The two songs are Rise Up Shepherd and Follow, and In The Bleak Midwinter, one each from the American and European traditions.
Featured are Chris Jones on guitar and lead vocal, with Mark Stoffel on mandolin, Marshall Wilborn on bass, and Grace van’t Hof on ukulele. Also on the tracks are Tony Creasman on percussion and April Verch on fiddle.
Musicologists have a hard time dating the entry of Rise Up Shepherd and Follow into the American catalog, but agree that it rose as an African American spiritual from the days of slavery. It doesn’t appear in print until the reconstruction era, but many believe it goes back to the days when its anonymous author lived under the yoke of forced labor.
Chris says he had learned it as a boy.
“This is a song I’ve been listening to and singing along with since I was a kid. I first heard it on a record by Odetta; I was probably five years old at the time. In spite of that long history with the song, I’d never performed it until a couple of Christmases ago. Marshall Wilborn is well-known for his traditional bluegrass bass playing but he doesn’t always get credit for his versatility as a bass player. He shows that versatility in his lead work on this recording.”
In the Bleak Midwinter has a more certain lineage, which Jones also traces to his childhood.
“This is a 19th century poem by Christina Rossetti set to a traditional melody. I learned a harmony part to it while caroling when I was 11 years old. I’ve always loved it and had so much fun recording it.”