Blood Harmony

Knoxville Girl, Kristine Potter, 2016. All images from Kristine Potter: Dark Waters (Aperture 2023). © Kristine Potter.

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Blood Harmony

by Rebecca Bengal, Kristine Potter
Southern Cultures, Gothic South (Vol. 29, No. 4)

“They drive by an old-timey church with one door for the men and a separate door for the women and a graveyard out back where the stones pop up like teeth in the night.”

When Charlie sings, her sister Audra’s voice follows, the voice of a grown woman inside a little-girl body, high and lonesome and worried at first, till it wraps itself around hers to become pure and whole, and then forks off on its own. They were raised first on shape notes at church and the radio and Who’s gonna shoe your pretty little feet, who’s gonna glove your hand? but what they like to sing best are the old, old ballads. Audra’s favorite is “Down from Dover” the way Dolly does it, and Charlie likes to sing the Everly Brothers, the lady “old and gray” pleading with the warden to get her baby out of jail, and they intertwine the closest when they chorus the Louvin Brothers, “go down, go down you Knoxville Girl.” Charlie’s voice is the current, low and silty and running over the trace fossils and the smoothed-over ancient stones and Audra’s is the steam rising off the water, eerie and sure, slipping off into sky and ether. They sing the songs their mother can hardly stand to hear now, the songs their daddy taught them.