Washington Phillips: I Had A Good Mother And Father (circa 1928)
Kate Wolf: I Had A Good Mother and Father (1979)
Palace Brothers: I Had A Good Father And Mother (1993)
Gillian Welch: I Had A Real Good Mother & Father (2003)
Newcomers to the folkworld may believe this song is a Gillian Welch original, and it's true that Welch and her partner David Rawlings have a powerful tendency to make the songs they perform their own. But older folkies like myself know it as an old gospel spiritual, first recorded and possibly penned by Washington Phillips in the midst of the Great Depression, which flows down to us through the folkways in many hands and voices, and with variation in the title.
Kate Wolf, for example, takes Phillips' own listing and makes it her own through gentle, loving acoustic treatment in her inimitably beautiful voice. Meanwhile, the Palace Brothers reverse the titular parents and twang it up a bit, adding old timey banjo and slide over guitar strum patterns more akin to that of Phillips' original handmade chord-zither. Alongside these, Welch's slow-picked dustbowl rendition aches with yearning for the promise of Heaven's reunion.
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