Allison's Sacred Harp Singers

Heaven's My Home 1927-1928

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Allison's Sacred Harp Singers must have seemed as much an anomaly in 1927 and 1928 -- when they first recorded -- as they would be in 2004. The shape note singing on Heaven's My Home, after all, originated in 19th century churches. By the early 20th century, radio and records would broadcast more contemporary styles (the Grand Ole Opry first broadcast during the 1920s), making religious material with spare accompaniment seem slightly old-fashioned. But record companies, facing a slump, attempted to tap regional markets. This, surprisingly, included recording groups that drew their material from the shape note hymnbooks of yesteryear like The Sacred Harp (1844). After recording two apparently successful tracks for Gennett in Alabama (both tracks, "I'm a Long Time Traveling Away from Home" and "I Belong to This Band," are included), Allison's Sacred Harp Singers traveled to Richmond, IN, to record more material. Over the course of one day, May 1, 1928, the group recorded 30 songs, 19 of which are included on Heaven's My Home. While many contemporary listeners will find the four-note range -- fa-sol-la-fa-sol-la-mi-fa -- monotonous, these recordings offer a rare chance to hear versions of "Bound for Canaan," "Traveling Pilgrim," and the title track performed in the same manner as they would've been performed as far back as the early 1800s (save for the piano and organ accompaniment). The sound quality is excellent, and the liner notes by John Bealle and Joyce Cauthen are first-rate.

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