Asylum Street Spankers: Going Gospel For 15 years, the band has blended acoustic blues, swinging jazz, folk and even some kids' music. In NPR's Studio 4A, the group performs gospel music from its new, modestly titled album, God's Favorite Band.
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Asylum Street Spankers: Going Gospel

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Asylum Street Spankers: Going Gospel

Asylum Street Spankers: Going Gospel

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

The Asylum Street Spankers join us now in Studio 4A. We have a small audience here, so give it up for the Asylum Street Spankers, everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HANSEN: I'll introduce the co-band leader, Christina Marrs on vocals, saw, guitar and banjo. She also produced the album. And she's accompanied by her band leading partner on vocals, harmonica and washboard, Wammo - just Wammo?

WAMMO: Yep, that's it.

HANSEN: Are you named after a Frisbee?

WAMMO: Actually sort of.

HANSEN: Really?

WAMMO: Kind of.

HANSEN: Is there a story there?

WAMMO: I was conceived on a slip and slide.

HANSEN: Fine.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: Welcome. And Wammo, then, do the honors. Introduce us to the rest of the band.

WAMMO: Sure. We got Dave Long on high harmonies and mandolin, Shawn Dean on fiddle, Morgan Patrick Thompson on bass, Mark Henne on drums and Nevada Newman on guitar and harmonies.

HANSEN: Fantastic. We're going to get right to the music because why not? And you're going to do a traditional tune for us, "Wade in the Water," and it's also included on your new CD "God's Favorite Band."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WADE IN THE WATER")

ASYLUM STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) Wade in the water, wade in the water, children. Wade in the water. He's gonna trouble the water. He's gonna trouble the water. Wade in the water, oh, wade in the water children. Wade in the water. He's gonna trouble the water. He's gonna trouble the water.

CHRISTINA MARRS: (Singing) (unintelligible) all come in dressed in red.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water.

MARRS: Oh, it must be the children that Moses led.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water.

MARRS: (Singing) Oh, you don't believe how clear it is.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water.

MARRS: (Singing) They're gonna follow him down by the Jordan stream.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water. Why don't you wade in the water? Wade in the water, children. Wade in the water. He's gonna trouble the water. He's gonna trouble the water.

MARRS: (Singing) See them all come dressed in white.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water.

MARRS: (Singing) Oh, it looks like children of Israelites.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water.

MARRS: (Singing) Oh, look over yonder and what did I see?

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water.

MARRS: (Singing) A band of angels coming for me.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) He's gonna trouble the water. He's gonna trouble the water. He's gonna trouble the water.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HANSEN: You guys have been together for 15 years. How'd you meet?

MARRS: Sixteen in April.

HANSEN: Sixteen. How'd you meet?

MARRS: Well, Wammo and I are the only original members. We've had maybe 30 people come and go over a good course of our long, illustrious career. We met at a party.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

HANSEN: Do you remember the party, Wammo?

WAMMO: I do, as a matter of fact.

MARRS: I remember it quite well.

WAMMO: Out in Llano, Texas there's a place called the Dabbs Hotel. And they had what they called the Llano Bolano show, which was an artist-only party and you had to perform something to attend. And her talent that she performed, well, she twirled a fire baton to Primus.

HANSEN: With great success, I take it.

WAMMO: It was amazing.

HANSEN: And from this to "God's Favorite Band," really.

WAMMO: It takes 15 years.

HANSEN: And this is a song - now, who wrote this "Volkswagen Thing?"

WAMMO: Oh, I did.

HANSEN: You did, Wammo?

WAMMO: Yeah.

HANSEN: Okay. I mean, what on earth got into your head to write this tune?

WAMMO: A, one, two, three, two.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VOLKSWAGEN THING")

WAMMO: (Singing) I was too worn and along down speedway, my mind not thinking a thing, when I saw a vision of a holy roller, that's when I started to sing.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) God drives a Volkswagen thing, God drives a Volkswagen thing.

WAMMO: Now, Satan, he drives a Mercedes. It's long and it's black and it's clean. And he slams on the brakes on the entrance ramp, because he's so doggone mean - he's got a Hummer too.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) But God drives a Volkswagen thing. God drives a Volkswagen thing.

WAMMO: Now, the Nazis, they built the VW, so evil would still feel the sting. But when Jehovah wants to cruise around without getting recognized, he drives his Volkswagen thing.

STREET SPANKERS: (Singing) God drives a Volkswagen thing. God drives a Volkswagen thing.

WAMMO: Now, Elvis, he gave away Cadillacs, which is easy if you are a king. But God never bothers with radio, from the backseat Elvis was saved.

STREET SPANKERS: Amen, y'all.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

HANSEN: Asylum Street Spankers with "God Drives a Volkswagen Thing." Wammo, can you sing that without a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon?

WAMMO: I don't think so.

HANSEN: Ah, okay. Well, we're glad that you have it with you. Most of the tunes on your new album, "God's Favorite Band," are not originals. I mean, you did traditional songs but you also do some covers. And one of the ones that you do is an old soul stirrer song, "Last Mile of the Way."

MARRS: Like most gospel music, most has its roots in traditional songwriting as well. I mean, there's plenty of songs older than this version that are based around the concept of "Last Mile of the Way." Since gospel has a great oral tradition, you get a lot of sharing of lyrics. It's like well I woke up this morning in the blues. You know, you're not going to hear it just once in one song.

HANSEN: Well, let's hear "Last Mile of the Way."

MARRS: One, two, three, four...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LAST MILE OF THE WAY")

MARRS: When I've gone the last mile of the way, oh yeah, I shall rest at the close of the day, oh Lord. All I know there is joy awaiting, oh well. Oh, when I've gone the last mile of the way. If I were...

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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