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Exploring Snake Handling Church Music And Going Hands On With Traditional Tanning

Alabama Astronaut-Abe Patridge
Courtesy
Podcaster Abe Partridge explores a lesser known musical subculture in Appalachia.

This week on Inside Appalachia, we talk to podcaster Abe Partridge about a uniquely Appalachian art — the religious music heard in snake handling churches.

We also travel to southern West Virginia and talk real estate. The Itmann Coal Company Store building is up for sale, and the owner’s looking for a buyer who appreciates its history. And, it’s hunting season. We visit with women who tan deer hides – using animal brains.

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

New Worlds Of Music

Snake handling churches have long fascinated people, but the culture of these churches is much broader than some would imagine and still not very well understood. They also play a style of Appalachian music that’s largely gone undocumented. That music is the subject of a new podcast called “Alabama Astronaut.”

Reporter Zack Harold recently spoke with co-host Abe Partridge about how a project intended to document this music ended up being about a whole lot more.

History For Sale

A lot of mountain communities are trying to inject new life by redeveloping their historic buildings. An example is the Itmann Company Store, built in Wyoming County, West Virginia in the 1920s from native sandstone.

But the mines in Itmann closed in the mid-80s, and the building fell into disuse and neglect.

Now, there’s a new push to sell the old company store, which needs extensive repairs. The new owner is looking to sell for $500,000 per building that just recently was valued at $25,000.

Jessica Lilly spoke with realtor and historian David Sibray about selling a local landmark that’s listed on the National Register for Historic Places.

Hands On Experience

Tanning hides for clothes, blankets, shoes, for all kinds of things goes back millennia, but over the years some tanning techniques have become less common — like brain tanning.

As it turns out, women in Appalachia are reclaiming the practice. Clara Haizlett, a brain tanner herself, brought us the story.

——

Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by The Coots Duo, The Company Stores and John Inghram.

Bill Lynch is our producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens. Zander Aloi also helped produce this episode.

You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @InAppalachia.

And you can sign-up for our Inside Appalachia Newsletter here!

Stay Connected
Inside Appalachia Producer, blynch@wvpublic.org, @LostHwys
Inside Appalachia Co-Host/Folkways Reporter, mason.j.adams@gmail.com, @MasonAtoms
Kelley Libby is a Virginia-based public radio editor and producer. She currently edits for Inside Appalachia and its Folkways Reporting Project at WVPB. You can reach here at kelleylibby@gmail.com