08 June 2021

Change and tradition in Appalachia

The Bitter Southerner online magazine publishes today 'The Mountain Traditions Project', a report by Michael O. Snyder on the project he is conducting to document the experiences of the diversity of people who live in Appalachia and their varied responses to change. So far, nearly sixty individuals have been consulted; extracts from the stories of thirty or so of them (all with photographs) are in the article, and more can be heard on the project's podcast.

The informants, who come from many aspects of life in Appalachia, include Amy Lough, ballad singer and dulcimer player; the Mountain Anthems, a shape-note-singing congregation; Slim Harrison, dance caller; and the Rev. Frankie Revell, banjo-player, who says:

... everything good that's ever happened in my life has happened as a result of the banjo. I think it's just a part of my calling; I'm going to preach, and I'm going to pick.

He also says, however, 'I don't know why we closely guard these traditions. For me, it's another thing that hurts us.' The photo of his instrument collection is well worth seeing in itself.

Update 7 Sept.: The Bitter Southerner has reissued this article, without Frankie Revell's last quoted words, whioh may have seemed out of harmony with the purpose of the Mountain Traditions Project.

© Richard Hawkins

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