Friday, March 12, 2010

"The Eastern Gate", the Delmore Brothers

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, the original post is from my blog) This is a song that was played constantly in our house, on a tape by the old Belfast group the Echoes of Grace which they brought out ("released" is far too contrived a term for how it was done back then!) in the early 1980s. The Wee Echoes had mandolin, guitar, and lots of singers - usually 7 or 8 in the group at any time. My da still watches video tapes of their concerts, and herds visitors into the front room to watch them too!

It was only much later in life that I discovered that an enormous amount of the songs recorded by Ulster gospel groups in the late 20th century were originally old hillbilly and "brother duet" songs from the early part of that century. "The Eastern Gate" was written by Isaiah Martin in 1905 and was recorded a few times in the 20s and 30s, eventually made famous by the brilliant Delmore Brothers who recorded it in 1940:

Early American recordings of artists like the Delmore Brothers and Jimmie Rodgers travelled as far as the Shetland Islands off the north coast of Scotland, as shown in this advert from the National Theatre of Scotland, about Thomas Fraser, which features his version of the Delmores' song "The Mississippi Shore":

I hope that the forthcoming Ulster-Scots broadcast fund will enable projects like this to be produced, which delve into deep, rooted stories of real people and their culture.


Here's some background on Thomas Fraser, presented by Rob Ellen of The Medicine Show: