7. Older Recordings (Pre-1977) Reissued on CDs

Note: Some recent reissues of important old recordings of entirely Sacred Harp singing are listed in Chapter 5: Recent Recordings of Traditional Singings.

Note: Lists of tunes presented on some of the recordings described below can be found in Berkley Moore's Shape Note Recordings Index.


"I Belong to This Band: 85 Years of Sacred Harp Recordings" This CD, released in late 2006 by Georgians Lance Ledbetter of Dust-to-Digital Records and Matt Hinton, coproducer of the film "Awake My Soul," is a remarkable compilation of recordings by traditional Sacred Harp singers from the first ones in 1922-28 to 2006. The earlier singing groups, who recorded on 78 rpm's and are here represented by 17 interesting and varied remastered tracks, are Original Sacred Harp Choir (1922, TX?), Denson's Sacred Harp Singers and Quartet (1928, AL), Alabama Sacred Harp Singers (1928), Huggins and Phillips Sacred Harp Singers (1928, AL), Daniels-Deason Sacred Harp Singers (1928, AL), Lee Wells and His Jasper Alabama Sacred Harp Singers (1930), Denson-Parris Sacred Harp Singers (1934), Roswell Sacred Harp Quartet (1955, GA), and notably S. Whitt Denson singing all four parts and playing the piano (1960). The recording also contains 13 tracks from the 2006 Henegar-Union Convention on Sand Mountain in Henegar, AL, a very strong singing depicted in "Awake My Soul;" Accompanying the recording is a 16-page booklet containing an excellent essay and notes on each track by Prof. Warren Steel. Long-time traditional singers Amanda Denson Brady, Richard DeLong, and William L. Green contributed historical information. This recording is remarkable and probably unique for interspersing and contrasting the relatively gentle, often polished, and intimate singing styles of the older recordings, which sometimes feature piano accompaniment, with the full-voiced a cappella singing of the large 2006 convention class. Several interesting photos of Sacred Harp singings are presented in the booklet and on the CD jacket. Brief audio clips of each track can be found on the Dust-to-Digital Web page. The price of the recording (DTD-6) is $15 plus shipping. Order online from the Dust-to-Digital online.

Reissues of 78 rpm Sacred Harp Recordings from the 1920s by County Records. John Bealle writes: "These two long-awaited reissues represent the earliest Sacred Harp music recorded. They are vintage recordings of Sacred Harp singers mostly from the 1920s and 1930s released originally as commercial recordings on 78 rpm records. They were recorded in studios by ensembles of singers who were recruited by talent scouts or traveled on their own to record. The original discs have been held by collectors for many years, and County Records has done a fine job of assembling the best available source discs and digitally mastering the tracks. These recordings have a different sound from those made today at singing conventions. Most are smaller ensembles, and sometimes piano or organ accompaniment is included in the performance. The close-to-the-mic recording techniques of this era give an intimate glimpse at the breathtaking vocal performances from bygone years of Sacred Harp singing." One can order them for $13.50 each plus shipping from the County Record Web site and from the Alabama Folklife Association.

Folkways recordings available from Smithsonian Folkways . Most or all items in the huge catalog of Folkways LPs can be purchased as downloads or made-to-order real-time-duplicated cassettes and CD-Rs from Smithsonian/Folkways Records, a branch of the Office of Folklife Programs of the Smithsonian Institution. Detailed song lists for each recording can be obtained from the search engine at their Web site. Recordings can be ordered online or by mail or fax. Check the Web site for prices and ordering information. Some of the recordings are available from Smithsonian Global Sound, a music streaming database available to libraries. The catalog entries that pertain to early American shape-note and Sacred Harp music are as follows:

CDs with a few tracks of traditional Sacred Harp singing originally issued on 78-rpm records.

A number of recent commercial albums of traditional roots music contain one or more tracks of Sacred Harp singing originally recorded in the 1920s and 30s on 78-rpm records. Berkley Moore, John Garst, and Chris Noren have provided information about the following albums:

"Goodbye Babylon." The Atlanta-based label, Dust-to-Digital, founded by Lance Ledbetter, has issued a comprehensive survey of Southern gospel music on a six-CD set containing 135 songs recorded by foremost singers and groups from 1902-1960, plus 25 fire-and-brimstone sermons from 1926-1941. Included with the CDs is an oblong 200-page book with illustrations, complete lyrics, scripture quotes, and notes by experts on the music. The CDs and book are presented in a cedar box with clusters of raw cotton. Reviewers have used words such as "spectacular" and "breathtaking" to describe the set. The tracklist shows seven Sacred Harp numbers, all but one by small performing groups, including the Charles Butts, J.T. Allison, Daniels-Deason, and Okeh-Atlanta Sacred Harp Singers, often with piano or harmonium accompaniment. One recording (of HEAVENLY VISION) is a field recording. The accompanying book includes an essay on Sacred Harp singing by Warren Steel, and there is a page of additional information about each song and the singers. The album can be purchased online in the U.S. from Dust-to-Digital for $100.00 postpaid with payment through PayPal, or purchased from online stores such as Amazon.com.

"How Can I Keep From Singing?: Early American Rural Religious Music," Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Yazoo 2020 and 2021. Berkley Moore reports: "Vol. 1 has Allison's Sacred Harp Singers doing WEEPING PILGRIM and the Daniels-Deason Sacred Harp Singers doing CORONATION. Vol. 2 has only the Rosewell Sacred Harp Quartet singing WEEPING MARY, (including the "wrap around" at the end)."

"Before the Blues: The Early American Black Music Scene" This three-volume set (Yazoo 2015-2017) contains a large variety of genres of black and white vocal music recorded in the 1920s and 30s. Vol. 1 (presumably with the complete number 1635-2015-2) contains one Sacred Harp song, CHRISTIAN SOLDIER (S.H. page 57), sung in 1936 by the Denson Quartet (a quartet of men of the Denson family).

"Times Ain't What They Used To Be: Early American Rural Music" Vol. 3 contains one Sacred Harp tune, SWEET RIVERS as sung by the Allison's Sacred Harp Singers in 1928. Yazoo 2047.

"The Half Ain't Never Been Told," Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (Yazoo 2049, 2050) contain reissues of old 78 rpm recordings of a variety of traditional religious music, including several selections of shape-note hymnody by "Alabama Sacred Harp Singers" and others. According to Berkley Moore, Vol. 1 contains two songs by Alabama Sacred Harp Singers, while Vol. 2 contains one song by Allison's Sacred Harp Singers.

"I'm On My Journey Home: Vocal Styles and Resources in Folk Music" (New World Records 80223-2) contains the title song sung by the Denson Quartet. It is the only Sacred Harp song on the recording. More information may be on the New World Records Web site.

"Oh My Little Darling: Folk Song Types" (New World Records 80245) contains the tune WHITE sung by J. T. Allison's Sacred Harp Singers. More information may be on the New World Records Web site.

"Mountain Gospel: The Sacred Roots of Country Music" by various artists. (JSP 7755). This is a 4-disc set of around 100 cuts from older recordings. According to Berkley Moore, Disc A has ODEM [Second] by the Roswell Sacred Harp Singers and Disc B has CUBA, by the Alabama Sacred Harp singers (directed by J.C. Brown and Whit Denson), RAGAN and THE OLD SHIP OF ZION, by Allison's Sacred Harp Singers, and CORONATION, by the Daniels-Deason Sacred Harp Singers. There are no SH performances on Discs C and D. Order from online stores such as CDUniverse.


Steven L. Sabol (sabol@his.com)
HTML version by Warren Steel (mudws@olemiss.edu)