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Various Artists

Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home

(Aurora Lights; US: 22 Sep 2009; UK: 22 Sep 2009)

One of the best traditional bluegrass records to surface late last year doubles as a call to arms. Still Moving Mountains: The Journey Home is a various artists project that brings attention to the urgent problem of mountaintop-removal coal mining that is having devastating effects on the natural beauty of Appalachia and the homes and lives of those therein. Most songs here, from first-rate bluegrass acts like the Del McCoury Band, Blue Highway, Kathy Mattea (on a stirring “Blue Diamond Mines”), and many others, were written especially for the project. The best is Great American Taxi’s “Appalachian Soul”: “The jobs and the money and mountainside are gone / Because it just takes one machine to tear a mountain down.” The songs are interspersed with heartbreaking commentary from activists like Robert Kennedy Jr. and interviews with local folks fighting for their homes and livelihoods. It’s hard to listen to this record without becoming enraged by the shameful and illegal destruction of natural resources, but the music itself is a cross section of beautiful mountain music that alone makes this set worth owning, and the tragic issues raised make Still Moving Mountains a critically important listen.

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Steve Leftridge has written about music, film, and books for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, No Depression, and PlaybackSTL. He holds an MA in literature from the University of Missouri, for whom he is an adjunct teacher, and he's been teaching high school English and film in St. Louis since 1998. Follow at SteveLeftridge@Twitter.com.


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