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"Coal Holders" ~ by Nora Guthrie written for the "Til' We Outumber 'Em" CD release, 1996.

Ever since the beginning there's always been the guys, designated by carry the coal.

Remember? See, when the tribe's fire went out, when they moved on, someone had to carry the last hot coal to start up the next fire with at the next campsite. They needed this fire to cook with, sleep near, and even for some good ol' talks and songs. Now, many of these coal holders, over time, became folk singers. Later, some went electric. Some even became rock and rollers. (Hey, different tribes, different instruments.) However, the job has never changed.

My dad was one of these guys, and a lot of his songs were pretty damned hot.

It seems to me lik everyone on this recording in one of these hot-coal holders. Like my dad, they do the work of carrying around the embers we still need to keep our present day tribes well fed, warm, still carin' and still singin'. Sometimes it gets real cold out these (have you noticed?) and it seems like the chilly wind is just going to blow us all off the map. A lot of people are feelin' the effects of the chill; no food, no shelter, no singin', no rights. And other people are chillin' inside; no warmth, no joy, no song, no tribe.

I have the honor of working with them all in September of 1996 when we gathered in Cleveland to sing some of my dad's songs and tell some of his stories. I wish all of you reading this could have seen this for real. There was so much friendship there...everybody looking at everybody, recognizing each other as old, old friends even though many had never met before. Singing together. Me, I started crying at the git go when Ani sand the first verse of "Do Re Me". But everyone in the house (like most of the musicians) was crying by the time they got to "This Land."

We all owe these guys a lot. Not just me, but you too out there! These very coal-holders will be the ones who will make it possible for all of us to build our next fire. They will be the ones to give us our next hot meal and our next warm talk. And though it seems that there are no bonfires burning just yet, I do feel that things are warming up!

And the tribe owes Ani DiFranco a particular debt of gratitude for letting us sit around her campfire for a while...

...'til we outnumber 'em."

 

'Til We Outnumber 'Em includes the voices of Lisa Asher, Dan Bern, Mimi Bessette, Billy Bragg, Ani DiFranco, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Abe Guthrie, Arlo Guthrie, Cathy Guthrie, Sarah Guthrie, John Wesley Harding, Indigo Girls, Jorma Kaukonen, Jimmy LaFave, Harold Leventhal, David Lutkin, Country Joe McDonald, Paul Metsa, Ellis Paul, David Perales, Dave Pirner, Tim Robbins, Anna Rotante, Cole Rotante, Pete Seeger, Susan Sarandon, Bruce Springsteen, James Stein, Syd Straw, Jeff Waxman, and Neil Woodward.

Thank you all. A real big bow also goes to Bob Santelli at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum for thinkin' this one up one night when he couldn't sleep so that we could all find each other again. Now, let's light it up!

- Nora Guthrie

 

 


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