Episode 1, Season 3 / Apr 19, 2023

The Joyful Sound

In Blackey, Kentucky, Old Regular Baptists are still singing in a four-hundred-year-old tradition

The Prologue

The Prologue

Welcome back to Points South! In this first episode of our third season, OA contributor David Ramsey revisits the Old Regular Baptists of Blackey, Kentucky, to hear the congregation’s distinctive style of singing and preaching. In Old Regular Baptist churches, the human voice is the sole instrument, singing lined-out hymnody, a tradition that began in parish churches in England in the early 1600s. You’ll hear the voices of the Old Regular Baptists as they sing, new interviews with music scholar Jeff Titon, and David Ramsey’s own reflections about his experience with these rare and unique sounds.

Beyond The Prologue

Tuned Up in the Spirit

David Ramsey's long-form piece about the Old Regulars was featured in the 2017 edition of the OA's annual music issue, which celebrated the songs and sounds of Kentucky.

Read the full story here.

The Sweet Songster

Originally published in 1854, the Sweet Songster is a book of hymns compiled and edited by E.W. Billups, a Virginia-born Baptist preacher and bookseller. The hymnal, and the multiple reprints it’s seen in its 169-year history, is a favorite of Old Regular Baptist congregations. In an Old Regular church service, only songleaders hold hymnals, lining out the words in the book and the antiphonal melodies for the congregation to sing in response. Below, you’ll find images from one copy of the Sweet Songster printed sometime in the last decade of the 19th century. At around five inches tall, it fits comfortably in a single hand. Its stained pages show generations of use, as do the pencil marks that it carries from previous owners. Originally bound in black fabric, it has been repaired with a new red covering messily hand-stitched into place. Listen to the episode to hear “Sweet Glories Rush Upon My Sight,” Sweet Songster hymn number 209, and follow along with the lyrics photographed in the gallery below to see how this hymnal still resonates in the spiritual lives of Old Regular Baptists.