FolkWorld #78 07/2022
© Mountain Home Music Company

Across the Western Ocean

There goes the timber train...

Carley Arrowood

Artist Video Carley Arrowood

Songs That Made History: Bluegrass At The Crossroads’ “Timber Train” relates a powerful tale.

Bluegrass at the Crossroads, the collaborative sessions series that earned a quintet of Crossroads Label Group artists a 2021 IBMA Instrumental Recording of the Year award for “Ground Speed,” now releases “Timber Train,” a powerful tale of a Gilded Age logging boom’s impact on western North Carolina.

Written by Thomm Jutz, Charley Stefl and series producer Jon Weisberger — a team that includes two IBMA Songwriters of the Year — “Timber Train” features a broad-ranging group of musicians that includes legendary, award-winning banjo player Sammy Shelor, Mountain Home recording artist Carley Arrowood (fiddle, harmony vocals), acclaimed mandolinist Wayne Benson (Benson, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out), the GRAMMY-winning Infamous Stringdusters’ Travis Book (bass, harmony vocals), guitarist Joe Cicero (Fireside Collective) and a soulful, heartfelt lead vocal from Zoe & Cloyd’s John Cloyd Miller.

The song begins with a bluesy, modal figure from fiddle, banjo and mandolin over an insistently swaying rhythm section before diving into its revelatory, scene-setting chorus:

"Hear the ringing of the axe, the rattle of the logging chain
The whistle blowing down the tracks, hauling off the forest on the train 
There goes the timber train"

Zoe & Cloyd

Artist Video Zoe & Cloyd

From there, three tightly-rhymed verses offer vivid descriptions of hard, dangerous work and environmental despoliation that bring to mind he rich vein of bluegrass songs that runs through songs like “Paradise” and “Aragon Mill,” building on the legacy of artists like Bluegrass Hall of Famers Hazel & Alice.

"'Timber Train' is a commentary on unchecked resource extraction policies that emerged in the Colonial Era and continue in some industries even to this day,” says Miller. “The Southern Appalachian logging boom began in earnest in the 1880s and continued through the 1920s, with extensive environmental and social impacts on the region. Outside timber barons would often ‘cut and run’ with little regard for local communities or conservation efforts. Let us hope that we can continue to value our shared heritage over short-term financial gain for the few.”

Listen to "Timber Train" HERE.

About Bluegrass at the Crossroads

A musical cauldron of distinctively American contributions largely rooted in the rural south, bluegrass has taken on a new identity in recent years, as new times and new musicians have naturally incorporated the sounds around them in every part of the country — and even the world. At the same time, an indispensable musical core has persevered, finding ever-changing ways to create performances that cause everyone familiar with the genre to say, “now, that’s bluegrass.”

Thomm Jutz

Artist Video Thomm Jutz @ FROG

Over the years, Mountain Home Music Company and its sibling imprint, Organic Records, have become home to a family of artists who are collectively creating music that forms part of that core, but also exemplifies the adventurous, wide-ranging side of the genre. Bluegrass at the Crossroads is a series of unique encounters between members of that family from every corner — geographical, generational, stylistic and more — of the music and the communities it has inspired, inviting them to collaborate not only through fresh takes on bluegrass classics, but especially with new songs that reflect and engage with the contemporary world.

About Mountain Home Music Company:

Mountain Home Music Company, a division of Crossroads Label Group is a premier Bluegrass label with global distribution, representing such elite artists as Balsam Range, The Grascals, Lonesome River Band, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, The Gina Furtado Project, Kristin Scott Benson, The Cleverlys, Danny Roberts, Sideline, Unspoken Tradition, Fireside Collective, The Alex Leach Band, Carley Arrowood, Mark Stoffel, Jaelee Roberts, Tray Wellington, Andy Leftwich, Benson, The Little Roy & Lizzy Show, Sister Sadie and Ashby Frank. Established in 1993, Crossroads is a market leader in the Bluegrass, Americana, and Christian Music fields.

Photo Credits: (1) Carley Arrowood, (2) Thomm Jutz, (3) Zoe & Cloyd (unknown/website).

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