Emmylou Harris is Singing to Save Mountains

Emmylou Harris

Just like the sun over the mountain top
You know I'll always come again
You know I love to spend my morning time
Like sunlight dancing on your skin
I've never gone so wrong as to telling lies to you
What you've seen is what I've been
There is nothing I could hide from you
You see me better than I can
Out on the road that lies before me now
There are some turns where I will spin
I only hope that you can hold me now
Till I can gain control again
--Emmylou Harris, "Till I Gain Control Again"

Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris penned an excellent guest editorial that appeared in the The Tennessean over the weekend.  She spoke of the unprecedented, unstoppable flood in Nashville and compared it to another tragedy that can and must be stopped: mountaintop removal coal mining.  She writes:

Not too far away in North­east Ten­nessee, Ken­tucky and West Vir­ginia, man­made dis­as­ters are hap­pen­ing every­day in the form of moun­tain­top removal coal min­ing.  These dis­as­ters are 100 per­cent avoid­able, but unlike Mid­dle Ten­nessee in the wake of the flood dis­as­ter, com­mu­ni­ties can­not recover from moun­tain­top removal.


Moun­tain­top removal, an extreme form of strip min­ing where coal com­pa­nies use high-powered explo­sives to dec­i­mate moun­tain­tops and dump the waste into the val­leys and streams below, has toppled more 500 moun­tains thus far.  Emmylou ruefully notes that the Appalachi­ans are the only moun­tain range in the coun­try where this prac­tice is allowed.

Then she pivots to what she and her fellow musicians are doing to help the cause, beginning with a concert tomorrow tonight in Nashville being staged by NRDC:


On Wednes­day musi­cians from across the coun­try will con­gre­gate at Ryman Audi­to­rium to advance our cam­paign called “Music Saves Moun­tains,” which is aimed at edu­cat­ing a global audi­ence on this issue that has already destroyed a mil­lion acres across Appalachia.  Ten­nessee, West Vir­ginia and Ken­tucky have become the national bat­tle­ground in the effort to ban moun­tain­top min­ing.  This is not an anti-coal cam­paign, it is an effort to pro­mote sus­tain­able min­ing prac­tices that will not destroy our moun­tain heritage.

"Now is the time to col­lec­tively raise our voices against this prac­tice," she implores, "before it takes a foothold in our beloved Ten­nessee mountains." 

The significance of the venue for the big show cannot be missed, as she explains:

For decades, the Ryman Audi­to­rium stage has been home to the roy­alty of coun­try music, includ­ing the Carter Fam­ily, Loretta Lynn, Bill Mon­roe and count­less other artists inspired by the roots of Appalachia.  From the sounds of blue­grass music to bal­lads depict­ing life in coal mines, the Ryman is cer­tainly a friend to Appalachia and her people.

It was at the Ryman where Harris joined an all-star group of traditional country, folk and blues artists to film the documentary/concert film, Down from the Mountain, which featured the artists performing music from the soundtrack to the 2000 Coen Brothers hit film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?  Tomorrow night, Harris headlines another all-star cast of performers for our historic concert to raise the profile of the tragedy of mountaintop removal.

On Wednes­day night, I will take the stage with Dave Matthews, Ali­son Krauss, Patty Grif­fin, Buddy Miller, Kathy Mat­tea, Patty Love­less, Sam Bush, Big Kenny, Bran­don Young and other spe­cial guests to express our deep con­cerns about the future of Appalachia and the man­made tragedy that is occur­ring there. 

We are at a piv­otal moment, and as musi­cians have done for gen­er­a­tions, we intend to use our art form to inspire action on a global scale.  Together with our fans we believe music can save mountains.

NRDC is truly honored to have so many amazing entertainers join our Music Saves Mountains initiative to end mountaintop removal coal mining.  Let them sing it from the mountaintop for all Americans to hear...and to act!

[UPDATE:  Read this excellent interview with Emmylou in Paste magazine, in which she says: "I think it's so important that we take up arms, in the sense of using our voices not just in song, but in speaking out against this, and just say, ‘This is our sacred ground, and we’re not going to stand for this.’”]