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Down in the River – CD

Down in the River – Liner Notes from Steven’s Perspective

In loving memory of our father Ioan Cascuescu

Remember having these on record albums?   Well here they are for our gospel CD, Down in the River.  Who’s doing what and a little about each tune.

Just a Closer Walk with Thee

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

This is a fun, uptempo version, quite different from the usual dirge. Catalina and I have been performing it for years. It’s a great song for harmonies. Two of them are done here by our backup group, The Steves (AKA me).

Vreau linga Dumnezeu

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

Catalina is Romanian. She wanted to do this traditional Romanian tune in memory of her father, Ioan Cascuescu.  It is a beautiful song, very enjoyable to sing.  The hardest thing was not singing in Romanian, which I wrote out phonetically, but playing guitar so simply.  In keeping with that simplicity, harmony is used very sparingly.  The English verse is a translation of the first verse that we did.

Contemplations – Steven Burns: November 10, 2009

  • Catalina – bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar
  • Brandon – vocals

This is a wonderful song.  The music is both simple and complex.  The harmonies are so available, so easy to extend.  For this recording, Brandon is singing a low-alto, the same physical notes as I sing.  Her harmonies are wonderful.  As always, a cannon intrigues.  Catalina’s bass playing is a perfect compliment to everything else.  A couple of interesting factoids for you: it was written on mandolin and is my only song where the title is not found in the words of the songs.

Bringing in the Sheaves/Jesus Loves Me

  • Catalina – bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

Just plain fun from two songs that are normally so staid.  The uptempo mashup of the two songs intrigued me.  They are unified by the flat seventh played rhythmically in the bass on the guitar.  That rhythm creates the modifications in the melodies.  This is the only song on the CD that we recorded twice.  Originally it was in D, perfect for the guitar.  But after listening to it for a few months, I realized that my voice just isn’t as young as it once was.  So we recorded it again on the last recording session, lowered it from D to A.  I was still careful to avoid certain high notes.

The Gift of Love

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals, mandolin, and guitar

Catalina’s voice is perfect for this beautiful song, pure and sweet.  The mandolin adds extra musical comments when it comes in on the second verse.  And then it has a verse of it’s own.  For the final verse it plays the melody, just a measure behind the vocals.  After loving this song for decades, I’m so glad to include it on our CD.

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

  • Catalina – bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

A blues-folk version, done in minor.  While I’ve never heard it done this way, there must be at least one somewhere.  This song has been one of my favorites since I was in first grade.  And that was a long time ago.  The verse about me getting to heaven first is one that I only learned recently, such a fun complement to the standard one of you arriving there first.

10,000 Reasons

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

This is the only modern gospel included.  We knew from the beginning that we wanted  it.  It was the first song that we recorded.  The melody and harmonies can easily get stuck in your head.  Again Catalina’s voice is perfect.  And I like the contrast in vocal styles between her verses and mine.

Joyful Noise – Steven Burns: July 12, 2004

  • Catalina – bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

This is a simple song in concept.  There are three hooks.  The first drives the song.  The third is so much fun with the descending bass line and longer melodic phrases.  The second offers respite from the first.  A factoid for you.  We had to slow the song down to make the words clearer.

Do Lord

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

This is the first of two chances to hear Catalina sing blues.  She was even brave enough to kick it off with the very sparse muted guitar and bass accompaniment.  Again our backup group, The Steves, make their appearance giving this a modified 60s do-wop feel.

In the Garden

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

Just a simple beautiful song with three part harmony.  I enjoy Cata’s Romanian accent every time I listen to it.  Again the contrast between our vocal styles on solo verses is appealing.

Where Could I Go

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals and guitar

This is the second of two chances to hear Catalina sing gospel blues.  The arrangement is infectious.  Our backup group,The Steves, are featured.  Mike Garrigan, our sound engineer, said it reminded him of the Andrews Sisters.  Personally, I really enjoyed doing the guitar work.

Down in the River

  • Catalina – lead vocals and bass
  • Steven – vocals, mandolin, and guitar

The perfect song to end our CD, arranged by Catalina.  Her vocals are featured throughout.  She wanted to feature the mandolin playing only rhythms against her vocals. Even The Steves make a brief appearance.  Catalina was insistent that it hard to begin and end acapella.   I’m pleased with the results.