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About Religious and Gospel Music

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This section includes a selection of Gospel songs and religious hymns written by various composers throughout history, and performed by Paul. These recordings are taken from the double album Light CD released in 2018. All tracks were recorded at Ryantunes Studio, are subject to copyright, and with performance rights through SOCAN.

In this About section, each track contains the Background of the music plus Paul’s notes on how he approached recording it.

Just a Closer walk With Thee
(Composer: Unknown / Time: 3:31)

Background
Just a Closer Walk with Thee was written sometime between 1855 and 1870. The writer remains unknown; however, it is possible that it was written by a slave during the Civil War. A version was published in 1885 by songwriter Fanny Crosby and musician William Kirkpatrick. This version was then updated circa 1900 by Elijah Cluke.


Recording Approach
The ideal version of this music requires a vocal that is smooth, authoritative and able to deliver both high and low notes equally well. To me, the vocal-even more than most songs-is the key factor for success. Prior to the studio recording, I tried a lot of microphones just to determine how each would perform with Just a Closer Walk with Thee. Normally for a song of this tempo and personality I would use a ribbon microphone, as they provide the characteristics I was looking for. However, I ended up using a Neumann TLM49 for my vocal. It was a perfect fit as it provided the smoothness and other attributes that this music demands. That mic is one of those pieces of equipment that rarely gets used but when its right, it is very right.

 

Get Line, Brother 
(Composer: Lester Flatt / Time: 2:24)

Background
Get in Line, Brother was written by Lester Flatt circa 1949, soon after leaving Bill Monroe’s band. The song became part of the early 1950’s repertoire of the newly-formed bluegrass band Flatt and Scruggs.

 

Recording Approach
No one can do this song as well as Lester (well, maybe the Earls of Leicester?). What I did was try to make it a bit different that its normal bluegrass roots. So, I used a lower register to highlight the harmony, and move the version more to acoustic country than bluegrass.  

 

Go, Rest High on That Mountain
(Composer: Vince Gill / Time: 3:42)

Background
Vince Gill and fellow country artist Keith Whitley were friends and when Whitley died in 1989, Gill began to pen the song. It remained on paper, unused and undeveloped until some else very close to Gill - his older half-brother Bob died in 1994. Gill then completed the song- a song that he and other artists perform to this day.

 

Recording Approach
Such a beautiful tugging song, I wanted to arrange it and play it with a variety of instruments to convey the somber nature and love behind it. The banjo is able to establish such a mood so I began with that, and supported this with guitar. I also used 12 string and some classical guitar. Of course, with a bunch of guitars in the mix all occupying the same lane, any engineer or producer will tell you recording would be “fun”. So, I used a lot of EQ going in with a transient shaper on the 12-string, and brought instruments in and out as the situation allowed.

 

Who Will Sing For Me 
(Composer: Thomas J. Farris / Time 2:56)

Background
The song is credited to Thomas J Farris in 1944. However, it is possible that a version existed decades earlier. The story behind the lyrics remains unknown, however it is a song that has been recorded by many artists ranging from the Grateful Dead to Emmylou Harris.


Recording Approach
This is a very interesting song. On one hand Farris is writing about death and being alone. On the other, I believe it’s also a song of curiosity if not contentment. My goal was to use instruments which lightened the message (so mandolin backing up a guitar), and use a bit faster tempo than is normally the case.

Mansion Over the Hilltop 
(Composer: Ira Stanphill  / Time 3:28)

Background
Ira Stanphill was in the audience one night in 1949 when a motivational speaker who’d had a failing business related an experience that he’d had that helped turn things around. He was driving his car around one afternoon, despondent and considering solutions when he came upon an old dilapidated shack. It was forlorn, the roof had holes and in disrepair and a young girl sat on the porch with a beat-up doll. The girl was obviously from a poor family as her clothing was torn, and her hair disheveled. The businessman pulled up and asked her “little girl, how can you be so happy when you need new clothes and a new doll, too?” She pointed to a place behind the shack and said “my daddy’s building us a brand-new mansion over the hilltop.” Stanphill was inspired by the story, and began writing Mansion Over the Hilltop.

Recording Approach
This is a song of hope. How Stanphill wove such a positive message into a Gospel song is truly amazing. As a songwriter you are often seeking out some simile or de facto parallel universe in which to bed your message. And I believe Stanphill did so beautifully in this song. So, for this recording I wanted instrumentation that reflected a happy overall theme, and the guitar was able to deliver by taking a lot of the workload.

 

Keep on the Sunny Side 
(Composers: Ada Blenkhorn, J. Howard Entwisle / Time: 3:02)

Background
The lyrics of Keep on the Sunny Side were authored by Ada Blenkhorn in 1899. His nephew was disabled and always asked for his wheelchair to be pushed on “sunny side” of the street. Music was then put to the words by J. Howard Entwisle. The song remained relatively obscure until a 1928 recording of it by the Carter Family gained popularity, and became their “theme song” on radio over the years. When patriarch A.P. Carter passed away, the family’s gold record of the song was embedded into his tombstone.


Recording Approach
I believe what makes this song truly great is the chorus. It is upbeat, optimistic and lively. And to make it stand out, a great harmony works well. So, my approach was to record the main vocal at a low register for me-almost too low (no kidding?). But this allowed for a strong harmony vocal. The other thing was using and applying instruments that lend to the upbeat, happy main message of this song

 

Rock of Ages 
(Composer: Augustus Toplady / Time 2:56)

Background
Rock of Ages was written in 1763 by Reverand Augustus Toplady. It is believed that Toplady drew his inspiration for Rock of Ages from an incident while traveling along a gorge. He was suddenly caught by a bad storm, and took shelter within the gorge. While waiting for the storm to subside, he huddled by a rock and scribbled down the initial lyrics.

Recording Approach
This is a beautiful hymn. But musically it has a very slow tempo, so was a challenge to arrange. The chorus/refrain is extremely powerful, and so I again used harmony in the chorus to accentuate that. Also, by incorporating the 12-string guitar for a short break I thought broke up any dark mood. Overall I didn’t want to mess it up with a lot of instrumentation since Toplady’s music itself does the main job.

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