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  • Old Regular Baptists: Lined-Out Hymnody from Southeastern Kentucky Named to National Recording Registry

    The Library of Congress recently announced the latest 25 inductees into the National Recording Registry. Among them is the 1997 Smithsonian Folkways Recording Old Regular Baptists: Lined-Out Hymnody from Southeastern Kentucky by the Indian Bottom Association from Southeastern Kentucky.

    This is the seventh recording in the Smithsonian Folkways collection named to the registry, and the first that was originally-released by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (the other six were released by Folkways Records before it became part of the Smithsonian).

    From the Library of Congress:

    “These hymns are considered the oldest type of Anglo-American religious music passed down orally in the U.S. They represent a historic type of singing that can be traced back to the music of the 16th-century English parish church and the Protestant reformation. Once a very common way of singing sacred songs in the American colonies, the Old Regular Baptists of southeastern Kentucky are one of the few groups who still worship using this old style of "lining hymn." Lined-out hymns have no written musical notation to guide the singers. A single song leader guides the congregation through the hymn one line at a time. Typically, the leader sings the line quickly and then the congregation repeats the words in unison, but to a tune much longer and more elaborate than the leader’s original chant or lining tune. The congregation’s response has no regular beat or harmonizing parts and is often very emotional. The intent is not to sing with the unified precision of a practiced choir. The result is heterophonic, a musical texture characterized by the simultaneous variation of a single melodic line sung by many different voices, unique in Western music. The field recordings were made by Jeff Todd Titon and released by Smithsonian Folkways.”

    In 2003, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings released a second volume, also recorded and produced by Jeff Todd Titon, entitled Songs of the Old Regular Baptists, Vol. 2: Lined-out Hymnody from Southeastern Kentucky.