The Appalachians – various artists
Dualtone Records 80302-01201-2
In college, I took a literature class called "Ballads and Blues," which documented the history of song. The professor would play the songs on a tape recorder and we would have a discussion about the tune after listening to each track. I heard a lot of folk tunes, workingman ballads, and even prison songs. Listening to the soundtrack to The Appalachians, the TV movie that documented the mountains’ history and people, reminded me a lot of that class.
For most of the album, the lyrics are a poignant reminder of the development of the land. These people didn't have TV, radio, or the Internet to keep them entertained. They had to creatively pass the time and keep themselves amused, and they did it with folk ballads — this led to songs about the workday, slavery, money worries, alcohol, and nature. Most of these songs were recorded long ago; their original singers have since passed on. That being said, the quality of the recordings is a little poor at times, but lends to the overall feel of the soundtrack.
It's a lengthy album — 22 tracks in all — with some amazing talent. June Carter Cash, the Osborne Brothers, the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and Mac Wiseman, among others, make appearances. The Applications not only helps tell the story of the land via the music, it tells the history of music via the music. The mountain ballads and folk tunes, such as Jimmie Rodgers’ "Waiting for a Train," have given way to what we know today as country or bluegrass music.
Though the culmination of songs does indeed help tell the story of The Appalachians, it is a little hard to swallow on its own. While our grandparents can listen to it with fondness and reminisce, most of the current generation may not have the attention span to take it all in.