By Jeff Biggers from the Huffington Post
While one did sing, the other did shout,
And the angel unlocked the door.
He had the keys to the kingdom, Lord
Any CD album that begins with a haunting Uzbek-influenced trumpet and percussion backup on Ralph Stanley’s gospel classic, “Keys to the Kingdom,” and ends with Willie Nelson strumming a stunningly unaffected and heartfelt acoustic version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” goes straight to platinum on my charts.
As a companion CD to the provocative new film, Coal Country, the wildly eclectic Coal Country Music CD hits the stores today with a blockbuster list of Nashville’s alt-country scene like John Prine, Kathy Mattea, Jason and the Scorchers, folk and bluegrass legends Ralph Stanley, Jean Ritchie, Tom T. Hall and Gillian Welch, rockers like Natalie Merchant and Bonnie Raitt, and a few other surprises–as in, Grammy Award-klezmer band The Klezmatics and their beautiful rendition of Woody Guthrie’s “Heaven.”
Produced by Heartwood hero Andy Mahler and Grammy Award-nominated guitarist Jason Wilber, who contributes a powerful performance of “In Her Veins,” the Coal Country Music CD is a breathtaking tribute to the wide range of music that has emerged out of Appalachia.
And all for an amazing cause: Proceeds from the CD sales will go to non-profit citizens organizations working to stop the ravages of mountaintop removal and to launch a clean energy future for Appalachia–the birthplace of country music, and an important crossroads for blues, jazz and rock.
The CD album includes liner notes from Ashley Judd and Woody Harrelson, along with the producers’ message:
We would like to thank the artists, producers, engineers, publishers, songwriters, record labels, managers, and all of the other creative and dedicated professionals who made this project possible. They freely and generously contributed their time, talent, recordings, and compositions without remuneration, knowing that the proceeds from this CD will help bring national attention to the devastation of Mountaintop Removal coal-mining and to the central role the Appalachian Mountains have played in American history, music, and culture. We also acknowledge the dependence on electricity we all share in our private and professional lives. Our intention in producing this musical compilation is not just to help stop Mountaintop Removal, but also to help promote renewable and sustainable energy alternatives and the green jobs they create.
Along with classics from John Prine–whose “Paradise” remains a haunting soundtrack for today’s strip mining impact on families and heritage–and the beloved Grammy-Award singer Kathy Mattea, Coal Country Music includes some of the finest singer-songwriters working today on Nashville’s better half. With an unaffected ease, singer Celeste Krenz performs a wonderful version of “Big Coal River,” yearning for the days of “feeling free and running clean.” Alt-country legends Jason and the Scorchers rock the album with “Beat on the Mountain,” a new release forthcoming in 2010, that recounts a coal miner’s dilemma, “caught between the mountain and the mine.” With the hip sway of a young Rickie Lee Jones, Schuyler Fisk (Sissey Spacek’s daughter) combines country riffs with a folk pop ease on “It’s a Long Walk Home.”
Backed by her amazingly tight band, pop star Natalie Merchant contributes a chilling version of the labor classic, “Which Side Are You On?” which previously appeared on the breakthrough “Music of Coal” album.
Popular Appalachian activists Public Outcry, along with traditional Appalachian singers and Coal Country filmmaker Philis Geller, round off the album with several ballads and topical songs.
A special program on the Coal Country Music CD will take place on November 14th, on Jason Wilber’s In Search of a Song program.
In a previously unrecorded version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Willie Nelson concludes the album with a reminder of the tragedy of mountaintop removal that continues to ravage Appalachia, and the hope of clean energy–and wind farms–at risk today on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia.
And how many times can a man turn his head
and pretend that he just doesn’t see?
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
the answer is blowing in the wind.