Just Call it Southern
I refer of course to the title of the CD series put out by the The Singing News as an annual gift to subscribers who re-up. A song from one of the collections rolled round on my iPod recently (I knew immediately without looking where the song came from … why else would I own any Carroll Roberson?). Usually I skip these tunes (there are always a few gems in the mix, but on the whole, one walks away from the JCIS volumes feeling like it was least the SN could do). But this time I was too lazy to get up and walk over to where the iPod was connected to the amplifier so instead I distracted myself from the mediocrity (Carroll doing “I’ll Meet You in Paradise” … which, after a certain number of bars, began to feel vaguely like a threat) by pondering that name, Just Call it Southern.
Namely, why? Why should I “just call it southern”? And if I did, would anyone know what I was talking about?
YOU: what’s shuffling through your iPod these days?
ME: oh, a few Christmas tunes, a volume of Odetta’s greatest hits, and some southern.
YOU: what thuh … you mean southern gospel?
ME: yeah … but I just call it southern.
Royght. The only times I can remember anyone referring to sg as “southern” has been wonky or insider references to the music within the larger world of Christian entertainment. In these cases, southern has been a kind of quasi-corporate shorthand that makes sense in that context but like most jargon it isn’t something that enjoys wide currency beyond specialists and insiders. As in, “oh she used to write a lot of CCM but now she’s mostly doing southern.” Or, “southern has lost a lot of market share in the last 15 years, but its fan base is far more loyal than in other Christian markets.” But does anyone actually just call it southern in ordinary conversation? Regular readers might recall my abiding curiosity in the question of how to describe and define white gospel music (see footnote 20 here, among other places), so let me assure you I’m actually asking.Email this Post