It is rare that my idiosyncratic and widely ignored Friday music blogging overlaps with the subject matter that occupies the rest of my time. But today we have a happy confluence.
Kathy Mattea is a Grammy-winning country artist, born in West Virginia. She had a string of hits in the ’80s and ’90s, but her turn to the social activism that fueled the original Appalachian folk music tradition has put her out of sync with current commercial radio appetites.
After the Sago mine disaster, Mattea felt moved to respond somehow. She began researching the music that’s grown up around coal and coal mining, which led her deeper into her own history (both her grandfathers were coal miners). The result is Coal, a concept album about the black rock and its effects on the people of West Virginia. It is composed of covers, some of extremely old songs, some of more recent tunes.
Though the album doesn’t make any mention of climate change, Mattea was changed by her exposure to An Inconvenient Truth and spends much of her time these days presenting Gore’s slideshow around the Southeast.
This song is called “Dark as a Dungeon.”