YouTube link to 'Sounding for Harry Smith — Knw-Yr-Own'
YouTube link to 'Harry Smith: Early Abstractions 1946-57'

Excerpts from Sounding for Harry Smith: Early Pacific Northwest Influences

“What’s striking about Bret Lunsford‘s portrait of Harry Smith is that it brings to the foreground what most arts biographers ignore or treat as scenery: the community in which the artist first emerged. This book is the fullest vision of Smith’s early years we’ll ever likely see. Lunsford writes as a native who knew people in Smith’s life who were still alive. As a local artist, he fathoms the deep history of the arts in Anacortes. Again, acting as a local historian he found documents, newspapers, pictures, scrapbooks, yearbooks, and letters that illuminate Smith’s childhood and also give us a biography of the city.”
—From the Foreword by John Szwed
“Growing up in Anacortes is interesting. Lots of people do it. Harry Smith did it, Bret Lunsford did it decades later, I did it another decade after that. To me it felt like being present for the monumental human shift from the ancient and eternal to the modern and marketable. There’s something about the place; located on the far edge of a recently colonized continent, at the cusp of many poles, wrapped in layers of simultaneous living histories... it’s a place of coexistence, though not usually harmonious or acknowledged. Living in this place where the elements of nature demand one’s attention, and the evidence of the people that came before us still juts out of the sand, the songs still audible, it felt impossible to ignore some deeper truths, hinted at but not spelled out. Harry Smith clearly was tuned in to this too, following the thread all the way out of town.”
—From the Preface by Phil Elverum

Excerpts from Sounding for Harry Smith by Bret Lunsford:

How can a small-town kid live to become, as Allen Ginsberg said of Harry Smith, “famous everywhere underground”—a shaman in residence for many profound cultural accomplishments—while remaining unknown or forgotten in the places he grew up? This book delves into the histories of Orcas and Guemes islands, Anacortes, Estacada and Fairhaven. Beginning over a century ago, we wade forward into marshy waters for a “frog’s eyes” view of biography, playing up the entire eco-system rather than the abstracted great man.
Harry was composing and conducting symphonic subterranean systems. What kind of voices can be heard? This book follows a version of Harry Smith who digs for the understanding way. He learns from, records and amplifies the voices of others, an advocate for unique beauties. Among Harry’s varied brilliances, it was his ability to listen and see and value and act in concert with the preservation of cultural treasures—those that surface forces had lost or tried to break and bury. In the mountains of scrapped 78 rpm records, Harry heard the patterns of disparate compositions as a choir compiled to sing a new American folk into existence.
Little remains of Harry’s childhood home and playground at the Apex Fish Co. The history is absent above the water’s surface, but when the tide is out, a rock made of rust tells of being formed from thousands of tin can scraps swept between gaps in the salmon cannery dock to land here.
This book offers itself as a meditation—an assortment of pieces that can be added to the incomplete puzzle which Harry Smith enthusiasts have been attempting to assemble. It is one of many studies and does not complete the picture. Harry’s habitat is described as it grows: wild. Be prepared to crawl off trail into understory.

About the Author: Bret Lunsford

Bret Lunsford and Karl Blau of D+ at What the Heck 2019. Photo by Corin Noronha.
Bret Lunsford and Karl Blau of D+ at What the Heck 2019. Photo by Corin Noronha.

Bret Lunsford is a founding member of the bands Beat Happening and D+.

In addition to his own musical endeavors, Lunsford operates the loose collective of Knw-Yr-Own, an independent record and book maker based in his hometown of Anacortes, Washington. He is also a writer of history, author of “Croatian Fishing Families of Anacortes” and editor of “Lance Burdon: A Photographic Journey” and “Pictures of the Past: Celebrating 125 Years of Anacortes History.” He is currently the director at the Anacortes Museum.

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Sounding for Harry Smith Book Cover

Sounding for Harry Smith: Early Pacific Northwest Influences is a biography of Harry Everett Smith (1923-1991) that explores the mysteries of his Salish Sea youth during the Great Depression years in Anacortes, Washington.

A beautifully printed and bound 232-page hardcover book that includes chronology, selected bibliography, endnotes, maps and over 100 historic photographs within 17 substantial and hearty chapters.

Dimensions: 8 ¾ inches wide by 10 ¼ inches tall by 7/8 inches thick.

“A major accomplishment in the scholarship on Harry Smith”
- Rani Singh, Director of the Harry Smith Archives
  • Written by Bret Lunsford
  • Designed by Bret Lunsford and Phil Elverum
  • Published by KNW-YR-OWN and P.W. Elverum & Sun


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