I finished your book in three or four days about a week ago. It is beautifully written, scholarly, yet readable for all, and unusually observant, sensitive, and appreciative in its character studies. Having been a pastor of a small United Methodist Church in RURAL northwest New Jersey (1971-1979 ), 60 miles from NYC, the closest thing I know to your character studies are funeral "eulogies." I know the time and thought and creative effort that it takes to compose a good one. A good eulogy is respectful, positive, but if done in the right spirit, it can--and should--point out personality quirks. Yours are superb. 

Here are the scattered notes that I wrote when I closed your book: Your recollections have captured and preserved the last of a long tradition with continuity--a community for whom images in the texts spoke directly to and from their experiences ("a might rocky road"), a unified belief system that raised a deep community consensus and world-view to its highest personal expression through singing. This gave an intangible quality to and experience of the music that no matter how "well" sung, can no longer (or far less commonly) occur. Singers a generation from now will not be able to "know" this. You have captured in part some of the last moments of the dynamics of the tradition that will be lost because the "original species" is going extinct. In spite of increasing numbers of singers--and especially because of their widely varying cultural and spiritual backgrounds--the future will evolve into something resembling, but different, from what you have known and related. Your vision of the individuals you portray presents a deeper understanding and a more accurate portrayal because of your own roots within the culture. You speak from within the tradition, yet also from without, because of your wider experience.  There was never a point in my reading when I thought, "This is too detailed, or who cares, or let's get on to the next part." A rare experience, indeed, with a book. Of course, I love the tradition, too, and knew some of the people. I now know them so much better. Really, no one character study seemed better than another. Two of my favorites were of the quirky Buford McGraw and Charles Creel. And the study of Amanda was wonderful. 

John Lawrence Brasher
 


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