Here’s the fifth contribution of a periodical feature, where we ask bluegrass personalities to choose their top five Gospel songs. This week we hear from Shannon Slaughter.
- Gone On Before – Larry Cordle: Pud Marcum’s Hangin’ – (MightyCord Records, 2011)
- Traveling Preacher – Blue Highway : Wondrous Love – (Rounder Records, 2003)
- Happy On My Way – Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver – (Sugar Hill Records, 1979)
- Great High Mountain – Larry Sparks: John Deere Tractor – (Rebel Records, 1980)
- Model Church – Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Bobby Hicks, Todd Phillips : The Bluegrass Album – (Rounder Records, 1981)
Shannon says …
I have listed my top five Gospel songs (as of right now), but there’s no way I could have a true top five; more like a top one-hundred and fifty-five. For a variety of reasons I chose the songs listed above; some of my choices based on the writing, some based on the singing, some based on the music or arrangement, some based on the memories created by the song, etc. I hope you enjoy my list.
Gone On Before, sung by Larry Cordle, is a song written by Larry and Ronnie Bowman, two of my very favorite songwriters and singers. The song was inspired by the deaths of both Larry’s and Ronnie’s mothers. Ronnie canceled all of his writing sessions except one with Cord because he could empathize with what Ronnie was going through. The song chronicles the story of a woman who comes back in a dream and speaks to the listener. The harmony is amazing and the chord progression is vintage Cord and Ronnie. The most powerful line in the song probably would not have affected me before I became a father but now it makes me pause and give thought to my own mother and what traits of Rae (my daughter) came from her. The line, as the woman tells the listener that she is always around, is “I’m in your daughter’s hair, and the fire in her eyes.” It’s one of the few verse lines with harmony and it just makes the song perfect. This is one emotional song!
I could have chosen numerous songs from the Blue Highway repertoire as they are one of my favorite all-time bands but I picked Traveling Preacher to place in my top five. The reason? – GROOVE and then some more GROOVE. These are some musical cats right here and they are true triple threats as writers, musicians, and singers. Shawn Lane is one of the more underrated singers and musicians in our genre and is one of my absolute favorites. His singing and mandolin playing really shine on this tune. The other thing that really draws me to their music is that GROOVE and that owes a lot to Wayne Taylor’s solid bass and Tim Stafford’s guitar playing; both rhythm and lead; (which really shine on this cut). I felt like I needed to have a banjo on at least one song in my Top 5 so here it is; courtesy of one of my absolute favorites of all time – Jason Burleson.
As a fan of four-part Gospel singing, I had to include Happy On My Way, by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. It is such a positive Gospel song and has a great bounce to it. I was privileged to be in Lou Reid’s band, Carolina, for four years and we sang this song from time to time because Lou was on the original cut and sang the really high lead line. Lou is one of my all-time favorite singers so I had to include him in some way on this list. I cut my teeth as a young singer trying to copy Terry Baucom’s bass singing, which is always spot on with such great tone. Just a great four-part song; complete with tight harmony and once again, awesome rhythm guitar playing from Jimmy Haley, who is one of the best.
Great High Mountain – Larry Sparks possesses one of the most definitive voices ever in bluegrass music and his 1980 Rebel Records release John Deere Tractor is a must have for any bluegrass fan. His rendition of Great High Mountain, written by Keith Whitley, is haunting. There are few people in the world who sing with such soul and lonesomeness as Sparks. His guitar break on this song is simply perfect!
Model Church, the fifth track from The Bluegrass Album, is one of my all – time favorite Gospel songs due to the simplicity of the arrangement (same as Crowe and the Kentucky Mountain Boys version) and the power of the rhythm guitar. Many bluegrass and acoustic guitarists can trace their influence directly to Tony Rice and I am no different. Much has been said about his lead and rhythm playing and it’s the latter that is showcased on this tune. The “cash register” lick that’s heard between the vocals is vintage Rice rhythm at its very best. Great arrangement, great story and a great harmony blend makes this song a top five pick for me.
Sagittarian Shannon Slaughter comes from Chiefland, Florida, and found interest in acoustic and country music at a young age. He began playing guitar on his own at age of eight and was soon singing in churches, at livestock fairs and other venues around the tri-county area of Levy, Gilchrist and Dixie.
His early influences included Merle Haggard, Randy Travis, Tony Rice, Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs and the Osborne Brothers
Slaughter began his professional career at the age of 23 playing guitar with the Lost and Found. Subsequently, he enjoyed touring experiences with the Larry Stephenson Band. In 1995 he teamed with several top-flight southwest Virginia musicians and created Savannah Road, recording and performing with them for six years.
After a two-year hiatus he worked with Melonie Cannon, toured with the Lonesome River Band and then Lou Reid and Carolina before, in 2009, Slaughter organized his own band County Clare.
Slaughter has one solo release The Sideman Steps Out and with his wife Heather he has two CD releases; One More Road and Never Just a Song.
Most recently he was guitarist and vocalist in Grasstowne and is featured on their latest recording Grasstowne 4.
Slaughter has a B.S. Degree from Radford University and an M.A. from Samford University and currently teaches United States history and coaches football at Springville High School in Springville, Alabama.