The L&N Don’t Stop Here Any More

Folk Songs of the Southern Appalachians
A point of context for the subtitle in my commentary yesterday on the Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown.

Jean Ritchie was born into a family of folk balladeers in the Cumberland Mountains of eastern Kentucky.  Song catchers like Alan Lomax sought out her family in the early 20th century to document the long journey of common music from Europe to modern America.  After World War II, Jean moved to New York City and fell into the folk scene there with the likes of Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie.  Through the 1960s, her distinct playing style helped popularize the mountain dulcimer.

Jean Ritchie released The L&N Don’t Stop Here Anymore in 1965. She originally credited the song to Than Hall, her grandfather.

When Jean Ritchie was a young girl, the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had a little passenger train that ran by the mouth of the Slabtown Holler in Viper, Kentucky, where the Ritchie Family lived.  When the coal mines shut down, the passenger service along with the coal trains was discontinued.  It was one of the first signs of hard times.  The L And N Don’t Stop Here Anymoreis a reflection of the period.

—Jonathan Pickow

I came to know the song by way of Johnny Cash. I prefer this later sparser cut of the Unearthed sessions to the glitzier 1970s production:

I addition to a noted cover by Michelle Shocked in the 1980s, Kathy Matea also released an excellent cover on her album of mining songs in 2008.


p.s. one of my elementary teachers in Michigan played the dulcimer, as does my good friend Scott in Colorado, although I don’t know if it’s mountain or hammer.  Good folk.


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