Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’

“Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’
Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin’
For This Old World Is Almost Gone”

Traditional- Attributed to, and Recorded by: Blind Willie Johnson (1928), Reverend Gary Davis (1956), and Mississippi Fred McDowell (1959) Like all Traditional songs, the lyrics vary between performers and in written versions

Lately I find myself singing this old gospel/blues tune a lot. It is based on a parable from the book of Matthew (25: 1-13) often called “The Parable of the Ten Virgins.” 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (section) by Phoebe Traquair, Mansfield Traquair Church, Edinburgh.

The story goes that there were 10 bridesmaids awaiting the coming of a groom to escort them to a marriage feast. After being delayed, the groom finally arrives at midnight to collect them. (They are all sleeping due to the late hour) Five of the women have their oil lamps well supplied with oil ( and wicks trimmed!) and are ready to go with him. But the other five have to go out to the store to purchase oil for their lamps and so aren’t ready to go when the groom appears. As their “punishment” they are shut out of the wedding feast.

The Wise and Foolish VirginsWilliam Blake, 1826 Tate Gallery

The parable is an admonition to “be ready” of course. It was a wildly popular religious theme during the Middle Ages as evidenced by its influence in Gothic art. Paintings and sculptures of the Ten Virgins decorate numerous churches and cathedrals all across Europe including Notre Dame in Paris and Reimes.

“Brother Don’t you Get Worried
Brother Don’t You Get Worried
Brother Don’t You Get Worried
For This Old World Is Almost Gone”

In my last blog post I wrote about adapting to the darkness when we can’t see the Light at the End of the Tunnel– specifically my personal journey of trying to get to Prague to teach. So, while waiting for the “all clear” to travel freely again, I’ve been asking myself, how can I keep my lamp trimmed and burnin’? What can I do to be ready? The only thing worse than being grounded by the global Pandemic, would be to not have used this down time wisely to prepare in every way possible for my trip.

“Sister, Don’t You Stop Prayin’
Sister, Don’t You Stop Prayin’
Sister, Don’t You Stop Prayin’
For This Old world Is Almost Gone”

Friedrich Wilhelm SchadowThe Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, 1838–1842 (detail), Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

The most practical thing I’ve been doing is to continue learning the Czech language so that when I finally do arrive in Prague, I won’t be a total beginner. I’m also sorting through my best teaching materials and digitizing them (since I can’t travel with reams of paper), as well as creating new lessons from ideas I’ve had for a long time but have never had free time to develop. As any teacher knows, putting all this together is extremely time consuming and virtually impossible to do when you are actually teaching!

But let me be quick to add that while these activities are my ideal, I often fall short. My self-expectations turn into merely good intentions and I feel a lot like the woman in the picture above…….too tired to care where I last left my lamp.

Dear Readers, what have you been busy doing? How have you, and how are you keeping your lamp trimmed and burnin’? I’d love to hear from you.

I leave you with a recent recording of “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burnin” performed by Piedmont Blues guitar virtuoso, and my good friend, Mr. Jon Shain. Accompanying Jon on bass is another stellar musician, and equally good friend, Mr. FJ Ventre. Enjoy!

Detour For Some Blues News

I’m taking a slight detour today to share with you some exciting news about my good friend Jon Shain. Jon recently won the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN, winning in the solo/duo category. No small honor as he had to beat out over 200 other talented artists to claim the title.

Jon is a prolific song writer who performs not only Blues but equal parts Folk and Americana. You can learn more about him and his music at jonshain.com.   You can hear Jon perform a wide variety of his musical styles on ReverbNation. 

Jon’s latest CD, “Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday Soon,” is actually a collaboration with long-time friend, and equally talented musician, FJ Ventre.  They are currently on tour, with dates in cities around the U.S. throughout the year. To see if they are playing near you check out their tour dates at jonshain.com.  Jon and FJ are dynamic and seasoned performers who will deliver a fabulous show you don’t want to miss! Here they are singing and playing together in the studio a song from their new CD.

Another Step Closer to Becomming Reality

0620161249The late June recording sessions went well at Good Luck Studios in Chapel Hill. The first day in the studio is always the hardest for me, and this time was no exception.  After all the microphones were set up and levels checked etc., I had to lay down a guitar/vocal “scratch track,” (used as a template), for each of my two new songs. A click track,( a sound like a metronome keeping time), plays in my headset while I do this. Then I lay down a guitar only track while listening to the scratch track and/or the click track playing in my ears. This work tests and stretches my abilities to their max! Jon snapped this picture of me during a break on our very first day.

IMG_2651On day two I put down the vocal tracks to these two songs as well as some harmony vocals on previously recorded songs. Day three was primarily Jon Shain, (my producer), laying down his guitar parts and a lot of listening to all the rough mixes of the recorded songs. We made decisions about which ones would make the cut for the cd.

As is always the case, something wonderfully serendipitous happened during the recording sessions. On the last day, Jon thought about adding an accordion to my rendition of “Dark Eyed Sailor,” a traditional Broadside Ballad from the 1700’s. He called up his friend, Chris IMG_2671Frank, who was not only home at the time but had the time to come down to the studio and lend his exceptional talent to the song. Chris is a long time member of the internationally renown Red Clay Ramblers. Chris’s poignant harmonies and melodic lines added a layer of beauty and authenticity to this recording.

IMG_2662To round out the day, FJ Ventre, (my engineer), recorded several bass tracks to add to songs as needed. Next up, the rough tracks will be mixed and then mastered. This work will probably take until the end of August.

While FJ works his magic, I must turn my attention to the actual manufacturing of the disc. It will go to Discmakers for production but there is much to be decided upon regarding artistic design for the packaging. Album title, song sequencing, art work and or photographs, song lyrics, credits, printing design, etc. must all be finalized before it can go into production. I have my work cut out for me in the coming weeks! I will keep you posted on my progress. Thanks everyone for following.