Can Music Save Mountains?

Benefit to spread awareness about mountaintop removal mining returns and IsWhat?! curates a night of art


he Music for the Mountains

(MftM) project has been a great example of the power music still has to get things done and have a sociopolitical impact. Prior to the music-driven venture’s launch in 2011, I was only slightly aware of “mountaintop removal” strip-mining, a practice exclusive to the Appalachian mountains, whereby coal companies literally blow off the tops of the mountains with explosives, leading to polluted air and drinking water, not to mention the altering of an entire region’s landscape (more than 500 mountains in the Appalachian chain have reportedly had their tops popped). The MftM project led me — and, undoubtedly many others — to read up on the practice and educate myself.

A benefit and informational effort to draw attention to the practice of mountaintop removal, the first Music for the Mountains compilation album and concert — featuring numerous (primarily) local Roots/Folk/Americana artists — raised awareness and more than $15,000 to help keep spreading the word. This Saturday, it’s time for the sequel.

“Music for the Mountains 2” follows up the first project with another compilation release and concert at the Southgate House Revival in Newport ( this Saturday. Besides being for a great cause, the concert and release are both perfect snapshots of the state of Greater Cincinnati’s Roots music scene circa 2013. Both show this area’s Americana scene is on par with any other city’s, except maybe Nashville, Tenn., and a town or two in Texas. And even then, it’s close.

The Music for the Mountains 2 album is a unique compilation in that it doesn’t just feature a bunch of tunes cobbled together from the artists’ back catalogs. Showing a real dedication to the cause, the compilation features 23 all-new songs, specifically written and recorded for the project (and done on the artists’ own dime). Local acts contributing exclusive tracks include Magnolia Mountain (whose frontman/founder, Mark Utley, is the driving force behind the project, with a big assist from bandmate Melissa English), Rabbit Hash String Band, The Tillers, Jake Speed and the Freddies, Ma Crow & the Lady Slippers, Wonky Tonk, Jeff Scott Roberson, Tex Schramm & the Radio King Cowboys, The Mitchells, Terminal Union and Margaret Darling, among several others. 

The album is being released in conjunction with Saturday’s “whole house” show at the Southgate, utilizing all three of the venue’s stages. Along with speakers, exhibits, a screening of the documentary Blood on the Mountain and other informational opportunities related to the cause, many of the album’s participants are slated to perform. 

In the Southgate’s Sanctuary, music kicks off with Kentucky Timbre

, followed by Tex Schramm & the Radio King Cowboys , Ma Crow & the Lady Slippers , The Kentucky Struts , The Hiders and Atlanta’s Tedo Stone . On the Revival Room stage, Janet Pressley , Red Cedars , Rabbit Hash String Band , 10 String Symphony , Jake Speed and the Freddies , Hickory Robot and Terminal Union perform. And in the venue’s “Lounge,” Margaret Darling , The Mitchells , Chris Porter , Wonky Tonk , Billy Two Shoes and Blue Caboose are slated to appear.

Music starts at 8 p.m. Admission is a $15 donation (or $20 at the door) and the compilation will be available at the show for just $10. The money raised will be split between Ohio Citizen Action ( and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (, two nonprofits that have been crucial in the battle against mountaintop removal. 

For more on mountaintop removal’s dangers, visit Follow Music for the Mountains on Facebook here.

IsWhat?! Curates Eclectic Night of Art

Great Cincinnati-based experimental Jazz/Hip Hop group IsWhat?!

is gearing up for another one of its frequent European touring jaunts, but before the group leaves, the members will be presenting a night of film, art, poetry and, of course, music this Friday at The Greenwich in Walnut Hills ( ), all curated by and affiliated with IsWhat?!

The animated short film Billie’s Blues, created by French artist Louis Jean Gorry and scored by IsWhat?! frontman Napoleon Maddox, will get its U.S. premiere at the event and the show will also include the screening of Since I Saw You Last, a visual tour diary/short film chronicling the group’s life on the road in Europe. IsWhat?!’s longtime saxophonist Jack Walker will have some of his artwork displayed, music will be provided by the local DJ squad Selectas Choice

and Maddox and Brian Greer (aka Boogie Bang) will be delivering some spoken word poetry.

Showtime for the special “IsWhat?! Presents …” event is 9 p.m. (

CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected], @CityBeatMusic and on Facebook here.

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