New soundtrack/website rocks the coalfield justice movement
Ever miss the wondrous liner notes from your old LP’s?
An extraordinary new album, “Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home,” just released with one of the finest showcases of musical talents from the Appalachian coalfields, has gone one step further: Accompanied by a multimedia website the album includes a map and search engine that allows listeners to see the setting of a song or mining and environmental issue, scroll through photographs, videos, and interviews, and learn ways to become involved in local coalfield citizens groups.
For producer Jen Osha, founder and director of Aurora Lights, the West Virginia-based nonprofit cultural organization formed to raise awareness of the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining, the album also takes the next step in the coalfield justice movement by focusing on renewable energy and the preservation of the beauty of the Appalachian mountains and heritage.
This just might be the most powerful soundtrack and organizing tool for the coalfield justice and climate change movements today.
The direct link is here: www.auroralights.org/journey
“We selected music for ‘Still Moving Mountains’,’” says producer Osha, “ to emphasize that without a focus on intentional transformation to create a positive future, the beauty that remains in Appalachia will not survive the blasts and out-of-order court rulings. This is reflected in the music of the future-minded, as coalfield areas look ahead to renewable energy like wind farms and bring it into today.”
Featuring Appalachian stalwarts like Kathy Mattea, the beloved Grammy-Award winning country music artist and coalfield/climate change activist, who last album—Coal—covered a wide-range of classic songs as a tribute to her family’s coal mining past, and legendary bluegrass bands like The Del McCoury Band, Blue Highway, and Everett Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers, “Still Moving Mountains” also presents some of the wildly eclectic topical bands emerging in the region, like R.I.S.E. (formerly known as Rising Appalachia) and the Tennessee-based LoneTones.
Musician Vince Herman of the participating Great American Taxi roots Americana band described his contribution as an expressive act of standing in solidarity with local activists like Ed Wiley of Coal River Mountain in West Virginia. “I think music is a great way to tell a story that breaks people’s hearts and stirs them to action,” Herman explained. “My family has a history in underground mining, and I have a deep love of West Virginia from the years I spent playing and studying there…The least I could do is write a song. The least we can do as a country is to stop MTR in its tracks right now before more of this great country is lost forever,” Herman added.
Take the Great American Taxi song, “Appalachian Soul,” which laments:
“I thought my kids found a way to work in these mountain towns
When they took jobs down in the mines underground
Now the jobs and the money and the mountainsides are all gone
‘Cause it just takes one machine now, to tear a mountain down
Well you can tear at a mountain
Try to wash it down below
But you can’t take the heart out of this
Appalachian Appalachian soul
Oh this Appalachian soul.”
At the end of the song, the multimedia website provides links to:
Changes in Lifestyle: The Closing of the Mountain Commons
Mountaintop Removal: What is mountaintop removal?
Mountaintop Removal: Environmental Impacts
Mountaintop Removal: Legislative Loopholes
Prenter Hollow: Community responses and the Prenter Water Fund
Prenter Hollow: Stories and family pictures from Prenter
As an interactive mapping project, the “Journey Up Coal River” website combines music, audio, photography and interviews with local residents to tell the story of the Coal River Valley—the site of many of this summer’s direct actions and protests.
The website has special sections on the history, heritage and environment, and issues at stake with mountaintop removal strip-mining: Coal River 101, Coal River Mountain, Shumate Dam, Mountaintop Removal, Prenter Hollow, and the Coal River Wind Project.
“The multimedia website also serves as a classroom educational tool, providing lesson plans layered in six themes,” says the website’s designer and copy-editor, Charles Suggs. “Professors from both within West Virginia and out of state have already started developing unique curricula based upon the CD and website.”
The producers describe the site as showing both the human and the physical geography of the area, including not just the rich terrain and landscape but also the culture, tradition and lifestyle of the people whose heritage in the Valley goes back for over two centuries. Imagine you’re listening to a rendition of “Black Waters.” When you reach the lyrics “the hillsides come a-sliding so awful and grand,” you can take the experience to the next level just by going to the map online.
There, a link will take you from the song about black water to the website of the Prenter Emergency Water Fund, with information about a community in the Coal River Valley being robbed of clean drinking water because of nearby mines and coal processing. You can listen to a resident of Prenter Hollow talk about her fight to find clean water and to protect the land from those who want to use it for their own purposes.