Harlan Matthews was born in Mount Airy, NC in 1927. He recorded this album at Alexander’s Studio in Dry Run, Pennsylvania. As the liner notes to Songs of the Family Bible attest, Matthews took up residence along the mighty Susquehanna River after having “MET A MAN who would become the master of his life . . . . Harley’s advice to young people of today is this: ‘Don’t set sail on the BLOODY SEA OF LIFE but find the AVENUE OF PRAYER which is just ACROSS THE BRIDGE; and then HOLD FAST TO THE RIGHT no matter what.’”
In “Avenue of Prayer,” Matthews puts the steel guitar to work and makes a classic (definitional) plea to the listener—prayer is the sole means of salvation; prayer is the mark of one’s deliberate concentration; prayer is both spur to one’s own faith and a way to catalyze the faith of others; prayer is the key to eternal life.
Immediately following “Avenue” on side 1 is “I Heard My Mother Call My Name in Prayer,” about his mother’s anxious prayers for “her boy to be just what he ought to be.”