Mountaintop Removal benefit coming Nov. 11
It is necessary that we know where things come from, and what they cost.
This is why occasionally I write about the killing and eating of our chickens, about the mulching of our vines and trees, the canning of our produce.
I am not native to this place, to this way of life. I’m a suburban kid, raised by a mother who ran as far from the farm as she could get, with her family’s blessing. And, yet, she still plants a few tomatoes outside her front door. Just because.
I am not native to Eastern Kentucky, and have no family lineage (save that which I married into) in coal mining. And so to an extent I borrow the outrage of better writers like Silas House and Wendell Barry when I attempt to address the atrocity of mountaintop removal, for I have never gone on one of the tours given to writers in hopes they will shine a light on this ecological disaster.
I will now attempt to embed a video explaining the subject, courtesy Kentuckians For the Commonwealth.
Hmm. We’ll see how that does.
It is, perhaps, helpful to try in a paragraph to summarize the relationship of the coal industry to Appalachia. Feudal. There was something called a broadform deed which grand and great-grandparents signed in ignorance, but which yielded the mineral rights of their land to whomever controlled that piece of paper. No matter who lived there. No matter what. I believe broadforms were finally outlawed, after most of the coal had been mined. It is still hauled from the hills in huge trucks, trucks which are allowed to carry far more weight than any other vehicles in Kentucky, simply because the coal lobby wishes it to be so. The same reason the University of Kentucky has agreed to allow the new housing for their basketball players to be called the Coal Lodge. I have read, but cannot in the time open to me this morning source this factoid, that the vast majority of money from the mining of coal leaves Appalachia and never comes back. Feudal. Futile.
I do understand, by the way, that there are sides to this story beyond the outrage one feels driving through southeastern Kentucky and seeing the rape of the land. That’s one of the things we do as part of what we call our civilization: We take what we need, devil take the hindmost. I understand that we need the power that coal provides, that my energy costs are artificially low because I live in a coal producing and burning state. I also understand that the workers are comparatively safer in surface mining operations than they are underground.
There is, of course, a musical tie-in, for there are always songs playing in my head as I type. Several, for there is a long tradition of coal mining songs: “Sixteen Tons,” “Dark as a Dungeon,” “Black Lung.” On and on.
Here, then, is a new benefit album (coming November 10), a fresh compilation of coal songs to support agitation against mountaintop removal. To raise awareness.
01 – Cedar Hill refugees with Ralph Stanley “Keys to the Kingdom”
02 – Gillian Welch “Acony Belly”
03 – Celeste Krenz “Big Coal River”
04 – Jason and the Scorchers “Beat on the Mountain”
05 – John Prine “Paradise”
06 – Kathy Mattea “Red Winged Blackbird”
07 – Justin Townes Earle “Down in the Valley”
08 – Jason Wilber “In Her Veins”
09 – Shirley Stewart Burns “Leave Those Mountains Down”
10 – Natalie Merchant “Which Side Are You On”
11 – Diana Jones “Appalachia”
12 – Tom T. Hall “I’m a Coal Mining Man”
13 – John Prine & Bonnie Raitt “Angel From Montgomery” – Duet
14 – Phylis Geller “Canary”
15 – Jean Ritchie “Now is the Cool of the Day”
16 – The Klezmatics “Heaven”
17 – Schuyler Fisk “(It’s a) Long Walk Home”
18 – Public Outcry “Can’t Put it Back (Wrecklamation Song)”
It is the project of a group called Heartwood, where a relocated friend has taken work. Which is how I come to know of this particular release.
Please do what you can.