Hands In Harmony: Traditional Crafts and Music in Appalachia - by Tim Barnwell

Hands In Harmony: Traditional Crafts and Music in Appalachia - by Tim Barnwell

HANDS IN HARMONY: TRADITIONAL CRAFTS AND MUSIC IN APPALACHIA
BY TIM BARNWELL
W.W. Norton & Co. 9780393068153.
Hardback, 188 pages, b&w photographs, $49.95. (W.W. Norton & Co., 500 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10110, www.wwnorton.com.)

Hands In Harmony, by photographer Tim Barnwell, has three elements: pictures, words, and music. Seventy nine black and white portraits depict artists—from old time musicians and singers to carvers and potters—who are dedicated to carrying on traditions passed down from previous generations. Next come oral histories gleaned from interviews the author conducted. A 22-track CD in the back cover contains some examples of their playing. Each section succeeds on its own, but I wish the pictures and words were better integrated. Why not put the stories right next to the pictures so we wouldn’t have to flip back and forth?

The portraits beautifully capture the characters of the people pictured. My favorites were Ralph Stanley with grandson Ralph III on this knee, Ralph II posing with his Washington Redskins pool table, and Kenny Baker with his fiddle and a hint of a smile. Some famous personalities (Bill Monroe, Doc Watson) are mixed in with lesser known folks (Obray Ramsey, Leesa Sutton).

The stories in the oral history section really let the personalities shine through. When available, a Web site is included so that you can get more information or, in some cases, actually make purchases. Your enjoyment of the accompanying CD will be directly proportional to your appreciation for oldtime music, but it’s a great introduction to these performers. The track listing gives personnel credits, but does not list the pages where you can find the matching picture and story, leaving the reader to search through the entire book to find them. CAH