(Above) River baptism, location unknown; c. 1920s.
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(Above) Baptism in stream, location unknown; c. 1900s.
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(Above) Baptism in pond, location unknown; c. 1920s.
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FOR MOST OF HIS LIFE, COLLECTOR JIM LINDERMAN has searched high and low for authentic things—unique and special objects that define the artistic culture of the American experience. From folk art to popular culture, from pulp fiction to Delta Blues— Jim is a walking authority on so many things American they are too numerous to mention. One thing is certain— his collecting interests are for things that have fallen through the cracks, those things lost and forgotten—the box of material under the table at the flea market booth. If it wasn’t for dedicated collectors like Jim Linderman— so many important objects about our culture would have surely been lost to time and indifference.
TAKE ME TO THE WATER: Immersion Baptism in Vintage Music and Photography 1890 – 1950 is Linderman’s first book. The 96-page hardcover book (8.75 x 6 inches) has 75 sepia photograph reproductions from 1890-1950 and is accompanied by a CD of rare gospel and folk recordings from original 78-RPM records (1924-1940). It features recordings of artists like Washington Phillips, Carter Family, Tennessee Mountaineers, and lesser known and rare groups like the Belmont Silvertone Jubilee Singers, a vocal quartet in 1939. Included as well are rare vocal recordings of sermons and preaching which highlight the fervor leading up to the moment of cleansing one’s soul in immersion baptism. Certainly, allowing oneself to lie backwards into deep river water for the washing away of sin would be a powerful moment in anyone’s life.
TAKE ME TO THE WATER is another gem in the renowned publishing record of Dust-to-Digital, the brainchild and passion of 2009 Grammy winner Lance Ledbetter, who is an expert in music of American vernacular musical field recordings, specifically bluegrass, gospel and Delta blues. Linderman’s collection of immersion baptism photographs is extensive and was recently gifted to the International Center of Photography in New York. The original 78-RPM records from which this CD was made came from the collections of Joe Bussard, Steven Lance Ledbetter, Frank Mare and Roger Misiewicz. As a bonus, the book is beautifully designed and art directed by John Hubbard and Rob Millis.
Writer Luc Sante wrote this in the introduction, which I think sums up my feelings quite well: “Whether you have ever actually experienced a baptism or not, whether you are a believer or not, these pictures and the music that accompanies them transmit all the emotional information: the excitement and the serenity, the fellowship and the warmth, the wind and the water ... You would have to have a heart of tin not to recognize this as one of the happiest collections of archival photographs ever assembled.”
I firmly believe that this will be one of those rare books that, in a few years, you end up saying to yourself: “I wish I had bought that.” If you are interested in vernacular photography, history, sociology, religion, great authentic gospel music or just great books, this book/CD compilation is a must for your collection. Buy it while you can.
Jim Linderman maintains a most interesting blog about the most amazing things from his collection—a site he calls “Dull Tool Dim Bulb,” the only curse words his father ever uttered. I love it, and read it everyday. Check it out! Take Me to the Water will be released May 26, 2009, and you can pre-order it now on Amazon. Just click above!
And, for you audiophiles, here are the track listings on the CD:
|1. Baptize Me (Rev. J. M. Gates)|
|2. Denomination Blues part 1 (Washington Phillips)|
|3. John the Baptist (Rev. Moses Mason)|
|4. Bathe in That Beautiful Pool (Dock Walsh)|
|5. On My Way to Canaan’s Land (Carter Family)|
|6. Old Time Baptism part I (Rev. R. M. Massey)|
|7. Old Time Baptism part II (Rev. R. M. Massey)|
|8. Go Wash in the Beautiful Stream (Southern Wonders Quartet)|
|9. I’ll Be Washed (Carolina Tar Heels)|
|10. Wash You, Make You Clean (Elder J. E. Burch)|
|11. Baptist Shout (Frank Jenkins of Da Costa Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters)|
|12. At The River (Tennessee Mountaineers)|
|13. Wade in de Water (Empire Jubilee Quartet)|
|14. Baptism at Burning Bush (Rev. Nathan Smith's Burning Bush Sunday School Pupils)|
|15. Sister Lucy Lee (Bill Boyd and His Cowboy Ramblers)|
|16. Wade in the Water and Be Baptized (Belmont Silvertone Jubilee Singers)|
|17. I’m Going Down to Jordan (Ernest Thompson)|
|18. Go Wash in Jordan Seven Times (Rev. J. C. Burnett)|
|19. Wade in the Water (Birmingham Jubilee Singers)|
|20. Goin’ Down to the River of Jordan (J. E. Mainer’s Mountaineers)|
|21. Baptism by Water, and Baptism by the Holy Ghost (Elder J. E. Burch)|
|22. Go Wash in the Beautiful Stream (Moses Mason)|
|23. Wade in the Water (Sunset Four Jubilee Singers)|
|24. Down To Jordan (Ernest Stoneman's Dixie Mountaineers)|
|25. Take Me to the Water (Rev. E. D. Campbell)|