One the bands in our church tends toward the more country/folk/bluegrass styles of music, but I sometimes find it difficult to locate songs that are well suited for community singing. I know there are tons of great songs out there and I was hoping you guys could share your ideas with me.
Here is some the stuff we have done in the past that has worked-
I saw the Light (of course)
There's a Higher Power (old Appalachian country song)
He set me free (Thad Cockrell - off the album Oh To Be Loved, awesome album)
What are your ideas?
A lot of what you might call "classic contemporary worship" - the Maranatha, Integrity, and even Vineyard songs from the '80s - lend themselves quite nicely to a country interpretation.
Hank Williams had a whole LP of "Christian" songs called "Wait For the Light to Shine," and I even heard Buck Owens doing a gospel song the other day. And many of Elvis' old gospel songs ("There Will Be Peace in the Valley For Me") can be done country, probably were originally country songs. If you've got somebody who can transfer LPs to CD, you might prowl the Goodwill stores in your area looking for things. Many of the old country artists used to do one "gospel" song at the end of their shows and put out gospel albums at some point.
Check out Pandora Radio - pandora.com - you tell it a song (or songs) you like, and it plays "similar" things. I'm not sure they would recognize that "I Saw the Light" has Christian lyrics and limit the selections to Christian country gospel, but I'm sure you'd come across some things.
Check out some of the shows on the religious TV channels, there are shows with the Statler Brothers and other old time country artists, and since they're religious shows, the songs should be pretty much on topic.
You might check out some of your local antique book stores (or go online and search) for old hymnals, especially ones with "gospel" in the title - "Gospel Hymns #4" and so on. Entire books full of things that can be done country, and a lot of it is now in public domain, or the publishers are under CCLI.
Don't know if it would work in your church or not, but I've often thought that in our neighborhood (not quite retirement age, but getting on there, and not the really rich folks), if some church had a "country gospel" service once a week, there would be a lot of interest, especially if it didn't conflict with Sunday morning services at other churches. As with "contemporary" worship, it would be important to understand "country worship" - it's not just a "traditional" worship service with different songs, but, again, check out some of the religious TV shows that feature country music to get a feel for what they're doing.
The one tricky thing with doing country gospel is that there can be a real temptation to overdo the country drawl and twang to the point of making fun of the music and the people - the Blues Brothers doing "Rawhide," for examle. If you were going to do something like this, remember that the people who will come to it are people who LIKE that music, and if they sense you're making fun of it (and them), they won't keep coming.
Went by the public library while I was out doing errands today, and in the "gospel" section, a LOT of country artists, new and old, have released "Christian" albums. I think there is a LOT of material out there if you poke around a little bit. And I was thinking - even if you don't do a special weekly "country gospel" worship service, if you just play it up that the third Sunday of the month (or whatever) is country gospel week, get people looking forward to it, that could be a cool thing.
Thanks for your input. I know there is a plethora of country gospel songs out there and I have done my fair share of digging. I tend to spend more time trying to find recordings of older country/bluegrass/folk because I just get turned off by a lot of the more modern (80's on forward) recordings of traditional songs. I'm also pretty picky about lyrics to be honest, and a lot of stuff I run across is just not appropriately edifying in my view.
That's one of the reasons I was looking for specific suggestions because it takes so much time and effort to sift through all the albums out there and sometimes I still end up with nothing I think is worth investing time in.
Joshua, if you want to try an upbeat country remake of the hymn My Savior's Love, then take a look at it on my music page: http://www.slimcookie.ca/Gallery1.htm. Both the mp3 and the sheet music are there. It's been popular with congregations in our area, really gets their hands clapping and feet tapping.
We also have a bluegrass group in our church that does outreach concerts. Not really my style, but a lot of people like them.
Your input has got me motivated and I actually came across a few things that really hit a chord with me.
The Isaacs......uh, wow! You have to love a family band and this crew can tare it up bluegrass style. They also seem to be genuine Christ followers and they have some nice original material as well as great covers of some classics. I particularly connected with a couple songs I'll probably take a crack at (although we won't do them justice) "Walk On" (not the U2 song) and "He Understands My Tears)
I also came across this "Bluegrass Worship" album. Although I usually loath albums where they take popular songs and then hire some studio musicians to "adapt" them to a particular style of music, this album did not really annoy me and I even liked a few of the new songs they covered.
See if you can re-arrange any songs you like.
There's a band I've seen called "The Sensitive New Age Cowpersons" who play:
I still haven't found what I'm looking for
AC/DC songs (there's another band called Hayseed Dixie)
All in Blue Grass Style
theres an old hymn called i have decided to follow Jesus that works great in this style.
also check out johnny cash hes gone some good versions of christian songs in this style.