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So Mamie don't you feel blue, 'cause lots of girls wish they were Mamie Smith too - Mamie Smith, Mamie Smith Blues, 1922

Author Topic: Alfred Karnes Lyrics  (Read 7485 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« on: January 19, 2006, 10:48:36 PM »
Hi all,
"Called To The Foreign Field" was the first song I ever heard by the Kentucky Gospel singer Alfred Karnes, and he sang and played it with tremendous conviction and fervor.  In its own way, I think Karnes's music had every bit of the intensity of Willie Johnson's renditions of such songs as "Nobody's Fault But Mine" or "I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole".
Karnes played this song out of G, standard tuning, getting a churning "boom-a-chuck-a" groove going by utilizing thumb-popped bass with strumming.  The first and third lines of each verse and the chorus have little pauses or "dwells" at their tail ends; perhaps a moment to catch a breath or think of the next line.
Karnes was evidently a barber.  It is very odd to think of him engaging in the kind of small-talk you normally encounter in a barbershop.  Here is the song:

 

   In the far and heathen country where the people know not God
   I am going there to preach his precious word
   Where they bow to worship idols I am going there to stay
   Where I'll labor in the vineyard of the Lord

CHORUS:  I'll soon be with my loved ones in my happy heavenly home
   Even now, the thought my soul with rapture thrills
   So goodbye, my friends and brethren, for the time has come to go
   I must leave you on the dear old battlefield

   I am called to bear a message to the heathen far away
   And for years, o'er there, a stranger I may roam
   Just to tell them of a savior, one who died to save them all
   That's the reason why I leave my native home

   CHORUS

   Many days I'll climb the hillside in the sunshine and the rain
   Many days I'll be in hunger and in thirst
   Just to tell them that our Lord is coming back to earth again
   With his gifts and blessings, all as at the first

   CHORUS

   I will stand the trials and hardships just to tell them precious truths
   That the Gospel of our Savior does contain
   And if they will but obey them and be faithful 'til our end
   Up in Heaven we will meet you all again

   CHORUS

   We'll not all be foreign laborers, but the time has soon arrived
   When our mission we have faithfully fulfilled
   When our message is delivered and 'tis said of us, "Well done"
   In triumph we'll leave the dear old battlefield

   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:28:37 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2006, 01:14:54 AM »
Hi all,
Alfred Karnes's song "We Shall All Be Reunited" has a much gentler feel than does "Called To The Foreign Field".  The lyrics here are beautiful, and the sentiment has much in common with Washington Phillips's "What Are They Doing In Heaven Today?". 
Karnes played this out of C position in standard tuning, and employed what I have come to think of as a "cheating" F chord, with the sixth string unplayed.  In the F chord, Karnes alternates his bass between his open fifth string and the third fret of the fourth string, an alternation also used by Furry Lewis in "Billy Lyons and Stack'olee". 
Melodies do not come much prettier than that of "We Shall All Be Reunited".  It took me a while to notice that it is constructed off of a major pentatonic scale (no seven or four note), like Henry Thomas used for "Bull Doze Blues", discussed in a thread on the Main forum.  These major pentatonic melodies have a very distinctive quality; it's hard to put a finger on it, but it seems to evoke bygone days.
It must be said, too, that Alfred Karnes sings this song beautifully and with great feeling.  The way he pops the word "all", the high point in the chorus, really gets to me.  Seek this one out--it is really superb.



   Where is now my father's family
   That was here so long ago?
   Sitting 'round the kitchen fireside
   Brightened by the ruddy glow

   CHORUS:  We shall all be reunited
   In that land beyond the skies
   Where there'll be no separation
   No more parting, no more sighs

   Some have gone to lands far distant
   And with others made their home
   Some upon the world of waters
   All their lives have chose to roam

   CHORUS

   Some have gone from us forever
   For with us they could not stay
   They have all dispersed and wandered
   Gone away, so far away

   CHORUS

   SOLO

   We shall meet beyond the river
   In that land of pure delight
   Where no sickness or no sorrow
   Will our joys there ever blight

   CHORUS

   SOLO

   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:29:57 AM by Johnm »

Offline phhawk

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2006, 05:40:53 AM »
Hello Johnm, I'm also an Alfred Karnes fan and its good to see so much interest in his work. A good place to check out his recordings is on the CD's "The Music Of Kentucky", Vol 1 & 2 from Yazoo. There are four of his sides on Vol 1 and I think the other 3 sides are probably on Vol 2.

There is great stuff on these CD's, and for fiddle players, of particular interest are recordings by W. M. Stepp, who I don't think made any commercial recordings. Especially great is his version of "Bonaparts Retreat".

Later, Phil

Offline frankie

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2006, 05:23:51 PM »
I transcribed Alfred Karnes' "I Am Bound For The Promised Land" a while back and just came across it.  Somewhere around here I've also got "Where We'll Never Grow Old", but can't seem to find it now (I just love that one!).  On "I Am Bound For The Promised Land", Karnes uses a VI-II-V-I progression and strums vigorously while snapping the bass strings - not just open strings, either - whole funky runs just yanked right out of the guitar, especially during the breaks.  In contrast, his vocal performance is almost stately.



I Am Bound For The Promised Land
Alfed Karnes

On Jordan's stormy banks I stand
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan's fair and happy land
Where my [] lie

Chorus:
I'm bound for the Promised Land
I'm bound for the Promised Land
Oh, who will come and go with me?
I'm bound for the Promised Land

All those wide, extended plains
Shines one eternal day
There God's [] son forever reigns
And scatters night away

Chorus

No chilling winds, no poison [strand]
Can reach that healthful shore
Sickness and sorrow, pain and death
Are felt and feared no more

Chorus

When shall I reach that heavenly place
And be forever blest?
When shall I see my Father's face
And in His bosom rest?

Chorus

Filled with delight, my rested soul
Would ever longer stay
Though Jordan's winds around me roar
There [bliss] [alone] shall [weigh]

In the first verse, it sounds to me like he singing 'versations'...  not a word that I recognize, though.  In the second verse "There God's [] son forever reigns", it sounds like he garbles something - can't quite make it out, though.  Third verse - strand is the closest I can make out, but can't really swear to it.  The final verse - no idea at all...  Seems like it oughtta be plain as day, somehow!
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:31:17 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2006, 07:05:01 PM »
Hi Frank,
Thanks for the words.  I think the string-popping on "I'm Bound For The Promised Land", out of all the Karnes tunes I have heard, bears the strongest resemblance to the playing of Rabbit Brown that you alluded to over on the Main Forum.  I think I have some of the missing lyrics here.
I think the missing word in verse one is "possessions", pronounced "pozaysions".  I think verse two starts with "O'er all", and the third line of that verse is "There God, the Son, forever reigns".  The first line of verse three, I think, is No chilling wind, nor poison's spread".  The final verse is
   Filled with delight, my raptured soul
   Would here no longer stay
   Through Jordan's waves, around me roll
   Fair is the launch aweigh
He's crossing Jordan in a turbulent period, it sounds like.  That having been said, I think he may have misread or disremembered a lyric, for the third line of the last verse seems like it should open with "though" rather than "through".  He clearly sings "through", though.
It's interesting to hear this Raggy progression used to accompany a tune like this.  It must have been close to the same time, though later, I think, that David McCarn used it to accompany "Everday Dirt".  Quite a difference in subject matter.
All best,
Johnm
Edited to add, 1/24:  After posting this, it occurred to me that the last word in the last verse might simply be "away".  I believe that anchors are spoken of as being aweigh or atrip, but I don't know if entire vessels are, like the "launch".  Any sailors out there who can clarify this point of nautical usage?
« Last Edit: January 24, 2006, 12:35:26 PM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2006, 10:20:28 PM »
Hi all,
Alfred Karnes backed himself on "Where We'll Never Grow Old" out of the C position in standard tuning.  The song is in 3/4, and like "We Shall Be Reunited" has an exceptionally beautiful melody.



   I have heard of a land on a faraway strand
   'Tis a beautiful home of the soul
   Built for Jesus on high, there we never shall die
   'Tis a land where we'll never grow old

   CHORUS:  Never grow old, never grow old
   In a land where we'll never grow old
   Never grow old, never grow old
   In a land where we'll never grow old

   In that beautiful home, where we'll never more roam
   We shall be in the sweet Bye and Bye
   Happy praise to the king, to eternity sing
   'Tis a land where we'll never grow old
   
   CHORUS

   When our work here is done and the life crown is won
   And our troubles and trials are o'er
   All our sorrows will end and our voices will blend
   With the loved ones who've gone on before

   CHORUS

   SOLO

   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:32:04 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2006, 11:23:02 AM »
Hi all,
Alfred Karnes recorded "When They Ring The Golden Bells" at his first session, in Bristol, Tennessee, on July 29th, 1927.  He accompanies himself playing in the C position in standard tuning.  The song is in 3/4, and he employs a gentler, more modulated sort of touch than on "Called To The Foreign Fields"--no string-popping in the bass here.  Like many of his songs, this has an exceptionally pretty melody.  I have a hunch that the extremely flowery language and interior rhymes of the lyrics were already archaic at the time Karnes recorded this; they seem like hold-overs from the 19th century.  I found this song on the fairly recent JSP set, "Mountain Gospel", that has all of Karnes' cuts (and on which his name is mis-spelled on the cover).



   There's a land beyond the river, that we call the Sweet Forever
   And we'll only reach that shore by faith's decree
   One by one we'll gain the portals, there to dwell with the immortals
   When they ring the golden bells for you and me

   REFRAIN:  Don't you hear the bells now ringing?  Don't you hear the angels singing?
   'Tis a glory Hallelujah jubilee
   In that far-off Sweet Forever, just beyond the shinng river
   When they ring the golden bells for you and me

   We shall know no sin nor sorrow in that Heaven of tomorrow
   When our bark shall sail beyond the silv'ry sea
   We shall only know the blessing of our Father's sweet caressing
   When they ring the golden bells for you and me

   REFRAIN

   When our days shall know their number, when in death we sweetly slumber
   When the King commands the spirit to be free
   Never more with anguish laden, we shall greet that lovely Eden
   When they ring the golden bells for you and me

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:32:55 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2006, 11:04:05 AM »
Hi all,
Another Alfred Karnes song played out of the C position in standard tuning is "Do Not Wait 'Til I'm Laid Beneath The Clay".  The lyrics are in the flowery style of "When They Ring Them Golden Bells".  I do like the point they make.



   CHORUS:  Do not wait 'til I'm under the clay
   Let your blessings be given today
   Let your kindness be shown ere my spirit has flown
   Do not wait 'til I'm laid 'neath the clay

   If you have any flowers on my grave to bestore [sic]
   I would gladly receive them today
   You may scatter them now while I can cherish them so
   Do not wait 'til I'm laid 'neath the clay

   CHORUS

   If you have any words that would comfort and cheer
   Any words that would brighten my way
   You may speak them today while I am anxious to hear
   Do not wait 'til I'm laid 'neath the clay

   CHORUS

   If you have any smiles that you freely would give
   As an emblem of love's brightest ray
   You should give them today while I am tarrying here
   Do not wait 'til I'm laid 'neath the clay

   CHORUS

   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:33:35 AM by Johnm »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2006, 11:23:28 AM »
Hi all,
One of the few Alfred Karnes songs that I know of that has been covered by other musicians is "The Days Of My Childhood Plays".  Versions of it have been recorded by Mike Seeger and Doc Watson (Doc also recorded Karnes's "We Shall All Be Reunited").  I can see what attracted them to this song.  It has an exceptionally pretty melody and a complex sort of ragtimey progression that has a couple of surprises.  Karnes played it out of C position in standard tuning, and it goes like this:

   VERSE:
   |          C           |             C          |           A       |             A           |

   |          D           |             D          |          E        |             E           |

   |          F            |             F          |           C        |             C          |

   |          D            |            D          |           G        |             G          |

   REFRAIN:

   |          A             |            A          |           D        |             D          |

   |          G             |            G          |           C        |             C           |

Quite apart from the chord progression, I think the thing that really makes this rendition work is the great feeling with which Alfred Karnes sings it.  He had tremendous believability as a singer and the conviction with which he sang all his songs makes the acute nostalgia with which he sings a very sentimental song like this one pretty wrenching.  Like other great and soulful singers (George Jones comes to mind) he has the capacity to elevate his material.



   Could I only find the way back to the yesterdays
   To the golden days of my childhood plays
   My life would be different, my enemies would be friends
   My leisures not wasted, my life so full of sin
   REFRAIN:  If I could only find the way back, to the days of my childhood plays

   REFRAIN

   Could I only find the days as they were then
   The golden days to live all over again
   My paths would not be empty, I'd make a mark in life
   My mother so happy, her hair not near so white
   REFRAIN

   Could I only find the days as they once seemed
   And childhood joys not steeled away like dreams
   The schoolhouse on the hilltop and the meadows all in bloom
   The bird's song in the willow, not a world so full of gloom
   REFRAIN

   REFRAIN

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:34:21 AM by Johnm »

Offline Doug

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Re: Bound for the Promised Land
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2006, 05:25:20 PM »
OK, so I'm slow....  :) 

I finally got around to reading this thread, and appreciated frankie and Johnm's lyrics for "On Jordan's Stormy Banks". 

This is actually an old hymn, and while Karnes does a different tune, the lyrics are pretty close to what I remember from church.  (Maybe everyone realized the connection with the hymn, but there might be some people that weren't brought up in hymn-singin' churches...)

From one of my hymn books, here's what they have:

Where my [] lie
As John mentioned, this is "Where my possessions lie".

All those wide, extended plains
"All o'er those wide extended plains"

There God's [] son forever reigns
Again, like John, the hymnbook has "There God the Son forever reigns"

No chilling winds, no poison [strand]
"No chilling winds or pois'nous breath"

Filled with delight, my rested soul
Would ever longer stay
Though Jordan's winds around me roar
There [bliss] [alone] shall [weigh]

My hymn book doesn't have this verse...  but listening to Karnes version (and comparing with the hymn on the web), it sounds to me like:

Filled with delight, my raptured soul
Would here no longer stay
Through Jordan?s waves around me roll
Fearless I?ll launch away

And I agree with John that the first word in the third line should be "though" although it sounds like Karnes sings "through".

The hymn book gives the credit for the words to Samuel Stennett (1727-1795).

And in case people don't recognize the metaphor...  In Biblical times Jordan was the river the Israelites crossed to go into Canaan (the Promised Land) after the Exodus.  Since the time of John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" (at least), it's been used as a Christian symbol for death (when you cross the river and go to heaven, the new Promised Land).

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2006, 10:38:44 PM »
Hi all,
Thanks, Doug, for the additional lyric analysis and history for "I'm Bound For The Promised Land".  "Fearless I'll launch away" was a good lyric catch.
The last remaining Alfred Karnes recorded performance is "To The Work".  Like many of his other songs it is played out of C position in standard tuning.  The lyric's emphasis on the catch phrase, "Salvation is free" is a bit odd; it is as though it is appealing to the American inability to pass up a bargain.  The phrase "a ransom" in the last verse is really strange; I suspect it is a phonetic approximation for the word "abandon", and that Karnes learned the song by ear, with a misunderstanding of the lyrics at that point.  Nonetheless, the performance is strong, as Karnes's performances always were.  You never doubt his commitment for an instant, and there's something very compelling about that.



   To the work, to the work, we are servants of God
   Let us follow the path that our Master has trod
   With the balm of his counsel our strength to renew
   Let us do with our might what our hands find to do

   CHORUS:  Toiling on, toiling on, toiling on, toiling on
   Let us hope, let us watch
   And labor 'til the Master comes

   To the work, to the work, let the hungry be fed
   To the fountain of life let the weary be led
   In the cross and its battle, our glory shall be
   While we hail the tiding:  Salvation is Free!

   CHORUS

   To the work, to the work, there is labor for all
   For the kingdom of darkness and error shall fall
   And the name of Jehovah exalted shall be
   In the loud swelling chorus, "Salvation is free!"

   CHORUS

   To the work, to the work in the strength of the Lord
   And a robe and a crown shall our labor reward
   When the home of the faithful our dwelling shall be
   And we shout with a ransom, "Salvation is free!"

   CHORUS

All best,
Johnm
« Last Edit: January 24, 2018, 06:35:02 AM by Johnm »

Offline Doug

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2006, 07:47:36 AM »
Hi Johnm,

Thanks for the lyrics to "To The Work"...  I only have four of Karnes songs, (and the Juke only has one), so I haven't heard this song.  But this one's another hymn, this time by the prolific American hymn writer Fanny Crosby (1820-1915). She wrote a lot of popular hymns, this one is slightly less popular than some of her others...  A couple changes between Karnes' version and the hymn:

In the chorus of the versions I've seen, the lines are: "Let us hope and trust, let us watch and pray" instead of Karnes' simpler "Let us hope, let us watch...".

Second verse, instead of Karnes' "While we hail the tiding...." the hymn has "While we herald the tidings...".

The confusing last line of Karnes' song is more clear in the hymn: "While we shout with the ransomed..." (the ransomed being a common term in the bible (and hymns) for those that Christ has "bought back from sin"; so the picture is a choir in heaven shouting out that salvation is free...)
« Last Edit: May 11, 2006, 07:58:27 AM by Doug »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Alfred Karnes Lyrics
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2018, 06:37:46 AM »
Hi all,
When we were working on the Alfred Karnes Lyrics thread in 2006, I believe hardly any of his songs were available on youtube.  They all are there now, so I went back and provided links to all of the songs for folks who would like to hear them.  Youtube is pretty great.
All best,
Johnm

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