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Jeni & Billy | Jewell Ridge Coal

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Folk: Appalachian Folk Country: Americana Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Jewell Ridge Coal

by Jeni & Billy

Jeni & Billy write and perform songs in the New Old Style . . . original songs with a Traditional Country and Appalachian Old Time feel.
Genre: Folk: Appalachian Folk
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Miner's Reward
1:54 $1.00
2. Tazewell Beauty Queen
3:19 $1.00
3. Local 6167
5:38 $1.00
4. Oxycodone
3:23 $1.00
5. Jewell Ridge Coal
2:54 $1.00
6. Sweetness Keen As Pain
2:58 $1.00
7. Middle Creek
4:43 $1.00
8. Chicken Ridge
3:07 $1.00
9. Land of the Pharaohs
5:10 $1.00
10. Ain't Got Time for Trouble Blues
3:40 $1.00
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Jewell Ridge Coal is the new record from acoustic duo Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp. Drawing from Traditional Country, Appalachian, Old-time, Country Blues, Bluegrass and Folk music to create their original songs, Jeni & Billy have crafted a unique sound that is truly their own. With their sparse sound and absorbing lyrics, they have caught the attention of Americana greats Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller and folk-rock artist Jim Reilley of the New Dylans. Yet one of their favorite reviews comes from Asheville, North Carolina, antiquarian map dealer John Ptak who writes, “I knew within 10 seconds that you guys were for real . . . Jeni\'s voice is that clear Mother-M kind of quality that I love. I like the music you two make – inspired, true-to-your roots, spare (excellent) guitar. I like silent places in music . . . Quiet, silent places give you time to listen, and also time to think – they are vastly underrated.”

Jewell Ridge Coal chronicles the changing fortunes of the Southwest Virginia coal mining community of Jewell Ridge. Though the subject is regional, the songs are meant to present universal themes -- earth & heaven, rich & poor, love & loss, work & rest. Local 6167, named after the UMWA Local in Jewell Ridge follows a laid-off miner as he rambles and reminisces among the places that boomed in big coal’s heyday. In Oxycodone, a song based on a January 2008 Washington Post feature story by Nick Miroff, a miner contemplates the advice of his estranged father after a prescription drug addiction has left his home in shambles. Middle Creek is sung from the perspective of grandchildren trying to braid together the strands of their moonshining grandfather’s life and to understand his hardness and his outsider status in their community.

Though many of the tracks on Jewell Ridge Coal feature Jeni & Billy only, they couldn’t resist inviting a few friends to take part. Grammy award winning artist Jim Lauderdale and his Grammy award winning producer Randy Kohrs sing harmony. Virtuoso fiddler Shad Cobb of the John Cowan Band lends his soulful strokes to a couple of tunes. And singer-songwriter Kim Peery Sherman lends a gorgeous alto harmony and twinkling guitar to the ballad Tazewell Beauty Queen.

Jeni comes by her mournful, lonesome voice honestly. Born in the coalfields of Southwest Virginia, her singing has been compared to that of Mother Maybelle Carter and Hazel Dickens. A born storyteller, she has been a writer almost since she could put pen to paper, a vocation inherited from her journalist father and grandfather. Jeni honed her powers of observation and turn of phrase as a student of Pulitzer Prize winning Northern Irish poet (and sometime rock lyricist) Paul Muldoon who with his typical brevity called Jeni & Billy’s 2006 EP Sweet & Toxic “Great Stuff!!!”

Billy comes to the duo with a long history of music-making. He has been everywhere from Germany to the Grand Ole Opry playing his guitar and singing. A Baltimore native, he was introduced to the world of country music through the fateful movie house experience of seeing Bonnie & Clyde. He loved the music of Flatt & Scruggs so much he went back just to listen fourteen times. He has played numerous bluegrass festivals sharing stages with Jim & Jesse and Jimmy Martin. Billy has also performed solo at nationally known venues such as the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, the Lonestar Cafe in New York, the Kennedy Center and the Birchmere, opening for Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Kathy Mattea, Janis Ian, and Joe Ely among others. He has leant his talents to the shows of many folk luminaries including Oscar Brand, Christine Lavin, and Tom Paxton, as well as producing and touring with Debi Smith.

Together, Jeni & Billy will draw you into captivating narratives of heartache and hard living, of true life blues and unexpected grace. Images of coal & crowns, trash & trailers, and glass and gasoline recur, and Jesus and the Great Speckled Bird are never far off.



to write a review

chris lee

Great Live Act
Just seen these guys at the Beverley Festival in England and their heartwarming moving and affectionate portraits of South-Western Virginia's impoverished mining communities were warmly received.
A terrific cd and a compelling live act .
Highly recomended.

Tom Neel

Jewell Ridge Coal
An uncle of mine lived in Jewell Ridge after graduating from VPI, so I know the place. Heard Jeni & Billy on WGBH folk radio a month or so ago. Got 4 CDs, for family, kept one. I sent one to my uncle for Christmas, he was in the same PT boat group as JFK, in his 80's now, and I figure he knew the Hankins family, he loved the town though agreed it was a "company town all the way". I grew up listening to "16 Tons" by Tennessee Ernie Ford, and much later "Dark as a Dungeon" by Merle Haggard, still sing them both.
There are hints of that music here. "Local 1617" was a great song, the cadence and phrasing feel like Gillian Welch, as well as Iris DeMent, both favorites. "Middle Creek" was another. We have no Grandpa Babe in my family, but people just like him. A lot of distant cousins live in Tazewell, and there's a cemetery on top of every hilltop up and down that valley. One of them told me that who was buried depended simply on 'where the family decided to put them'.

My sister just moved back to SW Virginia this year, to the old family cabin.

By the way, Jewell Ridge is in Virginia, rather than Tennessee as this here website says.

Tom Neel

He was on a PT

Virginia Burton

Absolutely Amazing!
This Thanksgiving there is even more to be grateful for: this album of rawboned beauty. "Miner's Reward" and "Local 6167" will break your heart and "Middle Creek" will have your hair standing on end.

Thank you, Jeni & Billy, for a superb album!

Bob Manning

Uncle Willard Says ...
This is about the best, most authentic music ever put down and recorded. Somewhere between "Eddie Arnold Sings Barbra Streisand" and "Dick Cheney Warbles for You." On a more serious note, I've known Jeni since she was four and watched her development as singer-songwriter ever since. She's very very good, and her joining forces with Billy kemp only makes things better. Soemday she will record a song called "boo-Boo Goats" that will rock the nation.