SODOM LAUREL ALBUM

Rob Amberg, Author . Univ. of North Carolina $45 (192p) ISBN 978-0-8078-2742-0

"Sodom" or "Sodom Laurel" is the town nickname of Revere, North Carolina, an isolated community of hill-country tobacco farmers, apparently so-named by a preacher who came upon early encampments of loggers in the area. Photographer and folklorist Amberg focuses on a single member of the community, the musician and storyteller Dellie Chandler Norton (1898–1993), whom he first met in 1975. He chronicles his own experiences with Norton, her adopted son Junior, and other members of the family, and with the difficulties of independent tobacco farming. Amberg's beautiful yet stark and unassuming b&w photos form the book's core: hill roads; huge tobacco leaves growing, being harvested (usually now by Mexican laborers) and hanging to dry in sheds; Dellie Norton performing at gatherings or presiding over her porch; Junior's bizarre changes of clothing and demeanor to suit various occasions and community negotiations; the stark interiors of various dwellings. The photos are accompanied by transcribed narratives by Norton, Junior, and others, and by Amberg's own observations; most are grim yet immediate and compelling. A 20-track CD with more than an hour of hill country music by Norton and others rounds things out. An exemplary example of regional documentary, the project exhibits care and concern throughout, and will draw in outsiders from any locale, particularly anyone who loves Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/16/2002
Release date: 11/01/2002
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