Jewell Ridge Coal

by Jeni & Billy

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  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Jewell Ridge Coal is steeped in the traditions of the mine and the families whose lives depended on them. The production is simple and uncluttered; the lead instrument is clearly the voice of Jeni, for whom these songs are like members of the family.
    – Wayne Winkler, Now & Then: The Journal of Appalachian Culture

    Jewell Ridge Coal is the best CD by folk, edge of bluegrass artists I've heard in a long time. Jeni's singing sounds to me like a cross between the young Hazel Dickens and Iris Dement. The songs range from raw and powerful to sweet and funny. The instrumental work is excellent and the harmony is just what you'd want it to be." – Si Kahn, Songwriter and Activist

    A six panel eco-friendly wallet, designed by Jeni and her father, Greg Hankins, featuring photos from Jewell Ridge and the Smith Family archives. A 16-page booklet includes all lyrics and credits — plus more photos of Jewell Ridge. The envelope also includes a souvenir postcard.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Jewell Ridge Coal via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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    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.
Miner’s Reward with respect for the witness of Nimrod Workman and the work of Barbara Kopple I ain’t seen the sun in many long days. Get up in the dark and go home that-a-way. ‘Cept Sunday, thank God, when my work is all done. I wake in the morn to the light of the sun. My God, He is mighty, as Exodus says. My God, He is humble — for me He chose death. Though death will not spare me, I’ll fear not the grave. No mines up in Heaven, just sunshine in spades. No, I ain’t seen the sun in many long days, but I’ll see my reward in Heaven some day. Yes, I’ll see my reward in Heaven some day. © 2007 Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp, BMI
2.
The Tazewell Beauty Queen for Roy Lee If you don’t mind the low seam, and if you don’t mind the dark, if you don’t mind the black face that is every miner’s mark, you can make a fortune and you can buy a dream — go cruisin’ in a Chevy with the Tazewell Beauty Queen. If you don’t mind the short fuse, and if you don’t mind the smell, if you don’t mind a summer in a place as black as hell, you can make a fortune and you can buy a dream — go cruisin’ in a Chevy with the Tazewell Beauty Queen. If you will make a gamble, if you will bet your skin, you can get your wish in tires and chrome and fins. You can make a fortune and you can buy a dream — go cruisin’ in a Chevy with the Tazewell Beauty Queen. If you will make a gamble, if you will bet your skin, you can get your wish in tires and chrome and fins. You can make a fortune and you can buy a dream — go cruisin’ in a Chevy with the Tazewell Beauty Queen. You might be dusty now, but you’ll be coming up so clean — just a’drivin’ in that Chevy with your Tazewell Beauty Queen. © 2007 Jeni Hankins, BMI
3.
Local 6167 05:38
Local 6167 Well I’ll go down to Coaldan and I’ll lay on the tracks and I’ll listen to the rails that stopped talking back. Or I’ll go down to Richlands to a Blue Tornados game and I’ll look for the old-timers and ask them their names. Did you know Hankins in the UMWA? Were you there when Meadows got his black lung pay? There used to be a train that hauled this coal away back when John L. Lewis paved the miner’s way. Now there’s just a strike shack fallen to disrepair and if you go down to the coalfields, well there ain’t no miners there. I’ll go across to Smith Ridge to the Friendly Chapel Church and I’ll ask the good women there to help me keep my shirt. They’re bound to have some dinner there or a pack of cigarettes. I’ll take their religion if that is all I can get. They tell me that Jesus is for the UMWA and it don’t mean nothing what the politicians say. There used to be a train that hauled this coal away back when John L. Lewis paved the miner’s way. Now there’s just a strike shack fallen to disrepair and if you go down to the coalfields, well there ain’t no miners there. John Lewis called the mines a blood and bones machine that grinds up the miner for the American Dream. Now the Company’s got machines that’ll mine for the coal and they don’t need us miners to go down in that hole. Well God bless Jewell Ridge and the UMWA and God bless the miner who has seen his day. There used to be a train that hauled this coal away back when John L. Lewis paved the miner’s way. Now there’s just a strike shack fallen to disrepair and if you go down to the coalfields, well there ain’t no miners there. © 2004 Jeni Hankins, BMI
4.
Oxycodone 03:23
Oxycodone thanks to Nick Miroff for Jeff Trapp & Jeff Vandyke As I tip up my white paper cup, I think on what Daddy once said, “If you go along, to get along, Son, you’d be better off dead.” But the methadone seeps in my bones and Daddy, he loses his hold. A twelve dollar fix, the methadone clicks, and, then, it’s down to the coal. Down in the cave, ain’t nobody saved from fear it’ll be their last time. Daddy once said, “Son, keep your head, ‘cause life, it can turn on a dime. Son, just look at mine.” A mobile home, disconnected phone, a fortune shot up my veins. It’s three a.m., to the clinic again, the county says “its a shame.” Oxycodone has wrecked my home and I ain’t seen Daddy for years. Our last goodbye, I was high and Daddy was fightin’ back tears. Down in the cave, ain’t nobody saved from fear it’ll be their last time. Daddy once said, “Son, keep your head, ‘cause life, it can turn on a dime. Son, just look at mine.” Daddy once said, “Son, keep your head, ‘cause life, it can turn on a dime. Son, just look at mine.” © 2008 Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp, BMI
5.
Jewell Ridge Coal For Narcie Daddy had something he could never hold and he’d lost it down in that Jewell Ridge coal. Mama said, “Daddy, can’t you let it go?” But he kept on digging that Jewell Ridge coal. Our reward’s in Heaven, it sure ain’t below. No, there ain’t no diamonds in that Jewell Ridge coal. Sister wanted someone to have and to hold. So, she married right into that Jewell Ridge coal. Mama said, “Baby, can’t you let him go?” But she wrapped her arms around that Jewell Ridge coal. Our reward’s in Heaven, it sure ain’t below. No, there ain’t no diamonds in that Jewell Ridge coal. Well we all want something we can never hold. And we keep on digging like to save our soul. But there ain’t no light in a pitch black hole. No, nothing’s shining down in that coal. Mama loved something she could never hold. Ashes and dust ‘neath that Jewell Ridge coal. Mama said, “Lordy, I just can’t let go, since we lost Daddy to that Jewell Ridge coal.” Our reward’s in Heaven it sure ain’t below. No, there ain’t no diamonds in that Jewell Ridge coal. © 2004 Jeni Hankins, BMI
6.
Sweetness Keen as Pain for Edith She kissed me down at the county fair and I paid her a dollar just to kiss me again. I heard she saves all her money for fancy clothes to catch the eye of wealthy men. And I can’t get enough of that Jewell Ridge Girl. Over my heart she reigns. From that coal black jewel all the sweetness I knew was a sweetness as keen as pain. I told her that I was a medical man, but I don’t know nothing but the coal. When her sister told her, she got so mad the fire in her eyes was a sight to behold. And I can’t get enough of that Jewell Ridge Girl. Over my heart she reigns. From that coal black jewel all the sweetness I knew was a sweetness as keen as pain. I heard she’s a-working at the company store. She swore she’d kill me if I came round her place. But she gives me a pain right down in my soul and I’m willin’ to die just to see her face. And I can’t get enough of that Jewell Ridge Girl. Over my heart she reigns. From that coal black jewel all the sweetness I knew was a sweetness as keen as pain. © 2005 Jeni Hankins, BMI
7.
Middle Creek 04:43
Middle Creek for Marcella Grandpa Babe died while he was shaving. Took ‘em three days before they found him out in the cabin where he lived up on Middle Creek where the flies swarmed around his mouth. The day he died was twenty years since the fire that took Mildred, Vicey, and little James, and Brenda, and Franklin there beside them. They say, since then he weren’t the same. And it’s hot, yes, it’s hot up on Middle Creek, where peace comes slow to the wicked. And it’s cool, yes, it’s cool under the cedar trees, where the branches brush the grave of Grandpa Babe. He grew corn to make his moonshine. Mildred kept a garden out back of the house. He sold timber off the land and did some trading. He and Mildred held the place somehow. The Old Regulars, they spoke of retribution at the little church to which he never came. And they prayed, yes they prayed for his salvation — that he’d burn his still house down and praise Jesus’ name. And it’s hot, yes, it’s hot up on Middle Creek, where peace comes slow to the wicked. And it’s cool, yes, it’s cool under the cedar trees, where the branches brush the grave of Grandpa Babe. Some folks called him good for nothing. Some say he was just broke. But on that last day with his hand on the razor, I wonder did he smell smoke? I wonder did he call to Heaven? Did Mildred hear her name? And when his heart seized up on him, did he see Mildred and the children, in Jesus’ name, through the flames? And it’s hot, yes, it’s hot up on Middle Creek, where peace comes slow to the wicked. And it’s cool, yes, it’s cool under the cedar trees, where the branches brush the grave of Grandpa Babe. © 2003 Jeni Hankins, 2007 Billy Kemp, BMI
8.
Chicken Ridge for Mister Kyle Goin’ up Chicken Ridge — don’t you wanna go? If you’ve a notion we could do-si-do. Curves on Chicken Ridge, kissin’ back to back, make a crooked road and there ain’t no turnin’ back. Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Don’t you wanna go? There ain’t no shoulders, ain’t no lines, just a little mule road cut between the mines. Houses up on Chicken Ridge, lonesome and squat, left by the miners the company forgot. Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Don’t you wanna go? The top of the world is closer than you know. Take my hand, we’ll catch a cloud and go. Up that windy road we’ll spin from ear to ear and find ourselves in that high atmosphere. Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Goin’ up Chicken Ridge Don’t you wanna go? © 2007 Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp, BMI
9.
Land of the Pharaohs to Hazel Dickens, for paving the way In the land of the Pharaohs the coal boss is king and he wagers the sun’s but a trifling thing. In his dreams he reckons he’ll mine it someday and harness the power of the whole Milky Way. Go down Moses, down to Pharaoh’s land, and preach your gospel, the Judgement’s at hand. Though the good times are past, though the boss does his worst, when we all get to Heaven the last shall be first. In the land of the Pharaohs a miner ain’t but a slave who risks life and limb for a poor beggar’s wage. And if he complains or brings the Union around, the thugs and the Pinkertons beat him back down. Go down John L., down to Pharaoh’s land and shout your gospel, the Judgement’s at hand. Though the good times are past, though the boss does his worst, when we all get to Heaven the last shall be first. Well, the land of the Pharaohs is a rich man’s dream filled with Carnegie steel and Ford’s factories and the B & Q mine where a man is so small that the world don’t notice when black lung comes to call. Go down Woody, down to Pharaoh’s land and sing your gospel, the Judgement’s at hand. Though the good times are past, though the boss does his worst, when we all get to Heaven the last shall be first. © 2005 Jeni Hankins, BMI
10.
Ain't Got Time for Trouble Blues Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you this morn. Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you this morn. You better move on down the line. To the twenty-inch coal I’m sworn. Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you today. Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you today. You better move on down the line. Gotta work to make my pay. Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you tonight. Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you tonight. You better move on down the line. Gotta squeeze my honey tight. Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you no more. Trouble, Oh trouble, Ain’t got time for you no more. If you don’t move on down the line, Gonna throw you out my door. © 2007 Jeni Hankins & Billy Kemp, BMI

about

Jewell Ridge is a coal camp in Southwest Virginia right up against the West Virginia border. I do not know the future of Jewell Ridge, but I can tell you something about its past — and about its present. It was courted by the coal companies up through the 1950s only to be forgotten when the price of coal fell, left with a legacy of black lung, poverty, and drug addiction, to find its own path among the slate dumps and the cinders.

Today, the camp is full of cars, dogs, and kids on bicycles with cap guns and Barbies.

Parents drive an hour each way to make car parts or work down in Richlands doing hair or tagging clothes at Magic Mart. Old-timers sit on front porches with the jobless and displaced, smoking or rubbing their hands together, remembering. On Sundays, the faithful gather in little churches strung across the ridges, to be washed in the blood and speak in tongues of fire. And there they find hope.

Jewell Ridge has been part of my life ever since I had life in me. During summer and Christmas breaks my sister and I would go up there and stay with MawMaw on Smith Ridge. We watched soap operas with our great-grandmother on the TV, but the “stories” could hardly compare to the dramas that unfolded in the family — divorce, untimely death, prison, wrecks, and unemployment.

Still, the folks on TV didn’t have as much fun as we did: backyard weddings, trips to the lake and the beach, Vacation Bible School, Fourth of July parades, climbing apple trees, and making sea foam candy.

Without Jewell Ridge I don’t know if I would have ever written a song. People up there seem to live between the extremes of joy and despair, with a love so fierce and determined it’s almost dangerous. These are the kind of stories you’ll hear on this record.

It seems to me I’ve been called to tell about this place, though I am myself a rank stranger there. I hope the good people of Jewell Ridge will forgive my trespasses.

I love them and pray God will bless them.

Welcome to Jewell Ridge.

– Jeni Hankins, 2008

credits

released January 1, 2008

Jewell Ridge Coal

JENI: Vocals & Guitar • BILLY: Vocals, Guitar, Banjo, & Harmonica

Jim Lauderdale: Harmony vocal on track 6 • Randy Kohrs: Harmony vocal on track 9

Shad Cobb: Fiddle on tracks 1 & 4 • Kim Peery Sherman: Harmony vocal & guitar on track 2

Jim Lauderdale appears courtesy of Yep Roc Records

All songs written by Jeni except 1, 4, 7, 8, & 10 written by Jeni & Billy

All Songs © Jeni Hankins/Lulu Wall Music, BMI & Billy Kemp/Franklin Morris Music, BMI

All tracks produced by Jeni & Billy except tracks 3 & 6 produced with Bil VornDick

All tracks recorded in Nashville at Big Grey by Billy & Jeni, except tracks 3 & 6 recorded by Bil VornDick at Ocean Way Nashville. Ocean Way Second Engineers were Bryan Graban and Steve Crowder, with Assistant Engineers, Brenton Stanley and Rudy Martinez

Mixed by Billy Kemp at BIg Grey • Mastered by Jim DeMain

Photos of Jeni & Billy by Kim Peery Sherman. Overleaf photo of Jewell Ridge Camp house by Jeni

Art direction by Jeni Hankins & Greg Hankins

Thanks to Jim Lauderdale for welcoming us to Nashville, for your encouragement, & for The King of Broken Hearts; Shad Cobb for your fine ear & old time tunings; Kim Peery Sherman for making us look like movie stars, for your friendship, & for soup; Randy Kohrs for sharing your high tenor & studio savvy; Darcy Cotten for your spunk & support; Jim Reilley for bringing us under the big top; Buddy Miller foryour counsel & willingness; Gary Paczosa for saving the day; Bil & Patricia VornDick for your hospitality & magic beans; Kathy Chiavola for breathing with us; Dirk Powell for leading the way; Rebecca Hall & Ken Anderson for forging the path; Stuart Saunders Smith for the New Music; Matt Kinman for traveling with us a while; Andrew & Jim at Cotten Music in Nashville for always fixing us up; Brenton Stanley for your sound advice; Andrea Beaudet at Hillsboro House for soft pillows & a warm cup of tea; Glenda & all of the Client Services folks at Ocean Way; and Danna Strong at the Americana Music Association

Thanks to the Avery & Narcie Smith family, the Hankins family, and the Kemps

A special thanks to Happy Hank for honey, hot peppers, and harmonica

A very special thanks to Mawmaw, who’s always glad to see us
and keeps a sherbet cake for us in the icebox

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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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