Posts Tagged ‘songwriting’


In January of this year, a coal-cleaning chemical leaked out of a tank less than mile from the intake for West Virginia American Water Company. Some 300,000 West Virginians lost their water for drinking, cooking, bathing or cleaning. For quite a while, the liquid flowing through our taps had a weird, licorice-like odor. Even after it was declared safe, many people did not trust that it was, and continued using bottled water. (Some of us still are using bottled water.)

Politicians—including many who collect big money from their coal investments, and including our governor—skittered to distance themselves from any responsibility to protect West Virginia’s environment or the citizens who depend upon it. As I took my daily walk around Charleston in the weeks following the chemical spill, my thoughts were angry as well as sad. A melody and some words began to take shape in my mind: a from-the-heart, straightforward message.

In early February, there was a public hearing in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Although the prospect terrified me, I decided to “speak” at the hearing by singing my song. Many legislators were absent, but I sang my song anyway. Many other citizens also stood up to express their outrage and to beg our so-called public servants to quit serving extractive industries at the expense of public health.

Now my friends Julie Adams (producer), George Castelle (guitarist), and Paul Flaherty (sound engineer) have helped me record the song, and yesterday I successfully uploaded it to CD Baby as a single (for download only). It’s deeply satisfying to me to send my song out into the world on the same day that the EPA proposes new, stricter standards for water and air quality. Our politicians will no doubt scream bloody murder over the new standards, the way they should be decrying the mining and fracking methods that are fouling our state. They will declare the new standards as a “war on coal” instead of what it really is, a plan to protect public health and safety from the ones who only use us for the riches they can steal.

You can download or listen to a 30-second snippet from the song at CD Baby. You can read the lyrics right here:

If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her waters clean

If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her mountains green

If you love my West Virginia, love her Wonderful and Wild

You’ll respect her like your mother and defend her like your child

If you love my West Virginia, you would suffer for her sake

If you love my West Virginia, you will give more than you take

If you love my West Virginia, you would grieve to see her kneel

To the ones who only use her for the riches they can steal

If you love my West Virginia, you will hold her in your soul

If you love my West Virginia, you won’t let her mountains fall

If you love my West Virginia, you will fight to see her stand

With her summits bathed in glory like our Prince Immanuel’s Land

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Colleen Anderson, Julie Adams, and Karen Vuranch, the POTLUCK ladies.

On May 15, we POTLUCK ladies presented our one-hour show at the Randolph County Creative Arts Center to one of the warmest and friendliest audiences we have ever enjoyed. Karen, Julie, and I love to perform this show. It’s about an hour long and consists of stories and songs inspired by and celebrating food, women, community, and the connections between them. It includes some heartwarming memories and songs, some utter silliness, and a lot of love. After our POTLUCK set, we performed a short set of songs inspired by our other favorite topic, West Virginia.

The Randolph County Creative Arts Center (not to mention the artsy town of Elkins!) is a wonderful place. Director Beth King goes all out to make performers feel valued and comfortable. She even accompanied us to a couple of school performances in Harman, WV on Friday, a courtesy we really appreciated. One of her volunteers, Jane Birdsong, cooked us a fantastic salmon dinner on Saturday afternoon, and other board members brought delicious salads and other treats. They even saved us generous servings of Jane’s homemade peach/cherry cobbler for dessert after the concert.

As you can see, we were dressed in finery. The creator of our capes and chiffon jackets, as well as the backdrops made of silk crepe de chine, is Michael Davis, the owner of Shibori West Textile Designs in Elkins.

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One of my favorite places on earth is Ghost Ranch, in northern New Mexico. To hear why, follow this link to my essay at West Virginia Public Radio:


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