Below are short essays I wrote for the forthcoming albums The Night is Drawing Nigh and Shawnee, Ohio.


The Night is Drawing Nigh: Selections From the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives

Listening to the Berea Appalachian Sound Archives: Barbara Kunkle’s 1973 field recordings of Lexie Baker, J.P. Fraley, and others begin not with a tune but instead invite the listener in with conversation. Just as the tape starts and Fraley says, mid-sentence, “...bring some more chairs in here,” a coo-coo clock strikes eight times and laughter erupts. Kunkle declares, “That’s going to be the best beginning of a tape I ever had!” Later on the tape and amid lively banter, a fiddle begins to tune up and a melody emerges, soon joined by guitar. In these recordings, there are no exact beginnings or endings to either the tunes or the environment in which they are played: they are blurred together. The conversation becomes musical, and the music conversational...


Shawnee, Ohio

Shawnee is located in rural southeastern Appalachian Ohio. It is one town among many that quickly emerged around coal mining in the nineteenth century. The towns are now collectively referred to as the “Little Cities of Black Diamonds,” a phrase coined by historian Ivan Tribe. For two centuries, this region has been immersed in extraction industries, from coal, oil, and gas to timber, iron ore, and clay. Located in the Wayne National Forest, the area is bound together by a common heritage of booms and busts, environmental destruction and recovery, and the formation of early labor unions. After nearly a century of economic and population decline, another boom and bust cycle is playing out with the rise of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Despite facing an uncertain future, the communities that live in the Little Cities continue to work for environmental, economic, and cultural enrichment...