Heart of the Mountain

by Jeni & Billy

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Lauded roots singer and Jean Ritchie scholar, Susie Glaze, writes in her review of "Heart of the Mountain" for Folkworks, "During and after a good hearing of this great new CD project, you’ll feel like you’ve spent a fine long visit in the mountains with this family, remembering the generations, and that they’re all new friends of yours."

    Comes in a eco-friendly paper envelope with artwork by Jeni Hankins and her father, Greg Hankins. Includes CD with 27 tracks, fully illustrated lyric booklet, and a newspaper including the spoken word selections from the CD as well as a recipe for Aunt Erma's Gingerbread, poems, and essays.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Heart of the Mountain via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Full Digital Discography

    Get all 16 Jeni Hankins releases available on Bandcamp and save 20%.

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality downloads of Last Time I Changed These Strings, We'll Meet That Day – Single, Old Lady of Threadneedle Street, Pretty Back Then (Movie Mix), Goodnight, Tazewell Beauty Queen (Movie Mix), Homecoming Queen, The Oxygen Girl, Heart of the Mountain, and 8 more. , and , .

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1.
Mawmaw Ann 00:50
2.
The Heart of the Mountain © Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp, 2015 I stood down by the weigh station watched the coal trucks rumble in full of the heart of our mountain that won’t be coming back again Those dusty black diamonds Held the souls of every man Who cut them from the mountain that won’t be coming back again There ain't nothing in a rock  But the death of a thousand things Pressed on by the ages Pushed into a cold and lifeless dream We mine it, we crush it, we burn it up ’til it's nothing but a song  And the man moves the mountain ’til the heart of the mountain is gone I stood down by the weigh station the diesels humming like a friend the last day on my job that won’t be coming back again We all shook our heads ‘cause we knew we had reached the end the mountain was gone and it won’t be coming back again
3.
The Hum 03:53
They’ve taken all the coal. They’re taking all the gas. They’ve started on the timber And they tore down Betty’s house. They handed us a contract and a tidy little sum, then they brought their silver hammers, and they brought their endless hum. It used to be so quiet on our mountaintop. But now there is a hum, and the humming just won’t stop. That silver hammer keeps on pumping. It don’t mind what it’s done. It never knew the silence. It only knows the hum. You may hear thunder roll. You may hear lightning crack. You may hear the train a-comin’ down the railroad track. You may hear the people singing the devil and kingdom come, ain’t nothin’ meaner than that silver hammer’s hum. Make sure to read that paper ‘cause you’re signing it in blood. Those words that seem so quiet may be the ones that make the hum. It will come into your sleep. It will rattle in your brain. And once the hum starts humming it will never ever never ever never ever go away. © 2015 - Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp
4.
Mama, she told me, when she was a girl, Grandpa, he built them a windcharger that powered a bulb in the kitchen at night where they’d sit with their Bible to seek out the light. I hope I am fit for polishing stars. When my chance comes, I hope I am called. I’m practicing now inside my heart. I hope I am fit for polishing stars. Mama and I look up at the sky that sparkles and glitters on a mountain night. We follow the light of the satellites bright, spinning in wonder beneath the starlight. Once I asked Mama, “Where do we go when our bodies are gone and our breath is no more?” “If we are lucky, we go very far; we go to the heavens to polish the stars.”
5.
6.
Aunt Erma 04:47
Aunt Erma stands by the fence. Uncle Frazier rests his hand upon her shoulder – a picture of a pretty young girl who witnessed Grandad’s murder. Never saw the gun, just heard the shot that stopped a heart so fair, while Grandad fell like a mountain with the killer standing there. Aunt Erma sat in the car. Baby Charley pressed his face into her shoulder. She watched the killer flee the scene while Grandad just grew colder. She called for help, ran to his side, the neighbors heard her cry. While his blood made a shadow on the mountain, Aunt Erma said goodbye. Hundreds from the mountains, valleys rimmed with coal, came bearing flowers to sing Grandad home, on home, on home. Aunt Erma stands by the stove Baby Charley throws a smile over her shoulder – carmel sauce and gingerbread – our Charley’s one year older. I sift the flour, just like she said. She stirs the pot and laughs while spring winds her flowers ‘round the mountain and Grandma sits in black. Hundreds from the mountains, valleys rimmed with coal, came bearing flowers to sing Grandad home, on home, on home. Aunt Erma lies on the hill. Now Jesus wraps his arms around her shoulders – a miner’s wife, a little known life, so sweet and then it’s over. Her little white house, has gone to dust ‘neath the crawling vine, but our blood flows like coal through these mountains and I see her hand in mine. Hundreds from the mountains, valleys rimmed with coal, came bearing flowers to sing Grandad home, on home, on home. Kinfolk from the mountains, valleys rimmed with coal, came bearing flowers to sing Aunt Erma home, on home, on home, on Home.
7.
The mines, they call me from the deep. Underground, I am at peace. The noise surrounds me, engines turn. I set to work and my pick is sure. Some men, they see me and think I’m poor. My face is dirty and my clothes are worn. I have my work and I have a home — peas in my garden, honey on the comb. I have my honor. I have my wage. I have my pick and I have my spade. All my family’s gone to the coal. I am a miner. I’ve a miner’s soul. Some men they leap to the sky — like they were birds, like they could fly. But me, I dig down to the soul of a river of earth all washed with coal. © 2016 - Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp.
8.
Dearest Friend, My Eliza, With this note I send you my love. We’re stopping here to sleep. The boys are brave and upright. Not a coward here lies among, and we have enough to eat. Give my regards to your family, give my regards in town, send me a note if you can friend. I hang on your every word. Dearest Friend, My Eliza, With this note, I send you good cheer. Winter came too soon. The boys bear sickness so bravely, though our rations sure have grown thin. The bugler plays his tune. Give my regards to your family, give my regards in town, send me a note if you can friend. I hang on your every word. Forgive this trespass Eliza, With this note I send my regrets. Your Charley fell today. He fought the battle full bravely. I promised him I would write what falling he did say. Give my regards to your family, give my regards in town, say me a prayer, if you will friend. Eliza is my last word. © 2010, Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp.
9.
November Sky 00:40
10.
11.
12.
13.
Over the sink there’s a window that lets the light shine through. Over the window there’s a bluebird that sings a song for me and you. When the skies are gray and cloudy, the sun shines in your face. Though tomorrow may be stormy, your love makes a peaceful place. Over the door there’s a flower that blooms everyday of the year. Over the house is Heaven’s rainbow that keeps our love eternal here. When the skies are gray and cloudy, the sun shines in your face. Though tomorrow may be stormy, your love makes a peaceful place. Your love makes a peaceful place. © 2007, Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp.
14.
15.
For Dad & Uncle Tom. My brother and I, we slept in the basement, with the warm morning stove and ten quilts on the bed. Mawmaw, she slept in the room up above us, and the grate in the floor told her all that we said. We dreamed of cowboys and red fire engines and of building a still in the woods out back, ‘cause what was the use of all that book learning ‘cept to make corn liquor and play quarterback. My brother, I wish you warm mornings, may you walk in peace all the days of your life. At the very least, I wish you warm mornings. Goodnight, my brother. It’s me, goodnight. My brother, he broke my nose one summer playing like kids do. Mawmaw thought I was dead. I laid on the floor of the cool dark basement with the warm morning stove upside down in my head. My brother, he stayed on our couch for a while ’til he saved for his rent, when his job came through. Our kids sat with him in fuzzy pajamas eating Lucky Charms and watching cartoons. My brother and I, we grew up different even though, we grew up the same. Ain’t that the way with brothers or sisters? Sometimes all you share is part of your name. The warm morning stove rusts into the mountain, thrown over the hill with our corn liquor still. My brother and I, sometimes we go fishing, and Mawmaw, she listens from Calvary hill. © 2015 - Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp.
16.
Old Aunt Lou 02:52
Old Aunt Lou wore brogan shoes. One was brown and the other was blue. Danced all night ’til the sun peeked through. She's comin’ down the mountain right after you. Comin’ down, a-runnin’ down, comin' down, a-runnin’ down, comin’ down the mountain in her brogan shoes. Comin’ down, a-runnin’ down, comin' down, a-runnin’ down, comin' down the mountain right after you. Old Aunt Lou had a big tow sack. Moonshine jars rattled in the back. Dollar for a half-pint; two for two. She's comin’ down the mountain right after you. Old Aunt Lou made biscuits fat. Once at her table you’d always come back. Beans and taters and cornbread, too. She's comin’ down the mountain right after you. Old Aunt Lou had seven babes. Ninety-nine pounds was all she weighed. She was tougher than me or you. She's comin’ down the mountain right after you. Old Aunt Lou wore brogan shoes. One was brown and the other was blue. Danced all night ’til the sun peeked through. She's comin’ down the mountain right after you. © 2015 - Jeni Hankins & Greg Hankins.
17.
18.
I got a call on the banana phone. It was Mawmaw Margie in Heaven telling me things are just fine. She said “Everyone who's up here is looking for Elvis,” but she sees Jim Reeves all the time. Sometimes, they go for a picnic, and talk about baseball, and about her fear of flying. He said, “If I can, then you can.” And he took her by the hand, and they stepped out into the sky. She said, “Welcome to my world — what a long hard road it's been in a baby pink hairnet and a Mona Lisa grin. Four walls couldn't hold me. Girl, it's just like the Mormons told me. Up here in Heaven, it's Hollywood weather, and I'll never be on the blue side of lonesome again.” She said, “There's no dust in heaven, and it's such a relief.” She's never seen a vacuum or mop. But sometimes she misses Palmolive, the hot soapy water, and scrubbing the pans and pots. She and Marilyn Monroe once got to talking beneath an ancient yew about their short stays on earth, plastic fruit on their tables, and sometimes getting the blues. © 2014 - Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp.
19.
If you’re coming to say you’re leaving, don’t say anymore. ‘Cause lately I’ve had this feeling you were headed for the door. Your bags are packed and ready. No need for you to stay. If you’re coming to say you’re leaving, there’s nothing left to say. I know what they’ll be saying. They’ll say that you’re no good. They’ll say I’ll find another. Perhaps what they say is true, but when you’ve loved and when you’ve lost it’s hard to feel that way. Though they’ll fill my head with talkin’ there’s nothing left to say. If you’re coming to say you’re sorry, don’t say anymore. You’ll only cause me worry, and your sorry is just a word. I know you’ve found a new love, so don’t pretend that way. If you’re coming to say you’re sorry, there’s nothing left to say. © 2015 - Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp. Jeni Hankins, vocals, guitar.
20.
Oh, the Roses of California won't bring you home. George McClellan has a brand new car, and we're leaving the mountains for good. George has a job in Los Angeles. He says I'm made for Hollywood. I was never meant for a miner’s wife. George says I’m sure to go far. Mother stands in her kitchen door. George McClellan has a brand new car. There's never a cloud in Hollywood, just mountains of roses galore. Mother says they’ll not smell as sweet as the ones by her kitchen door. Oh, the roses of California won’t bring you home. George McClellen didn’t last three weeks at the Chrysler factory. The money's all gone, spent on drink, and the rent’s left up to me. Sister just stepped off the train, and lord what a twang when she speaks. Mother sent no word to me. George McClellen didn't last three weeks. George McClellan has up and gone, and sister’s in an awful mess. Baby's due in a few weeks time, and there’s nothing to be done, I guess. I wish I'd never seen that brand new car — never left mother alone. Sister and I are far from home. George McClellan has up and gone. No, the roses of California won’t take us home. © 2014 - Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp.
21.
Greg & Marcy 01:15
22.
Guilty 01:00
23.
Oh, I had a little boat. It was guaranteed to sail. It was guaranteed to sail, but I lost it one day. Oh, I had a little horse. He was guaranteed to ride. He was guaranteed to ride, but that horse rode away. Oh, I had a soldier boy. He was guaranteed to fight. He was guaranteed to fight, but I lost him one day. Oh, I had a little bird. She was a guaranteed to sing. She was a guaranteed to sing, but that bird flew away. Oh, I had a little love. It was guaranteed to last. I held my true love fast, but I lost it one day. Oh, I had a little boat, but that boat that could not fail set its little sail, and took my true love away. © 2015 Jeni Hankins, Billy Kemp, & Alfred Hickling
24.
Pretty Saro 02:11
When I first come to this country back in eighteen and forty nine I saw many fair lovers, but I never saw mine. I viewed all around me, ’til I found I was alone, and me a poor stranger and a long way from home. My true love she won't have me and this I understand. She wants a freeholder and I've got no land. But I can maintain her on silver and gold, and as many of the fine things that my love's house could hold. So fare you well to old father and fare you well to mother, too. I'm going for to ramble this wide world all through. And when I get weary, I'll sit down and cry, and I'll think of Pretty Saro, my darling, my dear. Traditional Arr. Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp.
25.
Wedding Song 04:02
I will marry him in the spring. I will marry him in the spring, and I shall have a crown of roses for my king. I will hear his knock upon my gate. I will hear his knock upon my gate, and I don’t fear his coming too early or too late. He will bring to me all he can. He will bring to me all he can, and it is more than will ever be wagered by a man. I will see him there by and by. I will see him there by and by, but I’ll have nothing to give for my dowry ‘cept my life when I take the hand of my bridegroom robed so white. No, I’ll have nothing to give for that dowry ‘cept my life. I will marry him in the spring. I will marry him in the spring, and I shall have a crown of roses for my king. © 2004, Jeni Hankins
26.
27.
Narcie Smith 01:43

about

A moonshining woman in brogans, a bored girl who goes across American with a no-good drunk, fracking, mountain-top removal, a woman who witnesses a murder, brothers parting, lovers in love, lovers parting, and lots of Heaven are what you'll find in this record.

This was the final album recorded and produced by the Appalachian Folk duo, Jeni & Billy. In the fall of in 2016, Jeni & Billy disbanded and since then have been pursuing solo careers and encouraging each other in their music.

This album chronicles the lives and deaths of 200 years of Jeni's family in Southwest Virginia through song, spoken word, and instrumentals. It is fitting that this is the last album that Jeni & Billy made with contributions from Jeni's father and mentor, Greg Hankins.

You can hear the voices of Jeni's great-grandmother, grandmother, father, mother, and sister who tell their own histories or read from newspaper accounts from 1936 when Jeni's great-great grandfather, John Rufus Smith, Justice of the Peace, was killed in the line of duty in cold blood at the end of the mountain road on Smith Ridge in Tazewell County where he lived.

Lauded roots singer and Jean Ritchie mentee, Susie Glaze, writes in her review of "Heart of the Mountain" for Folkworks, "During and after a good hearing of this great new CD project, you’ll feel like you’ve spent a fine long visit in the mountains with this family, remembering the generations, and that they’re all new friends of yours."

credits

released May 1, 2016

This album had many contributors including:
Jeni Hankins
Billy Kemp
Greg Hankins
Marcy Hankins
Sarah Hankins
Ann Shreve
Narcie Smith (posthumous)
Craig Eastman
Si McGrath
Neil Innes
Mark Walker
Lisa Mallaghan
Ed Hicken
Ira Gitlin
Karen Collins
Full and detailed credits are available in the booklet which comes with the physical CD

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Jeni Hankins London, UK

Jeni Hankins grew up in the coalfields of Appalachian in Southwest Virginia among a family of miners, moonshiners, and journalists. Her writing pulls the grit, gumption, and keen sense of observation out of that heritage like drawing water from her grandmother’s well.

In every song, Jeni’s “true sense of place shines through – old as the hills, but brand new at the same time.”
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