The Hammons Family: The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and Their Friends (review)

The Hammons Family: The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and Their Friends (Rounder, 1998)

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The Hammons Family: The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and Their Friends (review)

by Gavin James Campbell
Southern Cultures, Vol. 4, No. 4: The South in the World

Rounder, 1998

This two-volume CD set might be properly termed as aural ethnography. Folklorists Alan Jabbour and Carl Fleischhauer use the history, experiences, tales, and music of a white family from Pocahontas County, West Virginia, to demonstrate how intimately bound a family’s experiences are to the shape and style of its repertoire. The CDs, enhanced by a hefty booklet, include a wide variety of material, from ghost stories, riddles, and tales, to fiddle tunes, ballads, and banjo melodies. There are some delightful moments, like Sherman Hammons’s recollection of the first time he saw an airplane, and Maggie Hammons Parker’s stately rendition of the ballad “Young Henerly.” In their tunes and stories, the Hammons demonstrate the seamless interweaving of talk and music. When Burl Hammons finishes playing the fiddle tune “Shaking Down the Acorns,” for instance, he recalls that it was a tune his Uncle Nige Cogar used to play, which in turn reminds him of a hilarious story about how one day Uncle Nige’s brother rode a deer down a snowy slope. From fiddle tune to family history is a delightfully short skip.