling)
Jesus Is Coming Soon (Winsett)
Hide Me, Rock of Ages (George)
When I Looked Up and He Looked Down (Brumley)
Echoes from the Burning Bush (Foust-Summar)
Shurley (sic), I Will Lord (Brumley)
Just a Little Talk with Jesus (Derricks)

Southern-Aires Gospel Singers--Heaven Is My Home (Westwood Record Co. 1016)



Scott1669 said...

Perfect to watch the Sunrise on a chilly North Texas morning folding laundry and having this on.

Thank you Lee!!!!!

Zoomer Roberts said...

This is charming! Sometimes you just want to hear real people making real music, without the constraints of a formal recording session. Thank you!

Buster said...

It was recorded in Canton, Ohio, so presumably the members lived in Ohio somewhere, although the singers were "originally from West Virginia."

The site, which concentrates on Ohio, shows "Southern-Aires" groups producing LPs in Cincinnati in 1964, and Waynesville, OH in 1973 and 1974. There's no way of knowing if any of these are the same group.

The same site shows Westwood as being a Canton label that issued singles from 1967-70.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

Hope everyone enjoys. It's great stuff, despite the unfortunate engineering. Many times, I've examined the grooves on this LP, just to see if maybe it's near-invisible wear that's the culprit, but it doesn't look nearly worn to the point that it would sound like this.

Thanks for the info, Buster. A lot of the bluegrass-y quartets came to Ohio to record, which must mean Ohio was where the companies were. Or maybe there were other reasons they migrated here. Dunno....

A man for whom Christ died said...

I also, appreciate your efforts in bringing great albums like this one, to us! It does sound like there was a little editing, especially on (I believe it was) I'm Gonna Rise Up And Shine and I do wonder, what was the Bass singer saying (and repeating) on the intro to Angels Rock Me To Sleep? I'd observe also, that the piano player was strictly a sight-reader and man, what speed! She was the Charlie Monroe of piano playing, or at least, one of 'em LOL! There was a group back home in NC, that had a little more later Southern Gospel style and the lady played piano with the same fervency. On sight reading, my wife is very good at that, but she says she lacks confidence. Several years ago, we used to help out with the music during a Camp Meeting (and for that matter, whenever else I'd preach there) at a church in TN. The choir director would call out a page number, Jess would turn to it, start playing the last line of the chorus and with Brother Larry's (the choir director) confidence, we'd take off from there! Jess plays good all the way 'round, including by ear, which is good for me, 'cause this blind guy cain't read music LOL! Anyhow, enough of my rambling, thanks for the great album. Oh and I believe I asked if you'd post this one in it's entirety several years ago, so thanks for fulfilling a long-ago-forgotten request.

Romans 11:33-36 KJB

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