With this recording, the members of Anonymous 4 celebrate our long journey together. We are honored to be able to share this latest voyage with our new friends, Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, whose travels together began even longer ago than ours did.
The tunes on Gloryland are filled with imagery of the journey, of birds and flying, of reaching and crossing over the Jordan River. Their narrators equate the soul with
Noah’s weary dove, who soars the earth seeking a resting place; they wish for wings, to be a tiny swallow, to fly to the next world on eagles’ wings; or they yearn to gather with loved ones at the river and to find green pastures beyond the banks of that shining shore.
Most of these songs have themselves been traveling for a very long time, in a wonderful intertwining of oral and written traditions that has flourished for many generations. Which of them were newly composed and which were taken down from someone’s singing or playing and then arranged cannot always be determined, but songs like Ecstasy and Saint’s Delight sound equally at home whether sung in their shape-note settings or played on the fiddle, guitar, and
The elements of Anglo-American song take part in an endless game of mix and match: dance airs are set to sacred words; worldly and spiritual texts share the same musical notes; and hymns that we associate with certain much-loved tunes can also be sung to other melodies. The tune most commonly known as Wayfaring Stranger occurs several times: it appears first with the religious ballad text, “I am a poor wayfaring stranger,” again in the lyric folk song You Fair and Pretty Ladies, in the haunting folk hymn Parting Friends, and finally in a bluesy instrumental rendition. Meanwhile, gospel song composer Robert Lowry’s familiar text “Shall we gather at the river” (which we sang to Lowry’s famous gospel tune Shall We Gather at the River, on American Angels) has migrated to the Southern hymn tune Palmetto; and John
Newton’s poem “Saviour, visit Thy plantation” has attached itself to two different tunes: Return Again and Merrick. To further complicate matters in the most wonderful way, the melody of Return Again is a variant of the American Angels tune Invitation.