The Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington, Indiana was the venue for a fantastic event to publicize the release of “Coal Country Music”, the companion CD to “Coal Country” the movie.
Heartwood activist Andy Mahler was the MC of the event, and explained how the CD project came together, thanking the stellar musicians that all contributed their music in support of stopping Mountaintop Removal, such as Willie Nelson, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, Kathy Mattea, Ralph Stanley, and more…
The event started with a proclamation from the City of Bloomington by Mayor Kruzan, and read by City Councilwoman Isabel Piedmont-Smith, declaring November 15th, 2009 “Coal Country Day / Heartwood Day”.
Then local radio hosts of a show called “Inside Outdoors”,
made short statements about clean water, just what MTR really is, and explained it’s impact from the standpoint of outdoorsmen. Don Jordan has been a longtime member of the Outdoors Writers Association of America since 1972, and is an outspoken advocate of the environment in all his work.
Next was a proclamation by two outgoing kids, Zion and Mareana Piatt, aged 9 and 11,both home home schooled kids who love the outdoors, and wanted to share how the’ve been inspired and affected by the story of Appalachia through their studies of “The Appalachians”, “Coal Country”, and related materials in their studies. They took the time to develop a speech advocating education to children about the natural environment, their own dedication to learning about conservation, and a promise to spend a lifetime doing their part to stop horrific practices of environmental damage, and to be mindful of their own energy use. The crowd was talking about this part of the event far into the evening at the after party.
Following these great opening statements, a concert was held starting with Janiece Jaffe, and Curtis Cantwell Jackson. Janiece asked the audience to participate… asking one half of them to hum a certain note, and the other half to hum another one in harmony. She asked that everyone visualize NOT the problem of a hurting environment, but the solution, and their own version of how they wanted the world to look like. Then, over the beautiful humming of the audience, she sang a sort of jazz scat singing that sounded like Indian Classical Music inspired by the Hindu/Buddhist spiritual culture. Then they sang two songs from their new Christmas Album talking about the children of the world. Very appropriate following the homeschoolers advice to the audience!
Next came Aaron Persinger, a singer/songwriter who played some songs he had written inspired by his life experiences in Indiana, Nashville, Wyoming, and Alaska as a salmon/king crab fisherman. Growing up in a “Holler” in southern indiana, his music is inspired by Appalachian music, and Americana.
Next came Diana Jones, who graciously drove all the way from Nashville, Tennessee to attend the event. Her song “Appalachia” is one that was chosen for the compilation CD. She sang some fantastic songs, including “Appalachia”, and added a tremendous energy, and unique voice to the event.
Lastly, Jason Wilber took the stage, singing one of his own contributions to the compilation CD, “In Her Veins”, as well as a few other of his tunes, including “My Great Uncle Jim”, a song about his Uncle who was a coal miner. Jason’s discography includes many of his own records, including many great performances including the Grammy winning album “Fair and Square” working as the longtime guitarist for John Prine. Jason ended the concert with a duet, “Paradise” by John Prine (also contributed by Mr. Prine to the CD project) with Diana Jones. It was a great rendition, and fitting end to the concert.
Jason Wilber and Coal Country Webmaster/radio producer Rich Reardin partner in a radio show called “In Search of a Song” that is broadcast and streamed on WFHB in Bloomington every Saturday at 4pm EST, and podcast, which has promoted the CD on the air, and had interviews with many musicians that are involved with the coal mining issues, such as Kathy Mattea, Andrew McKnight, and even attended the first “Mountain Aid” concert in North Carolina last June in support of the event.
Finally, after a short break, the audience was riveted by the full length version of “Coal Country” which inspired a question and answer session hosted by Andy Mahler of Heartwood. Mari-Lynn Evans was slated to appear that day, but was rear ended in her rental car on the way to the airport in Los Angeles, coming back from the Premiere of Coal Country at the Grammy Museum in LA. Fortunately, she was not hurt, but was missed at the event. Andy gave an emotional talk about some environmental issues in the midwest, in response to a question, and was brought to his knees on the stage. All in all, it was a very powerful event, that has impacted many people in the southern Indiana city of Bloomington to rethink their role in conserving energy, and making a difference in the lives of their brothers and sisters in Appalachia, the nation and the world.
After the event, Farm Bloomington, a local restaurant next to the Buskirk- Chumley Theater, hosted the after party in the basement party room of the establishment. Some more down home Appalachian music was played, and there was food donated, as well as wine and beer from Bloomingfoods Market and Deli Food Coop, and Upland Brewery.
You can buy a copy of the CD online, or even by download back on the CD page of the Coal Country website. The CD is distributed here by Liason Distribution. The CD is a wonderful compilation of artists who care deeply through their music about their American roots in the mountains. All were motivated to offer their music in the hopes of bringing focus to the issue of stopping moutnaintop removal coal strip mining in Appalachia. Proceeds of the event, and the CD go to Heartwood, and directly to the task of stopping this practice.