I’ve noted a couple of times as I have worked through the original 30-Day Song Challenge and The Sequel how powerfully I associate music with family and my childhood. If you’d grown up where I did, you’d perhaps understand why the movie Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? was more than just a really good comedy. The soundtrack was loaded with dark, downtrodden Appalachian hillbilly spirituals, the music of hopeless lives waiting on Jesus because there was nothing else to hope for.
I prefer to hear these songs alone now because they evoke emotions I don’t really want to share.
My grandmother was a crippled woman in her early ’50s when my father handed me over to her for good. “Crippled” was the word we used, not “handicapped” or “disabled” or, the sweet Lord save us, “differently abled.” It was a sad, honest word that, like Helen Marshall Smith, looked forward to meeting Jesus, when all sins would be washed away and she’d be welcomed, whole of spirit and body, into the bright eternal glory of Heaven.
She loved “I’ll Fly Away,” and I imagine she’d have loved the way Alison Krause and Gillian Welch performed it.