America’s Bluegrass Gospel Show at the Paramount

America\'s Bluegrass Gospel Show at the Paramount

Paramount Arts Center
Ashland, Kentucky
Fuji F10

Do any of the churches ‘line out’ songs where you live? (I’ll talk about that below)

I attended the television taping of ‘America’s Bluegrass Gospel Show’ last Thursday at the Paramount. While I don’t frequently listen to either bluegrass or gospel, I’ve found that I quite enjoy any live show performed in the historic theater. This one, in particular, was quite a treat (and only $10.00)

In the photograph above, Dave Evans is singing with the Florida Boys and some of the members of America’s Bluegrass Band in the final song of the show which is scheduled for airtime on April 9th. Melvin Goins is the fellow in the other cowboy hat to the far right- he’s another local bluegrass singer of considerable name in our area. Here is a link to one of my previous photos of Melvin at the Paramount. . I said we would have gotten our money’s worth at twice the price.

So, have you heard of ‘lining’ songs? I was raised in Baptist churches with roots and traditions that stretch back to the early 1800s when my ancestors came to the mountains. Up into the 1960s, one common practice of the church was to line out a song by having a male member read the first line of the song in a monotone voice and the rest of the congregation would follow in song (remember: the church had no musical instruments and it still doesn’t). He would repeat the next line, they would in turn sing and it’d go like this until the end of the song. I was reminded of all this because during the show, the band gathered around the microphone and sang a ‘lined out’ a-Capella version of Amazing Grace. I found a couple of examples on the net:

(update to new links:  This one is from a local Primitive Baptist Church)

My family reports that lining songs still occurs in very rural areas but not very frequently. I would say that the practice will have disappeared within the next 20 years, probably when the senior generation of today’s congregation passes on.

Where did it come from? I’ve always suspected that it was the early way of spreading songs prior to the time when the general population was literate. Everyone could join in, even if you didn’t have a book or could read. There’s a considerable amount written about it on the ‘net and my hunch seems to have been right. Lining appears to have come from 17th Century England and Scotland, so it isn’t actually a hillbilly tradition