Joyce Hinnefeld


Friday, October 8, 2010

High Lonesome

I worked on Stranger Here Below for many years. It had different titles, different structures, different emphases. But what was behind it all along, even before its characters became real and insistent for me, was a love of the Kentucky landscapes I’d discovered in researching it. An absolutely pivotal moment for me, when it came time to sit down to the manuscript one more time--to try to make it add up to what it needed to be at last--was sitting in Barbara Napier’s beautiful Snug Hollow B&B in Estill County, Kentucky and watching John Cohen’s film The High Lonesome Sound on my laptop.

Cohen trained as a painter and photographer, though he’s also a long-time musician. His discerning eye is what makes the film so potent, I think—but it’s not just that; it’s both his eye and his ear, of course. The music in the film, particularly Roscoe Holcomb’s playing and singing, is haunting. What Cohen does in that film reminded me of what I felt when I was first working on Stranger Here Below, and what I so want the book to create—a subtle and nuanced sense of a beautiful, humorous, endlessly resilient people, place, and music.

You can see only fragments of The High Lonesome Sound online, but thanks to the terrific Folkstreams web site, you can watch a film by Tom Davenport and Barry Dornfeld, called Remembering the High Lonesome, in its entirety.



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