River, Rails or Road
At 18 tracks, River, Rails or Road, Tom Breiding’s 13th release, is an epic offering. Inspired by the struggles of coal miners in his home state of West Virginia, this record moves easily along despite its length and showcases some of the best traditional folk songwriting of the Pittsburgh transplant’s career. Where his past releases have occasionally sidestepped into singer-songwriter schlock, River, Rails or Road finds Breiding doing God’s work. As the musician in residence for the United Mine Workers of America, Breiding has played some of these songs at rallies across the country, and his musical storytelling has been a powerful force in helping retired coal miners win pension and health benefits. In this cynical age, it’s a heartening reminder that protest music still has power.
By Daniel Moore / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Carried by an Americana folk chord progression on acoustic guitar, musician Tom Breiding’s message was as poignant as any rallying cry issued from the podium at the Greene County Fairgrounds on Friday.
“Promises made, promises broken,” Mr. Breiding crooned over a D-chord. “Alpha they promised, Alpha they lied,” calling out bankrupt coal company Alpha Natural Resources, the owner of two mines in the county that this week sought to break its contract with workers so it can restructure its finances.
In multiple verses, he named others: Peabody Energy, Patriot Coal, Murray Energy. Clad uniformly in United Mine Workers of America camouflage, more than 5,000 supporters of the Appalachian coal industry whooped and hollered.
The intermission of sorts came about halfway through a four-hour Solidarity Day celebration in which UMWA members marched and then packed into the agricultural building at the fairgrounds. The union had organized buses from West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky to bring members to Waynesburg, the center of a region with deep ties to coal.
River, Rails, or Road, Tom's 13th full length studio album is now available at the AmeriSon Records online store; just click the link below. The package includes a DVD featuring River, Rails or Road: Tom Breiding's Wheeling, a film by Jeff Sewald, plus a music video by Gary DeMoss and Phil Smith of the UMWA.
River, Rails or Road is the Labor Song of the Month at University of Notre Dame's Higgins Labor Studies Department http://higginslabor.nd.edu/labor-song-of-the-month/labor-song-of-the-month-for-october-2015/
Tom's song The Bullmoose Special appears on this tribute to Mother Jones which features the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Russell, Billy Bragg, Steve Earle, Robert Earle Keene, Gretchen Peters, Si Kahn, and many others. Purchase this CD from the link below. Proceeds from this Frontera Records project help pay for the upkeep of the Mother Jones Monument at her burial site.