One wonderful day two years ago, I grabbed the next stack of 45's that were sitting there waiting to be played. There are always a bunch of them, in stacks, sitting around for months, waiting for me to have the chance to dig in to them. Right on top was a 45 on the Blue Hen label. I probably bought it based solely on the look of the label, which screamed out "this might be good, and it might not be good, but it's bound to be unique and probably interesting".
This one featured a song written by the Allisons, called "Strong Chords of Love", and, well, it was better than I could have imagined. There is not a second of this record that I don't adore. In gorgeous, and appropriately ragged and imperfect three part harmonies, The Allison Sisters sing some of the best lyrics about new, overpowering love that I've ever heard. Then comes the solo section, featuring a rollicking piano which ends it's featured turn with a neat little climbing riff, made all the more indelible in that it's not quite played right, followed by a neat little trebly country guitar thing.
The chorus, sung twice, is what really sealed the deal, with words that cut right through me:
"Icy cold water can't put out the fire
The rain and the storm only add to the flame"
Well that's nice, and a great way with lyrics, but then there's this:
"Being together the one desire
There's magic in speaking your name"
What a great chorus. The last line just did me in - "there's magic in speaking your name" - like most other people, I'm sure, I've felt just that way a few times in my life, in both shared and unrequited situations, and I was just stopped short by the words of those last two lines. Of course, they only worked because the tune, arrangement and vocals are just as magical as those lyrics.
I saw with amazement that this was intended as the B-Side. Not to take away from the A-side, which is quite good enough in it's own right, but the underside is clearly the better of the two.
Here's the A-side, "There Is a Time" with the Allison Sisters (who wrote this one, as well) seemingly taking some of the same biblical lyrics that Pete Seeger would later mine (okay, probably not), and going into a different, more secular direction with the ensuing lyrics. Again, there are some great three part harmonies here, and a neat solo turn from that trebly guitar.
There is a lovely, unbeatable homemade feeling to this whole record. I can picture the sisters, who seem to be smiling broadly while singing, and I feel the affection between them, and likely between everyone who is heard on this record. This is music making at its most sublime.
Two years after I posted these songs to my own blog, I heard from two relatives of The Allison Sisters, the oldest of whom, Margaret, turned 96 this fall. I learned that the Allisons made two other 45's, one of which I've since found (below), and one on which they backed up another singer, Dollie Cunnigham - I haven't located a copy of that one yet. They also appeared at the Grand Ole Opry with Ernest Tubb in 1959. Margaret Allison's family also sent a press release, which you can see, above, and out of which I've selected the picture above. Many thanks to Margaret's family!
Each of the three Allison Sisters records came out on a different label. The other one that I have, a Christmas release, appeared on the Vellez label, which at various points released song-poems, vanity releases and bonafide attempts at hitmaking, of which this appears to be the latter. On the A-side, they sing an original song written by the fascinatingly named Jimmy Manship, "My Christmas Won't Be So Blue", and on the flip side, they do a nice version of "Jingle Bells":
You'll find another song - and a great one it is - written by Jimmy Manship, for the Vellez label, here. As on My Christmas Won't Be So Blue", you can hear a sound made by the recording equipment at the end of that track, too!