The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

April 24, 2008

Join the Gospel Express

As we all know from the movie Walk the Line, prior to his breakthrough Johnny Cash was trying to start a career as a singer with gospel and religious country music before Sam Phillips managed to convince him otherwise, stating that there was no money in gospel.

This may not be entirely true. It may also have been connected to Sam Phllips' musical taste, because there was definitely a market for country/gospel music at the time (though possibly a smaller one than what Phillips was aiming for).

Louvin BrothersOne of the most striking examples of this genre are for example the Louvin Brothers, who in 1960 released an album entitled Satan Is Real. The striking cover, which was, by the way, completely free of irony, soon became a cult object among even the most atheistic of record collectors. To recreate their vision of hell, the brothers had a 7-foot statue of Satan built from plywood and then set fire to numerous kerosene-drenched car tyres that had been hidden under rocks, before assuming their positions in the midst of it. The story goes that Satan wasn't as stable as he was supposed to be, and that the kerosene was a bit more explosive than expected, so at some point during the photo shoot Satan fell over and caught fire, also igniting one of the brothers in the process. Luckily, they managed to escape without any serious injuries.

Musically, the album is surprisingly good, although if you don't subscribe to the brothers' world view, you may want to choose not to listen to the rather bluntly religious lyrics and to ignore the sermon on the title track. However, the country arrangements are tasteful, and the harmony singing is first-rate, and it's not all that dissimilar from pre-breakthrough Johnny Cash. Also, the record does seem to have its fans, as it didn't just catch dust in bargain bins, but was reissued several times and is currently available on CD.

MarcyA somewhat different story is Little Marcy, probably one of the strangest expressions of American religious music of the 1960s. The moniker refers to ventriloquist Marcy Tigner, who sang "duets" with her puppet Little Marcy.

The highlights from her repertoire of exceedingly bizarre performances, which were obviously aimed at the religious education (or can we say indoctrination?) of children, include songs such as "Join the Gospel Express", "The Lord Is Counting On You", and a version of "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" that would make Nina Simone weep. As you listen to this music, you can't stop asking yourself just what is more absurd, the concept itself, Marcy's crazy doll-like falsetto, or the almost psychedelic guitar-heavy arrangements. Still, this kind of music seems to have either had sponsors or customers, for Marcy's discography is impressive. What happened to the children who were exposed to these records is unknown.

Let's just be thankful that Sam Phillips ushered Johnny Cash into a different musical direction.

Hinweis: eine deutschsprachige Fassung dieses Artikels gibt es beim basicblög.

Posted by Horst on April 24, 2008 01:42 PM to reviews | Tell-a-friend
dieter said on April 25, 2008 09:36 AM:

Horst, you should seriously try a second career as a music critic. I really love your comment on Marcy Tigner!

Jann said on April 25, 2008 09:19 PM:

After reading this, I remembered that I had saved on my DVR a Public Television broacast, "The Gospel Music of Johnny Cash," but had not watched it. So I watched it, and then was motivated to donate the amount of money that would entltle me to receive two "free" CD's of Johnny Cash's gospel music (as a gift for my donation). So I am feeling both happy and virtuous!

I find myself agreeing with dieter. Your music reviews are very interesting to me even, and I say "even" because I am not particularly interested in music. I can picture you on TV, talking about the most recent (or not so recent) music releases. I have no idea whether this would interest you, my point is that I think you would excel at it.

dieter said on May 19, 2008 09:01 AM:

I keep looking at this very same article every other day, before acknowledging the frustrating fact that there is still nothing new for Horst's faithful readers.
However, I start wondering which one on the 'Sing with Marcy'-cover actually is the puppet. My latest guess: they both look like their mouths are made of wood.

Jann said on May 19, 2008 06:03 PM:

Hmm...I hadn't thought about this, but I'd say more like plastic. ;-)

Jann said on May 20, 2008 12:03 AM:

@dieter: Weisst du, dass es ein neues Blog gibt, an dem Horst teilnimmt? Es heisst, "BasicBlög:::blog con dos puntos," und man findet es hier:

Ich fand Horsts Artikel, "Das Geschäft, das alles hat, sperrt zu," besonders erfreulich. Ich hoffe, dass du ihn auch geniessen wirst.:-)

Jann said on May 24, 2008 03:13 AM:

My "free" CD's arrived today, and I just finished listening to them. Twenty-five songs in all, some of which Johnny sings in duet with June Carter Cash. Very nice, I would say. (I've always been a fan of Johnny Cash). There's a pamphlet in with the CD's with pictures of Johnny Cash: as a child, with June Carter Cash on their wedding day, both looking very happy. Come September, it'll be five years since he died. Cain't (sic) hardly believe it's been that long.

Jann said on May 29, 2008 05:59 AM:

Whence have all the flowers come? I might not have noticed, because when I want to look at your music reviews, I normally go directly there, (not from the blog); but, they're very lovely, and eyecatching.:-)

Comments have been closed for this entry.

© Copyright 2002-2008 Horst Prillinger, 

Most of the stuff on this page is fiction. Everything else is my private opinion. Please read the disclaimer.

Valid XHTML 1.0! Powered by Movable Type Made with a Mac