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Harlan County USA: Songs of the Coal Miner's Struggle

Various Artists

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Customer Reviews

If you like Appalachian music - this is something to add to your collection

This is an album grounded by Hazel Dickens (7 of 22 cuts). But it has a lot more - all of the songs are around a coal miner theme. It would be worth it simply to hear the several numbers by Dickens who has a wonderful Appalachian voice. But in addition to those songs (including one about the murder of Joseph Yablonski) you also get to hear Which Side are You On by Florence Reece - who was the lady who wrote it. I was not as satisfied with the track of Shut Up in the Mines of Coal Creek. When sung right, this song, about the Coal Creek mine disaster . There were actually three disasters named for Coal Creek - one in Canada in 1902 and one in Anderson County Tennessee in 1902 and then one in Cross Mountain in 1913. I am not sure which one of these is covered by the song. The 1902 one in Tennessee is the most likely because it followed the Coal Creek War - which is also written about. But the ballad is a haunting one. Tracy Schwarz has a much better version sung a capella. A lot of this genre of music is hard scrapple. But that reflects the conditions of the mines and the labor struggles of the era.


I am from a long line of West Virginia coalminers, so as soon as I saw Criterion Collection had remastered this documentary, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. True this all took place in Kentucky, but coalminers shared a nationwide bond. Upon watching it, I have been moved by not only the film, but the music as well. The music that captured the spirit, struggle & times of the Harlan County Strike as well as the spirit of the coalminers. I am also pleased that the music has been rereleased as a companion with the movie. Truly a moving & authentic collection.

Harlan County USA: Songs of the Coal Miner's Struggle
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Customer Ratings