The Iron Rod

Here is our latest track, a contemporary Christian folk arrangement of an old hymn called “The Iron Rod.” download mp3

Text: Joseph L. Townsend (1849-1942)
Music: William Clayson (1840-1887)
Arranged by Alan Sanderson

To Nephi, seer of olden time,
A vision came from God,
Wherein the holy word sublime
Was shown an iron rod.

While on our journey here below,
Beneath temptation’s pow’r,
Through mists of darkness we must go,
In peril ev’ry hour.

Hold to the rod, the iron rod;
’Tis strong, and bright, and true.
The iron rod is the word of God;
’Twill safely guide us through.

And when temptation’s pow’r is nigh,
Our pathway clouded o’er,
Upon the rod we can rely,
And heaven’s aid implore.

And, hand o’er hand, the rod along,
Through each succeeding day,
With earnest prayer and hopeful song,
We’ll still pursue our way.


Afar we see the golden rest
To which the rod will guide,
Where, with the angels bright and blest,
Forever we’ll abide.


Alan Sanderson: guitar, mandolin, vocals, recording, mixing, mastering
Tom Sanderson: bass
Brian Sanderson: piano
Sanderson Family: choir

About the Song

“The Iron Rod” is based on a passage out of The Book of Mormon. The rod represents the word of God, which is a secure railing to hold onto and guide us as we move along the path of life. “And whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Nephi 15:23-24).

During the COVID-19 lockdown I spent some time teaching this song to my kids in our Sunday church-at-home lessons. On one of those days I sat on the floor playing the guitar and singing with my kids, and the idea for this arrangement began to take shape in my mind.

About the Recording

This song was recorded on Linux Mint 19.3 using Ardour 5.12 and a host of lv2 plugins, including Dragonfly Reverb and compressors and limiters from Linux Studio Plugins, and a 5-band EQ from Calf Studio Gear. I brought my system to its knees with this project, which had a total of 28 vocal tracks between the lead and backing vocals and the choir, where every voice was recorded individually. Things held together during the recording phase, but during the mastering phase when the DSP loads were higher I was getting near-constant buffer underruns and overruns (xruns). I’ll have to upgrade my hardware before I try something this ambitious again. But thankfully it rendered the final mixdown smoothly, and all’s well that ends well, or so they say.

I asked my cousins Tom and Brian, who are brothers, to add their handiwork to the song. Tom added the bass using his Roland FA-06, and suggested the counterpoint harmonies in the 4th verse. Brian added the piano part using his Korg Kross. Their contributions really took the recording to a new level, filling out the texture of the song, and I love what they added. I’m afraid I treated them more like session musicians than as a collaborators on this project, but I think that will average out over time as we work on other songs.

My wife and kids had a fun time singing in the choir. I recorded each voice separately because I only have unidirectional mics. I may be able to get away with recording two or three voices at a time with one mic, but it will probably be harder to get the right balance in the mix that way. I dunno. Maybe I’ll experiment with that the next time around.

As always, thanks for listening and enjoy the tunes!

Alan Sanderson

writing: music:

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