Maria sits on her front porch in Bob White, West Virginia, and hears the whistle of the coal train coming 'round the bend. Soon it's passing, 100 tons per car, not 20 feet from her as it does several times a day. And Maria thinks about what this coal train really means ...
You could call this music "coalblack/bluegrass" for the sad history it holds and the ominous presence it contains.
It is about the heirs to the legendary coal barons of old; the ravenous need and greed of man; and the dreadful consequences these enterprises conspire to make.
For this is the story of the coal burned to make electricity; of its way through the hills of West Virginia; and of the place from which it sprang. Mostly it is about the awful practice of mountain top removal (MTR) for coal---and the consequences it has for all of us.
In this case the coal train takes some 10,000 tons of coal from the mountain tops, rolls through Bob White and past Maria's homeplace on its way to the John Amos Power Plant on the Kanawha River in West Virginia.
This train will supply almost half of one day's coal needed to produce up to 1,900 megawatts of electricity at Amos. In doing so the plant will also create over 40,000 tons of CO2, adding to the phenomenon of global warming.
Blowing up the beautiful mountains of Appalachia, a significamt part of our national heritage, is bad enough. But the coal train also represents the unseen downstream effects of mountain top removal: air and water pollution; real and imagined illnesses; reduced property values; and the fear of huge sludge impoundments failing as did the one above Buffalo Creek. Listen to "Buffalo Creek & Aberfan" for a glimpse of this living fear.
How can this happen? The practice is condoned by the US Government, citing national need, energy security and "for the common good." To support this, laws (National Environmental Protection Act, Clean Water Act and CLean Air Act among others) are broken, amended, changed.
This is the story of local rage, frustration and dread, coupled with a growing national awareness and justified outrage.
The songs are taken from HollowGirl, a musical-in-progress.
The young mother of two in Boone County, West Virginia, speaks for the whole. She and her family are caught between the coal trains and the MTR operation looming up the hollow behind her property. Too scared to stay, too poor to move, they can only fight for their homeplace.
The songs are from her perspective and from her heart. They cry out for justice. This continuing rape of a part of America is an education in itself.
To learn more about the struggle taking place daily throughout Appalachia, go to ohvec.org and its many links.
The COVER photographs depict two faces of MTR. In the background above the train, the last hurrah of the mountain behind Maria's homeplace. The aerial view at left is of the chaos out of sight and behind the Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, WV. Listen to "Looking for a Senator" for an idea of the anguish this causes.
The music is the product of a group of Nashville musicians, all of them familiar with Appalachia. They are called the Geezers and represent retired and damaged underground miners of the southwest West Virginia coal fields.
The singers are Patty Mitchell, Robert Gately, Wayne Bridge, Tom Mason, Charlie Gearheart, Peggy Duncan, Taylor Easterwood and Walt Wilkins.
The musicians are Robin Ruddy, banjo; Jim Prendergast, Scott Neubert and Walt Wilkins, acoustic guitar; Charlie Chadwick and Ron de la Vega, upright bass; Scott Neubert, mandolin and dobro; Jim Spivey and Tim Lorsch, fiddle; Steve Holland, kick and snare; and Jim Prendergast, dulcimer.
The album was produced by Tim Lorsch for Bull Creek Productions; engineered and mixed by Bill McDermott at Dog Den Studio in Nashville; and mastered by Steve Tolson at Utility House.
words and music (c)2008 Peter Britton (ASCAP)