Film Clip Friday: Miners’ Hymns

This film Clip Friday we feature a 2010 film commissioned by The British Film Institute (BFI). The BFI invited American Filmmaker Bill Morrison to sort through their archives of coal mining films. Morrison then collaborated with Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson to create a soundtrack that helps provide a dramatic structure for the film. The Miners’ Hymns uses historic footage to illustrate the history of mining in the coalfields around Durham England. While the film has received plenty of critical acclaim, it has not been widely distributed. The Miners’ Hymns by Bill Morrisson

Music Monday: Nine Pound Hammer

For this week’s Music Monday post, we feature legendary Kentucky guitarist Merle Travis performing his arrangement of the traditional song “Nine Pound Hammer”. Travis’s version of “Nine Pound Hammer” shares verses with the song “Take This Hammer”. Folklorists trace the roots of this song to African American work songs sung by sharecroppers and railroad workers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Versions have been recorded by blues musicians such as Mississippi John Hurt and Taj Mahal as well as blue grass musician such as Bill Monroe. Travis adapted Nine Pound Hammer to reflect his roots in a coal mining community. The following video clip features Travis performing the song in 1951. Merle Travis, Nine Pound Hammer

Film Clip Friday: Coal Miner’s Daughter

This Film Clip Friday we feature Coal Miner’s Daughter, director Michael Apted’s feature film based on the life country singer Loretta Lynn. The film was released March 7, 1980. Much of the film was shot on location in the eastern Kentucky coalfields that were home to Loretta Lynn, and actress Sissy Spacek won the academy award for her portrayal of the country superstar. Film critic Roger Ebert wrote: “What’s refreshing about “Coal Miner’s Daughter” is that it takes the basic material (rags to riches, overnight success, the onstage breakdown, and, of course, the big comeback) and relates them in wonderfully human terms. It’s fresh and immediate.” A trailer for the film is featured below: Coal Miner’s Daughter

Music Monday: 42 Years

This week’s Music Monday post features Appalachian coal miner, ballad singer, and trade unionist Nimrod Workman performing an original ballad titled “42 Years.” The song describes Workman’s career in the coal mines, including his struggles with black lung disease. This clip is from Barbara Kopple’s documentary Harlan County, USA, but the original sound recording of Nimrod workman singing 42 Years was released on June Appal records in 1974 and a film about his life was released by Appalshop films the following year. Nimrod Workman, 42 years