Encore Series #6: All the Way my Savior Leads Me

On their 1976 recording Mighty Power, the Couriers recorded a hymn penned by Fanny Crosby (lyrics) and Robert Lowry (melody), “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.” The hymn was originally published in Biglow & Main’s The Brighest and Best hymnal (1875).

The hymn has three verses; there are repeats at the end of the verses, but no chorus (lyrics and sheet music here). The Couriers’ arrangement features unison on the first verse, splitting into parts for the second. The third verse starts off with the trio harmonies; after a brief solo, a return to the trio harmonies builds and swells to a big ending.

Out of 21,748 tracks in my iTunes collection, virtually all of which are Southern Gospel, there is no other rendition of this hymnβ€”and the only other rendition that I can find online that is even tangentially connected to the genre is a rendition by the Old Fashioned Revival Hour Quartet on a self-titled project, and that group tends to be more often classified with sacred music than with Southern Gospel. So the Couriers’ rendition may actually be the only rendition yet by a professional Southern Gospel group.

But this song would lend itself naturally to a number of different settings:

First, it could be done as a gentle, easy-on-the-ears concert opener by a trio with tight harmonies. The Booth Brothers and Jacob Kitson’s new group, Statement of Faith, would be two who could interpret the song effectively with this arrangement.

Second, this song would have been right at home on the Gaither Vocal Band’s 2003 a cappella project. The arrangements were created by David Phelps, and now that he has returned to the group, he could use five voices to bring out some rich vocal textures in this song.

Third, if any group were to do an arrangement inspired by the original Couriers version, the Mark Trammell Quartet would be perfect. The first four lines of the second verse would feature Dustin Sweatman, while the first four of verse three would lend themselves well to rich quartet harmonies. A Pat Barker bass solo step-out on lines five and six of these verses would be spine-chillingly perfect. Then, of course, a huge quartet ending would bring the arrangement to a glorious conclusion.

It’s time for this hymn to make a return.

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60 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. This is a great hymn, but I do have a version of it in my collection, and it’s by Chris Tomlin. πŸ™‚ You should try it some time—he gives it a new tune and pens a fresh chorus to complement the verses. Very nice!

    • I hesitate to check it out, though, since I have yet to hear a modern repeat-5-words-4-times chorus that adds more than it detracts to a classic hymn. Two cases in point are “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” and “I Am Not Skilled to Understand.” Both butcher their respective classics worse than an 89-year-old grandpa who can’t carry a tune doing them as as a special solo for church.

      • You’re confused. Let me explain:

        “I Am Not Skilled To Understand” is actually “My Savior Loves,” and I completely agree with you there. It’s horribly repetitive, and it completely ruins the hymn.

        “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” is a wholly different animal. The tune for the chorus is not nearly as repetitive. It actually has a really natural flow. And the lyrics are not five words repeated four times. They run their course like a natural hymn chorus. Very different from the mind-numbing P & W din of “My Savior Loves.”

        You seem to have lumped these two together in your mind, but let me encourage you to, well, un-lump, because one just is vastly better than the other.

      • Well, they both utterly ruin classics, but perhaps one ruins and devastates while the other merely ruins! πŸ™‚

      • I’m sorry, but you’re just wrong. That’s okay though. Nobody’s perfect. πŸ˜‰

      • I think you’re mistaken about whether I’m wrong. πŸ™‚

      • Oh, I’m sure you think so. πŸ™‚

        I will grant you this though—I certainly don’t think that “My Chains Are Gone” should be in a hymnal. For a hymnal, leave the original hymn. Sadly, it appears to have replaced the original hymn in some modern hymnals. I think that’s a shame, and honestly, I think the person who did the re-make wouldn’t want that either.

      • Good grief….let’s slam P&W again

      • Ghopper, I’m not slamming all P&W, since there certainly is merit to some songs that would be classified in that genre. I’m just slamming poorly executed attempts to lump mediocre repetitive choruses together with majestic hymns.

      • And I second Daniel, Ghopper. We were just disagreeing on whether or not this particular arrangement is mediocre. Not trying to make some general Point with a capital “P” about P & W as a whole.

        The way I look at it is there’s the good stuff, then the decent stuff, then the mediocre stuff, then the really, really, really bad stuff. But then, that’s just a fact about any genre. πŸ˜‰

      • I don’t even really like the version of “O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing” that’s in the hymnal. I know Charles Wesley would have been shocked to hear us sing it with, “Blessed be the name, blessed be the name, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

      • You’re kidding—somebody’s actually put the hymn together with the worship song? Now I hate that. Don’t slap two songs together that were never meant to go together in the first place!

      • Now I’m mis-trusting my memory, but I know I’ve heard that, whether it’s in the hymnal or not.

      • That’s a little different then—it’s one thing for a worship leader to come up with a way of working the songs together in a medley, but to actually put them together in a hymnal is completely ridiculous.

      • No, it’s in the hymnal. Don’t know if it’s the same P&W song NSF is thinking of, since I don’t necessarily know that song (and it’s probably a good thing…)

      • Actually, the particular song Amy’s talking about is one of the better P & W songs to come along—based on Job. But I have yet to find a really great version of it… πŸ™

      • How sure are you? Because I have a hymnal with a “Blessed Be the Name” chorus that’s at least 75 years old, I’d say, and more likely 125.

        “Oh for a thousand tongues to sing
        Blessed be the name of the Lord
        The glories of my God and King
        Blessed be the name of the Lord

        “Blessed be the name, blessed be the name
        Blessed be the name of the Lord…”

        (as I recall)

      • Ah, then that would be an older “Blessed Be the Name.” Which would make more sense, since I was thinking it would have to be a REALLY modern hymnal to have the “Blessed Be the Name” I was thinking of.

        Even so, I’d rather the hymn was just left the way it was.

      • That’s the one, Daniel. Thanks!

      • You’re welcome! I wasn’t going to try to dig through the murky depths of almost-forgotten lyrics to pull that one out, but after NSF posted that it was definitely a good modern P&W song, and I knew it wasn’t, I knew I had to pull out what it was! πŸ™‚

      • Yeah, sorry, I was just going by the fact that I know there are hymnals with modern P & W stuff, but I hadn’t heard of the particular kind of mix Amy was talking about—an old-fashioned praise song and an old-fashioned hymn. Also, the fact that she said Wesley would be “shocked” to hear the two songs together made me think it was the modern one. πŸ˜‰

      • NSF, you might have been thinking of thee praise chorus “The Name of the Lord” or if not that, maybe “Blessed Be Your Name” by Matt Redman.

      • Yes q-man, I was thinking of the Matt Redman one, which I do like.

    • I am with NSF on this one; I really like Chris Tomlins version of this song as a new take on the classic.

      As for the subject at hand I agree with you Daniel that the MTQ would do a great job with this one; I also think L5 could do a great with it…

      • Agreed, but personally I’m hearing it as a trio number—I really like Daniel’s idea of the Booth Brothers. It would fit right in with their Hymns Pure & Simple stuff.

  2. Here’s a question—would you consider the song “Where No One Stands Alone” to be a hymn? (I wouldn’t, but I’m just curious.)

    • Not yet – Mosie’s still alive. Plus, the song’s only about 55 years old.

      If a song is old enough – say, 75+ years old – that virtually no living people will remember when it was a new song (put another way, that virtually all living people will have heard it once it was already notable), then I would classify it as eligible for hymn status.

      This is, of course, provided it’s of the right style and good enough musically. Mosie Lister’s songs are both.

      • Interesting. I think it’s funny how people call what Keith & Kristyn Getty write “hymns.” I’m sure you would find people saying that “In Christ Alone” is a hymn.

      • :shrugs shoulders:

        Hymns can be defined by time period or by style. More people call the Gettys’ work “modern hymns,” and I’m certainly fine with that.

        Keep in mind, though, that during Fanny Crosby’s lifetime, her most popular hymn was “Rescue the Perishing,” the anthem of the social gospel movement. Yet it’s other Crosby hymns that have really stood the test of time . . . and the same could happen with the Gettys.

      • Well, I don’t think the Gettys’ songs would qualify as “hymns” even stylistically speaking, though some perhaps would fit better than others.

        One thing’s for sure—if you want to write something and call it a hymn, make sure the lyrics don’t give away the fact that you’re writing in a contemporary context, e.g., by making typical modern grammatical blunders.(See my other post on “In Christ Alone.” ;-))

      • Gaither has been in the hymnbooks for a long time.

      • True. But should he be?

      • By all means! πŸ™‚

      • But didn’t you just say that Mosie Lister songs shouldn’t be considered hymns because Mosie is still alive and his songs are fairly recent? πŸ˜‰

      • I’m not firm on that point. If his songs were used frequently and congregationally across the country, then I would make an exception for him as I do for Gaither.

        Sometimes songs become hymns faster.

        Besides, I’m all for more publicity for good Southern Gospel songs!

      • Yes, but good Southern Gospel songs do not hymns make. πŸ™‚

      • Some do, some don’t.

        “We Shall See Jesus” is an awesome SG song, but isn’t a hymn. “Because He Lives” is both.

      • Why? Because more people know it?

      • That and range required (WSSJ takes two octaves to do right). Style of the lyrics is a factor, too.

      • “How sweet to hold our newborn baby?” Eh, not so much… the other verses, maybe.

      • Sure.

        You know that was the original first verse?

        The song makes so much more sense that way…

      • Yeah, I did know that was the original first verse, but IMO the song is much better off without it. πŸ˜‰

      • …as a hymn, yes.

        Now as to the original artist recording, as it tells their personal story (delivered in their own voices, etc.) – another story. It was good then, but now, it does have a broader appeal with just the other two.

      • Well, I think it’s kind of flaky any way you slice it, but to each his own. πŸ™‚

      • In the end, this is a really subjective kind of thing. There isn’t an “essence of hymn” in the same way that there is an “essence of man” or an “essence of God.”

        Having said that, here are a few more interesting thoughts:

        One way you could try to make a distinction between a “hymn hymn” and a gospel song is how important emotion/dynamics are to the song. Ask yourself the question, “If I just sang this ‘normally,’ without any kind of buildup or excitement or emotion, would it completely lose all its flavor and interest?” Example: “Oh What a Savior.” “Oh What a Savior” is a gospel song. With ordinary hymns, generally they’re not written to be sung with a lot of emotion/dynamics. You can have a soft hymn, like “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” and you can have a loud hymn, like “Onward Christian Soldiers,” but the volume is constant throughout both of those. One just is soft, and one just is loud. Now obviously somebody like David Phelps can come along and make something exciting out of “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” but at this point we’ve moved into what the arranger is bringing to the hymn, not what was inherent to the hymn.

        So in that sense, you could actually argue that something like “In Christ Alone” is closer to a classic hymn style than “He Touched Me.” “He Touched Me” has this very dramatic, emotional, flowing gospel style—it has “gospel song” stamped upon it. “In Christ Alone” is much less musically interesting. The melody has that even-keeled plainness to it. Now once again, plenty of people have come along and made it exciting, but that excitement isn’t really intrinsic to it. So in that sense, it’s closer to being a hymn than anything Gaither ever wrote.

        Food for thought! πŸ™‚

      • To put it a little differently, a true hymn feels “complete” without dramatic dynamic shifts. One doesn’t have that feeling like, “This just isn’t RIGHT. There’s something MISSING that’s supposed to be here!” Now of course you could have a very dull hymn, but there’s a difference between a hymn that just is naturally dull and a cheap, unexciting run-through of “Because He Lives.”

  3. I really love that Scripture that tells us to teach one another with “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs”. If I wanted to classify today’s Christian music into that passage, I’d think P&W would be like psalms, and we all know what hymns are…and that leaves “spiritual songs” for the kind closest to my heart – Southern Gospel and some of its kinfolk genres that “get up and move”…Black Gospel, for instance, which I also love. Isn’t it just like God to give us all that music, and all three categories for our favorites! And “All the Way My Savior Leads me” is my favorite hymn of all time. Miss Fanny Crosby is one of the first people outside of the Lord Jesus and my family that I went to meet…and HUG! Dianne.

    • “And ‘All the Way My Savior Leads me’ is my favorite hymn of all time.”

      Your favorite hymn of all time? WOW! Of all the questions I have thought to ask you in interviews, I can’t believe I have forgotten that one!

    • Dianne, it’s always so good to hear from you! My goodness, I can’t imagine the songs you and Fanny might collaborate on one day, but I imagine they will ROCK! πŸ˜€

  4. Confused a bit…wasn’t this post about bringing this hymn back? I don’t recall seeing anything about p &w in the original post.

    Kudos for thinking of the song fitting on GVBs acapella album. Serious question though…is the ultimate conclusion to all of these posts going to be that the booth brothers or mtqt should bring it back? I’d agree with the Booth Brothers being able to do a great version, but there are a whole plethora of groups in SG music today….and it just seems a little biased. Granted I slant a little in Gaithers court, but why not an acapella rendition by the Martins? Or maybe a full blown Gossian version by Greater Vision? Maybe a solo rendition by Taranda Greene?

    I’m just throwing that out there because it is going to become somewhat tiresome if the answer to the question is always going to be booth brothers or pat barker and mtqt.

    • Uh, Nick, no, that won’t be the answer every time. In point of fact, I specifically highlighted Statement of Faith in . . . well, in this very post! πŸ™‚

  5. I was distinctly privileged to be at a Couriers concert last night, and purchased the CD by them that has “All the Way My Savior Leads Me” on it. This blog strongly influenced my purchase (had read it earlier in the day). Am looking forward to when I have the chance to listen to it!

    • Very neat! The timing worked out nicely!

      I only know of one rendition by the group, so I’m suspecting you picked up Mighty Power – which also has the rendition of “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah” that Gold City brought back about ten years ago.

      • Yes, that’s the album! They actually were selling several CDs that each had two previous albums on them, for only $5 each. I picked up (and paid for!) three of those CDs, for a total of six albums. Looking forward to hearing them.

        Incidentally, Larry Ford was hiding in the balcony last night, too–so he was summoned to come join the Couriers on a few songs, with Neil accompanying the quartet on piano. It was unrehearsed…and was a highlight of the evening for me! Guess who took a video… πŸ™‚

      • Link? πŸ™‚

        (filler, filler)

      • That’s something worth waiting for!

        I picked up quite a few of those CDs last time I saw them.

  6. I have recordings of “All The Way My Savior Leads Me” going back to the early 1900s when the great early balladeer,
    Harry MacDonough recorded it for Victor. More recently, the best versions I’ve ever heard on recorded or otherwise were by:
    1) Tennessee Ernie Ford & Marilyn Horne on their 1968 Capitol LP: “Our Garden Of Hymns”and
    2) Jack Holcomb on one of his gospel LPs also from the mid-sixties. The Holcomb version can be heard on youtube.
    Both versions are nothing short of awesome

    • Tom, thank you! That’s much appreciated!

    • Hey, I like the Jack Holcomb version! Great stuff! :bravo: :bravo:

    • So – Who else out there listens to Jack Holcomb? Was he considered SG? I didn’t realize he was from the sixties; I thought the music was more recent than that.

      I like a lot of his music, and there’s real depth to it, but after I’ve listened to him for a while my throat starts hurting. If you’ve listened to him much you probably know what I mean.


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