In JohnJosMiller by JohnJosMiller0 Comments


I find myself in a familiar position. Short for time and quite peeved (The “short for time” part is too complex to go into; the “peeved” is because I just got a ticket for not wearing my seatbelt while I was on a death-defying two mile drive to the post office. Not only that, as the citation notes, traffic was light and weather was clear. Oh yes, the road was also dry. As I was leaving the parking lot I’d gone into when the cop pulled me over, I saw him, not thirty seconds later, pulling someone else over. Clearly, the city is short of money. Apparently, also, I have to go to traffic court to deal with this heinous crime. That’ll be another day of my life I’ll never get back, not to mention the hundred bucks or so. I’ve got my chief minion looking into whether or not we can just mail them their blackmail money.), so I’m going to pull a fast one and put up something I was saving in reserve. IE, a post on the number one song on my iPod.

Loyal readers might remember that I was running a contest for a free book regarding this. Though I managed to stick in one clue (to this admittedly hard contest) in my previous post, no one saw fit to enter even the wildest guess, so NO ONE GETS A FREE BOOK. I’m that peeved. Sorry to take it out on my loyal readers, but I wasn’t going to wrestle the cop in the parking lot over the ticket, so someone has to pay for my annoyance, and better you-all than me taking it out on Skippy. Or Hamish. Or Khyber. Or any of the cats.

Anyway, the song is called “The Mountain,” and it is the best goddamned coal-mining song ever written. And there’s a ton (or maybe a ton and a half) really good coal mining songs (my previous favorite being Billy Ed Wheeler’s “Coal Tattoo,” which is also pretty goddamned great). As some of you may know, my long-anticipated novel (by me, anyway) BLACK TRAIN COMING is set in the West Virginia coalfields of 1921, and whenever I get stuck I just put “The Mountain” on repeat and it never fails to inspire.

The version on my iPod is from Levon Helm’s DIRT FARMER, the comeback CD which he released after his recovery from throat cancer. I couldn’t find any videos of him doing the song live, which is a shame, but this one with accompanying photos is not without interest. Check it out. The last two lines deliver a blow to the solar plexus powerful enough to paralyze anyone.

The song was written by Steve Earle. Here’s a live version of it with just Steve and his guitar. Also quite incredible, but I like the Levon Helm version just a tad better because he ends the song at a better place.

I didn’t bother to write down the lyrics because I find them pretty self-evident, but if anyone’s having trouble making them out, let me know and I’ll post them. They’re so good they deserve to be understood.

Speaking of BLACK TRAIN. I’m not terribly close to being done (another couple of three months should do it), but I’ve got some good bits that stand up pretty well on their own (some of you loyal readers might have actually heard me read parts of it). I’ll start posting some if there’s interest.

Enjoy the videos.

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