Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill

Walking my Lord up Calvary's Hill
Photo by Trevis Hicks

We learned a new song for Easter, but didn't get it put up on youtube in time for me to share it with you last Sunday. Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper had a super hit with Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill back in the day. Over the years a lot of other folks have performed the song too, including bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent. 

Ruby Mae Barber Moody penned Walking My Lord Up Calvary's Hill along with many other gospel songs including the very popular southern gospel song My Real Home.

We've taken to playing on Granny's back porch lately. She likes it because she can hear us from her chair where she sits crotcheting. If we get to talking or stop playing for some other reason she'll come to the door and say "I'm coming out here to see what the hold up is."

Hope you enjoyed the late Easter song!

Tipper

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I Twice Belong to Thee

Wade Wilson and Marie Wilson

Wade and Marie Wilson - Pap's parents - My Papaw and Mamaw

 I've been thinking a lot about Papaw Wade over the last few weeks. Back when those first big camcorders came out-you know the kind that recorded on VHS tapes? My cousin's husband interviewed Papaw Wade about his life and filmed it.

As Paul was looking for old film footage and recordings of Pap he came across his copy of the interview and converted it to a DVD for me.

It had been 10 years or more since I watched the interview. I so enjoyed hearing Papaw Wade's voice again and I was impressed with how eloquently he spoke of his life.

Way back in 2008, the year I started blogging, I shared a song Pap wrote that was inspired by Papaw Wade. I thought I'd share it again today.

Papaw Wade was an old time Baptist Preacher. Pap once heard him tell a story about a lad who made a small boat during one of his sermons.

The lad placed the boat in a rushing stream to see if it would float. As the wind began to blow, the boat was taken from his reach. He frantically tried to rescue the boat, but to no avail.

The lad searched from shore to shore but never found the little boat. He grieved for the boat he had made. As time went swiftly by, he happened to see the boat in a store window. Oh how great the joy he felt. He would own the boat once more-no matter what the cost.

The lad and his boat stuck with Pap. He discussed it with his father and gathered all the details surrounding the story. The image of the lad losing what he made only to have to buy it back again inspired Pap to write the song I Twice Belong To Thee.

The first time I shared the video a Blind Pig Reader shared this comment:

"Maybe you know that story is called "Little Boat Twice Owned." I think the book by that name is still in print. I know it is available. It was a story often used to explain the gospel to children. And it's a sweet story too."

 
Papaw Wade died the year before The Deer Hunter and I were married. He had great wisdom to share-like the story of the lad and his boat, but he was also a real Appalachian character-you never knew what he was going to say or do next.
 
He wore overalls every day except Sunday and was famous for wearing his hat with the bill turned straight up. I'm planning on sharing part of his intereview with you in the coming months so be on the lookout for that.


I hope you enjoyed Pap's song, the wonderful 2-part harmony, and Paul's flat-top picking.

Tipper

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Blues Stay Away From Me

Blues stay away from me the pressley girls

The Delmore Brothers were a great influence on Pap's harmony style of singing. Pap was a fan of the Delmores from an early age and he passed along his love for them to his children.

The Delmore Brothers had so many great songs! There's the ones like Browns Ferry Blues that make you smile and the ones like Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar that'll almost make you cry. Then there's all the ones that make you tap your toes and hum along.

Take a listen to The Pressley Girls singing Blues Stay Away from Me - a Delmore Brothers classic. 

 

The Pressley Girls think the Delmore Brothers are pretty cool. I guess you could say Pap's love for the Delmores has reached the next generation of harmony singers. 

Tipper

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Oh Why Not Tonight

Oh Why Not Tonight - an altar call song in Appalachia

Gospel music plays a major role in the culture of Appalachia. I'm not talking about music in relation to monetary terms nor successful performers, although more than a few country and bluegrass stars got their start singing in church. 

My thoughts and beliefs come directly from my own personal experiences, but I feel strongly that my statements about the relationship between gospel music and Appalachia would be shared by most who grew up attending church in these mountains.

Even as a young child I remember being astounded by the power of songs of faith. There's a palatable feeling that occurs when folks gather to lift their voice in worship. If you've never felt it, slip in the door of one of those little old churches scattered through out and listen as the choir sings and see if you don't feel it too.

One of my closest childhood friends is named Sharon. We were in the same classroom at school and we went to the same church.

We liked the singing more than the preaching-as most kids are likely to do. We knew the page number of all our favorite songs and we'd anxiously wait to see if the song leader called out one that we loved to sing. 

Down On My Knees written by Mosie Lister, The Prettiest Flowers Will Be Blooming by Albert E. Brumley, I Want To Know More About My Lord by Lee Roy Abernathy, and Are You Washed In The Blood by Rev. E.A. Hoffman were a few of the upbeat songs we liked.

We had a love for the more lonesome gospel songs too. Songs like- Lord I'm Coming Home by William J. Kirkpatrick, Almost Persuaded by P.P. Bliss, Oh Why Not Tonight by Elizabeth H. Reed and J. Calvin Bushey, and Take My Hand Precious Lord by Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey.

The lyrics of those old gospel songs I grew up with lend themselves to the culture of Appalachia. I'm not suggesting that they were all written here, most were not. But the strong recurring themes of God, Jesus, love, the cross, faith, death, blood, hell, rivers, long roads, toiling, snares, mountains, shining lights, rejoicing, happiness, joy, better times to come, dark valleys, and loved ones calling come fit perfectly in the mindset of most folks born and raised in Appalachia. I would go so far as to say the manner in which they were written, the words used, strike a chord with the language of Appalachia. Maybe in the same way the isolated nature of the region played a role in the continuity of our dialect it also helped folks hold on to the sacred songs of our past.

Paul has been uploading some of Pap's older music to the Blind Pig and The Acorn youtube channel. He recently put up a few videos made from the first recording of The Wilson Brothers - Words of Life way back in the 70s. Take a listen to their version of Oh Why Not Tonight

Hope you enjoyed the song! My favorite part is the way they say poor and of course Pap's high tenor. 

Tipper

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Tipper's Jig

Fiddle tunes by katie pressley

Over the years when the girls asked me what I want for my birthday, for mother's day, or for Christmas I always tell them to learn a song for me. For the past two years Chitter has written a fiddle tune for my birthday and presented it with Chatter's accompaniment as I came in the door from work. The tunes absolutely tickle me to death.

The first one she wrote, Two Old Chairs, has become a part of our regular performing line up. It is so fun to play. I shared the reason behind the name of the tune in a post with you-if you missed it you can go here to read about the name. The tune itself is very lively and fun. It makes you think of a room full of happy dancers or smiling children running in pure delight. 

She really flattered me by naming the second fiddle tune Tipper's Jig. While the first tune she wrote made me think of an exuberant happy gathering of people interacting with each other, Tipper's Jig makes me think of soaring mountain tops where the wind whips the clouds across a blue sky and deep valleys where the settlements are busy with people going to and fro as they maneuver through this thing we call life.

I hope you enjoyed my song.

Tipper

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The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling

O Danny Boy

The song O Danny Boy is well known around the world sung by famous vocalists as well as around the family piano-or family guitar in the Blind Pig house. Folks are often reminded of the old ballad during the week of Saint Patrick's Day.

I researched O Danny Boy and discovered some interesting facts:

  • While the tune is indeed Irish-the words were written in England
  • There are varying opinions about the origin of the tune-some believe its as old as the 1600s
  • In about 1855 Jane Ross discovered the tune and passed it along to a collector of old Irish music, at that time the tune was called Londonderry Air
  • Many songwriters tried to add words to the music but nothing seemed to fit the mournful tune
  • In the 1800s the tune made it to America along with Irish immigrants
  • About 1912 a Mrs. Weatherly heard the song in Colorado, she sent the music back to England to her brother-n-law who was a songwriter
  • Mr. Weatherly had already penned the words to Danny Boy but had never found the right melody-now he had it
  • When Mr. Weatherly put the old Irish tune to his words a hit that would last through the ages was created
  • To read more about the fascinating story behind the song check out this page

I believe O Danny Boy appeals to the masses because the song evokes the strong emotion of longing for someone you love and miss-a truly common theme of mankind.

For me personally, the song transcends location. If I replace the word glen with holler I would swear the words were written about my mountains and the high graveyards that rest on many of them.

In the same way, you could substitute the descriptive words with hills, dunes, or whatever topography you live near and feel as though it was written just down the road from you.

For this Pickin' & Grinnin' In The Kitchen Spot O Danny Boy. I want to encourage you to watch the video. Paul sings the original 2nd verse which most performers leave out. No matter how many times I hear the 2nd verse I get chills...every last time. 

2nd verse:

But when you come and all the flowers are dying If I am dead as then I well may be You'll come and find the place where I am lying And kneel and say a prayer there for me And I will hear though soft you tread above me And all my grave will warmer sweeter be For you will bend and whisper that you love me And I shall rest in Peace until you come to me

Tipper

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I'll Be All Smiles Tonight

Pap - I'll be All Smiles Tonight

Pap 1970 something

I've been enjoying a video of Pap and Paul singing the old song I'll Be All Smiles Tonight for the last few months. Paul discovered the video on an old VHS film from 2002 and we uploaded it to Youtube back in September. The love song tells of the awkwardness and sorrow of being present while the object of your love appears with another suitor and you try to hide your feelings. 

The Traditional Tune Archive has this to say about the song:

I'LL BE ALL SMILES TONIGHT. American, Waltz. C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. Popularized by the 1934 Carter Family recording, however, the tune is considerably older, with words and music written in 1879 by T.B. Ranson. Many recordings of the song predate the Carter Family as well, including Luther B. Clark and the Blue Ridge Highballers (1926); Mac and Bob (1927); Allen Brothers (1928); Reed Children (1928); Jenkins and Whitworth (1929); Bradley Kincaid (1929); and Linda Parker and The Cumberland Ridge Runners (1933)

The Louvin Brothers also recorded I'll Be All Smiles Tonight and I'm guessing that's where Pap and Paul learned it. 

The video became slightly distorted when we converted it from a VHS file to a digital one. It features a high lead by Pap and a harmony by Paul underneath. In the key of D, the song is high and difficult to sing, yet it sounds like a sweet lullaby to me.

 

I hope you enjoyed the video as much as I do. The voices and guitars take me straight back to childhood and make me feel safe and loved. In fact I like the video so much that I took a clip of it and turned it into my phone's ringtone. Now every time someone calls me I get to hear Pap and Paul's lovely sweet harmony. 

Tipper

p.s. The Pressley Girls will be playing Friday March 10 at Ranger's Elementary's Gospel Bluegrass & Barbecue. Tickets are on sale now $7.00 prepaid at the door they will be $10.00. Starts at 5:00 p.m.

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Why Did I Leave The Plow In The Field?

The old homeplace by the pressley girls

The Old Homeplace

It's been ten long years since I left my home
In the hollow where I was born
Where the cool fall nights makes the wood smoke rise
And the fox hunter blows his horn.


I fell in love with a girl from the town
I thought that she would be true
I ran away to Charlottesville
And worked in a sawmill or two.


What have you done to the old home place
Why did they tear it down
And why did I leave the plow in the fields
And look for the job in the town.


Well the girl ran off with somebody else
The taverns took all my pay
And here I stand where the old home stood
Before they took it away.


Now the geese fly south and the cold wind blows
As I stand here and hang my head
I've lost my love I've lost my home
And now I wish that I was dead.

What have you done to the old home place
Why did they tear it down
And why did I leave the plow in the fields
And look for the job in the town.

-------------------

The song above was written by Dean Webb and Mitch Jayne. If you don't recognize their names-just let your mind drift back to the Andy Griffith Show-more specifically The Darlings...who were really The Dillards

I first fell in love with the song when I heard Tony Rice's version. I was just a kid-but from the instant the words breathed themselves through my ears and into my brain I knew it carried a powerful message of woe. 

As with many old songs, this one is written from the man's point of view, which can throw up an obstacle for female crooners. I've heard many female singers leave the point of view-preferring to stay true to the original writer. 

Chatter and Chitter have always been girls who walked to the beat of their own drum. The Pressley Girls never hesitate to change the gender of the song. Their reasoning: we all identify ourselves with the songs we love -no matter the gender point they are sung from. So if we're already "changing" the words in our head why not change them as they come out of our mouths as well? 

Although the girls slightly changed the words to the song-The Old Homeplace-it still packs a punch. 

First-you leave home and all you've ever known.

Second-you realize that home wasn't so bad after all.

Third-you meet someone who makes you feel a little better about your decision.

Fourth-that certain someone breaks your heart and leaves you at about the same time you realize home is where you need to be.

Fifth-you go home to find out it ain't there no more.

Sixth-you wish you were dead.

On some level, everyone can identify with the message the song sends. Dean Webb and Mitch Jayne sliding such a powerful story of life between less than 3 minutes of music is an amazing feat of songwriting.

Hope you enjoyed The Pressley Girls' version of The Old Homeplace

-------------------

I shared the post above with you back in 2014. I found myself thinking about the longing in the lyrics this week. Not because I've moved away from home looking for a job or a new love, but because I've once again been pondering the way we live our modern lives: scratching and scraping trying to get ahead and keep up with what society tells us we ought to have or own. Don't get me wrong I love and appreciate our modern day conveniences, but sometimes I wonder if things weren't easier and maybe even better when the most important thing was the plow in the field.  

Tipper

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Little Debbies and The Pressley Girls

Little Debbie Jolene Spoof by The Pressley Girls
Back a few years ago the girls learned the Dolly Parton classic Jolene. I shared the video of them doing the song in my weekly Pickin' and Grinnin' in the Kitchen Spot in April of 2015. 

As often happens when we're making music we all get to cracking jokes and being silly. Actually I believe on the occasion of learning Jolene it was Paul and the girls being silly. One thing led to another and they begin singing about Debbie instead of Jolene

If you're not familiar with Little Debbies you can find out all about them here

The snack cakes have always been popular in this area and Granny has always had a box or two in the cabinet by the frig. I don't eat Debbies much these days, but I went through a spell in high school where I ate a fudge round every day for lunch. One of my best friends from childhood loved Little Debbies so much that one Christmas someone wrapped up a box for her and put it under the tree at church.

For several years I bought Chitter a box of chocolate cream pies every week. That's how the spoof of the song came about. Someone was teasing her about her Little Debbie addiction. 

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

That snack cake is beyond compare, with filling that's so sweet and rare, with a wrapper that seals the freshness in. That little girl with crimson locks upon the corner of the box makes promise of the prize that waits within.

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

I've seen you slipping round the house; yes you're as sneaky as a mouse, but remember that Debbie belongs to me. You ate the other eleven before, so you best not touch the cabinet door, for you don't know how crazy I can be.

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

I hope my words are making sense because I need some nutrients to warn you, you can't say I haven't tried. I should have moved it somewhere else and not left it there upon the shelf, but I thought that you were satisfied.

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. 

You talk about it in your sleep, but there's other things that you could eat, and I really need that Little Debbie. I had to have this talk with you; my hunger now depends on you and whatever you decide to do Katie. 

Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie oh how I long for thee. Debbie Debbie Debbie Debbie please don't disappoint my belly. Please don't disappoint my belly.

Although the girls and Paul worked out the silly lyrics to the Little Debbie Jolene spoof they never truly learned them. 

If you've been a Blind Pig reader for a good long while you'll probably remember the girls made Pap a special dvd of songs he hadn't heard them do for Christmas each year. This year they made the surprise dvd for Paul and they finally recorded the spoof.

I hope you enjoyed the spoof. If you're a Little Debbie fan I bet you'll ever eat another one without thinking of Chatter and Chitter.

Tipper

p.s. If you missed the Blind Pig email yesterday-it's because I failed to send it out at the right time! Silly me...I chose p.m. instead of my usual a.m. If you missed the post for Saturday you can go here.

p.s.s. Typepad found an issue with my music player yesterday and I had to remove it...probably for good. But I made direct links to playlists full of our music on youtube. Look over in the right side-bar and you'll see a photo to click on and jump over and listen to Pap and Paul and one to jump over and listen to The Pressley Girls. 

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I'm Still In Love With You

Blind pig gang playing in blairsville ga back in the day

The Blind Pig Gang playing in Blairsville GA back in the day

With the day for celebrating the one you love coming up quick I've been thinking about the songs we do that could be considered love songs. Right at the top of the list is Red is the Rose and Maggie.

As I scrolled through our youtube channel I quickly realized most of the love songs we do hightlight the fact that love affairs don't always work out the way you want them to. 

Bluegrass and Country songs are said to be synonymous with heartache and sadness. There's even been songs written about the phenomenon related to both genres. In the country realm-David Allen Coe's hit song You Don't Even Call Me By My Name comes to mind. 

Mandolin Man used to tease Paul about the songs he had written saying "Ever last one of them is sad and depressing."

One time Paul thought he'd take a cue from David Allen Coe's hit and write the most depressing song he could come up with and In The Lonesome Woods Tonight was born. The song turned out to be one of my all time favorites.

Then there's those songs that make you tap your toes even though they're talking about love gone wrong. I love Paul and Pap's version of Roy Acuff's Write Me Sweetheart. The words surely talk about a broken heart, but I don't know how anyone could listen to Paul and Pap's version and not feel at least a little hopeful that things would work out after all. See what you think. 

Did you tap your toes? I did! Outstanding flat top picking and tight harmonies-you can't beat that.

Tipper

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