I Saw The Light

Jason Isbell played in Charlotte last night. It was a fantastic show, but I’ve written about Isbell a couple of times already, so for now I’ll just mention two things:

— Bruce Springsteen gave some love to Isbell in an NPR interview the other day … and Isbell closed the show last night with “Atlantic City.”

— Having been on the road by myself the past few days, “Traveling Alone” cuts pretty deep for me right now. It’s good to be back home with the one I love.

But the moment that moved me the most happened before Isbell took the stage. His opening act was Holly Williams. She’s the daughter of Hank Williams Jr., which of course makes her the granddaughter of Hank Williams Sr.

She doesn’t have to trade on the Williams name — she’s good on her own. But toward the end of the show, she played one of her grandfather’s songs, “I Saw the Light.”

“I Saw the Light” is the first song I remember knowing. I can see my mama and my brother singing it in the kitchen of our little house on St. Simons Island, Ga. I don’t remember if I sang — my brother had a nice singing voice, and I did not — but I remember “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away” and all those old Baptist hymns. We never sang “I Saw the Light” in church — the churches I grew up in would never acknowledge an alcoholic country singer. But in the kitchen, a hymn was a hymn no matter who wrote it. So we sang “I Saw the Light.”

Those old hymns have their hooks in me deeper than anything else. When we watched the movie “Junebug” a few years ago and there was a scene with “Softly and Tenderly,” it about knocked me off the couch. When the Avett Brothers did “The Old Rugged Cross” on New Year’s Eve, the big arena felt like a church. And when Holly Williams did “I Saw the Light,” I was 8 years old again, and our family was singing.

I dipped my head so nobody could see my eyes filling up.

Here’s Holly Williams from last night:





One thought on “I Saw The Light

  1. Tommy, thanks for this blog, it really struck home for this ole Baptist guy; old as in years and old as in former kind of Baptist. I am 80 and have been a member of Myers Park Baptist for many years and don’t hear those old hymns much. Being older than Elvis he did not excite me growing up but a number of years ago by accident I found his CD of his hymns. Man, that moves me every time as I turn up the volume, cruise down the road singing along at the top of my voice. SO thanks for this reminder how important those old hymns are in our lives. thanks for all your blogs, always enjoyable. d

    Donald Bynum bynumdf@aol.com

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