Gospel Refrain Cover

New Music: Gospel Refrain

Gospel Refrain

by Eric Thor Karlstrom

“Speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians: 15:19)

I hope you enjoy this collection of gospel songs. The songs really speak for themselves and convey encouraging, essential, and timeless Christian messages.

As you listen to the songs, it may become obvious why I entitled this CD “Gospel Refrain.” “Gospel” of course, refers to the “good news” of salvation through Jesus Christ. And “Refrain” means chorus. And in my opinion, at least, the choruses/refrains may be the most pleasing part of this CD because they often achieve a choir-like fullness. Please add your voice to these choruses and add to the power of “Gospel Refrain.”

Many of these songs are classic old gospel songs that date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries. Here is a brief description of their origins:

1) “Let the Lower Lights Be Burning” was written by Phillip P. Bliss and published in 1871.
2) “On the Sea of Life” by George W. Sebran (lyrics) and T.S. Sloan (melody) was first recorded by the Roper Mountain Singers in 1927.
3) “Life Is Like a Mountain Railway” (aka “Life’s Railway to Heaven”) was written by M.E. Abbey and Eliza R. Snow (lyrics) and set to music by Charles D. Tillman in 1890.
4) “Little David’s Harp” sounds old but was written by Jimmy Williams and recorded in 1973 by Jimmy Williams and Red Ellis.
5) “You’d Better Let That Liar Alone” is of unknown authorship. It was first recorded in 1927 by Rev. Edward Clayborn and Rev. Isaiah Shelton.
6) “House of Gold” was written by Hank Williams in about 1948.
7) “Pilgrim,” was written by Texan/Nashville songwriter Steve Earle and appeared on his 1999 CD, “The Mountain.”
8) “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room” is a traditional song recorded by Rev. F.W. McGee in 1930 and later by The Carter Family in 1940 and 1941.
9) “The Touch of the Masters Hand” is a poem written by Myra Brooks Welch in 1921. In this version, I read it read to the strains of my song, “Paradise Divide Waltz.”
10) “Christ Was Born in Bethlehem” is a traditional song of unknown authorship.
11) “All My Trials” is of unknown authorship but was first recorded as “Bahamian Lullaby” in 1956.
12) “Gospel Medley” includes 1) “Amazing Grace”- which came together in 1835 when William Walker combined John Newton’s lyrics (from the 1770’s) with a popular turn called “New Britain;” 2) “Get in Line Brother” by Lester Flatt, 3) “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” “may have been written by Wallis Wills, a Choctaw freedman in the old Indian Territory in what is now Choctaw County, near the County seat of Hugo, Oklahoma sometime after 1865” (Wikipedia), 4) “I Saw the Light” by Hank Williams (1948).
13) “The Old Cross Roads” was written by Bill Monroe, the “father of bluegrass” in 1947.
14) “Morning Train” is traditional and was recorded by Peter, Paul, and Mary in the early 1960s.
15) “Maui Prayer” was written by Eric Karlstrom in 1980.
16) “Over in the Glory Land” is a public domain song published in 1906 by James W. Acuff and Emmett S. Dean.

This project was recorded at Don Richmond’s Howlin’ Dog Recording Studio in Alamosa, CO. Many thanks to Don for adding the bass parts and the beautiful violin and mandolin parts on songs 4, 9, and 12 as well as for his consummate skills as recording engineer. Karen Fricke, my sister, adds her beautiful voice to songs 2, 4, 11, 12, and 14. I sing the male vocals and play guitar and banjo throughout. My guitar is a D-28 Martin Marquis Madagascar and the my banjo is a mid 1930’s Gibson T-11 conversion.

Eric Karlstrom, July 2018

“Use the talents you possess, for the woods could be very silent if no birds sang except the best.” Van Dyke

“For wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20

New Music: The All American, All Original*, Solo 5-String Banjo

All American, All Original, Solo 5-String Banjo

All American, All Original Solo 5-String Banjo

All American, All Original*, Solo 5-String Banjo

By Eric Karlstrom

The 5-string banjo is a distinctly American instrument. Although it is normally associated with bluegrass and old-timey music, I’ve discovered that it also makes an excellent solo instrument. Indeed, the banjo can render quite a wide variety of musical styles and moods- all by itself.

This collection of my original, solo 5-string banjo instrumentals includes a variety of styles, including traditional bluegrass and old timey-style tunes, numerous melodic waltzes and ballads, and a few mildly “progressive” songs.

Of all the stringed instruments, I’d say the 5-string banjo probably has the most “attitude.” It rings brighter and has more snap, crackle, and punch than the guitar, harp, or piano. And yet the banjo can also produce a surprising range of mellow, even delicate tones. To appreciate the rich, fat, round tone of this particular banjo, my mid-1930’s Gibson T-11 conversion, I recommend you turn up the volume of your sound system a few notches, as I always do. Then the banjo sounds come alive; notes cascade, chime, bark, bite, flow, and sparkle; high notes ring like bells, harmonics yield harp-like tones, and low notes growl and pop.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the banjo is probably unsurpassed in it’s capacity for making happy, even joyful music. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to be in a bad mood when playing or hearing the banjo. As Charles Schultz’s “Peanuts” character, Linus, sagely observed: “When a little baby is born into this cold world, he’s confused! The way I see it, as soon as a baby is born, he should be issued a banjo!”

For those who were never issued a banjo, then, as well as the fortunate ones who were, I am happy to offer this, my second all-original, solo banjo CD. Like the first, “Stone River Banjo Anthology” (2015), this project was recorded at Don Richmond’s Howlin’ Dog Recording Studio in Alamosa, CO. Many thanks, Don!

In order to provide an interesting mix and variety of musical styles on this CD, I have placed the 9 songs newly-composed on and for the banjo in the odd numbered slots (songs 1, 3, 5, etc.) and my banjo adaptations of 7 of my piano and guitar compositions in the even-numbered slots (2, 4, 6, etc.). The songs written for banjo tend to be more up-tempo, while the banjo versions of my guitar and piano compositions are comparatively slow, mellow, melodic, and lyrical.

Specifically, songs 4, 8, 10, and 14 are adapted from instrumentals featured on my “The River” and “Wyoming Waltz” solo piano CDs and songs 2, 6, and 12 are adapted from songs featured on “All God’s Critters,” “Guitar Reflections Volume 2: Solos and Duets,” and “Paradise Divide,” respectively (www.erickarlstrom.com).

And just for fun, I’ve added the vocal tune, “Ol’ Slew Foot” (#16), to showcase the 5-string in its more traditional, bluegrass band context. (That’s me singing and playing guitar and banjo, with Don Richmond playing bass on that cut.)

Happy listening! Eric Karlstrom, August, 2018

*All songs composed by Eric Karlstrom except Ol’ Slew Foot (by Howard Crocker and James C. Webb).