Protecting Country Music’s Home A group of country stars like Emmylou Harris and not-quite-country stars like Dave Matthews join forces to prevent more mountaintop removal mining

Kathy Mattea, Credit: Agnes Scott College, FlickrCC
Country star Kathy Mattea helped launch the initiative Music Saves Mountains.

Mountaintop removal mining is ravaging the Appalachian Mountain range in places like West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 500 mountain peaks have been blown apart by companies strip mining for coal. Not only is the once-forested beauty destroyed, but mountaintop removal also disrupts habitats and biological diversity, and leaves coal dust, contaminated drinking water, floods and mudslides behind.

In an effort to spread awareness about the travesties that are happening in the Appalachians, a group of musicians have come together in an effort called Music Saves Mountains. The campaign, presented by the NRDC, was launched in early 2009 by country music stars like Sheryl Crow, Kathy Mattea and “Big Kenny” Alphin, looking to keep the home of country music intact.Alphin says when he traveled over the Appalachians last year, it looked like a war zone.

“These mountains are not recreatable,” Alphin says. “I want to do something with the abilities I have been given in life, so the greatest way for me to do something great for all of my fans, and to bring awareness, is for me to play.”

The benefit concert was held in May at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium. Along with Alphin, Crow and Mattea were other top artists like Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss, Patty Griffin and Dave Matthews. The event raised both awareness and $60,000 in funds to end mountaintop removal mining. Of those proceeds, $30,000 was donated to two grassroots groups: The Alliance for Appalachia and Keeper of the Mountains Foundation, with the remainder funding grassroots efforts. Said Emmylou Harris before the sold-out crowd in Nashville: “The Appalachians have inspired countless country, folk, bluegrass, gospel and Americana songs.Now those sources of inspiration are being secretly destroyed. We’re standing together with one voice to send the message that we will not sit idly by while our mountains are being blown apart.”