Wade in the Water

cd cover: you better lie down by scott ainslieWade in the Water, Wade in the Water, Children.
Wade in the Water. God’s gonna trouble the water.

Well, who’s that yonder dressed in Red?
God’s gonna trouble the water.
Must be the children that Moses led.
God’s gonna trouble the water.

Who’s that yonder dressed in White?
God’s gonna trouble the water.
Must be the children of the Israelites.
God’s gonna trouble the water.

Who’s that yonder dressed in Blue?
God’s gonna trouble the water.
Must be the Children now, let them through.
He’s gonna trouble the water.


This tune is in modal D-tuning [Low to high pitch: D-A-D-D-A-D]. In arranging it, I settled on one chord progression and simply didn’t find it unsettling enough, so I went back and re-arranged it, laying down a slide break in the later half of the tune. It’s just two tracks and was for me, as I began this project, the heart of the record. The Gurian was used for both the primary track and the slide overdubs.

Using the colors of American patriotism in progressive verses, this gospel song pointed to the stark differences in America’s promises to its black and white citizens, not so subtly holding our feet to a fire of our own making. At the dedication of the cemetery on the battlefield at Gettysburg, Abraham Lincoln quickly, deftly, and irremedially aligned our nation’s awareness of itself by emphasizing the promise of a phrase of Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence—that “all men are created equal.” Lincoln took a lot of heat in the contemporary press for his brief remarks because he was subordinating the Constitution by speaking as if the Declaration of Independence was a founding document for the nation, which, of course, it was not.

Based on Spartan funeral orations and carefully written, the power of Lincoln’s words that day and the weight of the sacrifice of lives on that battlefield among many others has countermanded every objection to the contrary. In less than five minutes, Lincoln changed how we see and present the promise of our nation. Black spirituals with their powerful and refined coded use of language were pointing out the same contradictions between the promise of the country and its imperfect expression through the Constitution, courts, and legislatures for generations prior to the Civil War. My thanks to Kim and Reggie Harris go with this tune.

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