Album Of The Week: Yfel Beneath The Mountain’s Vigil

One of my favorite movies of all time is Matewan, the 1987 historical drama directed by John Sayles. The film depicts the struggle of the coal miners of Matewan, West Virginia as they form a union, go on strike, and ultimately take up arms against the brutal tactics and hired goons of the Stone Mountain Coal Company. The cast list is a who’s who of great character actors: Chris Cooper in his first screen role, David Strathairn, James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, Kevin Tighe, a teenaged Will Oldham. The legendary Haskell Wexler’s cinematography was never better, and Sayles’ sharp-edged, leftist politics are front and center in every scene. Matewan is also a great music film, with a dobro-heavy score by Mason Daring and four songs by Hazel Dickens, the West Virginia bluegrass singer whose protest songs made her a folk-world star in the ’60s and ’70s.


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