Music of Coal: Mining Songs from the Appalachian Coalfields
Audio CD | Box Set
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Music of Coal delves deeply into Virginia history, addressing various aspects of mining and culture. This two disc set features Merle Travis, Hazel Dickens, Doc Boggs, The Carter Family, Ralph Stanley & Dwight Yoakam, Darrell Scott, Natalie Merchant and a few dozen others. Packaged in a richly detailed 69 page book w/ liner notes and striking historical photographs.
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The 48 songs cover old and new as they are performed by artists old and new. Contained within the cover of the book and embossed within the two CDs is the music of The Carter Family, The Stanley Brothers, Hobo Jack Adkins, Hazel Dickens, Orville Jenks, Sarah Ogan Gunning and even Natalie Merchant. Also presenting their versions of coal mining sorrow are Blue Highway, Tom T. Hall, Valerie Smith, and a whole lot more. Volume 1 kicks off with "Down in a Coal Mine" by The Edison Concert Band and was recorded in 1908 on Edison Cylinder. "Mining Camp Blues" was recorded in 1925. As you can tell, the old is very old and the new is very new. This collection covers it all with music from the era that the mines were running.
The producer, Jack Wright, notes that the music contained in this volume was prepared from many sources old and new and that the transfers from wax, metal, shellac or vinyl contain imperfections that were an artifact of the pressings of the time. Also, some of these are also monaural analog recordings of coal mining music that is rarely heard today. The production took two years for the music and the book.
The book contains the lyrics, songwriter information and a lot of rare or unique photographs of the coal mining region. Old photos from within the mines, of families of coal miners and of the artists contained within the volume are all present here.
Coal mining favorites like "Prayer of a Miner's Child," "Sixteen Tons," "Thirty Inch Coal," "Union Man," "That Twenty-Five Cents You Paid," and "Explosion at Derby Mine" are contained here as well as lesser known songs that tell the true painful story of those who dug the black gold from the mountains of the region.
These songs tell of the hardships before unionization and the pain and suffering of families who lost their loved ones in the mines. How generations of miners couldn't get out of the rut of mining that filled the cemeteries of the grandfathers, fathers and sons who lost their lives to coal. There isn't a lot of joy in between the covers of Music of Coal: Mining Songs from the Appalachian Coalfields. The losses due to black-lung and the environmental impacts due to mining are artistically presented with music and verse.
The Lonesome Pine Office on Youth announces the release of the two-CD set Music of Coal: Mining Songs from the Appalachian Coalfields. Lonesome tells us some of the details of the project.
"This has been a collaborative effort involving many people in the Wise County area as well as noted experts across the country," said Paul Kuczko, director of the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth and executive producer of the CD project. "We've assembled more than two hours of music that truly gives the flavor of our coal mining heritage."
According to Jack Wright, who produced the CDs and wrote the liner notes, the musical collection is a "hybrid" of old and new songs'some previously recorded, others produced specifically for this project. "We chose some songs that came out previously on independent labels and may not have been well known, but are vital in telling original stories from the heart of the coalfields," Wright said. "In addition, we have well established artists represented here, like Ralph Stanley, Dwight Yoakum, Natalie Merchant, Tom T. Hall, Blue Highway and the Carter Family."
Kuczko emphasized that the project made extensive use of local talent, including Maggard Studio in Big Stone Gap, where Alan Maggard served as associate producer and his father Charlie recorded a song chronicling the 1934 mine explosion at the Derby mine. Other local performers include Molly Slemp of Norton, Ron Short of Big Stone Gap, Jim Stanley of Derby and the Rev. Joe Freeman, a former Wise County resident. Ron Short of Big Stone Gap and Rich Kirby of Dungannon served as assistant producers.
For Wright, who hails from Wise but now lives in Ohio, the Music of Coal project was a chance to delve more deeply into the history of his native region and to discover archival photographs and recordings that had been "lost" or overlooked. For example, he became interested in the work of John "Ed" Sturgill, a well known musician around the town of Appalachia who died in 1965. Wright tracked down Sturgill's daughter, Sally Sturgill Gibson, who sent him a post card of her father playing his banjo in the outdoor drama "Trail of the Lonesome Pine." He also learned that Ed Sturgill had sent a tape of his original music to famed folklorist Alan Lomax. The tape eventually ended up at the Lomax archive, which made a copy available to Wright.
"It was a thrill for me to be able to give Ms. Gibson a copy of her dad's music. She had no idea that the tape existed and got to hear her father's voice and music forty years after he'd passed away. That was one of the many small joys of producing this project. Another was to include a song from a live performance by Dock Boggs from the first festival I produced at Clinch Valley College in 1969. My longtime friend Mike Seeger had recorded it and made it available." Wright said.
The Music of Coal project began in 2005 with the formation of an advisory group of representatives from around the region. Funding was provided by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities as well as Wise County Sesquicentennial Commission. The work is dedicated to Archie Green, a noted author and expert on coal mining music, who served as an advisor to the project.
The CD set and book can be purchased for $[...] at the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth at 219 Wood Ave E, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. [...]
I must say that I love the "Music of Coal" project!!! It is an outstanding contribution to the history of the region and to a period of American life. I wish there was more! This is the type of project that could go on forever. There is just so much good material to select from. I really appreciate the old material presented by the older artists. I think that added a lot of soul to the project and made it more real.