Various Artists

Mountain Gospel

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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett

The four-disc, 100-track Mountain Gospel box set collects sacred music released on commercial 78s by Southern white performers in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s, and includes string bands, gospel quartets, and sacred harp singers all trying to sing their way to heaven while maybe making a dollar or two on the way. By turns exuberant, wise, humorous, forgiving, unforgiving, ragged as a soup bone and occasionally dressed up fine as silk, these selections are reminders of how much the sacred and the secular were intermingled in the early days of the recording industry. Highlights include the bass string runs of Alfred Karnes on his double-necked Gibson guitar on the comforting and majestic "We Shall All Be Reunited," the odd waltzes of the Garland Brothers, who tackle "Beautiful" and "Just Over the River" with a lineup of fiddle, guitar, and violincello, the flowing "Going Down the Valley" by Ernest Stoneman (whose long career saw him record on acoustic cylinders, 78s, stereo LPs, and even videotape), and a chugging string band version of "Ain't Gonna Lay My Armor Down" by Ancil McVay and Roland N. Johnson. Ernest Phipps delivers energetic takes on "Do Lord Remember Me" and "Old Ship of Zion," while the Phil Crow Trio crack off a goofy and cartoonish "I'm a Gittin' Ready to Go." Other high points include J.E. Mainer's folksy "This World Is Not My Home" and his energetic "Just Over in the Gloryland" (featuring the three-finger banjo style of Snuffy Jenkins, who helped set the table for bluegrass), as well as younger brother Wade Mainer's gentle waltz version of "The Precious Jewel." The all-female string band the Coon Creek Girls blast through an impressive "Sowing on the Mountain" before the whole set comes to a close with the whimsical and joyous "What Kind of Shoes You Gwine to Wear" by William Rexroat's Cedar Crest Singers. There is a fair bit of fire and brimstone scattered throughout these songs, and a good deal of pining for homes on far, distant shores, but there is also the kind of ragged joy that comes with knowing that singing about a better life may actually -- however briefly -- deliver that better life.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
Alfred G. Karnes 03:10 Amazon
2
Alfred G. Karnes 03:11 Amazon
3
Alfred G. Karnes 03:16 Amazon
4
Alfred G. Karnes 03:03 Amazon
5
Alfred G. Karnes 02:56 Amazon
6
Alfred G. Karnes 02:57 Amazon
7
Alfred G. Karnes 02:39 Amazon
8
Alfred G. Karnes 02:58 Amazon
9
Bird's Kentucky Corn Crackers 03:09 Amazon
10
Hill Brothers / Willie Simmons 02:46 Amazon
11
Bush Family 02:55 Amazon
12
Bush Brothers 03:01 Amazon
13
Bush Brothers 02:53 Amazon
14
Crowder Brothers 03:09 Amazon
15
Anglin Twins 02:26 Amazon
16
Garland Brothers / Daniel C. Grinstead 03:06 Amazon
17
Garland Brothers / Daniel C. Grinstead 02:51 Amazon
18
Virginia Dandies 02:44 Amazon
19
Virginia Dandies 03:08 Amazon
20
Lubbock Texas Quartet 02:57 Amazon
21
Laurel Fireman's Quartet 02:30 Amazon
22
Avondale Mills Quartet 02:50 Amazon
23
The Blue Ridge Rangers 03:07 Amazon
24
The Blue Ridge Rangers 02:55 Amazon
25
Roswell Sacred Harp 02:43 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:34 Amazon
2
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:26 Amazon
3
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:27 Amazon
4
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:55 Amazon
5
Ernest V. Stoneman 03:05 Amazon
6
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:59 Amazon
7
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:41 Amazon
8
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:59 Amazon
9
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:55 Amazon
10
Ernest V. Stoneman 02:45 Amazon
11
Ernest V. Stoneman 03:33 Amazon
12
Ernest V. Stoneman 03:37 Amazon
13
Deal Family 02:52 Amazon
14
Deal Family 03:09 Amazon
15
Deal Family 03:12 Amazon
16
Chumbler Family 02:58 Amazon
17
Ridgel's Fountain Citians 02:36 Amazon
18
Johnson / McVay 03:02 Amazon
19
Johnson / McVay 02:55 Amazon
20
Alabama Sacred Harp Singers 03:06 Amazon
21
Allison's Sacred Harp Singers 02:52 Amazon
22
Allison's Sacred Harp Singers 02:25 Amazon
23
Carolina Gospel Singers 03:02 Amazon
24
Eva Quartette 03:00 Amazon
25
Daniels-Deason Sacred Harp Singers 02:56 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 3

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 02:55 Amazon
2
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 03:09 Amazon
3
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 03:04 Amazon
4
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 03:10 Amazon
5
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 03:14 Amazon
6
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 03:08 Amazon
7
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 03:00 Amazon
8
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 02:40 Amazon
9
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 02:40 Amazon
10
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 03:04 Amazon
11
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 02:53 Amazon
12
Ernest Phipps & His Holiness Quartet 02:49 Amazon
13
Billie Holstein / Calbert Holstein 02:40 Amazon
14
Golden P. Harris 03:23 Amazon
15
Golden P. Harris 03:08 Amazon
16
Kid Williams 02:44 Amazon
17
Kid Williams 02:40 Amazon
18
Frank Crow / Phil Crow 03:16 Amazon
19
Phil Crow Trio 03:18 Amazon
20
Eugene Yates / Ira Yates 03:13 Amazon
21
Williams & Williams 03:03 Amazon
22
McCravy Brothers 02:43 Amazon
23
McCravy Brothers 03:00 Amazon
24
McCravy Brothers 03:06 Amazon
25
McCravy Brothers 03:18 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 4

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers 03:11 Amazon
2
J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers 02:49 Amazon
3
J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers 02:09 Amazon
4
J.E. Mainer's Mountaineers 02:36 Amazon
5
Wade Mainer / Sons of the Mountaineers 02:42 Amazon
6
Wade Mainer / Sons of the Mountaineers 02:18 Amazon
7
Wade Mainer / Sons of the Mountaineers 02:30 Amazon
8
Wade Mainer / Sons of the Mountaineers 02:46 Amazon
9
Carolina Ramblers String Band 03:04 Amazon
10
Carolina Ramblers String Band 02:59 Amazon
11
Dixie Reelers 02:49 Amazon
12
Dixie Reelers 02:11 Amazon
13
Morris Brothers / Eunice 02:34 Amazon
14
Coon Creek Girls 02:52 Amazon
15
Byron Parker & His Mountaineers 02:56 Amazon
16
Byron Parker & His Mountaineers 02:47 Amazon
17
Bill Carlisle 02:19 Amazon
18
Bill Carlisle 03:06 Amazon
19
Southern Melody Boys 02:46 Amazon
20
Edith Collins / Sherman Collins 02:44 Amazon
21
Alcoa Quartet 03:07 Amazon
22
Vaughan Quartet 02:47 Amazon
23
Mrs. R.N. Grisham 03:03 Amazon
24
The Giddens Sisters 02:49 Amazon
25
William Rexroat's Cedar Crest Singers 02:59 Amazon
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