Reviews

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Ellen Auriti writes : Saturday’s concert was great – thanks so much to you guys for putting it together. I love listening to and singing good old time gospel and shape-note music – it must have been tremendous fun to winnow through all the great material out there to choose songs for the CD and then to sing them together in harmony. 

Well-chosen material, sung with heart, great harmonies, nice trading off among members of the group to take the lead on various songs to showcase different voices, all eliciting enthusiastic audience participation on the choruses.

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Rod Brown came to our CD release concert and had this to say:

I’m still kinda jazzed. Or folked, as the case may be. Am fortunate to have snagged a seat at this house concert. As much as I enjoy singing along with the “Ain’t Got Long” CD by Journey Home, it was a whole new degree of thrill to hear them perform it live, and to sing along with a room full of similarly happy voices.

All those powerfully persuasive songs sounded magnificent, so it was a further embarrassment of riches when we were treated to a handful of songs not included on the CD. What’s more, there were no also-rans. All the added songs were beautiful, exciting, and fully right.
Marlene and Sylvia were missed, but our stalwart suspects were flexible, so the arrangements didn’t suffer  noticeably.
I would sign on to another meeting of these singers again in a heartbeat. Am ready to buy Ain’t Got Long Volume II. Many heartfelt thanks to Joelle, and all involved. It was an evening of countless gifts.
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Lydia Bryans, also attended the show, and reports :

I had the good fortune on March 22, 2014 to attend a house concert in Oakland, CA by Journey Home, a group of talented singers who have released an album called Ain’t Got Long (2013), produced by Steve Baughman.

Performers at the concert included Mary O’Brien, Caroline Bonnet, Doug Olsen, Patricia Haan, Nomi Harris, Riggy Rackin, Kirston Koths, and Steve Baughman. The program boasted a broad range of beautiful, rousing, soulful renderings of traditional American songs relating to mourning, death, rebirth, and praise.
An intimate venue offered the perfect cocoon for the audience to bask in this haunting, ethereal, and raw, yet polished sound. We were invited to sing along, and sing we did! Despite the “heavy” subject matter, my soul was filled with pure bliss the entire time. I found humor in these lyrics, “I’m ready anytime when you call me, Lord, but give me just a little more time.” Each of us needs a way to heal from the inevitable trials of life; singing the great works of those who have come before lends a measure of comfort.
I am grateful to those participating in the concert and the album for leaving us new-old music to enjoy, learn, and sing time and again together.

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Exhaustively lovely project. Nice choice of rooms; great acoustics. Very tasty banjo.

Rhythm on “Satan” rocks.

Fun to hear you [ie, Doug] in the mix, not that you stick out. just know how you sound.

Nice harmony wash on title cut.

It sounds like soloist is singing soprano part on “Wondrous Love.” Fine rendition.

Always loved “Saints Delight.” Did you turn me on to “Weeping Mary?” My chamber singing group in the Tri Cities ended up doing it. As I remember, the glory glorys had little yodels on the end of each.

“Where Shall I Be?” meticulous choral arrangement pulled off.

“St. Steve” blend worthy of Oak Ash & Thron.

“Long Journey” Best song for video. Why? Just struck me. Ouch.

Final song nice balance to the heartbreak of Journey. I could waltz, the rhythms so 6/8 strong.

Dan Roberts

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There is a fine, pure glory in the unaccompanied human voice raised in harmony. Acapella singing at its’ best can lift one high out of the anguish and drudgery of a hard life just for the joyous sound itself.  Add to that the words of rock solid belief in the rewards of an afterlife, and you have a potent combination – the power to move and to redeem.

No one leaves this place alive. It is a human constant. And in the hardscrabble lives of those that pioneered this country, death was a constant companion in an often difficult time. And trying to deal with that fact in otherwise brutal lives brought a terrible beauty to the songs they created and sang, a wondrous joy, and a longing for the reward promised after a life of denial.

The voices of Journey Home are strong, clear, and true to the music. The harmonies are those of our forbearers.  “Ain’t Got Long” is a testament to the beliefs, the lives and the creativity of those who made this country in its’ earliest, toughest days. These songs carried comfort, love, and cries from the heart in the glens and valleys of our early times, and they should not be lost. Journey Home did them justice, giving them a truly beautiful rendition without losing the human heart, the fear of death and the need to deal with what comes to us all.

This CD is a wonderful addition to the canon, and the members of Journey Home  are to be commended for their marvelous work.

=rob wilson

Ain’t Got Long is a beautiful, touching dichotomy. At once, both mournful, yet so up-lifting. Sonoma County’s own song catchers have brought together both the fear and serenity of death. As we become those “of a certain age,” we are bound to think about our own Journey Home and to revisit our faith and spirituality, whatever form those may take. This CD is the perfect accompaniment for us as we ponder how that journey will take shape. The voices you hear are reminiscent of times past and times to come. James Salter, in his recent book All That Is presents a similar view. When a mother asks her son “What will happen when I die?,” he responds, “I think whatever you believe will happen is what happens.” Take comfort from Ain’t Got Long and be of good cheer.  —Brenda Hooper


Joy in the Face of Death by Duncan Saunders, Celtic Harper
A review of the new album Ain’t Got Long—Traditional American Songs of Glory, Death and Resurrection by the group Journey Home

Although I was taken with this album since I knew one of the singers/musicians (Patrice Haan) and I am always on the lookout for what is often called “Mountain Music,” I was delighted beyond expectations when I first played this CD.

Yes, there are songs about Glory, Death and Resurrection on this album, but I found that to listen to the singers and the well-chosen musical accompaniment is to be taken to another time and a place of hope, love and strength, and perseverance through misery. It literally takes one on a journey of the heart and soul, honoring the origins of the songs, the folks that created them and the singers that brought them to life.

The 20 songs come from early American lives in the Appalachian hills, from the Sacred Harp tradition, and there are echoes and nuances of many Scots, Irish and English tunes here as well.

The album begins with a rendition of “Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down” which, although I am not of a fundamentalist faith, got my feet tapping and my mouth smiling. Likewise I defy any born-again Atheist to resist “Blind Barnabas” which is a testimony of joy both in tune and in the obvious joy of the singers.

“Will You Miss Me?” could be heard as an overly sentimental song, but given the Carter’s family knowledge of how close families can be, it rings true. My own Scot’s ancestors settled in Nova Scotia; I recognize this song as one we might have sung around the family piano or organ, knowing how close illness and death were in a place and time when hospitals, doctors and medicine were not as close to hand as they are today.

While I won’t comment on all the songs, I will note a few more. As an unredeemed member of the procrastinator club, the fourth song “Give Me Just a Little More Time” caught my fancy. More seriously, it speaks to the human condition of always wanting to postpone the hard stuff most of the time.

Since I play “Wondrous Love” often at the hospital on my musical rounds, I was delighted to hear another version. The singers took the melody and re-shaped the song in a fresh and captivating way.

Two more songs, if I may: “Weeping Mary” begins simple and clear, but, with more voices joining in on the chorus, the song is one of exultation and praise that lifts the heart—for sure it did mine.  “As a Songbird” had me searching my musical memory for songs and tunes that I know are the seed from which this grew. The tune and presentation is pure “folk hymn” of the best tradition.

By the way, I am in AWE that this album was done in a single day’s effort. The quality of the sound is clear and crisp throughout, the music is carefully chosen to enhance the mood of the singers and the singers are so clearly “in tune” with what they are singing.

I give this album a 9.99 out of 10. The only quibble (and not much of one given that Google searching is so easy) is the lack of lyrics. (Perhaps they might be listed on the website).  The sources for the songs are well documented and I appreciate the paper disc holder instead of plastic.

“Am I Born for to Die?” asks the old song. Yes, we are, but still we can find comfort in the songs and community of singers who can bring us joy. This musical journey has been a true “Journey Home” to music that I have known for many years, whether I have heard it before or not. An absolutely divine album.

—Duncan Saunders