Various Artists: Southern Journey, Volume 8 - Velvet Voices

Velvet Voices:
Eastern Shores Choirs, Quartets,
and Colonial Era Music
The Alan Lomax Collection Southern Journey, Volume 8

Various Artists

Rounder 1708

Rounder Records
1 Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Virginia Wagner

"The recordings on this album were made in April and May of 1960 in Norfolk, Belleville, Arkansas, Weems, and Williamsburg, Virginia, with two additional recordings made on St. Simon's Island, Georgia." And so begins the liner notes for Volume 8 of the Alan Lomax Southern Journey series. This one is titled Velvet Voices: Eastern Shores Choirs, Quartets, and Colonial Era Music and oh, what velvet voices it holds in store.

What continues to pique my curiosity with this series is the detail to fidelity. Rounder Records has released perfectly remastered tracks that allow us to almost travel back in time to witness the actual recording, but never in a tiresome way. The recordings convey the same excitement and hope obviously felt by the artists.

The first song is Run to Jesus for Refuge, Run Right Along and is performed by Charles Barnett who accompanies himself by beating on an overturned washtub in perfect rhythm. You can barely understand the lyrics, so at the end, Alan Lomax repeats them. It's interesting, but kind of an odd choice for this particular collection considering the vocal complexities and harmonies of the other songs.

The Silver Leaf Quartet sings Witness for My Lord a cappella, and that is immediately followed by the group's rendition of Dark Day, a beautiful gospel song written by Sonny Scott, who was a local preacher.

The Bright Light Quartet provides us with Hey, Hey, Honey. This group was comprised of men who worked the fishing boats on the mid-Atlantic and were quite popular in Virginia. They're harmonies are wonderful! They do a great job with I'm Tired on this CD, also.

Walk On the Bay is a Caribbean-flavored tune performed by Nat Rahmings, Hobart Smith and Ed Young. The cane flute provides a musical counterpoint to the call and response singing. According to the liner notes, Alan Lomax paid a man's rent in Miami in order to be introduced to Nat Rahmings. Overall, this is a pleasing collection of songs and is another fine example of Alan Lomax's profound desire to preserve southern roots music.

Edited by David Schultz

Copyright 2001, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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