Gospel singing site is a piece of heaven
by Dale Short
Jul 18, 2013 | 999 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dale Short
Dale Short
This column first appeared in the Daily Mountain Eagle in 1981. It’s featured in the 25th anniversary edition of Short’s first book, I Left My Heart in Shanghi, Alabama.

HOMINY VALLEY, N.C. – When you drive into town here, you don’t see a big sign saying “Gospel Singing Capitol of the South,” but that’s probably because the folks are too modest for that.

Hominy Valley is in the edge of the Great Smokies. When we spread our quilt on this grassy hillside a couple of hours ago, just after sunset, there was a soft blue haze of mountains on every side, stretching as far as you could see.

Since it’s gotten dark, though, the small covered stage just downhill is the main attraction. Several quartets have already been up and, after a short break for the crowd to stretch their legs and go to the concession stand, all the groups are getting ready to go another round.

These are not your typical quartets. No sequins on their clothes, no loud razzle-dazzle. Just good harmony singing that occasionally makes the hair on your neck rise up, which is my own benchmark for measuring good gospel.

Doyle Lawson and his group Quicksilver are on stage now. Their biggest crowd-pleaser so far was Jesus Gave Me Water, And It Was Not From the Well. That one had several of the younger folks on their feet, clapping and singing along. The older people, many of them with canes and walkers propped beside their chairs, raise their hands into the air from time to time, and some of them wipe their eyes.

Jesus gave me water

He gave me that living water

Jesus gave me water

And it was not from the well . . .

People here take their gospel singing seriously.

Off to the side, for instance, there are two girls about eight years old who look to be buddies. Right now they’re catching lightning bugs, but while they stalk them they’re singing softly in time to the music. Watch their lips, and you realize they know all the words to all the great old-time songs. Eight years old.

Just uphill, under a canvas tent, the local rescue squad is selling barbecue and cold drinks and coffee and business has been good. If you want slaw with your barbecue, though, you’ll have to wait a few minutes. They ran out of slaw, and the ambulance is gone to get some more.

Quicksilver is singing:

My rock

My shield

My Jesus is real

I can feel him deep within

My so-o-o-o-oul . . .

The hometown favorite, though, is probably the Primitive Quartet. The group, from here in Hominy Valley, is host for the yearly singings in this gently sloping field that looks to have been a pasture at one time.

The members of the Primitive Quartet are scattered at the edge of the crowd, waiting to go on next, and talking quietly with fans who spot them and wander over to shake hands or, more often, hug their necks.

One of the members has been gradually working uphill toward the restrooms for nearly a half hour now, but he’s been hugged so many times he’s only made it half the way.

The night is as clear as crystal. Stars sparkle overhead, a lot more of them than you see in a city.

This trip, we’ve decided to skip the motels. Our tent is already pitched, about ten miles west of here, beside a big lake with brown and white ducks in it. In the morning the sun will come up across the lake, and I’ll be awakened by an impatient duck in search of breakfast who will nab my big toe through the fabric of the tent. Right now, though, there’s a lot more singing still to go. And nobody, young or old, looks to be in a hurry to leave.

Quicksilver is singing:

I’ll have a new body,

Praise the Lord

I’ll have a new life . . .

It sounds mighty good. But nobody seems in any hurry to lay claim to it, just yet.

Because tonight, in Hominy Valley, this body – and this life – will do just fine, thank you.

Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM, streams live online at www.oldies1015fm.com, and is archived afterward on his website.