Appalachian treasure sees light of day
Nimrod Workman sounds close to death, but in 1982, when folk historian Mike Seeger (half-brother of Pete) sat with the then 87-year-old to collect these rustic songs and stories, the entertainer and former coal miner had twelve years yet to go. His voice—weathered, strained and wavering perpetually between a moan and an ecstatic bleat—is the staggering centerpiece of these sparse a capella recordings. On “Coal Black Mining Blues,” an original, Workman mourns the coal mine that employed him for 42 years but denied responsibility for his black lung. “Oh Death” is a desperate negotiation with the Dark Angel himself, and even the traditionally spry “Shady Grove” is tinged with morbid portent. Workman’s toothlessness is audible; so, too, is the spittle on the puckered socket of his mouth. Listen closely and you can even hear his rocking chair—or perhaps his bones—creaking between the lines.
Listen to Nimrod Workman featured on the Down Home Radio Show podcast.