Martha Patton Jax, Facebook posting
Like Cords Around My Heart . . . is a book both for long time Sacred Harp people and those who, like me, are peripheral fans and for anyone else who may be interested in history, cultural anthropology, tradition, the south, food, dedication, and music. The book is rich in all of these and then some. It is about the heart of fasola, the singers and those who love fasola. Be warmed by their charm and generous hearts while you enjoy a very well told tale of an art form, once nearly extinct and now roaring quietly back to a well deserved prominence.
Martha Patton Jax, Facebook posting
Every family needs a storyteller who can make you love those you were never blessed to meet. Buell Cobb is that storyteller for the extended family that is the Sacred Harp singing community. Beautifully written with humor and great love, this is a must-read for all Sacred Harp singers. Warning, though: if you have things that simply must get done, DON'T start reading-- you'll be saying, "Oh, just one more chapter!" long after bedtime has come and gone. And if you're not a singer yet, you might begin to understand what the attraction is.
I read it on my travels. What a charmer he is! He writes with informal but respectful regard for his quirky subjects and with so much southern charm.
Betsy Jeronen, Facebook posting
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
Buell Cobb's Like Cords around My Heart is a rich account of some of the people who have kept the Sacred Harp tradition alive well into the twenty-first century. Often fascinating, at times touching, the author's prose powerfully carries the reader along much as Sacred Harp singing carries along its devotees and keeps them coming back again and again.
As one who only knows Sacred Harp from afar, I found myself caught up in its spell as the author took me through the crowd of singers who sit around "the hollow square," introducing this one and then that one. A keen observer of human nature, Cobb gives us insights into the personalities and convictions of these people that only one could give who is both an "insider" and a gifted writer.
Those who go faithfully to the singings will likely find much to cherish about this tribute to their art and to so many intriguing characters, but I can imagine that a few may fuss a bit over someone he left out or some case where their memory is different from his. But overall, my guess is that this book itself will be viewed as a treasured gift by the Sacred Harp community.
Cobb frequently describes the traditional lunch, overflowing with much to delight the palate, always held in the midst of each all-day songfest. In a tip of the hat to the author's adroit use of figures of speech, we have to say this book itself is a veritable feast for those who want to know the characters behind a sustained tradition, as well as for those who just enjoy a well-written book.
Thomas A. Jones
This is a must have for Sacred Harp singers. Buell introduces us to some outstanding singers in a way which gives us a deeper understanding of this passion we share. My only regret was that the stories had to end. And if you aren't a singer the book gives you a glimpse into the history of a part of America that has been evolving for centuries here and now taking root across the world. The people make this tradition what it is and thanks to Buell I know more of them.
Sandie, Amazon review