Coal Country Music – Bloomington Herald Times article
Original artwork by Bloomington artist Margie Van Auken appears on the “Coal Country” companion book. Courtesy artwork
Music can help put an end to mountaintop removal coal mining.
In a new, eclectic collection of songs engineered in Bloomington, Willie Nelson, Ralph Stanley, John Prine and Bonnie Raitt, Gillian Welch and Dave Rallings, Jean Ritchie, the Klezmatics, Kathy Mattea, Tom T. Hall, Natalie Merchant, Jason Wilber and others have donated tracks to “Coal Country Music,” a companion CD to the forthcoming documentary, “Coal Country.”
The movie DVD, CD and a companion book will be available in stores Nov. 10.
Proceeds from sales of all three will go to Alliance for Appalachia, a coalition of 13 environmental groups with a common purpose: ending a method of strip mining that rips the tops off mountains and dumps the overburden down the hillside, filling in streams and radically altering the lay of the land.
Bloomington musician Jason Wilber and Paoli environmentalist Andy Mahler came up with the idea of a fundraising CD. At the same time, filmmakers Mari-Lynn Evans and Phyllis Geller were at work on the documentary, and the four decided to combine efforts.
“On both sides, it ended up being a much cooler project because we all worked together and got the best of both worlds, I think,” said Wilber, who hosts “In Search of a Song” at 4 p.m. Saturdays on WFHB and who plays lead guitar for John Prine as well as being a singer-songwriter on his own.
Wilber and Mahler co-produced the CD. They made a list of artists they hoped to include on it, and most said yes, Wilber said.
But getting requisite permissions to use the copyrighted songs was no easy feat, both Wilber and Mahler said. Not only did each artist have to approve of the use of the song, so did their publisher and in some cases, the song’s composer and publisher. To use Willie Nelson’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” for example, the producers had to get permission from Nelson, Nelson’s recording company, Dylan and Dylan’s publisher.
Prine and Raitt contribute a duet of Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery.” Prine also sings “Paradise,” an iconic tune that tells the true story of a strip mine literally wiping away a small town in Kentucky. Hall offers “I’m a Coal Mining Man,” and the other artists offer other mountain tunes, many specifically about coal mining.
Several artists on the CD are names unfamiliar to most people, but are residents of Appalachian areas that have been directly affected by coal mining, and who are actively working for change.
Why should Hoosiers care about coal mining methods several states east of here?
First of all, it’s likely that some of the coal used to fuel the plants that make the electricity we use comes from mountaintop removal mines in Appalachia. See for yourself at the Web site ilovemountains.org.
Second, Mahler says, mountaintop removal coal mining has devastated an area the size of Delaware, destroying the oldest and most diverse ecosystems in North America.
Mahler, who has been a forest activist for more than 20 years, said that the Eastern hardwood forests of Appalachia have served as a seed source for biodiversity for thousands of years, a source that is threatened as the ancient, rugged landscape is leveled, and often the nearby communities and mountain culture along with it.
Where proceeds go
All proceeds from CD, book and DVD sales of “Coal Country” benefit the member organizations of the Alliance for Appalachia:
Coal River Mountain Watch
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Mountain Association for Community Economic Development
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Save Our Cumberland Mountains
Sierra Club Environmental Justice
Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
The Appalachian Citizens Law Center
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
For more information, see http://www.theallianceforappalachia.org/
Film premiere, CD release party
See “Coal Country” on a big screen at its local premiere 2 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington. The event is also a CD release party for “Coal Country Music,” a locally produced companion to the film; $10 general admission. Sponsored by Heartwood, the event will include live musical performances by some of the artists included on the CD.
Get a preview
For more info on “Coal Country,” the documentary, including a trailer, see http://www.coalcountrythemovie.com
For more info on “Coal Country Music,” see http://www.coalcountrymusic.com.