An elder in the Old Baptist Church, Frank Newsome is a proponent of lined-out hymn singing, one of the deepest and oldest musical traditions of Virginia. Newsome was born in 1942 in Pike County, Kentucky, where his father worked as a coal miner. One of 22 children, Newsome began attending Old Regular Baptist church services as a child with his mother. He settled in Virginia around the age of 20 and worked in the coal mines. After more than 17 years, Newsome contracted black lung disease and left the mines but took up new responsibilities at his church, using his vocal prowess to lead his congregation as a preacher and in the singing of hymns. Currently, he preaches at the Little David Old Regular Baptist Church in Buchanan County, Virginia.
Primarily located in Appalachian rural locations, Old Regular Baptists maintain the tradition of no musical accompaniment in their services. Instead, the congregation sings a capella with a preacher or elder singing a line of a hymn and the congregation repeating the same line in a mournful blend of voices. Due to the small geographic area where Old Regular Baptist churches remain, this musical genre is not well known and recordings made at Little David Church featuring Newsome's a cappella voice is one of the few times that a leader of this singing style has ever been recorded.
The influence of Old Regular Baptist singing can be heard in the old time music performed in the region as well as bluegrass music. Frequent Little David Church attendee, bluegrass legend, and NEA National Heritage Fellow Ralph Stanley has helped to draw attention to this art form by inviting Newsome to sing at his music festival. Newsome has also performed at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and at the 2007 National Folk Festival in Richmond.
National Endowment for the Arts · an independent federal agency
Sample: "Beulah Land"
Sample: "Long Black Train"