Ern Knows Why The Caged Bird Sings
:: Tennessee Ernie Ford And The San Quentin Prison Choir - Higher Ground ::
Six years before Johnny Cash performed for the inmates at San Quentin, good ol’ Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded this album performing with San Quentin’s Prison Choir. Ford explains on the liner notes that as a child, he and his family would visit the jails that surrounded his hometown of Bristol, TN and would sing gospel songs for them. This is something he continued to do throughout his life, apparently. I don’t know, if my folks ever tried coercing me into doing something like that, I would have been the usual brat and whined that they take me to a ball game or something.
The songs on this album are traditional hymns, not my favorite genre. But this song, “Higher Ground” really jumps out amongst the bunch. Ford’s rich baritone accompanied by the choir and sparse instrumentation is simply gorgeous throughout, making it one of those religious tunes that almost makes me a believer when I listen to it. Almost, bless his pea-pickin’ heart. The belief it does reinforce for me, however, is that there is good to be found in everyone - something I’d hope Governor Schwarzenegger might take into account sometime in the next eight days when deciding the fate of a current San Quentin inmate.