Where No One Stands Alone

Where no one stands alone

Mosie Lister, of Southern Gospel fame, wrote the song Where No One Stands Alone in 1955. Lister wrote, sung, and arranged many gospel songs that have become standards in Southern Gospel circles. Lister was born in 1921 and passed away about this time last year. You can jump over to his website to read more about his musical career. 

Ken Shamblin, one of Pap's good friends, comes to mind every time I hear the song Where No One Stands Alone. Ken enjoyed singing the song and even recorded it on one of Pap's cds.

After coming up with the trio arrangement of Rock of Ages , Pap is always trying to think of other songs that would work in the same manner. Recently we had a go at the song Where No One Stands Alone. 

 I hope you enjoyed the song and the three-part harmony. Pretty cool when you think about each part being from three generations of the same family.


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Like Desperados

  Kids you remember

Spending any amount of time at the VA Hospital in Oteen makes one think of old men.

The hospital certainly serves female vets as well as young veterans...even younger than me. But the majority of the patients are old men. Many are shaky, pale, and sickly. 

Sometimes when I walk the out patient halls with Pap I wish I had some sort of story vacuum. Just think, if I did, I could suck up all the stories that belong to those old men. My what a treasure that would be!

The entirety of Pap's recent hospital stay was in the ICU part of the hospital. It didn't seem to be as busy as it usually is somehow, but maybe it was. 

You can't help but notice the other patients.

There was an old veteran to the left of Pap's room. I don't think he even knew where he was. I'd wager he was spending his last days on earth right there in the ICU. I never saw anyone visit him and that made my heart hurt.  I could hear the nurses as they talked to him. I guess he was nearly deaf because they had to yell at him to get him to hear. I was comforted by the love and compassion every last nurse showed for him. In this case, I could literally hear it in their voices. 

Another one was there because he'd overdosed on meth. He wanted to know if Pap worked there or if he was the Chaplain. The man finally decided it didn't matter who Pap was he just needed him to listen to him talk.  

There was a young man suffering from the same heart problems as Pap. I never saw him, but his family told me shoveling all the snow that Asheville got last week brought on heart pain that resulted in bypass surgery. I tried to comfort them by sharing Pap's story.

Pap was 42 years old when he had a triple bypass. Six weeks later Pap was back at work. Those bypasses cured him for the next 25 years. The Deer Hunter likes to tell people about how Pap was in his 60s when they worked together building houses. The Deer Hunter says "Even though I was a young man and Pap was in his mid-sixties he worked circles around me every last day. Why at the end of a long hard day he'd pull sheets of plywood up on the roof of a house when I could barely get them above the fascia board."

We've always been pleased with the nurses and doctors at the VA Hospital. But this time, they just seemed extry speciaal as Pap would say. 

I'm convinced the 2 docs that cared for Pap could head off to Hollywood to be in the movies if they wanted to be. Two very powerful, kind, knowledgeable, women who just happen to be beautiful in two completely different ways. When I called their name Pap would say "Now is that the one with the amber eyes or the one with the black hair?"

His nurses were just as special. I wish I could remember each of their names because they were all great. Nancy took care of Pap like she'd known us our whole lives. We finally decided she seemed like family because she reminded us both of Nina Chastain. 

There was a night nurse named Dewayne. He told Pap to call him De-wayne and encouraged Pap to get through the night time pain and worry of being in a hospital. Pap told him "Son you've got a good spirit that's helped me through this." It was easy to see that statement probably pleased
De-wayne more than his next paycheck would. 

I set in Pap's hospital room and thought about the old men in the VA, the song Desperados Waiting for a Train came to mind. There's a line in the song One day I look up and he's pushing 80. As I sung the song in my mind that line made me realize Pap is pushing 80 too. He'll be 79 in July. Even though I know Pap is an old man, I'm sometimes surprised by the fact.

I first shared Pap and Paul's version of the song Desperados Waiting For A Train back in 2013. Guy Clark wrote the song. If you've never heard it, the song is about the relationship that occurred between a kid and an old man. 

According to his website, "Guy Clark was was born in Monahans, Texas, on November 6, 1941 and grew up in a home where the gift of a pocketknife was a rite of passage and poetry was read aloud." 

Desperados Waiting For A Train grabs your heart from the first line: "I'd play the Red River Valley He'd sit out in the kitchen and cry."

Clark wrote the song in the late 1960s about an oilfield worker who stayed at his grandmother's hotel. The song was most notably covered by The Highway Men. 


I hope you enjoyed the song-I thought you might like Pap's ad libing at the end. The song makes me think of:

  • learning to play Red River Valley on the piano-how one note seemed sweeter than all the others
  • sitting in the kitchen making music with Pap and Paul
  • all the people who've sat in Pap's house and made music over the years
  • Paul telling me I can find the chords in the song better than most of The Highway Men
  • Papaw Wade and his tobacco
  • how the snuff Pap used to use would leave stains on his chin every once in a while
  • A 14 year old Deer Hunter pulling a loaded horse trailer home from Cataloochee because everyone else was too drunk to drive
  • the old men who visit the VA Hospital in Oteen and the nurses, doctors, and other staff who take care of them
  • the impression we each make on others-even when we don't know we're making it


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Baptizings in Southern Appalachia

Baptizing new martins creek church hoyt brown tipper wilson pressley

Pastor Hoyt Brown with arm raised in prayer; Pastor Aud Brown with head bowed;
small child in white Tipper Pressley; Pastor Buddy Pittman to the left - 
Church Baptizing 1970s held at the Maple Hole just across the Georgia line.

I've had Baptizings on my mind recently, not in a profound or deep manner, more along the lines of the history of Baptizings in Southern Appalachia.

A few weeks ago I came across an article about cold weather written by John Parris. In the article Parris describes what real cold weather is like in western NC by quoting from the Old Man. I believe the Old Man Parris quoted in many of his articles was his Grandfather. 

I'll share some of the Parris article with you in the coming days, but the part that got me to thinking about baptizings was the Old Man's claim of the weather being much colder when he was a youngster and the people being much tougher as well...tough enough to hold baptizings when they had to physically bust the ice before anyone could be submerged. In my book I'm not sure if that constitutes toughness or downright silliness. Much of Parris's writing was done with a sort of tongue in cheek slant so the Old Man may have only been teasing about the ice breaking.

Back in 2013 I shared the hymn I Am Bound For The Promised Land as one of my Pickin' and Grinnin' in the Kitchen Spots. The song was sung at practically ever baptizing I've ever attended. The hymn was written by Samuel Stennett (1727-1795), who was a Baptist Minister in England. Stennett's father and grandfather were also ministers. Stennett's grandfather, Joseph Stennett, was also a hymn writer. 

The hymn that we know today doesn't sound exactly like the one that Stennett wrote. Over the years the hymn was changed into the catchy song most of us are most familiar with today.

In an article published on The United Methodist Reporter, Michael Hawn offers the following details about the history of the song Stennett penned over 200 years ago:

"John Rippon, an English Baptist pastor, published in 1787 an influential collection, A Selection of Hymns from the Best Authors. Thirty-eight of Stennett’s hymns appeared in this popular collection. Among those was a hymn under the heading of “Heaven Anticipated” with the title of “The Promised Land” in eight four-line stanzas. 

The hymn as it appeared in America looked and sounded much different. William Walker’s The Southern Harmony (1835) was the first to include “The Promised Land.” This was one of the most popular of the 19th-century, oblong-tune books with shaped notes. 

The tune PROMISED LAND was paired with the text. The Southern Harmony attributes the tune to “Miss M. Durham” but we know nothing else about the composer. The tune has many of the characteristics the traditional folk melodies of the time. 

Originally written in a minor mode, Rigdon M. McIntosh, a Southern musician, altered the tune to the major mode, and as was customary among American evangelicals in the 19th century added a refrain beginning with “I am bound for the promised land.” This version was published in 1895 in H. R. Christie’s Gospel Light and has become the standard version for many hymnals since that time. 

From the start, the four stanzas focus on heaven. The singer stands on the banks of the Jordan River looking across to the “fair and happy land” of Canaan—a metaphoric mixture of images from the books of Exodus and Revelation. Our true “possessions” lie in Canaan (Heaven) and not on the earthly side of Jordan. 

In stanza two we find that Canaan is a land of “wide extended plains” where “the eternal day” is always shining. In this land Jesus (“God the Son”) reigns. Furthermore, stanza three tells us that Canaan is a spiritually healthful place to live: “No chilling winds or poisonous breath can reach that healthful shore.” Therefore, “sickness and sorrow, pain and death” do not exist in Canaan. 

In the final stanza, the singer obviously cannot wait to get there. Upon arrival in the Promised Land, we will “see [our] Father’s face, and in his bosom rest.” The refrain gives the hymn a sense of marching forward to eternal life. 

Carlton R. Young, editor of The UM Hymnal, places this hymn within the context 19th-century American expansion: “The British poet composed these apocalyptic lines with an ear towards Exodus and Revelation in another setting. USA evangelicals and their song transformed the text into earthly and vital metaphors of the vision, vigor, enthusiasm, and optimism of frontier life moving on to the promised land of Kentucky or Missouri.” 

The article makes me wonder what Stennett's original version sounded like. Hard to say for sure-since I never heard the original version, but I would wager Miss M. Durham's and Mr. McIntosh's changes are part of the reason it is still a popular song choice for churches in my area of Appalachia and beyond. 

Almost all of the Blind Pig Gang is in this video. You can see Pap, Mark, and Paul in the video-while Ben and I are hitting a few licks off camera as well.

Hope you enjoyed the history-and the song. Paul and Pap's version most certainly make you want to tap your toes and sing along.

One of my favorite photos in the entire world was taken on the same day as the one of my Baptism at the top of this post. The photo is of Pap, Granny, Paul, and Steve. Obviously I was there somewhere, maybe I was already in line for the march to the creek. Although I'm not included in the family photo, its always been one of my favorites. Even when I was a little girl I could see clearly that Pap and Paul's expressions matched and that Granny and Steve's also matched. And that all of their faces were filled with love for me, not just on my special day, but forever. 

If you'd like to see the photo-go read this post-the photo is the very last one you can't miss it. 


*Source: Hawn, C. Michael. " The United Methodist Portal."  The United Methodist Portal. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2013. <http://www.umportal.org/article.asp?id=4353>.

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Weary Lonesome Blues


After yesterday's post about being lonesome I thought I'd share a song about being lonesome with you today. I posted about the song several years ago, so parts of this post were originally published here on the Blind Pig in 2008.

Paul and Pap's repertoire includes many songs written by the The Delmore Brothers, they are among Pap's favorite musicians. He enjoys their playing and singing, but as a songwriter himself he is totally blown away by their song writing skills.


The Delmore Brothers were farm boys from Alabama. Their heyday was in the 1930s and 40s but their songs are still popular today-especially in bluegrass/old time circles.

The Delmores played radio shows, were members of the Grand Ole Opry, and were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.


Even though I've been familiar with The Delmore Brothers my entire life, as I began to research their songs I was amazed at how many famous standards they wrote.

A few I have on the radio player; Blow Your Whistle, Southern Moon, , Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar and Blues Stay Away from Me. Others include Browns Ferry Blues, When It's Time For The Whipporwill,  I Won't Be Worried Long, Sandmountain Blues, She Left Me Standing On The Mountain, Happy On The Mississippi Shore, Put Me On The Trail To Carolina, I've Got The Big River Blues, and tons more!

John Delmore, a great nephew of the brothers, requested Pap and Paul do the Delmore's Weary Lonesome Blues for this week's Pickin' and Grinnin' in the Kitchen Spot. 

Hope you enjoyed the video! Hearing their smooth harmony, Paul's flat-top picking, and Pap's tapping foot make it pretty hard to be lonesome while listening even if that's what the song is about.


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Let the Lower Lights be Burning

Let the Lower Lights Be Burning

Pap and Paul have been fooling around with the old song Let the Lower Lights be Burning for the last few months. The song was written by Philip P. Bliss.  I've always had a fondness for songs containing the theme of darkness being broken by the comfort of light. Maybe it's because I've been afraid of the darkness before or maybe it's just because the battle between dark and light is one easily recognized by us humans-in both a literal and a spiritual sense. 

I found the following quote about Bliss on this website.

"P.P. Bliss One of God's gifts to modern Christian music was Philip Paul Bliss (1838-1876).
A Pennsylvania farm boy who wrote some of the earliest gospel songs to gain wide popularity in both Britain and America, he had little formal music training and minimal schooling. Yet in the short span of 12 years (1864-1876) a devoted heart and a natural sensitivity to common folks inspired "Hold the Fort," "Almost Persuaded," "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning," "Hallelujah! What a Savior!" and the music to "It Is Well with My Soul," among many others.

Evangelist D. L. Moody said of Bliss: "...I loved and admired him. I believe he was raised up of God to write hymns for the Church of Christ in this age, as Charles Wesley was for the church in his day. ... In my estimate, he was the most highly honored of God, of any man of his time, as a writer and singer of Gospel Songs, and with all his gifts he was the most humble man I ever knew. I loved him as a brother, and shall cherish his memory...."

Growing up mostly around Rome, in western Pennsylvania, just south of Elmira, New York, the Bliss family was rich in heart, but poor. A hard-scrabble, transient childhood, allowed Philip Bliss few educational opportunities. Early learning the songs of his father, a devout and earnest man who loved to sing aloud, young Philip whistled and sang those same tunes, and occasionally "played" them on crude musical instruments. He did not hear a piano until he was ten. At age 11, he left home to ease the burden on his family, earning his own living in farms and logging camps, fitting in whatever schooling might be possible along the way. His sister remembered the touching scene that day he left home, the sweetly sensitive boy carrying all his clothes wrapped in a handkerchief and tossing his sisters two pennies over his shoulder as he made his way down the lane, not allowing himself to look back in a final farewell."

You can click here to jump over and read the rest of the interesting article about Bliss. 

As I researched the song I quickly discovered Paul and Pap's words are not exactly the same as the original lines penned by Bliss.

A change in lyrics often occurs with songs that are learned by word of mouth and as times change different arrangements of songs are often developed to keep them in use or bring a newness to them.

While Pap and Paul's words might be slightly different there is absolutely nothing wrong with their harmony. The smoothness of their signature two-part harmony really stands out in Let the Lower Lights be Burning.

I hope you enjoyed the song and the history!


*Source: http://home.uchicago.edu/~coleman/public_html/lowerlights.html

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Spotted Pony

Spotted pony fiddle tune by the pressley girls

Every Christmas the girls make a dvd of new material for Pap's Christmas present. They try to do songs he hasn't heard them do so it'll be a surprise. They've been doing the Christmas dvd for at least 4 or 5 years. We usually aim for at least 5 songs but will settle for 4. 

Sometimes the project turns into a labor of love...at least it does for the videographer who as you might guess is me.

It's not that I don't enjoy the music, but most years there's lots of silliness that just won't quit along with a bit of arguing and fussing between the girls. My practical nature believes we should be able to complete the task in no more than an hour. But between the silliness and the fussing filming 5 songs can turn into hours and hours.

Once we've completed the filming we are always ecstatic over the end result...even if it did take way to long (in my opinion) to achieve our goal. 

This year's dvd filming was different. 

We filmed a total of 6 songs, 7 if you count the 2 versions of one number we left because we couldn't decide which was best. The whole process went so smoothly that I couldn't believe we were done...in what had to been less than an hour. 

Why was it so different? I don't really know but here are my guesses:

  • the girls are growing up
  • after the scare Pap gave us back in May they realize just how precious the gift is
  • Chatter was recovering from a cold and she wanted to finish quickly before she began to feel bad again

Here is one of my favorites from the dvd.

The girls learned the fiddle tune at the folk school. I like the catchy tune but my favorite part of the video is the ending. Chitter sort of run out of time and room and got tickled over how she ended the song.


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Good Christian Men Rejoice

Joy to the world
The last days of the year always seem hopeful to me. I suppose it's because all those good feelings of Christmas are still riding high in the thoughts of my mind. What ever the reason, as the current year draws to a close and the new year quickly approaches I always feel a hopefulness for things to come. 

The song Good Christian Men Rejoice embodies that hope that dwells in my heart. The song is among the oldest Christmas carols, you can read about the journey it took to reach us all the way from the 14th Century by going here.

Good Christian Men Rejoice

Good Christian men, rejoice with heart and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say: News! News! Jesus Christ is born today;
Ox and sheep before Him bow; and He is in a manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye hear of endless bliss: Joy! Joy! Jesus Christ was born for this!
He hath opened the heavenly door, and man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this! Christ was born for this!

Good Christian men, rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Now ye need not fear the grave: Peace! Peace! Jesus Christ is born to save!
Call you one and call you all, to gain His everlasting hall.
Christ was born to save! Christ was born to save!

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As you might have guessed, I'm partial to Pap and Paul's version of Good Christian Men Rejoice. You can hear their version by listening to number 3 on the playlist. (to start the music player, click the middle round button in the top left corner of your screen with the triangle shape on it-see photo above and then click on number 3)


We are very grateful and humbled by all the folks who have purchased Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cds-THANK YOU! It really is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard.

If you'd like to buy  Songs of Christmas go here


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Christmas Music from Appalachia all the Way to Argentina

Jingle Bells by paul and jerry wilson

Last Christmas I wrote about the song Jingle Bells twice! First there was the history of the song and Pap and Paul's great version from their Songs of Christmas CD. Second there was the fun video of all of us sitting around jamming on Jingle Bells during our Christmas. 

Well after I shared those posts last year-the absolute coolest thing happened! José Luis posted a video of himself playing along with us on Jingle Bells. We've never met José in person, but have shared many emails and good wishes with him. This is what he had to say about the video:

"Jingle Bells, Repican las Campanas, engraved with the video of the Pressley girls and Uncle Paul, of Brasstown, in USA, where the cameraman shows a photograph of my dear father, with his Spanish Laud, and who gave me the taste for music, my books, the great Earl!!!, and a picture of me, with two years, (ago 68 !! hahaha.). Thanks for looking at it, hoping they have had a Merry Christmas and wishing you all the best for 2015. God Bless to all my contacts, and peace reigns in the World, José Luis from Buenos Aires, Argentina."


From Brasstown to Buenos Aires - From Appalachia to Argentina. Yep the coolest thing ever. 

A big THANK YOU to José Luis for sharing his love of music with us all. 


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Joy to the World!


Joy to the World is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Who couldn't be inspired by those hopeful peppy cheerful lines? According to the book Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas written by Ace Collins, the song came to us via two men who's lives were separated by both space and time. 

Isaac Watts (July 17, 1674)  is famous for bringing change to the songs used during worship services. He wanted worship music to be more meaningful to every day folks like you and me. Watts has been credited with writing hundreds of songs as well as inspiring other hymn writers like Charles Wesley and John Newton. 

After studying  Psamls 98 Watts penned a poem titled Joy to the World. Over forty years later Lowell Mason came up with the energetic tune so many of us are familiar with, he named the tune Antioch. It was another few years before Mason put the words Watts had written with his tune. 

The book, Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas points out another interesting tidbit about the song. Although Joy to the World is set firmly in the midst of our Christmas Carols it really isn't a song about Christmas. Neither Watts nor Mason thought of the words or tune as pertaining to the Christmas season. 

"In 1911, Elise Stevenson, who had scored huge chart success during the early days of records with "Shine on, Harvest Moon" and "Are You Sincere?" joined Trinity Choir for a Christmas release of "Joy to the World!" The Victor Records single climbed to number five on the charts and marked the first time that either Watts's or Mason's music had appeared on popular, contemporary music playlists (though "Joy to  the World!" would later inspire a rock music hit for a group called "Three Dog Night").

It remains a mystery how this hymn became known as a Christmas carol. Inspired by Old Testament Scripture-with no words alluding to the birth of Jesus other than the phrase, "the Lord is come" - "Joy to the World!" would seem to be a song for all seasons, something to be sung in July as much as December. Nevertheless, for some reason Americans embraced "Joy to the World!" as a holiday standard. Perhaps because of its jubilant spirit, it just "felt" like a Christmas song!"

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I love the 'jubilant spirit' in Pap and Paul's version of Joy to the World. You can see if their recording of the song makes you tap your toes or hum along by listening to number 4 on the playlist. (to start the music player, click the middle round button in the top left corner of your screen with the triangle shape on it-see photo above and then click on number 4)


We are very grateful and humbled by all the folks who have purchased Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cds-THANK YOU! It really is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard.

Wish you had one of the cds? I'm giving one of the first issued cds away-all you have to do to be entered in the giveaway is leave a comment on this post.

The first issue of the Christmas cd has 8 songs on it. The second issue has 15. Joy to the World is on both. 

If you'd like to buy a copy of the second issue of Songs of Christmas go here

*Giveaway ends Wednesday December 16. The winner of last week's cd was Colleen Holmes who said:

"Sang that song in church this morning. Christmas is a wonderful time a year. Here in the thumb of Michigan we have been blessed with no snow and warm temps. Good day to everyone."


*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

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We Three Kings Of Orient Are

This post was originally published here on the Blind Pig in December of 2013.

We three kings of orient are

We Three Kings Of Orient Are is one of the most popular Christmas Carols. Just think of all the Christmas plays which use the song to show the presence of the Three Wise Men sharing their gifts with the Messiah. 

The song is based on the book of Matthew. Even though most of us have that vision of 3 wise men bringing gifts from afar, the Bible doesn't actually say there was 3 wise men. The Bible does describe 3 gifts given, and that is why most stories and songs infer that there were 3 wise men as well. 

John Henry Hopkins Jr. was an ordained priest of the Episcopal Church. Hopkins preferred writing to preaching and worked for a New York newspaper as a writer and as a scribe for a church journal. 

In 1857 while trying to decide what Epiphany gifts to buy for his nieces and nephews, Hopkins decided to write them a song. He chose the wise men as the subject for his gift of song. As Hopkins wrote the song he tried to imagine what those wise men must have felt as they searched for the Christ Child. 

After giving the song to his nieces and nephews, Hopkins published the song in his own song book, Carols, Hymns, and Songs. During the next century when churches began to add Christmas songs to their hymnals the song was among the first carols chosen-ensuring We Three Kings Of Orient Are would become one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time.

Today I'd like to share a video of them performing the song. The video doesn't have all the instruments that the cd track does. My favorite way to hear Pap and Paul do the song-is the produced track from the cd. But there is something really special about the simplicity of them doing the song with only Paul's accompaniment on the 12 string guitar. 

While I was researching the history of the song, I kept coming across the tidbit that Hopkins was crazy about children-even though he never had any of his own. Many scholars claimed it was Hopkins's child like love for the Christmas season which inspired him to write the song. I think Hopkins would be pleased as punch that each Christmas children dressed in bathrobes with towels tied around their heads pretend to search for the Christ child to the sound of his song.


We are very grateful and humbled by all the folks who have purchased Pap and Paul's Songs of Christmas cds-THANK YOU! It really is packed with some of the best Christmas music I have ever heard.

Wish you had one of the cds? I'm giving one of the first issued cds away-all you have to do to be entered in the giveaway is leave a comment on this post.

The first issue of the Christmas cd has 8 songs on it. The second issue has 15. We Three Kings Of Orient Are is only on the second issue of the cd. 

If you'd like to buy a copy of the second issue of Songs of Christmas go here

*Giveaway ends Wednesday December 9. The winner of last week's cd was Jeanie who said:

"What an interesting and inspiring story about a beautiful Christmas carol! (P.S. I'd love to add the CD to my library of Christmas music!)"


*Source: Collins, Ace. Stories behind the best-loved songs of Christmas. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001. Print.

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