Prepare to Meet God
West Hill Records
Prepare to Meet God by Weirs is a delightfully weird album. What started as two friends, Oliver Child-Lanning and Justin Morris, sending each other simple versions of traditional, old-time, or Appalachian songs to play around with, turned into an 11 person endeavor and an unexpected turn every 2 minutes or so.
The name Weirs came from some significant spots the friends came across on the Eno river in Orange County, NC, where they live. In an approach that parallels this local love, they use the art and words of Harrison Mayes for the album cover and title. It’s transcendent, menacing, or maybe both at once. They tag the album on bandcamp as “post-praise,” the only album in this category. There’s an eerie turn to the traditional tunes, with a simultaneous love and deep knowledge of their historical context.
The bandcamp page for Prepare to Meet God helpfully lists the origins of the 12 songs on the album. There’s a masonic hymn, some traditional British ballads that became American classics, a Watson family classic, and an arrangement based on an Elizabeth Cotten version of a turn of the 20th century song. Weirs bring an incredible range of interpretations to these songs. While some are faithful, classic versions of well-known songs (“Groundhog,” “Precious Memories”), others convey a love of wide ranging popular music traditions. Their version of “The Riddle Song” is what I imagine an Arthur Russell cover would sound like. While many beautiful, tenderhearted versions of the emotionally-resonant “Your Long Journey” exist in the universe (John Hartford, Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant & Allison Krauss), Morris’ slow, minimally backed rendition of this song feels absolutely faultless. My friend Hayden expressed awe at what he described as “metal ‘Barbara Allen.’” The drone of this bleak Scottish ballad brings a gravity and interpretive accompaniment to this song that many covers miss (sorry to Joan Baez).
The transcendence I mentioned earlier comes in full force in the exuberant choral arrangements of “Hicks’ Farewell” and “When I Get Home.” Child-Lanning and Morris were eagerly joining in shape note singing before the pandemic, which I think you can hear in these songs. I love that the voices carrying these beautiful tunes are their family and friends. Prepare to Meet God is a collective uplift–from different voices, homes, and traditions it snowballs into an odd and beautiful formation. I only hope we hear more from an iteration of Weirs in the future.