Strong Songs of the Dead: The Pagan Rites of Sacred Harp | Th. Metzger

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Paperback, 5x8, 230 pages, isbn: 978-1-943687-33-6

Strong Songs of the Dead delves into the uniquely and deeply American tradition of Sacred Harp singing, exploring its evolution from its origins before the birth of the United States to its renaissance in the twenty-first century. Th. Metzger immerses himself in this vibrant social phenomenon, embracing the raw and raucous sound, which draws singers from beyond the Southern country churches where it survived in obscurity for decades. With a keen eye for detail and a willingness to honor both the elation and the wild dark current that runs through the tradition, Metzger paints a vivid portrait of Sacred Harp singing as a deeply democratic and passionate form of musical expression. Through short, unrestrained chapters, the memoir intertwines themes of grief, loss, and longing with a fervent celebration of life, capturing the essence of a tradition that resonates with the heartbeat of America.

"Thom's book is an authentic and emotional journey into shape note singing. He provides a realistic interpretation of a very personal and profound practice which reflects my own experience of this music. Thom has a writer's eye to pounce on the strongest lyrics which are powerful and full of meaning. I loved this book."
Kelly Macklin, editor, Shenandoah Harmony

"An instant classic. Recalling Nick Tosches’ Country and Dennis Covington’s Salvation on Sand Mountain, Th. Metzger’s immersive and confessionally textured study of marginalized American hymnody comes as near as words can to capturing the ungovernable spirit-essence of backwoods-protestant song and ritual."
Chip Smith, publisher and editor, Nine-Banded Books

“Metzger weaves the long past and the present with a gem-studded, coal choked narrative that tells the reader everything they need to know about who sang, who sung, who sings Sacred Harp, and what happens when they do, and why.” 
Steven Sherrill, author of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

"Th. Metzger's Strong Songs of the Dead succeeds spectacularly in juxtaposing the fiercely living world of Sacred Harp singing with his parallel theme: ever-present death that resonates through lyrics, rural cemeteries, and the singers themselves.”
Christian Goodwillie, Director and Curator of Special Collections and Archives, Hamilton College.

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