Translation Series #6: By the Mark

“By the Mark” was written by Americana singer Gillian Adams Welch and co-writer David Rawlings. About three years ago, it found its way to a vocal group in a universe parallel to ours, bluegrass, when Dailey & Vincent cut it on their self-titled debut album.

This album proceeded to explode in popularity, leading the group to become Bluegrass’s most awarded group over the past three years. The song itself helped propel the group’s success, becoming a #1 radio hit on multiple charts throughout 2008 and being awarded the Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year at the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) awards in October 2008.

While Dailey & Vincent manage to make the song memorably strong with just two voices, this song begs for a male quartet treatment. It would be easy and a little too obvious to suggest the Primitive Quartet, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, or one of the other prominent Bluegrass / Bluegrass Gospel groups on the Southern Gospel circuit—though undoubtedly they could do a fine job with the song.

Taking the song out of its current Bluegrass setting into a more straight-ahead Southern Gospel setting, a clear frontrunner for being the Southern Gospel home for this song would be the Inspirations. Jamie Dailey is a good tenor, but on this song, Jodi Hosterman and David Ragan could deliver Dailey’s and Vincent’s parts better than the originals, and having Melton Campbell and Mike Holcomb in the mix would be icing on the cake.