Evolution Of A Track -- All Is Well Southern Harmony No. 306

While cleaning/organizing my Dropbox folders, I stumbled across a group of unlabeled audio files and commenced with the tedious task of sorting several dozen files of fragments, false starts and embarrassing experiments.  Amongst these files were early improvised versions of "All Is Well Southern Harmony No 306."  Some of you know "All Is Well" as "Come, Come, Ye Saints," credited to the Mormon pioneer William Clayton.  In fact, an older version of the song exists, with a similar tune, though with different words.  It has been a Sacred Harp standard for generations and pre-dates William Clayton's "All Is Well."  I'm posting my first improvised draft, the draft arranged spontaneously in the studio, and the final recorded arrangement.  

Pardon the sloppy guitar break toward the ending and the uneven fingerstyle (I don't play much fingerstyle anymore.)  There's something I still like in this first attempt.  However, in the end, the record's producer wasn't keen on it.  And some of the other demos did feature rambling guitar breaks, temporary modulations and other elements that really didn't serve the lyrics or the song.  And that's why I have a record producer (Bukka Allen, in this case)--to stop me from doing stupid things.  

When it was time to track the song in the studio, Bukka suggested using a drone (the Indian musical kind) as a point of departure, and essentially keeping the song on a single chord.  We pieced it together late one night on the back porch of the recording studio/house where we were tracking.  I forgot I had recorded it coming together.  In fact, as you can clearly hear, this is entirely Bukka's arrangement, as is the final recorded version.  Pretty remarkable how quickly it arrived, as you can hear.  You can really hear the song being birthed.  You can even hear the Texas bugs in the yard.  Kind of wow!

From there, we walk back into the studio through the sliding glass door and did a couple of live takes and that was it.  I sang and played acoustic guitar.  Track is in obvious debt to the Doors, and Daniel Lanois. Rob Gjersoe played the electric guitar and George Reiff double my vocals (because he could do it better and quicker.)  Le voilà ! 

Mark Abernathy4 Comments