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When you grow up in Appalachia, there’s this fatalistic ceiling just above your head beyond which your aspirations can never truly soar. Dream too big and you’ll just come crashing down. Happiness is fleeting and life will eventually grind you down. Those sentiments are the essence of a condition I call “The Appalachian Blues,” and I’ve been trying to outrun them my whole life.



Jeremy Chatzky: bass,

Kenny Soule: drums,

Eric “Roscoe” Ambel: dulcitar, electric guitars, lap steel, programming and harmony,

Erik Vincent Huey: Vocals 

The Appalachian Blues   


The ghosts they haunt these hills

You can hear ‘em in the twilight

Howlin’ when the

Working day is through  


It’s a lonesome mournful cry

Like a distant coal train whistle

Calling out to warn us

Bout the Appalachian Blues

(Beware of the Appalachian Blues)  


My daddy worked the mines

And I followed him down under

The foreman said

“Get used to the view”  


One day I’ll make it outta here

But every road I travel

Leads me right back to these hills

To sing the Appalachian Blues

(Just can’t escape these Appalachian Blues)  


The mountains here rise steep

So the darkness descends early

The tavern’s full Most every afternoon  

We’re all looking for deliverance

In the bottom of a bottle

Then we stagger through these hollers

Wrecked on Appalachian Blues

(We’re all wrecked now on the Appalachian Blues)  


There’s nothin’ left downtown

but churches, bars, and pawn shops

These creeks ain’t seen A fish since ’82  


A Creeker kid O.D.’d

That’s the third one since last summer

“One more victim” says the preacher

“Of the Appalachian Blues”

(We’re all victims of the Appalachian Blues)


Now they’re closing down the mines

And those jobs are gone forever

They said nothin’ ‘til we

Saw it on the news


As the last coal train leaves town

I can hear that grievous howlin’

As the ghosts dance in the tunnels

To the Appalachian Blues

(The ghosts dance to the Appalachian Blues)  


Now the ghosts dance in the tunnels

To the Appalachian Blues

(We’re all ghosts now with the Appalachian Blues)

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Workin’ summer days
Comin’ home late
I start my drinkin’
When the sun goes down

I gave up the brown liquor
For your brown eyes
It’s either love or the bottle
In a minin’ town
Your voice still echoes
Through the hollers at night
I remember the heat
Of your touch
And that night you told me
That I loved the bottle
Too much
To ever love you enough

Why Winona?
Why, why Winona?
Hey, I made a mistake
Why Winona?
Why, why Winona?

I’m wastin’ my nights
Just lyin’ awake
I tried to get you back
But you drifted away
Hey, Winona went away

Life’s been tough
Since you left me girl
The nighttime finds me
Drunk & lonely
Gonna give up the bottle

This time I swear
Come back and be
My one & only
Workin’ in the mines
Hey it’s a tough life
It ain’t too pretty
But it’s all I got and
You were the light of
In my darkest night
Now it’s all gone black
Have you forgotten?

Now I’m stuck in this burned-out town
Wish I never saw these hills
I took too many dead-end roads
I took too many pills
But in the hot West Virginia sun
You can still give me the chills
You drilled a hole in my soul
Only you can fill


I’d written this song along with my then-bandmate Tony Fuentes when I was in college. It

was about a guy who worked in the fields and a girl named “Juanita.” The jangle pop melody never left me, and I found myself humming it all these years later. When we were recording this record, we unearthed it to find that the muse/namesake of the song had changed her name to “Winona” and relocated to the coalfields of West Virginia!



Jeremy Chatzky: bass,

Kenny Soule: drums,

Eric “Roscoe” Ambel: electric guitars, baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, hand claps, harmonies, Erik Vincent Huey: vocal

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I wrote this song in 10 minutes one hungover morning in the San Jose Hotel in Austin, Texas. The whole thing just spilled out in its final form, and hasn’t changed since. Leonard Cohen once said “if I knew where good songs came from, I’d visit there more often.” This is one wellspring I’d love to tap into again.



Jeremy Chatzky: bass,

Kenny Soule: drums,

Roscoe: electric guitar, acoustic guitars, harmonies,

Neil Thomas: piano,

Cody Nilsen: steel guitar,

Erik Huey: vocal

You Can’t Drink All Day
(If You Don’t Drink in the Morning)   


You can't drink all day
If you don't drink in the mornin’

And it don't mean a thing
Unless you're drinkin’ all night long
Now you can start out nice and slow
But it will hit you without warnin’
I drink all day now
Like I'm in a country song

Now I'm no stranger to 
A little shot of whiskey
And it's rare that I turn
Down a glass of wine
But before you left
I never hit the bottle before noon
Now I start early
And don’t stop ‘til closin’ time


Sometimes you need a breakfast beer 
To take the edge off
And a couple more at lunch
To power through 
I’ll be buying rounds when the sun goes down
Thrown outta every bar in town
But I'll keep drinking
Til I drink my way back to you


To drink like this
Might seem a bit excessive

I’m told normal people
They don't live like this
But to hell with moderation
to drink all day takes dedication
Cuz if you're not wasted 
Then the day most surely is


I drink day now
Like I’m in country song
If you're not doin’ it all day
Then you're doing it all wrong

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Dear Dad  


When my dad walked out
I couldn’t wait
To never see him again
He taught me all about
What not to do
When I became a man
He beat me like a drum
And treated my mom
Just like a slave

Only gift he ever gave me
Was a lifetime full of rage


(He used to say)


“I’d rather kick your ass
Than kiss it”
He never took his shot
For fear he’d miss it
Even sober he was
Meaner than a snake


(He’d say)


“You play with fire,
That’s what you get”
I heard that sonofabitch
He ain’t dead yet
But when he goes
I’m pissin’ on his grave


He beat the draft in Vietnam
By getting’ Thrown in Jail
He bragged that Charlie

Couldn’t kill him

If he never made his bail
Swore the world
Was stacked against him
So he could

Never get ahead
So he spent
Every wakin’ hour
Draggin’ us down
With him instead




There are so many father-son songs that talk about the wisdom and lessons that singers learned from their fathers. That was not my lived experience. I suspect I’m not alone.


Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” always sounded like an honest dissection of father-son relationships, and I wanted to tap into that kind of honesty. But I wanted this one to have rock ‘n’ roll urgency.



Jeremy Chatzky: bass,

Kenny Soule: drums,

Eric “Roscoe” Ambel: guitars and harmonies,

Erik Vincent Huey: vocals

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There’s a great Willie Nelson quote about jukeboxes: “Ninety-nine percent of the world's lovers are not with their first choice. That's what makes the jukebox play.”


I wanted to write a 70s style country duet in the vein of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty or George Jones and Tammy Wynette that captured Willie’s sentiment. Laura Cantrell’s vocals take it to a whole new level. You can hear the teardrops splash in the whiskey glass when she sings.



Jeremy Chatzky: bass,

Kenny Soule: drums,

Eric “Roscoe” Ambel: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonies,

Rob Arthur: piano,

Laura Cantrell: vocal,

Erik Vincent Huey: vocal

That’s What Jukeboxes Are For   


As I sit here by the jukebox
There’s an angel spinning songs
That rain teardrops from her eyes
In a run-down honkey tonk

Playing singles, drinking doubles
One sad song at a time
I tell her that’s a lot of heartaches
For a dime

And she said:
"It was perfect til it wasn't
It was right til it went wrong
I's been said a thousand ways
Across a hundred thousand songs
“When someone's never comin’ back
And it makes you want 'em more
Oh baby
That's what jukeboxes are for"

Soon we’re dancing in the beer light

And she tells me her routine
C-20’s for the good times
A-11 kills the pain
B-17 still breaks her heart
Can’t play it to this day
She puts her sweet lips a little closer
And repeats her sad refrain

I hate to see your blue eyes crying
Cuz somebody done you wrong
You picked a bad time to be in love
Let me be your good time song

(She said)
“I’ll always be a one-man woman
One day he’ll come back for my hand
‘Til then I’ll be here at this jukebox
Singing ‘Stand by Your Man’”

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The Devil Is Here in These Hills


My great granddaddy
Came from County Cork
Into these hills
For an honest day’s work 
Sent down in the mines
With a pick and an axe

He went in pure
And he came out black
Worked six days a week
Only paid him four
So he went and burned down
Their company store
When he went on strike
They sent mine guards in
Killed my great granddaddy
And eight of his friends

The devil is here
(Deep underground)
The devil is here
(And he don’t make a sound)
The devil is here
(Way up in these hills)
If the work don't kill you
Being outta work will



“That’s it. That’s the sound of this whole project!” As soon as Eric Ambel played the opening riff on his Dulcitar, it was like a doorway opened that revealed the entire album. We were off and running.


This was the first song that Eric and I wrote for what we thought might grow into 2-3 songs that could be used in a soundtrack a future TV series based on historian James Greene’s incredible book about the WV Coal Mine Wars called “The Devil is Here in These Hills.”


“The first line of The Devil Is Here in These Hills is ‘My great-granddaddy came from County Cork, into these hills for an honest day’s work.’ And that’s exactly what happened—I am the son from four generations of Appalachian coal miners. I wrote this song before I’d even finished that book. So many immigrants from Ireland, Scotland, Italy and Eastern Europe—along with African-Americans from The South—came to mine coal in Appalachia, and this song is an attempt to tell their story and the story of the generations that followed in their footsteps.


This song is about the dignity of work and the American Dream, and having to fight—sometimes violently—to save both… while also saving yourself.


We’re still working on getting that television show made, but in the meantime, we’ve written an entire album!



Keith Christopher: bass,

Phil Cimino: drums and cowbell,

Eric “Roscoe” Ambel: dulcitar, electric 6 and 12 string guitars, vocals,

Erik Vincent Huey: vocals

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All the men in my family’s
Been miners since then
Matewan to Blair Mountain
Down to Cabin Creek Bend
Went down in the hole
When I turned twenty-one
Where the worth of a man
Gets weighed by the ton
Through black lung, cave-ins
And hundred year floods

We built this country
On iron and blood
We’d holler in the hollows
When the work whistle chimed
When it got unfair
We hit the picket line

Now I’m loading crates
At the Wal-Mart store
Guess the world don’t want
Our coal no more
Can’t take no pride
In the wage they pay
Take ten Percocet
Just to get through the day
We fought the mine owner
Who we gonna fight now?
In the new world order
We’re the new ghost town
No reason to stay
Nowhere to go next
Guess me and the devil
are the last ones left


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The Bride of Appalachia   


The setting of the sun
Paints the bleached bricks
Of the buildings orange
And at the end of the bar
Sits the Bride of Appalachia
Face rugged and steep like the
Walls of the holler
Dreams ground down or sheared off
Like mountain tops 
You go into any watering hole
Up and down this river
And you’ll find at least three people
With their heads down on the bar
Doesn’t matter what time of day
The local boys joke
More tattoos than teeth
But they don’t know the half of it
Everyone’s talking about
The mines opening up
Coal: It was always a bad deal
And it’s only gotten worse
Opioids and corn squeezins
They’re the only bridge
Outta here on most days
All these forgotten people

In these burned-out towns
We’re just some politician’s data point
The inner city gets all the headlines
But they’ve got nothing on us
When it comes to desolation
The lost and the lonesome
And the lovelorn
Gathering by the jukebox
The only future in here
Is the past
Everyone around here has a date
The date they coulda gotten out of here
But didn’t
Talk to anyone in here
Talk to them for a half hour
They’ll tell you all about it…

She and I met at the Jacktown Fair
By the Himalayan ride
There was this Carnie
Built like chain-smoker
Taunting the crowd
Between Billy Squire songs
“Did someone say go backwards?”
She and I used to go up
Into the hills
Spyin’ for shooting stars
There was nary a soul around
There was this hidden little creek
We called “Buttermilk”
With a waterfall we could hide behind

She used to sneak out
Of her Mother’s house at midnight
With a flashlight
To signal me
And I’d stand along the railroad tracks
Staring into the distance
Waiting for a sign
Nearly twenty years back now
I don’t pay it no never mind
On most nights
But it creeps into your thoughts
A little too often these days
Now it’s just lead in the water
And devils in the hills
And nothing changes
Unil it does
I put down my money
And take a last drink
And head out into the evening
Twilight paints
The hilltops purple
As the sidewalk ends
At the water’s edge
As the moon rises and
I find myself down
At the railroad tracks again
Staring into the distance
Looking for a sign


Some of my favorite Tom Waits songs are his spoken word pieces. “Frank’s Wild Years” was the first song of his I ever heard and it stopped me in my tracks. Morgantown, WV has an incredible college radio station, and I immediately called it to find out more.


When I “field tested” the record for my West Virginia friends, I was most nervous about them hearing this song. To my surprise, they thought it was “pretty goddamn accurate.” Eric Ambel’s dulcitar and harmonium are haunting. This song was intended to be an instrumental for the TV series based on the Devil in These Hills book.


Performers: Eric “Roscoe” Ambel: dulcitar, harmonium and cajon Erik Vincent Huey: spoken word

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A Heart Disease Called Love

(John Cooper Clarke)

One kiss became a weapon
And I don't want to bleed in vain
Clouds collide up in the heavens
I surrender to the rain

The death bells that also rang
Like madness from above
I'm going out with a bang
And a heart disease called love

Ninety-nine, below zero
Would seem like fever now
You know me... I’m no hero
Don't even ask me how

I'm down in the deep deep freeze
What was I thinking of...
In the painful breeze
By the frozen trees
With a heart disease called love

After dinner. Drinks. A new lover
With the Guinness so bitter and black
Your fingerprints, they cover
This knife sticking out of my back

You overlooked the fine details
You shoulda worn your gloves
Now I've got a girl in jail,
and a house for sale
And a heart disease called love


I remember hearing Miracle Legion’s cover of this John Cooper Clarke classic on college radio and being mesmerized. I thought it was the greatest title for a country song ever! For some reason, when we recorded it, it wasn’t twangy at all, and sounds to me like Bruce Springsteen fronting The Ramones. I’ve been a lifelong fan of Steve Berlin’s sax playing back to early Blasters and Los Lobos. It was a true honor to have him play on my album.



Jeremy Chatzky: bass,

Kenny Soule: drums,

Eric “Roscoe” Huey: electric, acoustic guitar and piano,

Steve Berlin: baritone saxophone,

Erik Vincent Huey: vocals

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During the pandemic, I drove through the Mississippi Delta along the Blues Trail to Robert Johnson’s grave. Along the way, I stopped at William Faulkner’s house in Oxford and was struck by the fact that these two men, both of whom changed the course of 20th Century writing (music and fiction), lived so close to one another and were producing their best work at the exact same time.


So I imagined Johnson the troubadour as a Faulknerian drifter, going from town to town, resentful at being spurned as an outsider everywhere he went. So, naturally, he took to burning things down.


When I reset the tale in “Bloody Mingo” County West Virginia, it took on an even more gothic tone. You can’t have an album set in Appalachia without a murder ballad on it. In this case, it’s a mass murder ballad. Eric Ambel’s eerie Ennio Morricone guitar and “Jordanaires” 3-part harmonies add the perfect musical accompaniment.



Jeremy Chatzky: bass,

Kenny Soule: drums,

Roscoe: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, lap steel, organ and harmonies,

Erik: Vocal

Death County   


From Mingo to Death County
Folks been looking at me strange
Cross the street just to avoid me
Or they cast away their gaze
I am everywhere but nowhere
As I roam this wretched land
Guided only by the fire
And the trail of the lawman

They call me “Drifter”
Sometimes worse
But I got a name
It ain’t a curse
Been hard done by
And beaten down
They will remember
My name now

As I wander into Bluefield
They’re so pious and so vain
From the train tracks to the chapel
They all greet me with disdain  
For the wicked and self-righteous
There will come a reckonin’
I got the burnin’ deep inside me
And it beckons me again



People down in Bluefield
Won’t be judging me no more
Since I took this tin of kerosene
From behind the hardware store
As they gather for the service
And the evening turns to night
I calmly bolt the doors
And cast this town into the light

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