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The Lonesome Pine Office on Youth announces the release of the two-CD set “Music of Coal: Mining Songs from the Appalachian Coalfields.”
Two years in the making, this pair of audio CDs contains 48 songs addressing various aspects of coal mining history and culture, including black lung, union organizing, environmental impacts and the contribution of coal to the national economy. The CDs are accompanied by a richly detailed book of liner notes with striking historical photographs.
“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 $35 at the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth at 219 Wood Ave E, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. It may also be ordered through the website www.lpoy.org or by calling the office at 276-523-5064 ext. 10.
Supplies will be limited. You can pre-order your copy today click on LPOY Shopping to get your copy.
Please note a small shipping charge will be added to your order.
This project is in honor of Wise County's 150th Birthday and is funded in part by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.
updated by Glenda Collins September 2007