Take an iconic West Virginia industry. Add a cherished mountain music tradition. Invite a gathering of notable musicians to share their passion for both. The result? Sounds of Railroading, a concert that will get underway at the Randolph County Community Arts Center, 2 Park Street at Randolph Avenue in Elkins, at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 4.
Sounds of Railroading is a collaborative effortby Jim Porterfield, director of the Center for Railway Tourism at Davis & Elkins College, and Gerry Milnes, a nationally and locally prominent folklorist and traditional musician. “The Center is committed to helping railroad heritage folks, of which we have many in this area, illustrate the many ways trains have influenced our lives,” says Porterfield. “Gerry brings a double-edged passion to the program. Everyone who knows traditional music knows his work. Not everyone may know he appears to love trains as well.”
The Sounds of Railroading concert is an extension of a three-day conference with the same name devoted to traditional music and railroading. The concert brings together eight musicians from as far away as Nashville. They include a former railroad brakeman, a one-time hobo, a specialist in duplicating train sounds, and others. Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller are a prominent duo from the Elkins area who trade off on fiddle, guitar and harmonizing vocals to perform a wide variety of Appalachian regional railroad music. Included are:
• The Train That Carried My Gal From Town, which captures the despair caused by trains doing nothing more than keeping to their schedules.
• Billy Richardson’s Last Ride commemorates the death of an engineer in West Virginia’s Kanawha Valley, and Casey Jones celebrates another doomed engineer. Both speak to the danger of railroad work
• Blow Your Whistle Freight Train brings to mind one of the many haunting ways trains linger in our national conscience.
For more information on the conference and concert, go to http://www.dewv.edu/sor. For more information on the Center, go to http://www.dewv.edu/center-railway-tourism.