In Harlan County, there’s a place known as Pine Mountain. It’s not a peak like you might picture, rather it’s a 125 mile stretch of forested land along a ridgeline. It runs from Tennessee through southeastern Kentucky and up to Virginia.
In a nearly hundred- year- old chapel there on the grounds of Pine Mountain Settlement School, 44 Kentucky artists, at different times during 2017-2018, shared music and poetry produced into a 2- set album by singer/songwriter Daniel Martin Moore.
”The album itself was just an opportunity to make some art with extraordinary artists in an extraordinary place and to celebrate that place and hopefully bring other people to that place,” he said.
Proceeds from the project are being donated to two non-profits. Pine Mountain Settlement School is a National Historic Landmark where people come to learn about Appalachian culture and the environment and the Kentucky Natural Lands Trust is an organization that works to protect, restore and connect Kentucky wildlands. Moore’s passion for Pine Mountain inspired the Pine Mountain Sessions project.
“ There are giant chunks of land on that mountain that have never been destroyed by humans. The old trees are still there. Those ancient ecosystems are intact. In this point in human history, in the history of the earth, that’s an extraordinary thing, it’s very unusual , ”he said.
Since 1995 the primary work of Kentucky Natural Lands Trust has been focused on far southeastern Kentucky and Pine Mountain according to Greg Abernathy, executive director of the Berea-based organization. He said funds raised through the Pine Mountain Sessions project will help the land trust with its mission of buying and protecting land on Pine Mountain, which sits in central Appalachia.
Abernathy called Pine Mountain “one of the most biologically diverse places in the state.” He said, “It’s home to species that are found nowhere else on the entire planet that occur in some of the caves on Pine Mountain. In the temperate zone, this is the second most diverse forest you find on the planet.”
Martin Moore proposed the project in 2017, said Abernathy, and started inviting artists to Pine Mountain to record. Listening to all of the tracks of the Pine Mountain Sessions project was emotional for Abernathy.
Abernathy thinks the project is leveraging the intersection of art and conservation to help advance the work the land trust is doing on Pine Mountain.
”I think Daniel’s work is an incredible example of just how powerful those two realms and spaces can collaborate and work together for a greater good and greater change,” he said.
The CD and double LP contain 25 tracks. On the digital version of the album, there are an additional 19 tracks. Musicians like Jim James of My Morning Jacket, the band, the Other Years as well as Joan Shelly, and Ben Sollee contributed to the project. Writers such as Wendell Berry, Silas House, bell hooks and Rebecca Gayle Howell also contributed.
Rebecca Gayle Howell refers to Pine Mountain as one of the sacred grounds in the Commonwealth for anyone who thinks about land and the corporate interference with it. Howell was honored to be part of the project and felt fortunate to share her work in the chapel.
“The chapel is extraordinary. It’s one of those spaces that you walk into and you know you’re in a holy place,” she said.
Almost all the performances for Pine Mountain Sessions were recorded in the chapel. Daniel Martin Moore said while recording the performers, one of his goals was to help them feel totally unencumbered so they could sing out into the space.
He was moved to tears on multiple occasions at the artistry of it and the beauty of it.
The Pine Mountain Sessions album is scheduled to be released at the end of July.
As part of the roll-out of the project, a series of live performances are expected to be held across the state this year and part of next.
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Contact: Cheri Lawson at email@example.com
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