Tree of Life

Today’s post was written by Paul.

wilson brothers

Today I’m sharing a video of Pap and his brother Ray (the Wilson Brothers) covering Don Reno’s song “Tree of Life” back in the day (8/13/1989). This video is from the same VHS tape I told you about last week.

They were huge fans of the great Reno & Smiley.

No duets seem to do half-time singing anymore, like the tenor part on this chorus.

Pap wrote a few songs featuring half-time harmony. Ira Louvin wrote several with it (Such as “Make Him a Soldier”), but it’s a thing of the past now. Maybe one day it will make a comeback. Fun to listen to, I always thought, though I never could do it myself. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed Paul’s post and the song! I’ve always loved those half-time songs.

If you’d like to have some Wilson Brother music for your own, check out the cds below: “Live at the John C. Campbell Folk School” and “Today if You Will Hear His Voice.”


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  • Reply
    August 11, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    So enjoyable! It seems like you’d just have to ‘feel it’- listen for it , more than a learned technique; that it would be more caught than taught and these two had it down!

  • Reply
    August 9, 2020 at 11:39 pm

    This is just beautiful. My Daddy used to call the half-time singing “double-clutching.” Have you ever heard it called that? He is the only person I ever heard who called it that, and that is all I had ever heard it called, so I had to listen to figure out what “half-time” meant! LOL! I am so glad you have the VHS tape of your Dad and uncle singing, so we can all enjoy it here. Thank you so much for sharing it. It is so encouraging!

    • Reply
      Paul Wilson
      August 10, 2020 at 10:28 pm

      Hi, Cheryl.
      I can definitely understand why he would call it that. That’s sort of how it feels when trying to sing it, like hesitating then quickly putting the word like a sort of musical hiccup! 🙂 You have to let the lead singer sing a word directly on the bass beat, then instead of waiting until the next bass beat (which would be a repeat), you sing the same word the lead just sang, except you sing it on the down beat (the beat the mandolin or snare drum hits in between the bass notes). It’s one of those pat-your-head, while rubbing your stomach, chewing gum, and walking kind of deals. Takes a little too much coordination for me. Pap could do it easily. Don Reno and Ira Louvin were both extremely skilled with it, but they had somewhat of an advantage in that they both mostly played instruments that fall on the half beat or down beat (that being the banjo for Reno and the mandolin for Ira). That probably made them more accustomed or at least made it seem more natural to sing a word on that beat. Not long ago, I discovered the lost Louvin demo recordings posted on YouTube. There’s an example of half-time that I really love in the song “Coo, Coo, Coo.” In that song, Ira and Charlie sing that phrase together on the regular base beat each time it comes up in the song, except for the very last time. On the last time, Ira works the middle “Coo” on the half-time beat so that it’s squeezed in between Charlie’s words of “Coo.” It’s pretty funny and cool, but it would make it very easy for either singer to get tripped up. It happens at 59 seconds in this video:

  • Reply
    August 9, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    Love that chorus halftime harmony!

  • Reply
    Hank Skewis
    August 9, 2020 at 6:50 pm

    Beautiful job! Thank you.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    August 9, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    All day I have been trying to think of a song that Tree of Life reminded me of. It is a quartet song in which either the bass or tenor sings only “tell me who, tell me who” in the chorus. You know how something so seemingly meaningless can cause such frustration. I can hear those words over in over in my head but can’t remember any more.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 9, 2020 at 5:46 pm

    Very nice, Paul, thanks. It does move along very quickly, seems like that would be challenging!

  • Reply
    August 9, 2020 at 4:58 pm

    I enjoyed the video. My father in law had a 4 man band that would get together every Saturday night at one of the members home if they were not playing somewhere. They liked to sing the old time gospel songs. He and another member wrote some songs. They were never published or copyrighted. They would only play in churches, nursing homes or for some fund raising event if alcohol was not involved. After retiring they enjoyed going to nursing homes and singing and having a devotion with the residents. He and another member would sing together sometimes sounding a lot like the men above. All of the ones in the band have passed on now.

  • Reply
    betty stephenson
    August 9, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    lovely duet a great start to my new week monday over here

  • Reply
    August 9, 2020 at 11:52 am

    Good way to start my Sunday.

  • Reply
    Allison B
    August 9, 2020 at 11:37 am

    Yes, was very nice. Enjoyed the song and video very much.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    August 9, 2020 at 11:03 am

    and Paul,
    I love the Old Timey Songs that Ray and Pap sing. When Pap got a little more use to me, I told him about how cold it was In Topton when I was a little thing. I walked to the Porch and on our Old RC thermometer it read 10 degrees below zero. I could see that Pap wanted to say something so…..

    Pap told Me this: Over where I live, it was Cold as the dickens too, One time someone Stole the crossties off the railroad to keep warm and the train couldn’t run for several days, until they got the railroad fixed. …Ken

  • Reply
    John Misiag
    August 9, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Have they played at the Lincoln Theater in Marion Va. ? These guys are great…

    • Reply
      August 10, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      John-they never played there. So glad you enjoyed the video!

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    August 9, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Love it!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    August 9, 2020 at 9:22 am

    How well they harmonize. As I’ve posted more than once I guess, I don’t know beans about music. I don’t know what you mean by a half-time song for example. And with my blunt-fingered ‘farmer hands’ I likely wouldn’t ever be much shucks on a guitar. But anyway that is one more sweet sound. It is uplifting in the music and the words.

    I think you all could easily have a separate blog about Appalachian music and never run out of material. In fact it would probably have to be refined a lot further to be managable.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    August 9, 2020 at 8:38 am

    I loved watching and listening and the foot tapping to keep time which most professional musicians do without realizing it. Tipper, the STUFF AND NOISE passing for music today—- well I’ve said a plenty already. I cannot stand ear assault from today’s wretched frequencies… The Wilson Brothers were REAL MUSIC AND REALLY TALENTED!!!!Thanks for a Sunday TREAT for my ears!!!

  • Reply
    aw griff
    August 9, 2020 at 8:17 am

    Love to hear Pap sing.

  • Reply
    gayle larson
    August 9, 2020 at 8:07 am

    Loved it…Always look forward to the
    sunday song.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 9, 2020 at 7:43 am

    Thanks for sharing that, Paul – very enjoyable. I’d not thought that it might be hard to sing half-time, since I can’t sing, period….. unless no one’s around to listen.

  • Reply
    William Diamond
    August 9, 2020 at 6:33 am

    Very nice. Thanks for posting this.

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