If the Tufa have a voice, it belongs to Jennifer Goree.
The Tufa may be the fictional people at the heart of my novel The Hum and the Shiver, but Jennifer is very real. She’s a singer-songwriter from Six Mile, SC who has recorded three marvelous CDs that demonstrate such a range, it’s hard to believe the same person is behind them all. You can hear samples of her current work here.
I first ran across Jennifer about ten years ago. After attending the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN, I’d decided to write a novel set in Appalachia, and to base it around the Tufa, an isolated ethnic group inspired by the Melungeons of East Tennessee. I wanted music to be a big part of the story, because the historical folk music of that area influences popular culture to this day. I listened to the classics, going all the way back to the Alan Lomax field recordings. But I also wanted to know about the contemporary stuff, the music being produced by Appalachian musicians now. I wanted, in other words, to hear the modern Appalachian soul. So on a whim, I Googled the term, “Appalachian soul.”
I found Jennifer Goree and the band formed for her second album Don’t Be a Stranger: Appalachian Soul.
We corresponded a bit, and I ordered both her then-current album as well as her first one, Jennifer Goree. I knew I’d made a crucial connection when I realized the insert fold-out of Don’t Be a Stranger featured an image that could have been plucked straight from my ideas of the Tufa:
As I worked on my manuscript over the following months, Jennifer put out a third CD. It was a total change from the first two: smoother, more electronic and heavily produced, yet still filled with her brilliant songs and voice. And the title, both of the CD and its first song, jumped right out at me. I bet you can guess what it was.
I loved the implied dichotomy in the words The Hum and the Shiver. I loved the metaphor, which could represent many things. And it fit perfectly with the story I was already developing, about a rebellious Tufa girl who has to find a way to satisfy both her people, and herself.