Music of Coal (10/17/07)

Photo of the “lizard” coal-mining machine from Jack Wright.

Riding on a lizard in 30- inch coal
That cable a-sparling as the little wheels roll
Dear God have mercy on a miner’s soul
Down on my poor knees in 30-inch coal.
Chorus to “30-Inch Coal” by Hobo Jack Adkins

*

Jack Wright just wrote me to let me know that there’s a signing party for the new CD he produced, “The Music of Coal” at the Little Professor Book Center in Athens October 18 from 4 to 6. NPR featured an interview, photos and clips here. At that time, Jack said of Adkins, who worked in mines he sang about,

If you can imagine working all day under your coffee table or under your kitchen table, you can imagine what it would’ve been like. It requires muscles and looseness. These people are almost like yogis and Buddhas — they’re so limber and able to work in that low coal.

According to a bio by Eugene Chadbourne at All Music Guide, Adkins got his name from a radio station manager . He got started when a cousin


that played guitar got him into music at around the age of 12, also coinciding with the beginning of his days of hitchhiking and roaming. Around 17, he actually acquired a guitar of own, after a bit of barter involving a .22 rifle and a bushel of shelled corn. The Acme company, perhaps the same firm supplying endless ordnance and gadgetry to Wiley Coyote, made the first recordings of Hobo Jack Adkins in 1944. It was a time when the regional recording industry was operating about on the same level as moonshine, with fellows such as Jim Stanton selling his Rich-R-Tone sides out of the back of his car. …The Lucky company picked up on Adkins after Acme failed in the promotion department, but then the singer…start[ed] up his own label with the same fortunate name, Lucky. There are also theories that the Adco label was his, an abbreviation for “Adkins company.” He also had a contract with the Starday label, releasing a series of singles in the late ’50s …

Adkin’s songs have been recorded by the Stanley Brothers, Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss. “30-inch Coal” is just one of the 48 songs Wright selected , all of which address coal mining history and culture, including black lung, union organizing, environmental impacts and the contribution of coal to the national economy.

The CD is accompanied by a book of detailed liner notes and lyrics, as well as historical photographs. Jack Wright is a filmmaker at Ohio, who is a native of Wise County, Virginia and an active member of the Appalachian Studies community.

You can order your copy for $35 at the Lonesome Pine Office on Youth at 219 Wood Ave E, Big Stone Gap, VA 24219. It may also be ordered through the website http://www.lpoy.org or by calling the office at 276-523-5064 ext. 10.

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