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Arts & Culture

Perry, Cook bring 'Stay Prayed Up' documentary to Durham

 Lena Mae Perry and Phil Cook.
photo by DL Anderson
/
submitted
Lena Mae Perry and Phil Cook. Perry fronts "The Branchettes," who have been singing gospel music for almost 50 years.

North Carolina's The Branchettes have been singing gospel music for almost 50 years. But it wasn't until 2019 that the storied group finally made a live recording.

"Stay Prayed Up" features leader Lena Mae Perry singing out some of her all-time favorites at Longbranch Disciples Of Christ Church in Newton Grove, North Carolina.

The event was also filmed for a documentary of the same name that is receiving its premiere at the Carolina Theater in Durham on Saturday. The screening will be followed by a live performance by The Branchettes and the Guitarheels — the latter of which is the band fronted by Phil Cook from Megafaun and his Southland Mission ensemble. Cook served as producer of the music.

Cook and Perry joined WUNC recently to talk about their music.

This is an excerpt of an edited transcript of that conversation. You can hear the full interview by clicking the LISTEN button at the top of this post.


Where does it come from? That enthusiasm and that spirit? It's infectious.

PERRY: "Yes, it's part of my life — all of my life. I've been used to singing from a little kid on up. And I just kept going, kept going, kept going. Because gospel music and old-time music, that's my favorite."

Phil, what attracted you to Southern Gospel Music, for a boy from Wisconsin? And you've been down here for a while, but you have really dug into this.

COOK: "Well, gospel music and old-time music, that is my favorite. And so when I met you, Mother Perry, I think that's one of the things that we just — we have some of the same favorite songs even. Which, you know, some folks may not believe it. But hey, strange things happen every day."

There are nine songs on this record and it's going to leave people wanting more. There must have been hundreds to choose from. How did you kind of hone in on the nine you wanted?

PERRY: "Well, I like the old-time hymns. That's what brings you out of trouble and keep you out of trouble. If something would happen, just hit a hymn. And it just all it goes away. It goes away. You know, the Spirit of the Lord is in all of them. And the thing about that is, when you are singing these songs, and there's truth in the songs, then you tell the congregation or whoever, this is the truth. How do you know? Because you have experienced it a lot. Sometimes you get down in the dumps, you know, and feel like nobody cares, but I dare you to hit Amazing Grace."

I wanted to tell you about a line that I love in "You Can't Hurry God" — "He may not come when you want but, he's right on time."

PERRY: "You say, 'when Is God gonna answer this?' Then after a while, that song you know will come to your mind. You can't hurry God, you just got to wait. You got to trust him. You got to give him time, no matter how long it takes us. He's a God you can't hurry."


Lena Mae Perry leads The Branchettes in the recording and documentary "Stay Prayed Up." The premiere screening here in North Carolina is Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. at The Carolina Theatre in Durham. The screening will be followed by a live performance by the group and Cook's Guitarheels.

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