Just returned from an amazing trip south to Alabama for an intense 10 days of Sacred Harp singing. Together with Sean and Meghann from the G Burns Jug Band, we travelled through the Sand Mountain region of Alabama, which has been a home to families of Sacred Harp singers since the 19th century. The northeastern quadrant of the state produced some of the earliest and most widespread recordings of this music, first in the 1920’s, and again in the 1940’s with Alan Lomax.
Nearly every day brought a long drive through backroads to a new town, a new old church, hours of singing, and a big dinner on the grounds. We sang with other travelers such as ourselves, but were welcomed by families that have been singing for 3, 4, even 5 generations: Ballingers, Creels, Woottens, Iveys. I love singing this music myself, but I often felt compelled to be silent, listen, and learn.