Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Episode 177 (9-2-13): "Sandy Boys" by Sara Grey, for Labor Day

Click to listen to episode (2:44)


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of September 2, 2013.  This Labor Day week, we feature one of many traditional tunes associated with the river at the geographic heart of Appalachian coal mining and other hard work.  Have a listen for about 35 seconds.


You’ve been listening to part of “Sandy Boys,” performed by Sara Grey, Kieron Means, and Ben Paley on the 2009 CD also titled “Sandy Boys,” from Fellside Records.  The CD’s liner notes state that the title refers to farmers and loggers in the valley, or watershed, of the Big Sandy River.  That river begins with tributaries in Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky and ends at its confluence with the Ohio River in Catlettsburg, Kentucky.  For centuries, the Big Sandy valley has served as a main transportation corridor for this difficult-to-reach southern Appalachian region—for walkers and horses, boats, railroads, and finally automobiles.  It’s also been the center of two natural-resource based industries—first timbering, then coal-mining—that underlie the region’s complicated history.  That history has featured tradition and change, labor and capital, unions and management, and poverty and prosperity—all part of the lives and labor of Big Sandy boys, girls, men, and women.   Thanks to Fellside Records for permission to use this week’s music.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at virginiawaterradio.org, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


[All Internet addresses mentioned were functional as of 9/3/13]

The Levisa Fork, one of the main tributaries of the Big Sandy River, in Grundy, Va., September 5, 2013.  Photo courtesy of Dan Evans.

The following photos provide views of another aspect of the history of resource use in the Big Sandy Valley--surface coal-mining site-reclamation projects.  The photos are courtesy of the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, received September 2013.

Gay Branch abandoned mined land (AML) site in 1985 near the town of Clinchco, in Dickenson County, Virginia, in the McClure River watershed (a Russell Fork/Big Sandy tributary).

Same site as the photo above, in 1990, after a reclamation project by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.
"Sandy boys" and "Sandy girls" play on a soccer field created on an AML site in Buchanan County, Virginia, 2004.  This area is on the watershed divide between the Levisa Fork and Russell Fork, tributaries of the Big Sandy River.

Acknowledgments and Sources: 
The CD “Sandy Boys” is copyright 2009 by Fellside Records, used with permission.  More information about Sara Grey is available online at http://www.saragrey.net/.

Information on “Sandy Boys” was taken from Ms. Grey’s album notes on the tune, online at http://www.saragrey.net/Recordings/SandyBoys/SandyBoysNotes.htm; (this site includes the “Sandy Boys” album cover photograph of a commercial boat on the Big Sandy River in 1904); from the Web site of the “Bluegrass Messengers” group, at http://www.bluegrassmessengers.com/sandy-boys.aspx; and from “The Traditional Tune Archive” (formerly “The Fiddler’s Companion”) by Andrew Kuntz Andrew Kuntz’ “Fiddler’s Companion” Web site, at http://tunearch.org/wiki/Annotation:Quail_is_a_Pretty_Bird.

The “Folk Music Index” Web site, by Jane Keefer, at http://www.ibiblio.org/keefer/index.htm, lists several songs or tunes referring to the Big Sandy River, including “Boatin’ Up Sandy,” “Crossing the Big Sandy,” “Three Forks of Sandy,” “Gambler’s Song of the Big Sandy River,” “Sandy River,” and “Sandy River Belle.”

Information on the Big Sandy River region was taken from A Guide to Historic Coal Towns of the Big Sandy River Valley, by George D. Torok (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2004); and from “Big Sandy River,” by the late musician John Hartford, in the West Virginia Encyclopedia, online at http://www.wvencyclopedia.org/articles/484.

For another Virginia Water Radio episode on the Big Sandy River, please see Episode 162 (week of 5-20-13), featuring the tune “Three Forks of Sandy,” online at http://www.virginiawaterradio.org/2013/05/episode-162-5-20-13-three-forks-of.html.

Recent Virginia Water News and Other Information

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