I learned about the album Dear Companion today, through Ben Sollee's enewsletter. Better late than never.
The songs on Dear Companion were written and performed by Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore. The musicians met in 2009 after Ben stumbled upon Dan's music. The two singer-songwriters from Kentucky shared a concern about mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR) and its impacts on the land and culture of Central and Southern Appalachia.
Dear Companion was initially going to be a 5 song EP to raise awareness about MTR. Ben then invited fellow Kentuckian Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket and Monsters of Folk to get involved. At Yim's suggestion, the musicians decided to expand from an EP to an album. Yim is featured on, and produced the album. It was recorded in Kentucky in the first half of 2009, and was released on Sub Pop Records in February 2010.
A portion of the proceeds from Dear Companion benefits Appalachian Voices, an organization devoted to ending MTR and finding a better way forward.
The three musicians, joined by percussionist Dan Dorff went a nine date Appalachian Voices tour in 2010 to raise public awareness about MTR.
7/22 Lexington, KY Lexington Opera House
7/23 Knoxville, TN The Bijou Theater
7/25 Charleston, WV Mountain Stage
7/26 Marlinton, WV Pocahontas Opera House
7/28 Charlottesville, VA Jefferson Theater
7/29 Woodstock, NY Bearsville Theater
7/30 New York, NY Music Hall Of Williamsburg
7/31 Newport, RI Newport Folk Fest (Yim Yames Solo Performance)
8/01 Newport, RI Newport Folk Fest (Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore Performance)
Ben introduced the song Dear Companion at the Pocahontas Opera House with these beautiful remarks:
So Dan and I wrote this next song, called Dear Companion after we read the book Uneven Ground by Dr. Ron Eller who teaches at the University of Kentucky. He's a historian whose area of knowledge and intense expertise is Appalachian history, particularly the industrialization of Appalachia, how we came to be the producers of so much coal and energy.
There's a photograph of a letter that a miner wrote after he was trapped - there's a picture of the letter in the book - over and over, he wrote on this piece of paper "Dear Ellen, take care of the kids, live a good life so we can meet in Heaven." And he just kept coming back to this "Dear Ellen" over and over again, where you can see where he had finished the letter, and then realizing that he was still breathing, picked it back up and wrote another line just telling his family how much he loved them.
That image, that letter, the feeling of it really stuck with us, and we wrote this song "Dear Companion" sort of as a letter from Appalachia to the rest of the country, just calling out for attention and asking "Do you see what's happening, because we're literally being destroyed."
Listen to the full Pocahantas Opera House concert on NPR, the album on Bandcamp, and Dear Companion below: