On the way to and from church today (somebody needs to tell the LCMS, that just because a hymm has 6 verses, it don’t mean ya have to sing every one), I was listening to country gospel on KWMT 540 out of Fort Dodge.
That meant a trip to Borders’s and picking up a CD put out by the Country Music Hall of Fame: Country’s 20 Classic Gospel Songs of the Century. Track one is I Know Who Holds Tomorrow-Alison Krauss. Very nice. She is the most recent offering on a CD that goes in chronological order back to 1935 with The Carter Family-Can the Circle Be Unbroken. The 16 page booklet inside the cover is a treasure trove of pictures and trivia on each of the 20 tracks. In between the newest and the oldest are many of country music’s icons. Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, & Dolly Parton- Farther Along, Tammy Wynette- Precious Memories, Willie Nelson- Uncloudy Day, Connie Smith- How Great Thou Art, Jim Reeves- In the Garden, Hank Williams- I Saw the Light, and that is just 8 of them, the other 12 are just as good!
For my money, nobody does gospel like country and bluegrass. I think part of it is, they were real artists who could do it outside the studio. Like I say, the booklet that comes with the CD had a story and the particulars about every song. Who wrote it, when, the various artists who had recorded it.
My favorite was about Red Foley and (There’ll Be) Peace In the Valley. He recorded it in 1951, and had done many other gospel songs, without being a believer. Before a show in 1968, about to go onstage, he asked fellow performer Billy Walker, “Do you think God can forgive me, after all I’ve done?” Walker assured him, “If He can forgive me, I know He can forgive you.” Weeping, Foley confessed all to God before taking the stage. After concluding with “Peace In the Valley”, he told Walker, “I’ve never sung that song and had the feeling in my heart that I have tonight.” Within hours, Foley died from pulmonary edema in his motel room. A saved man.