Thursday, June 30, 2011


"He's a suitor!"

One of my favorite movies of all time is O Brother Where Art Thou, the Coen brothers remake of the Odyssey in which three escaped convicts discover a treasure in music. And the soundtrack (which was a huge best seller) also was a treasure, something I listen to quite often. Its packed with old time gospel, blues, and bluegrass numbers that are charming, sad, and wonderful.

There was a concert that was put on before the movie came out, featuring all the acts that were in the soundtrack called Down From the Mountain which was terrific too - you can watch it on Youtube or if you have Netflix its available for streaming. In that concert were the Peasall Sisters.

These cuties played the daughters of George Clooney's character and they were in the concert, too. They had grown up a little bit (the oldest really shot up) and you can tell the oldest (Sarah) is just terrified to be on stage while the two younger don't much care, they just are trying to sing. The other two are Hannah and Leah and they could sing pretty well for tykes.

They did the song "In The Highways," which apparently was written for the movie, both in the film (in the background during a political rally) and in the concert. They're adorable, but that was 10 years ago and they've grown up some. They have a disc out I want to buy as soon as I can called Home To You which includes the old song Logtown, which is sad and beautiful:

I love this old time stuff for three reasons. One, its part of my heritage and background, as an American I love the things from my past because it helps remind me of who I am now and how we all got here. Like a Dutchman who loves things about the Netherlands or a Black man who thinks about his grandfather's heritage in Africa, Americans justly ought to enjoy their history and heritage.

Two, the music is so genuine. Unlike Pop Culture which is primarily focused on excitement, emotion, and sales, Folk Culture is focused on genuine production by regular people as part of a society. Bluegrass is just folks, its the songs about life and hard and good times, honest and real. They sing about sadness and death and loss with clarity and openness, unashamed to talk about their future and where they will be one day. The music has a reality to it that no other music does, although the Blues and Country comes close.

And three, the music is unashamedly, straight forward Christian. There's no attempt to force faith on anyone, theres, nothing deliberate, their Christianity is just part of life. It is presumed, and expressed not at some breathless emotional and self-focused level like modern "Contemporary Christian Music" but at a basic, personal level. This is just how they are and its such a part of them that it comes out in their work, not to reach some goal, but just as part of the music and life.

And that's both refreshing and comforting in these days of hostile, fundamentalist atheism and so much pressure toward secularism and contempt toward faith.

The Peasall Sisters are all Christians and they have a gentle, honest faith that comes out in all their music. They have wonderful, clear young voices that blend in beautiful harmony, and the simple accompaniment is subdued enough to just give them some music to sing by rather than a performance. I can't recommend this disc enough. Lots of their stuff is available to listen to on Youtube.


JoelAT said...

Thank you Christopher. I absolutely love this stuff, and this song is absolutely beautiful, I just wish this was considered pop music and not the auto-tuned crap about mindless drek we have now.

Eric said...

Great song! My wife and daughter gave me a mandolin for Father's Day this year, and as I've been trying to learn to play it I have been listening to a ton of this old time bluegrassy stuff. One of my favorite's that I have found over the last few weeks is this old Bill Monroe tune, 'Sitting Alone In The Moonlight':

One of the great things about this type of music is that because it is so straightforward, it is also easy to write songs in that tradition. You just say what you are thinking or feeling, and try to come up with rhymes. There is no need for an intricate plot or catchy hooks (although having people die tragically in bluegrass songs is a tradition of sorts).
And they don't have to be great to be enjoyable.

Here are the lyrics to one I came up with a few years ago that has an old-timey chord progression and feel to it, even though tit touches on modern issues:

As I take a long hard look at the world outside my door,
It all seems to be headed the wrong way,
I'm wise enough to see some of the things that lay in store,
But please Lord could you give us one more day?

One more day of milk and honey,
One more day of bread and wine,
more happy smiling children,
and a little more sunshine?
And we'll take it all for granted, no matter what I say,
but please could you give us one more day?

Now there's debts we owe, we know Lord, someday they will come due,
I ain't sayin' we shouldn't reap just what we have sown,
But if you'll just give us one more day, where we don't have to pay,
Well... we can credit you some deflated interest, too.

One more day of milk and honey,
one more day of casting stones,
from inside our big glass houses,
built on subprime mortgage loans,
And I know we don't deserve it, but we want it anyway,
So please Lord won't you give us one more day?

Now I'm not trying to dodge the blame, cause I know I've got my share,
But these leaders have gone and lead us plumb astray,
And I didn't vote for most of them, so it ain't exactly fair,
And that's why I stand here begging for one more day.

One more day of milk and honey,
one more day up on the top,
if a thing can't go on forever,
then someday it's gonna stop,
And I fear the end is coming for the good ol USA,
But please Lord could you give us one more day?

Chris said...

They're bonafide.

Christopher R Taylor said...

Great song, Eric, you need to shop that kind of thing out to someone, like Allison Kraus.