A healthy crowd at the folklife stage got a healthy dose of Old Regular Baptist singing from the Rev. Frank Newsome, of Haysi.
If his full-throated, steely, vibrato-waving tenor was not enough inspiration, dig this — Newsome, who worked in the coal mines around Haysi for more than 17 years with no OSHA-type protection, suffers black lung.
But his voice is still strong. And it’s been 46 years since God called him to preach while he was working in a coal mine, he told the crowd.
“We’re all leaving here — we’re all going to die,” he said. “Are you prepared to live with Him? That’s the real issue.”
Newsome, one of 20 children raised “in the head of a holler,” sang a capella from a well-used hymnal about striving to help troubled souls and the treasure that money can’t buy.
“Let it read on my tombstone: Gone away with a friend,” he sang, his voice never breaking, despite the ravages of the old black dust.
He called five family members onstage to help him sing “Amazing Grace,” and got some crowd singalong on that number.
He invited the audience to come see him in Haysi, where he is an elder at Little David Church.
“If you ever get down that way, come see us,” he said. “I’ll love you to death.”