As an avid theater goer and also a music fan, "Martha Redbone: Bone Hill - The Concert" felt like a cross between a play reading and folk concert. Bone Hill tells the story of Martha Redbone's family going back four generations in the Black Mountains of Harlan County, Kentucky. It tells the story of a undeniably American family with music that is also very American. In telling this family story we, the audience, also get a history lesson. An expanded telling of a history that we might think we already know. The history of the Trail of Tears and coal mining in Appalachia. This combination of family and American history is wonderfully facilitated by a fusion of genres of music, from traditional Cherokee chants and lullabies, to blues and Rock and Roll.
The evening switched back and forth between these songs and spoken narration and scenes. The musicans on the stage took on the roles of members from Martha Redbone's family and the people of Harlan country. It is hard to decide which was more intriguing, the music or the spoken story that accompanied it. In many ways it is hard to separate the two. I do know that I would love to have an album of Bone Hill the concert so that I could hear the songs again. I would also love to see this story expanded past its current telling. It is entirely engrossing in its current form but also has potential to evolve into a more theatrical piece.
Bone Hill - The Concert tells the story of a family, it tells a story of love, and it tells a story of a connection to the land of a particular place. It does this with a blend of different genres of American music. And in the end what you get is a uniquely American creation.
This performance was part of Ordway's World Music and Dance series. There are six more performances by different artists left in this series this year. More information can be found on the Ordway's website.
Thank you to the Ordway for inviting me to this production.