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Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore’s Real Soul Mining

The New Now

Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore are responsible for one of the year's finest albums--and, however unappetizing it may sound, much of it is about coal mining.

More specifically, the pair, along with fellow Kentuckian Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket as producer, have produced Dear Companion, a heartfelt, wonderfully performed album of songs in part aimed to draw people's attention to the issue of Mountaintop Removal coalmining (MTR). What's that? Per Wikipedia, it's a process that "involves blasting with explosives to remove up to 400 vertical feet (120 m) of mountain to expose underlying coal seams. Excess rock and soil laden with toxic mining byproducts are often dumped into nearby valleys, in what are called 'holler fills' or 'valley fills.'"

Both directly and indirectly, Dear Companion explores the impact of the that process on both the environment and working lives of the people of central Appalachia; a portion of the album's sales, in fact, will benefit Appalachian Voices, a group aiming to end MTR and find a solution that will benefit all parties.

It's an interesting move and makes sense coming from such musicians as Sollee and Moore. Sollee is a much-praised, versatile musician known for playing cello and his prior work both as a solo artist and with Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet; Moore was on the receiving end of much praise recently for his 2008 Sub Pop solo album Stray Age.

Last month at Austin's South By Southwest conference, Yahoo caught up with the pair for both an interview and spectacular performance--which, considering the informality of the setting, was an absolute highlight of our stay there.

Just look and see.

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