SodomSong is an exhibition of photographs designed to accompany a countywide component to a National Endowment for the Humanities “suitcase” exhibit titled New Harmonies. Sponsored by the North Carolina Humanities Council, the exhibit traveled to six locations in North Carolina, including Madison County, and focused on the Rural Roots of many of contemporary music’s most popular genres.
Madison County is gifted with a rich and layered musical history and is considered a source community for Appalachian balladry, Bluegrass, and Country music. The British ethno-musicologist Cecil Sharp, while collecting ballads in the Sodom community of Madison County in 1915 and 1916, noted this was the only community he had ever been in where singing was more prevalent than speaking. Everyone sang or played an instrument.
When I arrived in Sodom, North Carolina, in 1975, I found a community still deeply involved in its musical traditions. Front porch singings, ballad round robins, gospel singing weekends, and small local festivals were very much the norm. Much of this experience is documented in my 2002 book, Sodom Laurel Album, which includes a sixty-minute CD of interviews and ballads.
For the New Harmonies exhibit, I revisited my early negatives and found numerous photographs that hadn’t made it into my book; and in most cases had never been printed or published. A grouping of these images became part of the county component to New Harmonies and was accompanied by a lecture I presented at Mars Hill College. A larger grouping was hung at Zuma coffee shop in Marshall and opened with a ballad round robin led by Sheila Kay Adams and the descendents of the singers I photographed in the mid-1970s. The entire exhibit was donated to the Revere-Rice Cove community club in Sodom, North Carolina.