James and Martha Carson - I’ll Fly Away (1946)
I don’t have a lot of time to write about music today — it’s the first week of Spring in New York City, and today is the warmest day of the year so far. I have a date with a bench in Washington Square Park, but listening to this joyful tune is a great way to start the day.
Most people know this song from Allison Krauss and Gillian Welch’s beautiful rendition on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack. While I love that album — and its importance to the recent resurgence of bluegrass and traditional country can’t be overstated — I wanted to share this much older recording, which I first heard in the incredible Dust to Digital collection Goodbye, Babylon. James and Martha Carson were early stars of country-gospel music, and their version of “I’ll Fly Away” was the first commercial recording of the famous song. In contrast to Krauss and Welch’s sleepy stroll, the brisk pace here brims with life and joy, and when the chorus comes around the heavens open up and an angel band joins in on the refrain. Gospel music, simple and lovely.