Whitwell, TN (Barn Session)

from by The Local Historians



Whitwell is that limping, little town we visit each year where my Grandparents’ home is. In writing this song I searched for those connections between myself and my family, my family and the valley, the valley and my own longing and purpose.

I recorded it in the crumbling barn at the very back of the property. When I was young the space was always filled with endless piles of junk. In recent years it’d been cleared out and made for a great little outdoor studio, if it hadn’t been for a particularly persistent and loud dog that’d chased a cat under some of the plywood in one of the rooms. You can hear him barking a bit at the end of the track. I had planned to record more than just this song there in the barn but, like the jobs that departed with the closing of mines and shifts in local economy, I too had to move on to greener pastures rather than languish in frustration.

Wanted to shoot that damned dog though.


My grandfather haunts round the toolshed out back
My father tore down the roof
The cinderblocks stayed in an unimproved way
all covered with decay and soot
The bonfire burned long through the night
the embers were warm at the dawn
The grey dogs drew near and the horses steered clear
I wandered those tool-ridden halls

Cowardice is the meekest of men
the last to declare his worth
Pride will decide while idly by
he works at his toes in the dirt
Over the hills and out in the heat
storefronts are dryer than gin
All round the din let the countryside ring
with the grievance of long dead men

Oh sweet Marion, Marion-town
your valley of mist is no more
The highway was paved and the traffic obeyed
your sons all lay drunk on the floor
Silence, cold Silence, it sings to me sweet
cradles my head in its arms
Mountains loom big and the brothers all drink
I won't give a thought to the harm

Deep in the ground do the flames linger still
do the men call out from the mine
Oh '81 is there yet a way home
or will only the weak survive.
My grandmother stands with her dress gathered up
watching the hawk flying low
Waiting for signs that God upon high
still watches her grandchildren grow


from Whitwell Session, released December 4, 2012



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The Local Historians Chicago, Illinois

We are storytellers, way-finders, spirit-singers, will-o’-the-wisps. We have dust on our shoes and we’ll shake it off as we leave. We have songs burning inside our bones begging for release.
The Local Historians are Zach Harris, Derek Dixon, Rachael Claire , Kristina Johnsen, and Jake Norris.
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