Farther Along – The Skylarks
[available on Pewburner CD 527: Skylarks of Nashville, Vol. 1 (1951-1954); available from www.pewburner.com]
In 1951, at the time “Farther Along” was recorded, the Skylarks were Willie Jefferson, Wilson Paige, James S. Hill, and Issac “Dickie” Freeman. Neither “Roberts” – Crenshaw nor Broussard – had joined the organization just yet.
While the Skylarks were always a powerful quartet, especially in their early days, the group’s greatest asset was Dickie Freeman, arguably the greatest bass singer in gospel music. Freeman and fellow Skylarks James Hill and Edward Thomas (who had left the Skylarks by this point) had been members of the famed Fairfield Four. Freeman would rejoin and gain tremendous success with the Fairfield Four later in his career, but for now he was busy providing the vocal foundation that propelled the Skylarks sound.
In addition to the rare opportunity to hear a young Freeman performing solo duties, what is striking about “Farther Along” is that if you imagine the quartet doo-wopping instead of singing words, this arrangement comes very close to Dixieland jazz with its complex rhythms and melodic lines. One listens, spellbound, as the quartet weaves vocal parts over and under each other with unbelievable intricacy. It is nothing less than magnificent quartet technique, forged, no doubt, in the crucible of constant touring from church to high school to auditorium along the gospel highway.