Lining out singer Frank Newsome recently re-released his very special album, Gone Away with a Friend, on Free Dirt Records. The album features a collection of twelve songs highlighted by the 75-year-old Baptist minister's peculiar singing style, bringing a more than four-century-long American tradition into the present.
Suffering from black lung disease, the former coal miner tells Billboard that the songs on the album were recorded the same way he remembers them from the 1940s and 1950s growing up.
"We didn't have music - pianos or guitars," he says. "All of the congregation all gathered in and when we would start singing, we would sing the line out in the songs where all the congregation could join in and help."
"When we sign the old way of a line-out, the whole congregation just joins right in, and that makes the best music you can imagine," he tells Billboard. "When everyone is all together, there's not a single sound under heaven that sounds like the old time a capella singing."
Newsome's lined-out hymn singing harkens back to the Old Regular Baptists from the borderlands of Kentucky, Virginia, and West-Virginia, and is a direct sonic ancestor to old-time, bluegrass, and gospel. In fact, bluegrass great Ralph Stanley says he grew up hearing this once-common style of singing and attended Newsome's church later in his life where they spent time singing together.
Since 1972, Newsome has preached at the Little David Church in Havsi, Va., singing these songs from what is the oldest, English-language religious music tradition passed down orally in America. This album, captured over one evening at his church in 2006 features eight traditional hymns, two contemporary songs, and an improvised prayer all sung in the distinct, unaccompanied style of the Old Regular Baptists.
Gone Away with a Friend Track Listing:
1. When I Heard
2. Beulah Land
3. Child of the King
4. Gone Away with a Friend
5. City That Lies Four Square
6. Far Away There Is a Land
7. Go Rest High on That Mountain
8. I Am a Little Traveler
9. Keys to the Kingdom
10. Long Black Train
11. Lined-Out Hymn