I left for work Friday morning from our apartment on Morningside Drive and descended into Morningside Park. I take the A train or sometimes the C uptown to work from 125th Street to Columbia-Presbyterian at 168th in Washington Heights every morning. The 1 train brings me home. On this past Friday I listened to Old Friends Get Together (Mountain Home Music Company, 2010) as I have many times since purchasing it. With IBMA awards in 2011 for Recorded Event of the Year and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year for the opening track Prayer Bells of Heaven, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams at the helm and Jimmy Martin’s sound and gospel music as its unifying musical themes, I find each song to be a healthy serving of bluegrass soul food.
I always start with Stormy Waters. When I hear Paul Williams’s voice and mandolin joined with Doyle Lawson’s voice and guitar, I recall a Sunday afternoon of bluegrass gospel in Yancey County, North Carolina during my last month of medical school. I was working in Asheville and Madison County so it was a short trip. The Narrow Way Quartet comes to mind most quickly because I bought their albums. Every band was filled with honest harmonies, devotion and fellowship. I wouldn’t be surprised if members of bands I heard that day admire Paul and Doyle.
Since I usually listen to Stormy Waters two times, I have time for one more song before descending into the rushing noise of the subways. For J.D.’s “snap, crackle and pop” The Little White Church is my first and next choice. His banjo is featured to a greater extent on other tracks but when I listen to The Little White Church through my ear phones in the relative quiet of an early morning New York City street, I am not walking to catch the train. I am in a comfortable living room listening to J.D. pick.
On the uptown 125th Street platform, there were relatively few people. I had just missed both the local and express trains. Surprisingly, a D train approached and I made a mental note to myself not to get on it.
I was ready to hear Doyle Lawson sing lead so moved over to Goodbye. The vocals, from bass to high harmony, along with Ron Stewart’s fiddle, make this a go-to for hearing the album’s whole ensemble. At just a little over two minutes, it’s a brief cut and I replayed it. I thought about getting down to Denton, North Carolina where Doyle’s annual festival is. Dan Shore, who lived in Denton and built a couple of banjos for me, passed away a few years ago. I called Mrs. Shore during the festival in 2011. She could hear the music from her porch. I have to get down there, I told myself.
When the subway stopped at 155th Street, I figured that it was an A train running local. But the station looked different than the 155th Street I knew under Saint Nicholas Avenue. I really wanted to listen to Prayer Bells of Heaven and turned my attention back to selecting it. When I looked up again, I realized I was on the wrong train. I also realized I was on a train. I had unknowingly gotten on the uptown D train that had come into the station at 125th. If it hadn’t been running local, I would have gone express up to Tremont Avenue in the Bronx. Instead, I got off at the next stop, Yankee Stadium, rode a B downtown back to 145th, took the C uptown to 168th and arrived at work about twenty-minutes late. I still hadn’t stopped listening to Old Friends Get Together.
The album is widely available in both CD format and as a download. A map of the New York City subway system may be viewed by clicking here.