Mary Hott has set history to music. Her new album soulfully conveys the tragic circumstances of West Virginia’s mine wars. It’s been over 100 years since those battles, but the toll of their economic and emotional violence lingers on. Devil in the Hills: Coal Country Reckoning uses a blend of country rock, gospel, bluegrass, and roots music in an effective collage of abstract gut emotion portraits and intriguing detailed narratives to complete what sounds like an exhaustive introduction to the miners’ world.
Hott wrote seven of the songs on Devil in the Hills, and adds three cover tunes, including a delivery of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” that will have you feeling that you’re hearing the song for the first time. It’s a straightforward, slightly heartbreaking interpretation that fits perfectly into the collection of original songs.
Making this important, and equally satisfying music along with Hott are the Carpenter Ants, with Don Dixon and Michael Lipton co-producing. The entire album, from song choices to instrumentation to liner notes make it clear that this was a project of love for all involved.