Piney Mountain Home

by Mike Wilson

Mountain music ("Old-time music" or "Appalachian folk") is as old as the hills. Well, as old as American history anyway. When the country was in its youth, shiploads of immigrants came to America, and many eventually settled in the hills and "hollers" of the Appalachian Mountains. It was difficult to make a living, and the most common form of entertainment was music. Without the means to travel and the advent of radio still in the offing, families made their own music. This music was the pre-cursor to our modern day bluegrass and country music.

Influenced heavily by the Irish/Scottish immigrants, mountain music and its offspring are still popular today. The language/lyrical content of mountain music is very "organic," describing typical daily life and times.

We took a cue from that and came up with our own mountain song called "Piney Mountain Home." Though the family depicted in the song is imaginary, Piney Mountain does exist, as does the writer's romantic ideas of mountain life. We feature the banjo in this song to make it happy. As comedian Steve Martin demonstrates in one of his earlier bits, you can't play a sad song on a banjo, so we knew we couldn't lose. You'll also hear fiddle, guitars, mandolin, upright bass, and percussion on the recording.

This is a two-part song, and though the second part is optional, the song is really about part two. Hopefully, your kids can take away the standard harmonization of this style of music. To achieve it, the second part features two-three suspensions (appoggiaturas) on the four chord, and four-three suspensions on some five chords. This gives the harmony a very authentic sound. We have isolated the parts with special mixes that you can hear on our website.

Resist any temptation to "twang" up the vocal style. The lyrics are folksy yet serious and represent the earthy way lyrics of this genre are approached. There is also an optional stomp/clap part during the banjo solo section. We hesitated a bit to include this because we didn't want to characterize the song as "hillbilly," and the stomp/clap could take it that direction if you aren't careful. (Honestly, the banjo solo is worth your full attention but we didn't want the kids just standing around.)

Please take time to search and discover mountain music. You'll find pioneer artists such as The Carter Family, The Stoneman Family, Patsy Cline, and many more. Your search will lead you to the roots of our American heritage which, by the way, segues nicely to a cross curricular history lesson.

Text is taken from Music K-8 magazine.