Still Crazy after all these years

Thanks to everyone for all the good wishes via Facebook on Avery’s 8th blogoversary yesterday. The magazine Religion Dispatches gave me a bloggy birthday present of interviewing me about my new southern gospel book this week. The interview is aptly titled “Still Captivated by Southern Gospel.” A taste:

Q: What inspired you to write Then Sings My Soul? What sparked your interest?

A: [Snip] I can’t narrow it down to any one person [or event]. But when I think about the earliest influences or memories that evoke the strongest feelings, two people and tableaux consistently come to mind. One is my paternal grandmother, Maude, singing gospel in church and at home in the rural Ozarks of Missouri where I grew up. As Maude would have said, she couldn’t read a lick of music, but she had an excellent ear for how to bend the curve of a melody line and for providing powerful yet subtle harmonies. Before she’d sing a solo at church, she’d write the lyrics to the song out in thick black marker on the blank backs of cardboard box tops and rehearse at home, accompanying herself with the guitar until I became old enough to provide the accompaniment on the piano.

And then there’s Maude’s friend Maxine, who had a smoker’s rich throaty alto but who made her biggest impression on me as a pianist. Maxine played in this capaciously graceful, wide-stride gospel church-lady style that was almost completely improvisational and entirely intuitive, and it mesmerized me from my earliest recollections.

I’m not sure what Maude or Maxine would make of the book, but both of these women, I now realize, were galvanizing examples for me of gospel’s open-hearted sensibility and the way it dispenses with the confinements of the notated score or the precisely placed arrangement and trusts the musical self to be guided by the soul’s intuitions as they unfold in vernacular sacred song.

Full thing is here.

And so begins Blog Year 9.

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  1. irishlad wrote:

    you turned a (perceived) light-weighted subject into something that possibly deserves a bit more respect.well done!

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