Jan 8, 2014 09:00 AM WV Sound
Keeping a beat in the Mountain State
Meet Scott Holstein
The year is 1921. The coalfields are streaked with blood as 10,000 coal miners raise their guns against 3,000 lawmen and the Battle of Blair Mountain unfolds in Logan County. Scott Holstein’s grandfather fought with the other coal miners. He had just returned from World War I, only to have his military comrades ordered to disarm him and his fellow miners. Scott’s album Cold Coal Town is a tribute to his grandfather’s way of life, to the hard work, heartaches, and bluegrass roots that live deep beneath Mountain State soil. “Growing up in the southern coalfields of West Virginia made my music more authentic,” Scott says. “Coal mining is a way of life—honest hard work and sometimes controversial, much like the music that I write.”
Coming of age in Boone County Scott grew up surrounded by the sounds of his parents playing bluegrass gospel music. “My earliest recollection is being on stage with them and Senator Robert C. Byrd at age 5. He was a fine old-time fiddle player,” he says. However, growing up in the hills of the Mountain State makes it difficult to break into the music industry. “Opportunities to get into the music business as a profession would merely be a dream for most. I was fortunate enough at a young age to be around some great musicians in the hills,” Scott says. Upon getting the opportunity to be a guest on Wallace Horn’s Friendly Neighbor Radio Show in Logan, Scott met Elaine Purkey, a labor union singer who sang about coal mining and become a great mentor to Scott. After traveling with a blue grass band, discovering different genres of music, and touring the country with various music groups, Scott finally moved to Nashville in 2009 and began developing his recording career.
His debut album, Cold Coal Town is what country music used to be. It’s bluegrass, Americana, and country you can’t help but enjoy. The album is entirely original. “I knew breaking into the music scene with all original material would be difficult, but it was an album I just had to record,” Scott says. “I felt the need to establish my roots.” Scott’s rich baritone voice weaves seamlessly with the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, and guitar to create evocative anthems and mournful themes. One moving a cappella song, “Black Water,” is followed by “Clinch Mountain Hills,” a tribute to the Stanley Brothers. Upbeat, “The Holstein Waltz” shows off the fiddle and mandolin, and the bouncy instrumental “Leavin’ Charleston” is what bluegrass music is all about. But Scott’s favorite is “Montani Semper Liberi.” “It’s my take on the Civil War and my way to express the true meaning of a Mountaineer,” Scott says. “Although the scars of that dreaded war are still relevant between the states, I can only give you my take on it as a son of the mountains: Mountaineers are always free!”
Scott was recently nominated for inclusion in the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. “I must be doing something right,” he says. He is working on expanding into video, and his “Montani Semper Liberi” will be a featured song on Fly Rod Chronicles with Curtis Fleming. But what Scott is most excited about now is his record label, Coal Records. “My goal is to create a record company for the artist by an artist and to leave the typical bad deals behind,” he says. Coal Records is based in Nashville.
Scott will return to West Virginia to teach bluegrass guitar at a week-long seminar in Marlinton, called Allegheny Echoes, from June 23 to 28, 2014.
Cold Coal Town can be purchased on iTunes or at scottholsteinmusic.com.
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