Join the Virginia Folklife Program at Virginia Humanities at the Front Porch on Sunday, July 8 to celebrate the re-release of National Heritage Fellow Reverend Frank Newsome’s album Gone Away with a Friend on Free Dirt Records. Renowned Americana musician and songwriter Jim Lauderdale, co-producer of Gone Away with a Friend, will join Reverend Newsome for this one-of-a-kind special show.
There is a purity about Frank’s singing that brings a soul-stirring, heart-tugging peacefulness that is beyond words. I am so glad that more folks will get to hear this amazing artist.
Frank Newsome, an elder in the Old Regular Baptist Church, is a master practitioner of lined-out hymn singing, one of the oldest musical traditions in Virginia. Newsome was born in 1942 in Pike County, Kentucky, where his father worked as a coal miner. One of twenty-two children, Newsome attended Old Regular Baptist Church services as a child with his mother. He settled in Virginia at about the age of twenty and worked in the coal mines. After more than seventeen years, Newsome contracted black lung disease and left the mines. He took up new responsibilities at his church, using his vocal prowess to lead his congregation in hymn singing and as a preacher. He preaches at the Little David Old Regular Baptist Church in Buchanan County, Virginia. A small, tightly knit denomination located primarily in the coalfields of eastern Kentucky and Southwest Virginia, Old Regular Baptists maintain the tradition of permitting no musical accompaniment in their services. Instead, the congregation sings a cappella, with a preacher or elder singing a line of a hymn and the congregation repeating the same line in a mournful blend of voices. Because Old Regular Baptist churches remain in only a small geographic area, this musical genre is not well known outside the region. Gone Away with a Friend, an album of Newsome’s singing produced by the Virginia Folklife Program, and released by Free Dirt Records on June 29, 2018, marks one of the few times that a leader of this singing style has been recorded. In 2011, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Newsome the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor the U.S. government bestows upon traditional artists.
Frank is about the most breathtaking singer I’ve ever heard. We are so thrilled that this recording has been rereleased to a wider audience. Free Dirt Records is a fantastic label that truly appreciates authentic traditional music styles.
Jim Lauderdale is both a “songwriter’s songwriter,” who’s written many modern classics for iconic artists, as well as an intuitive sideman, who’s enhanced the music of a bevy of esteemed musicians. As a solo artist, he’s created a body work spanning 29 albums of imaginative roots music, encompassing country, bluegrass, soul, R&B and rock, as well as helping pave the way for the current Americana movement. A longtime ambassador of the Americana genre, Jim received the WagonMaster Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by George Strait, in 2016, as part of the 15th annual Americana Honors & Awards.