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Essential and musical: a special edition of The Vinyl Say 

A conversation with veterinarian and vinyl collector Cara Ann Hammons

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OUR series, The Vinyl Say, typically centers around meeting in person with a local musician at Graveface Records & Curiosities, talking about influences and favorite albums.

With the stay-at-home orders over the last month, however, it’s obviously been impossible to make that happen—especially since Graveface has been forced to shut its doors until things are back to normal (support Graveface if you can!).

Breaking with tradition, we decided to catch up via phone with Cara Ann Hammons, a local musician and vinyl collector who’s also an essential worker. Dr. Hammons, D.M.V., is a vet with Central Animal Hospital, which is currently operating with certain restrictions in place. She’s one of many who put their health on the line to provide essential services for families and community members during this time.

Hammons and her husband, drummer Jeremy Hammons, are music lovers in the strongest sense of the phrase. They estimate owning over 1,000 records, and Hammons says she’s a member of the Graveface record club.

Hammons took us through a typical work day and gave some insight into the music that she’s listening to during this very trying time, in this special telephone version of The Vinyl Say.

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Your husband referred to you as a “vinyl nerd.” Would you say that’s accurate?

[laughs] I’d say it is, yeah! We have a pretty good, well-rounded collection. But we’ve also got a ton of toys, taxidermy, and just weird shit in general [laughs].

Is collecting vinyl something that you’ve both been interested in for a long time?

Definitely since we moved to Savannah, yeah. We’ve collected a lot more since then. We didn’t really get into vinyl much until we got here in 2009, but once Graveface opened and I actually started working in the building we got way more into it. Easy access! [laughs]

What’s in your collection right now?

Oh, man. We’ve got all kinds. We have a lot of classic country, and we’ve got some old Motown records. And we’ve also got a lot of new stuff.

All of that old classic country stuff, and the Motown records, sound so amazing on vinyl. Do you hunt for things that are more rare? Or do you go in looking for a particular artist?

I typically just go through the new releases when I go into Graveface. I’ve been kind of searching more for newer stuff—I’m usually buying the newer bands to have them on vinyl. I just like to have a physical copy. Jeremy is more of the one to dig into the older stuff, and he’ll call me if he sees something he thinks I’ll like.

So it’s like a husband and wife vinyl hunting team!

Yeah! [laughs]

I imagine right now, if you’re not working you’re listening to music?

Oh, sure. There’s always something on in our house.

What was the last thing you guys had on?

I believe one of the last records we had on was Willie Nelson and Friends. That’s always a go-to. And we had some Ben Folds on the other day

You’re an essential worker—what does a typical day look like for you right now?

I pretty much am working almost a normal schedule. We did close on Saturdays, but I’m working four days a week. But instead of just operating normally where clients come in, we’re doing curbside service.

Wow. How does that work?

It’s very different. Pretty much, people call and when they get there the technicians come out in PPE and bring the animals inside. We do everything we can, but it’s all minimal contact to protect the staff and the clients. It’s very weird when we have to discuss more serious things like cancer or euthanasia.

How do you navigate that kind of thing?

It’s hard. Unfortunately, it seems like lately we’ve had a lot of euthanasia. And we do allow one person to come in and be with the animal. Usually there’s comforting—hugs and touches. Because it’s a horrible thing. But you can’t do that now, so it’s weird. It’s kind of surreal.

I can’t imagine having to do work like that at a time like this, when everything is so surreal. The risk is exponential, which is particularly scary given the nature of this virus. Is there a level of anxiety there when you’re working?

Oh, definitely. I have an immunosuppressive disease, so I have anxiety. But honestly, I feel more anxiety for my staff because they’re the ones going out to the people. Really though, we have less interaction than the people working in stores, etc.

You’re also a musician—do you find yourself playing more at a time like this?

Probably not as much as I should! And oddly enough, Jeremy and I haven’t really played together. We’ve talked about that, too. We should probably be jamming together [laughs].

You’ve been working with animals for a long time, and now is a moment in time that definitely puts a spotlight on why you do it and what it means to you. What's been the most fulfilling part of the work that you do?

Of course, we love that we help animals and make them feel better. But I think what's more important is that we're treating and helping people's best friends. Their kids, basically. Some people say it's not important, but for some people these pets are all they have. And we've got to take care of them. So it's really important to keep that connection for people and take care of these animals. That's what's most fulfilling.

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Sean Kelly

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